Thursday, 24 October 2013

Explaining Chairman Mao: Why he is my idol


Eternal Glory to the Great Helmsman 

Guests that have been to my study will never fail to notice all the Cultural Revolution posters, figurines and Chairman Mao’s statues in various sizes. All too often, the next question that will pop up will be “Why do you idolize him?”

Besides him, my other idol is Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore. I constantly seek inspiration from these two great statesmen. Both possess the genius and the political will power to change the destiny of their country, even though they have to be brutal at times. To a certain extent, they are much alike. Mao likes to say that he is the incarnation of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor and many of his actions that he took throughout his rein were akin to the First Emperor of China.

Chairman Mao passed away 5 years before that I was born but world leaders who had met him said that he is a well-read person, intelligent, a skilled orator and a master strategist in domestic and international politics. I enjoyed reading his poems and selected works which were published after his death while Lee’s books are my constant reference.
Both idols have many books written about them, from various perspectives. For the Chairman, the two well know ones are by Dr Li Zishui, his personal doctor and by Jung Chang and Jon Holliday. I would suggest you to read these books and compare the facts. While Dr Li’s book remains the most intimate biography ever written about him, Jung Chang and Jon Holiday’s book were full of distorted judgments and criticized in the academic community on grounds of unreliability.
What I admire most in him is his power to mobilize the masses to his every call and constant revolution even after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, from the Let the Hundred Flower Boom campaign to the Great Leap Forward and finally the Cultural Revolution. The Chairman is also well known to use propaganda to its fullest to achieve his political aims and for the purpose of personal cult. Hundreds of millions of posters, banners, badges and his Little Red Book were printed. Patriotic and idolization songs were produced with zeal.  I do like some of the songs and will often play them at home.

Besides that, the most outstanding of Chairman Mao’s character, as his writings attest, was his readiness to take on challenge. He responded to the challenges with counter challenges, never conceding an inch. When offered or offering a challenge, Mao never showed any hesitation but rather the confidence to win. All his life, Mao was a winner, not in terms of specific political issues but rather as a man who revealed his heroic nature when he was confronted with a challenge.

Monument to the People's Heroes and Chairman Mao's  Mausoleum at the background.

People blamed him for the disaster of the Great Leap Forward but I would say that it is not all his fault. It is said that Qian Xueshen, the father of China’s long range missiles used to tell Mao about close cropping to establish bumper harvest and Mao bought his idea. The cadres at local level lied about the harvest and production.
According to his personal doctor’s biography, Mao never suggest the population to build backyard furnaces to produce steel but it was the local cadres who told the Chairman that it works. Convinced by them, the Chairman agreed for the backyard furnaces to be built across the country. As for the people’s commune, it was also the local cadres that established it and the Chairman thought that this will move China further into achieving Communism so he agreed to it. He meant good for the masses but again, it was the local cadres that messed it up.
Although Cultural Revolution is a dark period in the history of modern China and many still refused to speak about it till today, I would always argue that without the pain of the Cultural Revolution, the process of opening up of China by Deng Xiaoping will never take off so fast.
Historians argued that the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were his worst legacies even and that it killed more Chinese than the Japanese Occupation and Chinese Civil War combined. I think otherwise. He had done more good to China than harm, his contribution to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes.
Unlike Lenin and Stalin who destroyed a great and powerful Russia that prior to the October Revolution had been one of the leading world powers, Mao transformed China from a semi colony into an independent and powerful state. He brought to fruition the mighty anti-imperialist revolution began by Sun Yet Sen, compelling the world to respect the Chinese people. He united mainland China after a long period of disintegration, power struggle and civil wars. It was during Mao’s rule that China was able to become one of the main geopolitical centers of the world. I often ask this question, who is the actual father of modern China?

A talented politician, an historian, a poet and philosopher, an all-powerful dictator and energetic organizer, a skillful diplomat and utopian socialist, the head of the most populous state, resting on his laurels but at the same time an indefatigable revolutionary who sincerely attempted to refashion the of life and consciousness of millions of people – this is how Mao Zedong goes down in history. The scale of his life was too grand to be reduced to a single meaning.

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