Mao’s China at 60

Every country is shaped by its history, but countries fabricate and rewrite their histories, too. This is especially true of our flawed heroes, as we see today with the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Mao Zedong.

LONDON – Every country is shaped by its history, but countries fabricate and rewrite their histories, too. The story of how we became who we are needs to accommodate our sense of tribal solidarity and accomplishment. Our triumphs and virtues are exaggerated; our villains externalized; our failings covered up. All this makes the study of history potentially insurrectionary, but hugely valuable. Good historians encourage us to be honest about ourselves. They destroy our self-delusions.

This is especially true of our flawed heroes, as we see today with the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Mao Zedong. Sixty years ago this October, Mao stood on the rostrum of Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, and declared the founding of the People’s Republic. That moment marked the end of years of war and terrible hardship; the revolution had been won through blood, sacrifice, heroism, the mistakes of enemies, and the manipulative assistance of Stalin, who purported to be a friend. The decades of rapacious war lords, greedy imperialists, and Japanese invaders were over; China could stand up – though much misery still lay ahead as Mao’s tyranny put down its roots.

Verdicts on Mao differ wildly. For hard-line Communists, he was a hero three times over – historical, patriotic, and world-class. For the brave and charismatic dissident Wei Jingsheng, Mao “cast virtually the whole of China into a state of violence, duplicity, and poverty.”

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/ka9JKON;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now