The Past in China's Present

What is a reasonable view of China's recent history? To put it crudely: does it matter that the Chinese Communist Party killed millions upon millions people, desecrated the environment and deeply wounded China's traditional culture?

Chinese intellectuals tend to avoid the issue, shrugging it off as irrelevant and anyway too unpleasant to contemplate. We need to look ahead and not back, they say. Things are finally moving in the right direction and let's not, please, do anything that may upset that hopeful movement.

I don't think it is that simple. The party in power in China today is the same as the one that did so much harm to China and to millions of Chinese. It no longer practices the policies that led to multiple disasters. But it has not formally reneged on its core beliefs or canonical texts, and the man responsible for more deaths than most people in history is still officially revered (though it is nowadays admitted that he did in fact commit a few "mistakes"). The party's leadership technique, a form of Leninism, remains basically unchanged.

There are millions of people in China today whose lives were devastated by the Communist regime. If you include parents, children and relations of the prime victims, you probably get a hundred million or more. It is reasonable to believe that they are angry, feel humiliated or wronged, or all of the above. A lot of people feeling this way is not good for any society.