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While we were celebrating Christmas, the nearly 100 million members of the Chinese Communist Party were celebrating the 130th anniversary of Chairman Mao's birth.
In Beijing, party leader Xi Jinping bowed deeply before Mao's embalmed body, and in the rest of the country, local leaders marked the anniversary with speeches, songs and fireworks.
“Chairman Mao will live forever in our hearts,” says the party newspaper Folkits Dagblad, which describes his life and work in clear, positive terms.
According to the newspaper, Xi Jinping and six other Politburo members celebrated the day by visiting Mao's mausoleum in Tiananmen Square. Since ordinary Chinese are not allowed to get too close to their leaders, the square was closed to the public in advance.
After the ceremony at the shrine, Xi called a “symposium” in the Great Hall of the People, where he and others took the floor to “expand” the president's ideas.
The greatest mass murderer of all time was born in Shaoshan, a village in the country's central Hunan province, on December 26, 1893. There, too, the anniversary was duly celebrated.
Chinese media write that thousands upon thousands have made pilgrimages to Mao's family farm, which has long since been turned into a museum and pilgrimage site. There was singing and eating, and the party continued until the early hours of the morning.
I myself visited Shaoshan and can confirm that the village has not forgotten its “great” son. Both the village and the adjacent Mao Park were bustling with pilgrims, and enthusiastic vendors were selling all kinds of Mao relics.
An old woman named Tang Ruirin told me that Mao should have slept on the village land and not in Beijing. “But unfortunately, no one will listen to me.”
Tang and others nostalgic for Mao are a minority among China's vast population. But they exist, and every time it's the deceased foreman's birthday, they show up as box trolls.
Born in 1948. Kindergarten. He majored in history. She worked for NTB abroad, Arbeiderbladet abroad and NRK abroad. He has been a full-time writer since 1999. He has written twelve books on China and Asia. Many of them have been translated into foreign languages. He has won the Brage Prize (realism) three times, and the Cappelen Prize once. He gives talks and lectures, mostly on China and other Asian topics. He travels a lot in Asia.
The cost of what you will
When Mao died in 1976, hundreds of millions of Chinese breathed a sigh of relief. Next in line, Deng Xiaoping, immediately made it clear that he did not want to follow “Mao's ideas” at all. Instead, he “seeks the truth from the facts.”
Today's leaders also enjoy a close relationship with Mao, and nothing is more narrow than that, as he made his own ideas a guide for the country and the people. His speeches and statements are studied very seriously, not only within the party's ranks, but also in workplaces and schools. Yes, even children in nurseries get their daily dose.
But the happy Mao Zedong still haunts him in the background. As the 1932 British song said: “He's dead, but he won't rest.”
In the new “Xi Jinping era,” the party’s leading ideologues are working hard to make clear that Xi’s ideas are no different from Mao’s. Instead, we hear that the great prophet of our time has developed and adapted it for the new age. But anyone following developments in China will see that Xi's teachings and practices differ from Mao's teachings and practices on important points.
Although they are in complete agreement on one point: the Communist Party must rule the country, whatever the cost. Therefore, any opposition tendency must be stifled from its birth.
I dreamed of revenge
Mao was the son of a farmer, but he hated the tiring life on the farm. When his father called for help, he would hide in a nearby wooded hill, where he would sit comfortably and devour tales of heroes and villains from the past. He later became a teacher of teachers and politicians, and at the age of twenty-seven he attended the founding meeting of the Chinese Communist Party.
Finally, in 1949, he marched into Beijing at the head of an army of two million men. With the end of the civil war and the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese hoped for peace. But Mao called them to class struggle. He justified this by saying that all kinds of enemies of the revolution were still lurking in the background and dreaming of revenge.
The result was 27 years of unrest, persecution, blood, hunger and death. Mao meant to see enemies of the revolution everywhere, even in the Communist Party. In the first year of the People's Republic, up to a million former landowners and “rich farmers” were executed.
In 1958, he launched the Great Leap Forward. He wanted to take a shortcut to communism, a classless society, and mobilized hundreds of millions of people to realize his grand vision. The campaign ended in hunger, death and corruption. By the time the phenomenon subsided in 1961, it had claimed the lives of at least 40 million people.
Dutch sinologist Frank Dikötter, who has examined Chinese archives, suggests that as many as 45 million people joined.
In 1966, Mao rang the battle bell again. For the next ten years, China was haunted by the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” Once again he mobilized “the masses”, not to work around the clock, but to get rid of perceived opponents inside and outside the party.
Between one and two million people were killed in the wave of violence that followed. Many more were subjected to physical and psychological abuse and injuries, and their homes were ransacked and ransacked.
Liu Shaoqi, the party's vice chairman and alleged arch-enemy of the revolution, was thrown into prison, where he rotted to death in 1969, leaving him unattended. In addition, a large number of others died in the numerous concentration camps throughout the country.
After placing Mao in his crystal coffin in 1976, the new leaders decided to tone down the rhetoric of class struggle. The party, led by Deng Xiaoping, launched many reforms to accelerate reform, and wealthy Chinese people plunged into the “great sea” to become private entrepreneurs.
China sees enemies everywhere
Why does Xi keep praising him?
Now, more than forty years later, the party follows largely the same policies as Deng. Class struggle was no longer so important, although the differences between the highest and the lowest became greater than ever before. The richest man in China has a fortune of about 600 billion Norwegian kroner. Countless others can also call themselves billionaires, and even more have become millionaires.
At the same time, the vast majority still have to make do with relatively little.
Despite this, Xi Jinping is more interested in promoting “harmony” than in class struggle. He acknowledges that inequalities in society are great, but believes they can be resolved peacefully over time. Therefore, he promotes Confucius, the moral philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago.
Confucius preached the importance of harmony in all societal relationships. One of his commandments was for the subjects to obey the ruler. It is an idea that fits Shi like a glove, because as party chief and president he wants the Chinese to keep calm, work hard – and obey the party leadership in Beijing.
Xi is also keen for Chinese youth to study hard to make the country an economic superpower. The competition to get into the best universities is fierce. On the other hand, Mao often spoke disparagingly of people with bookish knowledge.
“Stalin never went to university. Gorky did not go to primary school for more than two years, and how much education did Jesus have? … In six months, I learned everything there is to learn. After that one has to work as a peasant for a year, and as a laborer “In a factory for two years. This is a real university education.”
Mao insisted that China should be as self-sufficient as possible. For this reason, he was not interested in trade with Western countries, least of all with his arch enemy, the United States. When he fell asleep in 1976, China's foreign trade was almost non-existent. The country's most visible export item was the President's Little Red Quotable Book.
Today's leaders speak warmly about globalization and trade with other countries, including the United States.
At the same time, we see that China under Xi Jinping has become more introverted, and Mao's old slogan of “relying on one's own strength” has returned to the fore again. It is tempting to interpret this shift as a reaction to the opposition the current regime faces from the United States and others. Regardless, it seems highly unlikely that Xi will return China to the isolationism of the Mao era.
The country has already become part of the global economy and cannot be itself enough. So the differences between Xi and Mao are clear. So why does Xi continue to praise him?
China's brutal tradition continues
First of all, because Mao embodies the history of the Communist Party more than anyone else. He not only helped found the party, but led it for many years until decisive victory in 1949.
Without Mao, there will be no new China, Beijing says. So today's leaders believe they owe him a debt of gratitude.
In any case, Xi Jinping knows that it is too dangerous to throw Mao under the bus. Especially in times like these, when millions of Chinese are unemployed and yearning for a new “liberator.”
Moreover, China's leaders judge Mao according to their own standards, not those of the West. China's long history is a story of brutality, mass mobilization, and mass death. Widespread use of violence was part of the “package.” How many did not join during the construction of the Great Wall? Construction work continued for nearly two thousand years.
For Xi and his men, Mao was no worse than his predecessors, but better. The numbers and facts that cast doubt on this perception do not affect them.
They were also keen to rewrite important chapters of the country's modern history, so that Mao would appear in the best possible light. As writer George Orwell (1903-1950) rightly observed: “The past is what the party decides it to be… At all times, the party has the ultimate truth.”
Today, Xi Jinping continues China's brutal tradition with his deceitful methods. Using new technology, the entire population of the country will be monitored from cradle to grave. No one should escape his sharp gaze.
He may not have as much blood on his hands as Mao's, but his blood trail is clear enough, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet, where the Uighurs and Tibetans are waging a desperate battle for supremacy.
Everything indicates that Xi Jinping intends to rule as long as he can. Unfortunately, he is only 69 years old.
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