Xi Jinping and the Return of Mao
As President Xi Jinxing arrives in India for the BRICS Summit in Goa, weird information has recently come from China about the revival of the cult of Mao Zedong. It is usually linked to democracy and the role of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the Middle Kingdom.
For Beijing, democracy is not a good system.
Watching the US presidential campaign makes you wonder if the Communist leadership does not have a point.
In July 2014, an article published in The Qiushi, the organ of the CPC’s Central Committee, termed Western democracy as ‘chaotic’.
The article expounded: “The West, in particular the U.S., emerged as the triumphant side in the post-Cold War world and then promoted the so-called Third Wave of ‘Democratization’ in the world. Some twenty years later, the records of the democracies that the U.S. exported are totally lackluster.”
It quoted The Economist which asked, “What’s gone wrong with democracy?” The London’s publication provided the answer: “Democracy’s global advance has come to a halt, and may even have gone into reverse.”
For The Qiushi, “in west democracy it has become a norm to canvass for votes through the use of illegal bribes. …The ultimate goal of political parties is to court votes. …To win more votes, they would do their best to cater to voters in elections, which lead to illegal bribes for votes as a norm.”
A second argument is added “as the U.S. Democratic and Republican Parties are tit-for-tat in the budget battle, resulting in delays in passing the budget act, and the federal government has to close down its non-core departments.”
The piece asserted that money is mother’s milk for ‘the game of democracy’: “The West has always preached that Western capitalist democracy is sacred and equal, and that the process is fair. In fact, money, business, media and vested interests groups often manipulate Western-style democracy.”
And it goes on like this.
Watching a debate between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton or listening to a speech of President Rodrigo Duterte makes one feel that the Chinese may be right about ‘democracy’.
But is the authoritarian Chinese system really better?
The answer is ‘no’, it is worse.
In China, the power struggle is more accentuated and there is no corrective remedy such as the next elections in the West (or India). Further, the so-called intraparty elections are not free from corruption.
Recently 45 deputies from Liaoning province were thrown out after several candidates were found to have paid a bribe to get elected in the local assembly (and then to the National People’s Congress).
The South China Morning Post reported: “The expulsion of dozens of National People’s Congress [NPC] deputies from Liaoning province was triggered by the lower-level, provincial legislature’s rejection three years ago of NPC candidates recommended by Beijing.”
The Hong Kong newspaper speaks of “unprecedented, large-scale vote rigging in the Liaoning People’s Congress in 2013 [which] saw NPC candidates favoured by the party leadership fail to win election,” it added: “The scale of the scandal, which saw the party’s preferred candidates lose out to ones backed by bribe-paying business chiefs, had alarmed the party leadership, and if not addressed had threatened to undermine party general secretary Xi Jinping’s game plan for the party’s national congress late next year.”
A pro-mainland Hong Kong newspaper Sing Pao published a surprising commentary implicating Zhang Dejiang, the NPC’s Chairman (and No 3 in the Party’s hierarchy) as responsible for the Liaoning election bribery case. The commentary pointed out that Zhang Dejiang, being under former President Jiang Zemin’s ‘protection umbrella’, does not have “to face the consequences for his failures.”
The Hong Kong media also reported that the combined wealth of China’s 70 richest NPC deputies is more than that of all 535 members of the United States Congress, plus the US president and members of his cabinet.
China can’t really throw stones at the West.
In this context it is interesting to looks at the revival of the Cult of Chairman Mao, which seems to attract the masses.
Early this year in Henan province, some overzealous villagers and businessmen erected a statue of Mao. It was over 36 meters tall, painted gold; The People’s Daily Online said that it cost nearly half a billion dollars (it must have been rich villagers!).
The statue was to commemorate the Great Helmsman’s life.
As often, the social media mocked the giant statue, especially as the Henan province was one of the worse sufferers during the Great Leap Forward during which tens of millions of Chinese died due to Mao’s follies.
A few weeks later, the statue of Mao Zedong was demolished, showing the contradictions within the Chinese society and the Party.
According to London-based The Daily Mail: “the rise and fall of the Mao monument in central China’s rural Henan province highlights the political sensitivities in the country surrounding a historical figure alternatively revered and criticized by both the public and the government.”
The People’s Daily bluntly noted that the statue “may have lacked approval from cultural management authorities, though it also cited an official as saying that did not appear to be the reason.”
Nobody was ready to comment further.
Earlier, The Global Times had mentioned the construction of the statue, but had commented: “Building Mao temples is not encouraged by the central government or local authorities”
The same Global Times reported that Mao worship is becoming increasingly common in rural China, and ardent Mao followers are pushing for December 26, his birthday, to become a public festival.
Amazingly, replicas of mangoes distributed by Mao are given as rewards to loyal workers: “they’re traded at a few hundred dollars. Original Mao badges are prized possessions of some collectors,” says The Daily Beast in a long piece on the former Chinese leader.
The New York-based publication gives another example, the melting of a 50-kilo solid gold Mao: “It was unveiled at a Shenzhen art exhibition in December 2013, meant to commemorate the man’s 120th birthday. Producing the piece required eight months of work by over 20 artists who shaped gold, carved jade, and set precious stones. In all, the statue cost over $15 million.”
The Wall Street Journal explains: “In the west, Mao is understood chiefly as China’s ‘Red Emperor’ — a vicious dictator who fostered an extreme personality cult, launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution and masterminded a ‘Great Leap Forward’ that resulted in the worst famine in history. Experts estimate that Mao was responsible for between 40 million and 70 million deaths in peacetime — more than Hitler and Stalin combined. While Hitler and Stalin were repudiated, it is not the case for Mao.
Will Mao Return?
However, Mao may not stage a comeback on China’s political stage for one reason.
Xi Jinping has not forgotten the fate of his father, China’s Vice-Premier Xi Zhongxun.
In the Fall of 1962, during the Tenth Plenum of the 8th Party’s Congress, Mao violently attacked Xi Sr, accusing him of supporting the rehabilitation of Gao Gang, a Communist Party leader who has been purged in 1949. Machiavellian Kang Sheng led the charge; he announced that Xi Sr. had been investigated for his ‘anti-party activities’.
Dr. Li Zhuixi, Mao’s personal physician later wrote: “Kang Sheng’s investigations implicated more than three hundred cadres from the party, government, and military.” This included Xi Zhongxun.
Dr. Li continued: “I knew Xi Zhongxun well, and the charges against him and his supporters were fabricated. But Kang Sheng’s job was to depose and destroy his fellow party members, and his continuing ‘investigations’ of ranking party leaders in the early 1960s laid the groundwork for the attacks of the Cultural Revolution to come.”
Subsequently, Xi Jinping’s father disappeared from public view for 16 years. When Xi Sr. was ignominiously purged, the future President was just 9 year old. Such a trauma for a kid!
Xi Jr. knows that his father’s main ‘crime’ was to have been associated with Marshal Peng Dehuai, the courageous solitary critic of Mao during the Great Leap Forward.
Xi may today use some of the Great Helmsman’s slogans, but will never rehabilitate him. The return of Mao’s cult is nevertheless rather worrying at a time China is struggling to become a ‘normal’ State. It simply shows that China is searching for a role model, which the Party is unable to provide.