Unmasking the false god Mao

Sin-ming Shaw – The South China Morning Post

Should Mao Zedong’s huge portrait still hang above the front gate of Tiananmen Square? Should China’s ruling party still call itself communist?
These are not idle questions. Unless and until China’s leaders answer both questions with a simple “no”, they will continue to have blood on their hands and a tainted legitimacy. Many mainlanders do not accept communist rule precisely because the Communist Party denies its past, and remains unapologetic about its cruelty.
This is one reason why the mainland has a Taiwan “problem”. The communists insist that being Chinese means accepting the political reality of a sole communist sovereign.
Many Taiwanese think that, if being Chinese means accepting all that goes under the name of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, they would rather deny their “Chineseness” than assume some of that shame.
Similarly, while a recent poll found that 70 per cent of Hongkongers are proud of being ethnic Chinese, a similar percentage are ashamed of the conduct of the mainland government.
Enshrined in the Chinese constitution are the following words: “Mao Zedong, the party’s chief representative, created Mao Zedong Thought, which has been proved correct by practice, and based on which the Communist Party developed the basic system of socialism economically, politically and culturally after the founding of the People’s Republic.”
But how “correct” was Mao? In her new book Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang – author of the international best-seller Wild Swans – exposes startling new details that prove beyond doubt that Mao was a tyrannical, cruel hypocrite whose disregard for human lives and suffering surpassed that of even Stalin and Hitler. Her catalogue of Mao’s “correct practice” is numbing in its immorality and bloodthirstiness.
To help finance his communist movement in the 1930s, Mao squeezed poor peasant families, in the “red” zone he controlled, for any assets they had. Many families were forced out of their homes so that their meagre possessions could be requisitioned.
While hiding out in the caves of Yanan , Mao became a distributor of opium. Contrary to myths that he and his insurgents lived frugally during the Yanan days, they lived well on trading profits.
After the nationalist government collapsed in 1949, Mao’s “New China” emerged. Almost immediately, he launched a campaign to suppress “counter -revolutionaries”, berating one province for “being too lenient, not killing enough”. Killing “enemies” was not the sole purpose. Mao wanted to instil obedience by having as many people as possible witness the terror.
Masses of Chinese were sent to work camps, where prisoners endured harsh physical labour to “reform” their “bourgeois” habits and thoughts. During Mao’s rule, an estimated 27 million died in the camps. Close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork during the infamous Great Leap Forward of 1958-1961.
Mao’s reaction? “With all these projects, half of China may well have to die. If not half, one-third, or one-tenth – 50 million … but you can’t blame me when people die.” Millions more died during Mao’s Cultural Revolution of 1965 -1976. In all, it is estimated that more than 70 million people died in the “New China”.
China’s communist leaders must own up to their history and drop Mao and the communist legacy. The country needs a new constitution – one that enshrines genuine democracy. China deserves better; it requires better in order to reclaim the glory that was China.
Sin-ming Shaw is a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York
Copyright: Project Syndicate

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