Why is China still saying: Happy Birthday Mao Zedong!

Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893. More than 85 percent of respondents in Global Times survey said that Mao’s achievements outweigh his mistakes. So what it means for today’s China? What is Mao’s legacy? Read few comments.

Yiyi Lu, Senior Research Fellow, ChangCe Think Tank

The legacy of Mao is quite a divisive issue in China now. Those who blame him for the famine, the disastrous Cultural Revolution, the persecution of millions of intellectuals and cadres think he is a ruthless dictator. Mao’s fans and supporters think he was a great patriot, a great statesman, a national hero who saved the Chinese nation from foreign domination and led it down a path of national revival.

It is difficult for the two sides to seek middle ground, not only because their views and assessments are so divergent, but also because the two sides cannot agree on basic facts. For example, exactly how many people starved to death during the famine? Mao’s supporters think the claim that millions died is a big lie. They don’t agree that a large number of people died in the famine. Mao’s critics, of course, say over 30 million people starved to death.

In short, because many facts of the period of Mao’s reign are still not known to the public (a lot of information remain classified), assessing Mao’s legacy is difficult.

It is further complicated by the fact that when people discuss Mao’s legacy, they are using it to serve present-day political purposes. For example, Mao’s supporters charge that those who denounce Mao are in fact aiming at the Chinese Communist Party. The Party is their real target. Similarly, those who praise Mao and say in his time there was little corruption and everybody was equal are probably trying to complain about the present, not just praising Mao.

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