The Face of Mao


I’m not usually a huge fan of Xinran, but this is a great article from today’s Guardian, about a kid’s game involving a Chinese bank note:

“You have been moulded by the western media, which has hardly any positive press about China and the Chinese. You often go back to China, so tell me why Mao’s picture still hangs on the walls of so many people’s houses, shops and offices. You think it is because the Chinese government orders them to display them, or because those people have never heard western views? Or do you think they don’t know that Mao did terrible things to his people and how much he damaged his country? Be honest to our history, Xinran. I know your family has lost people under Mao’s cruel policies, I know your parents were sent to prison for years and you suffered in the Cultural Revolution as an orphan.

“I am sorry to remind you of your unhappy memories. But don’t look down on what Mao did for Chinese national pride, and for those poor parents in the early 1950s. I feel it is unfair to Mao.”

I stopped her. “What about the millions of Chinese who died under his rule, because of his policies, in the 50s and 60s?”

“If westerners still believe their God is just after he flooded the world for his own purpose, or George Bush could invade Iraq with growing numbers of deaths for his campaign for moral good, why shouldn’t Chinese believe in Mao, who did lots of positive things for the Chinese but also lost lives for his own mission for good?”

For me this seems to neatly sum up two widely held beliefs in China: that all westerners are christians who unquestioningly accept the decisions of their leaders, and that Chairman Mao should be regarded as a kind of god!

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