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Chairman Mao Is Greater Than Nelson Mandela, Chinese Leftists Say

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) declared ideological war on online public opinion leaders on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo in August, many liberal bloggers have withdrawn from the platform while leftists and fans of China's red culture are more vocal than ever.

With the death of Nelson Mandela, the internationally beloved former president of South Africa, on December 5, 2013, that political tilt was on full display as Maoist and nationalistic left-wing Weibo users took the opportunity to praise Chinese communist revolutionary and Mandela inspiration Mao Zedong and, surprisingly, criticize state-controlled media outlets for giving too many compliments to Mandela. 

Screen capture from the CCTV news feature on the life of Nelson Mandela

Screen capture from Chinese Central Television's news feature on the life of Nelson Mandela

During its review of Mandela's life, Chinese Central Television (CCTV) highlighted [zh] that Mandela had cited first generation leaders of the Chinese Communist PartyChairman Mao, Zhou Enlai and Zhu Deas sources of inspiration for his struggle in South Africa. According to the broadcast, Mandela even celebrated China's October 1 National Day with his prisonmates while incarcerated.

On Weibo, Maoists and left-wing nationalists, who are critical of capitalistic China and are in favor of more Maoist-style socialism, knocked CCTV's gracious treatment of Mandela and praised Chairman Mao instead.

“Mr Ouyang”, a microblogger upholding Marxist and Maoist thought, wrote:


Mandela was a nationalist and had fought for equality and freedom for his race. We should mourn for his death. However, the Chinese media has given him too many compliments. Mandela's impact is limited and did not not develop any coherent thought. He was not even charismatic. The impact of China's Mao Zedong on the world and contribution to people of the world are outstanding. Mandela called himself a student of Chairman Mao. Some people want to downgrade Mao Zedong by comparing him with others, they are wasting their time.

Comments like this are more common thanks to the revival of Mao‘s legacy as a communist leader under current President Xi Jinping. Members of China's New Left are now taking every opportunity to reestablish the “greatness” of Mao, and Mandela's death is the latest excuse. 

“Windy Valley”, who used Mao's selected writings as his profile picture, also criticized CCTV for giving too much credit to Mandela, writing:


To be frank, I don't understand why India's Gandhi and South Africa's Mandela receive so much praise. Of course they were great, that's all. But Chairman Mao surpassed them all. We should place words like “divine” and “unprecedented” in front of Mao Zedong's name. While Mandela saw racial discrimination and segregation, Mao Zedong saw the class conflict and struggle behind the racial problem. This is the difference [between the two].

A portrait combining Xi Jinping and Chairman Mao to capture the revival of Mao. Image uploaded to Twitter by @feng37

A portrait combining the images of current President Xi Jinping and Chairman Mao to capture the revival of Mao. Image uploaded to Twitter by @feng37

“Red River”, also a self-proclaimed Maoist, recited CCTV's report and added his own comment:


Mandela: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, the old generation's revolutionists and the Chinese people lent support to the South African people's struggle against racial segregation and for independence. The Long March and Chinese Revolution gave the South African people inspiration. How the South African people hold Mandela in their hearts is like how Chinese people hold Mao Zedong in their hearts, their images are loftier than the highest mountain and will last forever.

In response to why Mao does not enjoy the same praise both within China and worldwide, @risingfromash, who is a self-described patriot youth, said:


Mao Zedong is the only one in the whole world to have broken all the chains that enslaved the Chinese people and helped them to stand up. Mandela and Gandhi did not help their people to win all that they deserved. That's why the west hates and fears Maoist thought, but keeps flattering Gandhi and Mandela.

@guojizhuanjia, who used the Maoist slogan “anti-Soviet, prevent a capitalist revival” in his profile description, highlighted Mandela's view on the Tibetan independence movement:


Mandela had bowed to racism. His views on world politics resemble white people's. Although he was put in prison by white people, he gave up his determination to struggle against racism. His consideration of the Tibetan independence movement as a human rights movement was a big, big mistake. He is a banana with dark skin.

Some stuck up for Mandela in the face of racially charged taunts. Huang Yen, a IT worker, was angry at the Maoist comments:


Please don't insult Mandela using Mao Zedong. Both did not have antidotes for solving their countries’ fundamental problems. Mandela never launched the Cultural Revolution and never implemented collectives which resulted in famine. Mandela did not indulge in power, he chose to retire and contributed to charity works against the spread of AIDS. He passed on the government to the next generation in peace with a democratic system.

Writer Meng Qingde commented:


Mandela probably had studied Mao Zedong. But he did not become Mao Zedong. South Africa is lucky, or it would have gone through a series of tragedies related to class struggle and national resentment. If that happened, Mandela would not be respected and missed by the world.

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