Chinese Challenge State Media's Rosy Take on Mao Zedong's Legacy

Mao Zedong’s 120th birthday, which falls on December 26, 2013, has thrust the communist leader's legacy back into the spotlight. Since last week, Chinese state media have reported on stories related to Mao, one of the founders of the People's Republic of China. News and images of students commemorating Mao at universities were uploaded to social media.

To most ordinary Chinese, Mao is a legend and a savior who freed China from foreign influence and class oppression. Mao's “mistakes” were usually waved off, such as the persecution and deaths of millions of people during the cultural revolution. Deng Xiaoping, the “architect of modern China”, judged Mao as “70 percent right and 30 percent wrong,” which became the official assessment. 

However, in the age of the Internet, in which Chinese are more exposed to different sources of information, Mao’s legacy is becoming more controversial. 

Government mouthpiece Global Times published a piece titled “Repudiating Mao is a Childish Fantasy Entertained by a Small Number of People” on December 22, 2013, saying the piece says that “the perception of Mao as an unprecedented great man has deep roots among the Chinese people” and that “those who think Mao’s reputation in China has been ruined are in a naive delusion.” The article was criticized by many netizens on popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.

Writer “Liang Huiwang” retorted [zh]:

Students commemorate Mao at Shan Xi University. Photo from Weibo.

Students commemorate Mao at Shanxi University. Photo from Weibo.


I personally think that Mao fans in intellectual circles must be brainwashed, they are not pretending. Because the authorities do not really worship Mao, worshiping Mao will not bring them much benefit. Since the Qin dynasty, Chinese intellectuals have relied on the government to make a living, worship of force is in their genes. Since they saw that Mao was a fierce murderer, they are involuntarily on their knees.

Netizen “Liu Qingping” echoed [zh] the same sentiment:


Someone who has killed so many people and committed sins, no matter what contributions he has made, it’s not sufficient to cover up [his sins]. Those who try to hide these evil deeds are not only insensitive to the victims, but also often get benefits from the offender. Today, in particular, we should break away from the filial loyalty to authority.

“Ts” commented [zh]:


Mao’s biggest crimes were the rectification movement expansion, which killed countless innocent intellectuals; the Great Leap Forward, which led millions of innocent people to starve; and the cruel Cultural Revolution, which persecuted our founding fathers, injured innocent people, and destroyed cultural monuments! Mao also secretly supported the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, an evil crime against humanity! These sins can never be wiped away!

Write Pao Tong wrote [zh]: 


Speaking of Mao's legacy, it at least includes: silent public opinion, regime without election, harmonious cooperation among the three powers, and so on. Of which the most important is undoubtedly the absolute power over everything, and with it, he becomes the owner of hundreds of millions of laborers and forces. Power is the truth, legitimacy, invincible magic, and the cash cow.

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