Restore Mao Zedong as a Man

The Economist recently reported on Mao Yushi, a left-leaning intellectual in mainland China working for an independent think tank. He has been under fire recently by conservatives for a paper he had written about Mao. Please find the English Translation of that paper below, and the original text here.

Restore Mao Zedong as a Man

–Mao Yushi

Mao Zedong was once a god, but following the exposure of an increasing amount of information, is slowly becoming a mere man of flesh and blood. Some people, however, still today regard him as a god and view any evaluation whatsoever as being disrespectful. If he did have faults, the thinking goes, they must not be spoken of under any circumstances. In the view of these people, Mao Zedong is simply not up for analysis and is not to be faced head on, now or ever; for you cannot criticize a god.  They will never see the Mao that drooled uncontrollably, not even being able to speak clearly, nor the Mao that could not get in the car without the help of others nor his long period of being bed-ridden with weak and thin legs. Fortunately, with the publication of more materials, we can now look at Mao Zedong from the perspective of an ordinary person and in so doing can obtain not a few new impressions. He was simply a man, albeit one of extraordinary intelligence, but one that must inevitably face the law as does everyone else. He cannot go against this law, and is in fact limited by common law. He certainly was no god, and all of the superstitions regarding him will gradually vanish.

One of his most important actions was to implement the Cultural Revolution. He did so because he was afraid of being blamed for the three year famine. Over thirty million people starved to death in China, going down in history as far surpassing any record of starvation in any country during times of war or peace. In peacetime, there should have been no excuse for this; it was everyone’s responsibility, especially Mao Zedong’s.  He irrationally opposed the criticism of Peng Dehuai for fear that Peng would seize his power. He ignored the calamities that had been caused by his leftish policies and continued to distance himself from the Left. No one was allowed to speak the truth.  The Great Leap Forward was continued, as were the calls for steel—people’s communes and the so-called “three red flags” were also implemented even though the Leap was completely divorced from reality. This, of course, led to famine. To escape his responsibility, he launched the Cultural Revolution and punished Liu Shaoqi for criticizing Mao’s policies during the three-year famine. He wanted to destroy all political opponents and infinitely expand his own power, and even calculated to continue to expand it after his death by handing it to his own reliable partner, Jiang Qing. In his eyes, people were merely heaps of flesh, tools capable only of praising him with slogans. The desire for power controlled his life; he became fanatical about it, willing to pay the highest price for it, and in so doing actually undermined his own power.

He pursued power by using class warfare. The original intent of class struggle pits the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Mao’s class struggle, however, had nothing to do with the bourgeoisie and the proletariat—the so called “bourgeoisie” included anybody whom he did not like, most of them belonging in reality to the proletariat. This rather unprincipled struggle was later destroyed by Mao himself. From the fifties on he was obsessed with class warfare: opposition to Hu Feng, the right and its party, as well as the socialist education movement and the Cultural revolution all revolved around the development of class warfare. He purged Peng Dehuai, He Long, Chen Yi, Liu, and Tao Zhu. He sacrificed Lin Biao in the fight against Liu Shaoqi. Afterwards he lost trust in Lin Biao and wanted to dispose of him. Eventually, he even opposed Zhou Enlai, leaving only a lonely few: Jiang Qing, Mao Yuanxin, and Wang Hairong, as well as Zheng Yufeng and other such servants. If Mao did not really believe in class warfare except to be benefitted by it, he would not have been so lonely at the time of his death. Although he was responsible for the three year famine, he was still one of the founders of this country and was respected by many. Plainly, Mao was destroyed by his own class warfare.  After Lin Biao’s accident Mao Zedong repeatedly trained Jiang Qing how to carry forward but was met only with Jiang Qing’s constant bickering, an unfortunate situation indeed. Jiang Qing was only his dog, trained to bite whomever she was told to bite. Mao never did give up class struggle.

Mao engaged in class struggle at the expense of countless dead. At every activity there was a suicide (to say nothing of those he killed). Especially during the Cultural Revolution, those killed were not ordinary people but were mostly well known and had significantly contributed to society. Many of those were Mao’s friends and although Mao knew they had committed suicide still had no inkling of compassion. Of the thirty million people starved to death in the three-year famine, most of them were destitute peasants who helped him fight for the country. Again, Mao felt no remorse. Sun Weishi, the official Yun Zhu, and others who had intimate relations with Mao were forced into suicide. Mao felt no pity. New discoveries reveal that Mao had seduced numerous women. Once having been enshrined by the people, now we see the bestial desire that made up his character. Once he had come off his shrine these facts began to be unfolded in rapid succession. His cold-blooded nature is unspeakable and his dark nature unsurpassed. Everyone says Mao had superior wisdom that surpassed the understanding of all around him. In truth, though, he surpassed all around him in ruthlessness and disregard for humanity.

Now that more details have been exposed, it is clear that when Mao implemented “class warfare” in the Party nobody felt secure and interpersonal relations became abnormal, for everything revolved around one word: power. National unity and the interests of the people were put aside. Several national leaders thought of nothing all day but this power game—who had more power than who, especially in relation to Mao. No one dared to offend Mao, and the affairs of an entire country became Mao’s private affairs. At that time, many people had no way of understanding all of this, but now, fact by fact, the record is being cleared up. How did Nie Yuanzi’s “big character poster” become the poster of the Revolution? [Nie was an intellectual at Peking University. These posters criticized the control of the University by bourgeois intellectuals.] How were several young rebel leaders at universities manipulated? How did the Wuhan Incident, when Wang Li was beaten, occur? What was the background behind the General Assembly at Tiananmen regarding the safeguarding of the Cultural Revolution? Who were the “516-ers” and what was the story behind them? [This is referring to a “propaganda outline” drawn up by Lin Biao and Jiang Qing on May 16, 1966. Later, this document became a type of clarion call and an outline for the Cultural Revolution. The term is apparently now used to refer to counterrevolutionaries.]And how could Lin and Confucius and Zhou have been publicly criticized? No one has been able to understand any of these questions, but actually, these were all Mao eliminating his political opponents. In Mao’s mind all this was clear, but he could not say it. During the Cultural Revolution there were quite a few important matters that required his attention, yet still he remained ambiguous, letting others guess. This is because his purpose was to shame others, and in his heart there was only darkness. This kind of unlimited power of the country, where the leader in command had ulterior motives, led the country to the brink of economic and political collapse. There was nothing mysterious about any of this. Many people have believed that Mao’s purpose in launching the Cultural Revolution was to seize power from the bourgeois. Now this hoax has been entirely exposed.
Although Mao was in poor health during the last few years of his life, his mind was very clear. He knew he was about to die. To whom would the leadership be given? In his mind, Jiang Qing was the most reliable, so he decided to let her take over. However, he knew of Jiang Qing’s excessive feuds and understood that she could never get the consent of the majority, and so let Hua Guofeng assist her. Mao essentially told Wang that if Wang would take care of things, Mao could relax. He then added that if any problems came up, Jiang Qing should be consulted. One year before his death, Mao had in mind the following arrangement for leadership positions:  Jiang Qing, Party Chairman; Hua Guofeng, Prime Minister; Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; Wang Hongwen or Mao Yuanxin; Chairman of the Central Military Commission: Chen Xilian. Later on it was Mao Yuanxin that was chosen to be the Party Chairman. In sum, there was to be no exceeding the power of Mao’s own few close relatives. What virtues or talents did Jiang Qing and Mao Yuanxin have that would have qualified them for the post of the National Party Chairman? During the Cultural Revolution, Jiang proved herself to be nothing but a wench without the least bit of foresight or knowledge and the inability to expand her comprehension. After the Gang of Four were defeated, Jiang Qing was put on trial and convicted of illegally trying to seize Party power and of being a counterrevolutionary. She was sentence to two years of hard labor and then death, which was actually extremely just. Mao had actually wanted to turn the country over to a counterrevolutionary. The only thing in his mind at the time was how to maintain the legacy of Mao Zedong. This had nothing to do with proletariats and bourgeoisie.

After Lin Biao’s accident in 1971 the country breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that Lin had seized power and misled the great leaders into initiating the Cultural Revolution. Now that Lin has passed away, there is no reason to believe that anymore. In the implementation of each policy those who were initially against Lin and who were anti-revolutionaries were liberated. But of course, those who were executed for opposing Lin Biao cannot be brought back to life.  Lin’s accident put Mao in an extremely depressed state of mind, from which Mao got sick and never fully recovered. The attitude of the leaders and the attitude of the people were vastly different—the people were in extraordinarily high spirits while the leaders were depressed—which turned out to be very unfortunate for the people. In 1975, when Deng Xiaoping had made a comeback for the second time, he got rid of obstruction to the nation-wide railroad plans, enabling the railroads to function properly. Afterwards, he rectified the situation in the government in which there was bitter partisanship by eliminating feelings of opposition and liberated several cadres who had been punished. He also arrested corrupt leaders, gradually placing the government on the right track. Production was resumed and all indications were that things were improving; in short, people recognized that with Deng the situation was improving, that a shattered country was returning to normal. But Mao never considered the interests of the people, for he only thought of how to save himself and of whether or not Jiang Qing would be able to succeed him. Deng and Jiang Qing had several head on conflicts, and Mao wanted to get rid of Deng. This was what occupied Mao in 1976 when he was about to die, that Deng Xiaoping be overthrown once again. Mao was reduced from being a politician to becoming an enemy of the people because he had allowed himself to be controlled by the superstitions of power, losing what little reason remained with him.

The desire for power that thoroughly destroyed Mao Zedong caused him to lose his sanity and view the entire country as his own. Even though he knew Jiang Qing was unpopular when she said that, “Within three to five years there will surely be a reign of terror,” Mao still had no way of shaking this prophecy. He had already lost his sanity and was introducing class warfare like a madman. Jiang Qing  became his best choice for succession. As a result, he wanted to set a death trap for Zhou Enlai because he didn’t believe that Zhou would submit to Jiang Qing. His original and ideal plan was to have Zhou share power with Jiang Qing, but Zhou could not cooperate with her, for Jiang Qing was simply not a politician. When the Communist Party was building China there emerged countless heroes and there was no room for a wench. With Mao’s combination of high intellect and fatuity the country became a nation that lost its identity. He remains completely unmatched in his ability to bring about the destruction of an entire nation.
As the amount of declassified information has increased, the circumstances surrounding the travesty that was the Cultural Revolution have become ever more clear.  Mao was exceptional in that he was able to fight so many heroes until they were all destroyed. Mao and Stalin were different. Stalin’s aim was to purge the party unworthy; killing people was the goal.  But Mao’s purpose was not to just kill people, but to inflict humiliation and cause immense suffering. He would first take the victim and isolate him until nobody would dare sympathize with him, making him an enemy of the people. The victim would then be deprived of basic human rights and be allowed to be humiliated and beaten by others. The people would often have the victim drink dirty water out of a spoon and beat him so severely that he would need to go to the hospital until he was healed. Finally, these victims were deprived of any desire to live and so committed suicide. Before they killed themselves, though, they would be made to chant “Long live Chairman Mao!”If they dared show any trace of disrespect, after death their relatives would be made to suffer an even more tragic fate. Mao’s handling of Liu Shaoqi is a prime example. When Liu Shaoqi was about to die, Mao “rescued” him, ordering to wait until Congress had passed a resolution denouncing him as a traitor and a spy and expelling him from the Party forever. Mao then selected Liu’s seventieth birthday for him to appear to have this announcement read to him, after which Liu died, unaided and amidst great suffering. Mao condemned high ranking officials to death by process of trial (no matter how perfunctory) and formally executed them, all of this so they could be isolated and die under extremely lonely conditions, so that misery could be maximized. Mao hated Zhou Enlai because the people supported Zhou more than they supported himself, but he could not easily dispose of Zhou because both domestically and abroad the name Zhou Enlai was inseparable with China. During the last few days of Zhou’s life, he was tormented by extreme pain. Mao took this opportunity to release articles written several years ago relentlessly criticizing Zhou using sarcasm, irony, and harsh language, while making Zhou listen as people read to him, thus increasing his misery. Such a process required a well-designed and cunning plan as well as a lot of energy. Most of Mao’s energy was focused on these aspects. 
If we are to compare Stalin and Mao, Stalin killed more people.  Before the liberation, rebels in Jinggangshan killed hundreds of thousands; how these deaths are to be counted is anybody’s guess. After the liberation, seven hundred thousand people were killed by those trying to suppress counter-revolutionaries. These were all primarily the idea of Mao. Afterwards, during the Cultural Revolution when the class ranks were being purged—which is known as the Anti-Three and Anti-Five Campaigns—a large number of people were killed. The actual numbers have never been officially reported, but it is estimated that it was no more than two million. Other than these incidents, there were no large scale executions. The thirty million that died of starvation were not directly killed; those that were killed via torture, suicide, and those that died in combat were not killed by the hand of Mao. Stalin actually killed tens of millions of people himself. However, it is uncontroversial that Stalin fought a patriotic war against Hitler and won. On the other hand, Mao Zedong, except for the few battles fought against the Japanese during the War of Resistance, from 1939 onwards did not fight a single battle. The main focus of the Communist Party was to expand the area of liberation and train their armed forces. During this critical time, which was literally a moment of life and death for many, Mao refused to fight the Japanese, instead opting to play his own games and preparing to reap the fruits after victory had already been achieved. He played his games, but liberation not only failed to bring happiness to the people, it plunged them for thirty years into the abyss of misery. Fifty million people died for political reasons. That is more than the number that died during World War II, and the end of World War II brought peace. Those countries that were defeated, including Germany and Japan, became democratic, civilized and prosperous. In China, meanwhile, the victors fell into domestic class warfare, leading to an unprecedented loss of human lives.

Not only did Mao Zedong cause immense suffering at home, he spread his theories abroad causing brutalities around the world. He encouraged Southeast Asia to engage in armed revolutions, causing death. Take Malaysia, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka: they have all engaged in armed revolt. Today, over thirty years after his death, there remain several problems because of this. The Maoists in India have an independent armed force with the support of two hundred million destitute citizens, yet in more than thirty years not a bit of progress has been made. Thousands of people a year die because of armed conflict there. The Indian government remains powerless against them. It is in Cambodia, however, where Mao wreaked the most havoc. The good student of Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, followed Mao Zedong’s teaching when he killed a countless number of people, becoming the world’s biggest killer in modern times, by ratio of the number of people killed to the total population. This was all achieved because of Mao Zedong. These deeds show that there is a problem: his theory was exceptionally deceptive, leading many to be taken in. Today people still hold his name in high regard. But was his theory right or wrong? The logic of it is simple; it should improve people’s lives by development and growth, and not by leading to humans struggle with each other to become rich. The followers of Mao’s thought have perhaps enjoyed the struggle (while those who have been on the losing end are certainly less lucky), but none of them been able to cast off poverty. This is without exception.
But Mao was naïve and had never thought that in the end he would be alone, void of politicians who shared his vision. He left behind a pack of rogues. In the end, of those he trusted, only the Gang of Four were later sentenced. Everyone praises Mao’s extraordinary vision, but in actuality he proved to be fatally short-sighted. When he launched the Cultural Revolution he had no way of knowing that he would be completely isolated. He was entirely deserted by those of his friends and allies whom he had warred against since the beginning. Mao remained lucid until he died, yet died alone, disappointed, without a future, and without comrades or friends. He could have never dreamt that his brilliant life would have such an outcome. Up until his death he showed not the smallest inkling of remorse or regret. After he died, Hua Guofeng and Ye Jianying arrested the Gang of Four, tried them in the highest court, and condemned them. But the head of that group, the one who brought calamity to an entire nation, still hangs in Tiananmen Square and is still found on the bills we use every day. China’s great harlequinade has yet to do a curtain call. Mao was a human, not a god, and in the end must descend from his shrine and become an ordinary person. When the outer layers of his god-like image fall in scales, so will the superstitions surrounding him, and he will finally be justly dealt with.


5 thoughts on “Restore Mao Zedong as a Man

  1. Thank you for translating the essay in full. I think it’s really important that people realize Mao Zedong wasn’t nearly as magnificent as he’s purported to have been. Would it be okay for me to repost (with due credit and link, of course) this on my blog?

  2. I just posted a link on Walter Russell Mead’s blog. The truth is only now seeping out about Mao. How long before the truth about what is happening in China now seeps out? Right now I’m reading Will the Boat Sink the Water. How many hundreds of millions of similar stories are going unreported as we speak? We speak of human rights abuses in China. But really it is the civil rights abuses we should concentrate on.

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