Sep 16

Memories of Mao

Written by guest on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 at 4:04 pm
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As the countdown of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern China looms, it seems that China is getting ready for the big party, from the restoration of Chang’an street to the Film created for the special occasion Jianguo Daye. One thing that seems to be absent in this occasion is Mao himself.

By all means Mao is regarded to many Chinese as the George Washington of China when China rose as a nation from the burning ashes of WWII. Yet, the Chinese media did not mention anything of his death at September 9. The movie released at 10/1 Jianguo Daye means “Lofty Ambitions of Founding a Republic” doesn’t sound ‘patriotic.’ Even textbooks are devote less space for Mao than the previous years.

Chinese history wrote of Mao’s deeds of 70-30 (70% good, 30% bad). The older generation Chinese remember China before 1949 have great regards of Mao because they have seen the devastation of WWII. The middle generation Chinese have bad memories of Mao because of the cultural revolution and great leap forward. The young generation Chinese care less about Mao, and tend to remember what Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao did.

What do you think of him?

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61 Responses to “Memories of Mao”

  1. TonyP4 Says:

    I’m a little surprised there is not a single post on this upcoming event and our founding father Mao.

    The following is my point of view of Mao from an overseas Chinese and I’m sure it will be quite different from Chinese in mainland. So, please keep the discussion civil.

    * Interesting to compare Mao to Washington. I believe Washington had a easier time and he did not govern too long. His influence is far less than Mao to his citizens.

    * ’70 good and 30 bad’ is more political and would be sounded off from folks like Deng. The reverse is more true for most historians I guess.

    – Mao is great in the beginning and poor in his governance and policy like purging the ‘rightist intellectuals’, Big Leap Forward (backward for me), Cultural Revolution (Counter-CR to me)…

    It could be the Peter’s Principle – when some one becomes incompetent (governance in Mao’s case) when promoted from a position (founding China) s/he is competent.

    – He did bring up the spirit of a nation (after hundreds of years of humiliation) while millions were starving to death.

    My simple conclusion. Mao is a national hero (I have my reservation) when his time made him one. He has vision, talent… The folks surrounded him did not provide good guidance esp. in governance or he did not want to listen to others’ opinions. Chou could have helped China more if he could influence Mao more. When he became semi God, he ignored he would be judged harshly by history.

    He has strengths and weaknesses of a human being. He should not get all the blame and glory. His advisors and his citizens should bear some of the blame.

    All leaders should be judged by his benefits to his followers/citizens and the cultures of his/her nation. It is a lesson for China, if not for the world.

  2. pug_ster Says:


    One of the quotes that struck me is the Chinese saying “Better to be a dog in a time of peace than a human in a time of war.”

  3. TonyP4 Says:

    Quite true when we’re looking at the history of China from more than 2,500 years ago.

  4. pug_ster Says:

    Apparently there was a lighting red and yellow in Empire State Building that caused alot of controversy. In an msnbc’s poll apparently 90% of them are opposed and many comments is still stuck on China’s past making dumb comments relative to communism, Cultural revolution and the Great Leap forward. China at 2009 is not the same country when it was founded at 1949 yet many American’s views seem to be stuck in the 1950’s to 1960’s.

  5. TonyP4 Says:

    It is only true for most of the older generation who still view Chinese the way you describe. I’m surprised on MSNBC as most of the audience are younger.

    35 years ago, a Chinese professor wrote in the student paper at U.Mass., Amhert, “If you do not believe a Chinese can teach in college, see me at Room xxx in Building yyy”.

    Look at Wall Street Journal. At one time, China was not a relevance. For the last 30 years, it has been great changes and China has more articles than any other countries except USA.

    Economy brings respect to China, but Chinese still have a long way to learn in public behavior – from cutting line, loud talking to spitting, baby urinating… We are just so far away from the world standard and hope we change fast.

    It could be due to loss of education of the entire generation (Cultural Revolution) and hence the family education to the current generation, or we’re just plain poor. We need to have the basics (food, shelter, and sex…) before we enjoy better things in life like music, art… and then respect.

  6. jpan Says:

    Chairman Mao was no longer regarded as a god in China since Deng’s “liberation of Mind” movement. However, Mao gave all Chinese a much needed backbone. I knew quite lot of people from Taiwan pay him great respect. Everyday, tens and thousands of people still go visit his rest place.

    Plus, Mao quietly shaped a new world that is just unfolding in front of your eyes 🙂

  7. facts Says:

    @#4, #5,
    What you see is the handy work of the western media, the seed of ignorance, hatred and future conflict is being sowed everyday in the young minds of the west.

    Chairman Mao founded three things for the Chinese nation: the party, the army, and PRC institutions. As time goes by, future generations will realize more and more the richness of the three corner stones the great helmsman laid for China, where as the misgivings he caused in those early years of PRC will fade away.

    As expected and as you have seen the fruit, the western media will keep singularly focusing on the spinning of the misfortunes during the early years of PRC to demonize Chairman Mao, in order to deny the legitimacy of the three corner stones of the Chinese nation.

  8. Steve Says:

    @ facts #7: Mao didn’t found the CCP or the Red Army. I’m not sure what you mean by “PRC institutions”.

  9. jpan Says:

    >> “Tibetan people have a special cherish feelings towards Chairman Mao. He said that many Tibetans still enshrines Mao’s portrait in their homes, even the 14th Dalai Lama has also been openly express admiration for Mao Tse-tung”

    From a special lecture given by Qinghua University history professor Dr. Hui Wang in Singapore, titled “3.14 Lhasa incident was not simply an ethnic conflict, but triggered by years of economic reforms”


  10. facts Says:

    #8 Steve
    That’s Chinese history if you don’t know. PRC institutions— the style of PRC government: State Council, People’s congress, Political consultation congress, CMC, provincial governments, etc,etc..

  11. Steve Says:

    @ facts #10: I wrote my senior thesis on this era. Chen Duxiu was the first General Secretary and co-founded the party with Li Dazhao. The founder of the Red Army was Zhu De. The structure of the party was Marxist/Leninist and taken directly from the Soviets, with the aid of Soviet advisors such as Grigori Voitinsky. That’s Chinese history if you don’t know.

  12. TonyP4 Says:

    @#7 Facts.

    Chinese media are worse than the west. It is the another round unless you’re blinded by your nationalism.

    The fact is millions of Chinese died because of his bad governance, a lot of destruction to our cultures by the Red Guards, and loss of education for the entire generation.

  13. Rhan Says:


    Can you please enlighten me on which part of China history that reforming is done successfully without going through lots of destruction? I am in the opinion that Mao did construct all the basic foundation. Even Japan with all its financial and technological strength likes to play the agreeable puppet or lap dog of the US. Mao try another path, it is up to the new generation leader to continue wearing 西装 or 中山装

  14. facts Says:

    #11 Steve
    Your understanding of Chinese history seems limited to google search. Chairman Mao was a founding member of the party, more importantly he shaped the party to lead it to power. Today’s PLA took shape in TianWang Restructure, not to mention Chairman Mao saved red army in the Long March. Chairman Mao lead the the party and the army to take over China, it was Chairman Mao’s leadership that laid the foundation of today’s China.

    #12 TonyP4
    My post is a response to the comments on the utter ignorance of western public, the media brainwash is obviously the cause, unless you can give a better explanation. Please do if you have. To accuse Chinese media being worse is irrelevant to current state of ignorance in western public.

    Regarding Chairman Mao, your behavior I have already predicted in my post, so no need to go on.

  15. Steve Says:

    @ facts #14: Are you trying to tell me that Mao founded the CCP (not just attended the first meeting) and are you saying that he was the first chairman? Are you saying that Zhu De didn’t found the army? Are you saying that the CCP didn’t get their structure from the Soviets? Are you saying that Voitensky wasn’t the main advisor to the party when they were organized?

    What does Google have to do with it? Why don’t you stick to the questions that were raised? What did I say that was inaccurate? Your understanding of Chinese history seems to be… well, nonexistent. Why don’t you read what you actually wrote (Chairman Mao founded three things for the Chinese nation: the party, the army, and PRC institutions.) instead of trying to change your story after it was pointed out that you were incorrect on all three.

    I would say it was Deng’s leadership that shaped the modern Chinese economic state while it was Mao’s leadership that initially shaped the modern Chinese political state, but that style of leadership no longer exists. No longer can one person dominate Chinese politics as Mao did (with disastrous consequences) but now power is shared among several power centers. That has proven to be healthier for China both economically and politically.

    Since you seem to think you know so much about China, where exactly in China do you live? I’d be curious to know.

  16. facts Says:

    Based on what you have written, I say you don’t understand Chinese history. And maybe I used the word found in a more loose sense. As a spiritual leader, the party, the army, and the state all have much imprint of Chairman Mao than those names you mentioned, Chen, Li, and Zhu. They have little if any influence on today’s China. Whereas Mao’s will last for very long time. Where you see only disastrous consequences, more and more ordinary Chinese see differently. Misfortunes were only limited to 1 to 2 generations, but benefits has lasted and will last for as long as we can see. Not to fall into the trap of pitting Deng against Mao, both great leaders, and both indispensable. Paraphrasing Deng’s own words, without Chairman Mao, China would still be in the darkness.

  17. pug_ster Says:

    I agree with facts. I think that somehow history is blackwashed or whitewashed depending in the point of view. American history have no problems glorifying our founding fathers like George Washington when he is in fact a wealthy slaveowner. Yet American History has no problems omitting that fact. This is however is seen differently of Mao. Although that Chinese should learn from history from Mao as well as other Chinese leader’s such as Deng, Jiang, and Hu’s triumphs and failures. In places like in the US I think the US government never learn, from the failed war in Afghanistan and Iraq, financial collapse, health care crisis.

  18. TonyP4 Says:

    @Rhan #10.

    You’re right that most Chinese reforms bought a lot of destruction. However, Chinese suffered from Mao’s bad governance. I did say Mao is a national hero (with some reservation) to raise our nationalism after years of humiliation but not a good governor by judging by his later destruction to cultures and life to his citizens.

    @facts #12
    How about TM incident? Did you see any report in any anniversary? There are so many examples unless you are blinded by your dumb nationalism or only read your official newspaper. You do not win any court case by saying ‘already predicted…’. Use facts to argue. I rest my case.

  19. Steve Says:

    @ facts #16: “And maybe I used the word ‘found’ in a more loose sense.” Is it so difficult for you to say you used it incorrectly? Words have specific meanings and “found” means “found”. There is no “loose sense”.

    Religious figures are spiritual leaders. Is that what you are referring to? Do you see him as some sort of god? Strange, since Mao was a professed atheist.

    Of course China was influenced by Mao. He was ONLY the party chairman for most of his political life. I never said it wasn’t. but that’s not what you wrote. So far, you have written nothing that contradicts anything I said. You like to change the subject and ignore previous comments. When will you answer the original questions I posed to you?

    Who said I only “see disastrous consequences”? I never said it, you did. I’ve said many complimentary things about Mao on this blog in the past. So why are you putting words in my mouth that I never uttered? It seems you like to create opinions, assign them to other people and then argue against the opinions you created for them. Since I’m not about to defend opinions I never had, I suppose you’ll do it for me.

    You say “ordinary Chinese”. So I’ll ask again, are you an ordinary Chinese? Where in China do you live? Why can’t you answer that one simple question?

    Limited to “only” 1 to 2 generations? Are you kidding me? Twenty years to you is “only”? I’d bet the people who lived through those twenty years didn’t feel quite as mundane about them as you do.

    I didn’t pit Deng against Mao, you did. I was talking about influence. Influence can be felt both economically and politically. How much influence do you think Mao had on today’s economic policy in China? I would say little to none.

    Politically it is more complicated. Mao was an absolute ruler; whatever he said was done. Deng set up a more balanced government. Deng created the precedent of Chairmen being in power for eight years. Deng set up the precedent of politicians having to retire when they reached an advanced age. All this was done within the original Marxist/Leninist government structure. Because the government is no different from the Party, it is party structure that runs China, not a separate government.

    In what ways do the party, army and state have Mao’s imprint? You keep making all sorts of claims but you haven’t given one “fact” yet to support any of them. Instead of doing so, your best response is statements such as “Based on what you have written, I say you don’t understand Chinese history” but you never given any reasons why I don’t understand or why you do. You just write gross generalizations with nothing to back them up.

    Without Mao, China would not have beaten back the KMT and the PRC would not exist. That’s what Deng was referring to and to which I completely agree. His understanding of the Chinese peasant as the key determining factor for successful revolution rather than the urban proletariat was absolutely brilliant. His willingness to fight the Japanese invaders while Jiang and the KMT were avoiding them as much as possible while he and the Soong family were selling war supplies on the black market and pocketing the profits was the other key factor in the success of the revolution. Mao did plenty right, but to not acknowledge his record after the revolution indicates a poor understanding of post-revolution Chinese history.

    @ pug_ster #17: Not sure where you got the idea that American history ignores the fact that Washington owned slaves. All plantation owners in the South at that time owned slaves. It’s thoroughly documented in every book I’ve ever read about the guy. You must also remember that slaves were legal, common and accepted in the south during that time. To condemn someone with the morals of another time period is revisionist history. Let me give you an example: in Washington’s day, the wealthy in China bought their wives and practiced polygamy. Should we condemn them for that? I do not; it was the custom of their time. Those wives had no choice in the matter so the effect was no different from slavery. I still won’t condemn it since it was accepted at the time. Today it is not accepted. Times change and morality changes with the times.

    Is there anything that I wrote that you specifically disagree with? I’m not talking about what ‘facts’ said I wrote, I’m talking about what I actually wrote. I’d like to hear from you what that is since I respect your opinion.

  20. Rhan Says:

    I am not a expert in China history especially during the period under CCP, most reading I did seem bias to either right or left, I really don’t know who is more objective.

    Some conclusion I made:
    1) I suspect there is exaggeration to discredit Mao in order to revive the economy policy and of course, power struggling.

    2) GLF is sad, however to solely blame Mao doesn’t make sense. Natural disaster did play a major part, China weather and geographical location was never a God bless.

    3) CR is an extension of May Forth, don’t we find some of LuXun writing look stupid today?

    4) Is it not Mao that takes the initiative to engage Nixon? Deng merely follow.

    5) Deng implement the economy reform but not politic, he leave it to the next generation and from what I read here in FM, everyone from this next generation is still blur blur what is the next step, no? Mao wanted to rush everything within his lifetime, that is his biggest mistake.

    6) Revolution is not having lunch or dinner. Capitalism is still a cursed to some.

  21. TonyP4 Says:

    @Rhan #20. Good points.

    #1 and #2. I wonder whether KMT handled better if they’re in power and given the chance to do so.

    #3. LuXun wrote about his time. We living in wealthy US would find his writing funny for sure. We have never experienced the hardship he and his fellow citizens went through. When we read a book, we have to concern why and what he is feeling but not what we’re feeling.

    #3 again. Many theories on CR. Is it a trick to switch attention from the current problems? Or Mao thought he was becoming a Semi God…Did Mao think on being a criminal in history in destroying our cultures? Or, he did not try that full scale but now he could not stop what was going on? Should we blame his advisors and the blinded citizens?…

    #4. Could be Nixon was taking the initiative playing China card against Russia?

    #5. The leaders should be judged by the benefits to his citizens and his country’s cultures. Mao in his governance (not his initial years) did not fare that well but Deng fared far better in term of how many starved to death and preserving cultures …

    Your points are well taken.

  22. jpan Says:

    TIME: Reshooting History in China’s The Founding of a Republic
    By Zoher Abdoolcarim

    “Because the CCP now gains its legitimacy almost solely from the material wealth it has created, and is communist only in name, it has to recast the past to justify the present. Thus, in Founding, class struggle is hardly depicted or mentioned. Mao not only needs a capitalist to provide him with a cigarette; he and his cohorts admit they are ignorant about economics, which they acknowledge is essential to running the country. The message: Mao was great at consolidating the nation under the communist banner, but he was clueless about development; it’s today’s CCP that made the new new China — modern, strong, feared.

    With the civil war practically won, Mao is also shown to be assiduously wooing assorted Chinese politicians, most notably intellectuals who saw the revolution as a chance to usher in democracy. This way, the CCP can be promoted as a party with roots in a broad-based political movement and not just in the spoils of war — thus further boosting its authority. Taiwan figures, too. Mao tries to persuade Li Jishen, an influential southern China figure aligned with the KMT, to join the communist government. Li confesses to Mao that he is responsible for the deaths of many communist cadres. Mao’s reply: Let’s forget the past and begin a new future. That’s directed at Taipei — part of Beijing’s ongoing charm offensive toward Taiwan, once relentlessly denounced as a renegade province. ”


  23. Charles Liu Says:

    “solely from the material wealth it has created”

    Wow, I guess Zoher is not aware of stuff like elections expanding, competitive election by advosory political parties, and the legal advances/improvements China has made such as judicial independence and guarantee of rights.

    As a comparison, can someone name a recent American Revolution movie that depicts the political persecution that happened post-revolution? Weren’t loyalists tarred and feathered, rode on a rail?

  24. Otto Kerner Says:

    Charles Liu,

    Can you give more information on these competitive political parties in China that you refer to?

  25. Rhan Says:


    Mao willing to engage show that he is not one that objects to any open policy. Of course US stance does play a role. Your elaborate of LuXun is exactly what I am trying to tell, we had never experience life that Mao went through. In the past, most Chinese believe that our inadequacy is cause by culture after the numerous fail trial of 西体中用 and hence the May Forth movement, and I believe Mao is not the only one who held this belief otherwise no one would care much about the CR.

    I think many raise a valid question on what is the purpose of revolution? We use to criticize our bosses as capitalist but the moment we become one we will do the same way. Mao try to avoid this but he seem don’t have a solution.

    I read lots of Mao cruelty and mistake but I can’t recall he give instruction to gun down anyone, however Deng did that. Hence I remain reserve to compare the two.

    And thanks for the reply.

  26. Otto Kerner Says:

    Rhan and Tony P4,

    I don’t know a lot about the Great Leap Forward. I understand that the weather was unfavorable after the first year or so. Was this the worst weather in the 20th century by a lot? If not, then I think one would have to say that not only could the KMT do better, the CCP government could do better most of the time.

  27. Rhan Says:

    “Was this the worst weather in the 20th century by a lot?”

    Otto, I don’t know. If the death toll could stretch from a few millions to seventy millions, then the weather could be very good, good, so so, bad, very bad, a lot bad and the very worst. However one thing is for sure, it would do much much much better if US cease their trade embargo during GLF, for the sake of humanity.

  28. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles #23:
    since one of your favourite pastimes is to refute others’ claims of “always-this” and “never-that” by pointing out that all you need is one example of the contrary to prove them wrong, I’d like to point out that #23 is rather pointless since the author wrote “gains its legitimacy almost solely from the material wealth it has created”. It seems you conveniently ignored a rather key word in that sentence before you went off on him.

  29. Jerry Says:

    @Charles Liu #23, @S.K. Cheung #28

    Good points, SK. I am still waiting for Charles’s answer to Otto’s question (#24). I have never heard of competitive political parties or elections in China.

    Charles, you asked in #23, “As a comparison, can someone name a recent American Revolution movie that depicts the political persecution that happened post-revolution? Weren’t loyalists tarred and feathered, rode on a rail?”

    The answer is yes. The HBO miniseries “John Adams” (2008) depicts such a “tarring and feathering” of some British loyalist. I recently watched some of the episodes here in Taiwan on HBO Asia.

    The miniseries was stark, honest and brutal in its depiction of life during the era of the Revolutionary War, warts and all. It was not an attempt to creatively and colorfully wallpaper that era. At times it was uplifting, sometimes not. Sometimes it was morbid and depressing. Hardly a “rah rah” film. But it was riveting. I would hope that Jianguo Daye is able to be as honest, brutal and stark in its depiction. Hmmmm…

    The miniseries is based on David McCullough’s book, “John Adams”.

  30. Steve Says:

    @ Rhan #27: I just wanted to point out that during the GLF, China was closed to the west and no one knew all those people were dying until years later. There were other factors that influenced the GLF; one was getting rid of the four pests campaign. One of those pests was the sparrow, which ate locusts so when the sparrows were decimated, the locusts had a field day and ate the crops. This campaign came directly from Mao. Another factor was the government taking people out of the fields in order to work on “backyard furnaces” which not only kept them from harvesting crops, but also were a complete disaster in terms of actually producing usable steel products. In fact, much of the existing steel was destroyed as people were forced to melt down steel possessions in order to boost steel production numbers. Mao was very sharp politically but very ignorant when it came to science and engineering.

    Of course, inefficient farm collectivization was the main cause that contributed to the poor harvests. Weather played a part, but not to the extent of having 30 million people die from famine. I have Chinese friends my age who talk about their stunted growth as being caused by living a part of their childhood with very little to eat. It’s amazing and refreshing to see how much taller and healthier the younger generation in China is as compared to their parents.

  31. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry:
    “I am still waiting for Charles’s answer to Otto’s question (#24).” — as am I. But this could take a while, if past performance is at all predictive.

  32. Rhan Says:

    Dear Steve,
    1. Where is the sources of 30 million, typical reply is CCP government statistic. Since when CCP become a reliable source? I do not have an answer but surprisingly most Nanyang overseas Chinese who has relative in China don’t really hear so many deaths during the 50’s and 60’s. The only things we know is our relative are very poor and need our support.

    2. Does science and engineering inclusive of atomic bomb and industrialize? I remember when I was young, we were already surrounded by China made goods in this part of the world and my mum jokingly tell, “Is there anything China can’t make?” and later on when our living standard improve, we start to buy European and Japanese goods. Don’t forget at that time, China is damn poor, in Chinese we use the idioms 一穷二白。

    3. In the new century and after the great Parade we see last week, I still can’t tell if the technocrat have any better way to deal with the farmers as compare to what Mao did. Not being sarcastic, if there is, pray tell.

    4. “China was closed to the West”, hmmm….like North Korea, Iraq and Iran? See, history does repeat.

  33. Steve Says:

    Hi Rhan~ To be honest, I had no idea where the 30 million figure came from, just that I had heard it over and over again from different sources. I did some research and it seems that the number might even be higher. Here’s an article in the NY Times talking about Yang Jisheng, who was a Xinhua reporter for 30 years. He supposedly did thorough research and came up with a figure closer to 36 million. I have no idea how accurate that number is either. From what I’ve read, certain areas of the country suffered more than others, and the children died before the adults.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking me in question #2. The atomic bomb was proven technology and China was eventually able to adopt it into their military. Industrialization in China was very inefficient during the Mao days. However, the “backyard furnaces” don’t fall under either of those categories. Anyone with a scientific or engineering background or capability would have known that it was a pipe dream. Mao did not. If I remember it correctly, he did no research but just ordered it done all over the country. Here’s an interesting article about preserving the remains of some of those furnaces. Here is another reference to that era and the effects from such a policy.

    Remember, people also went hungry because they had melted down their agricultural tools and spent time in the backyard smelters rather than in the fields tending their crops. Crop yields also declined because Mao ordered farmers to grow crops using close planting and deep plowing, neither of which was effective. Coal which should have been used to transport crops from one part of the country to another was used for the backyard furnaces, so people starved from transportation difficulties. Some harvests rotted in the fields because the farmers were busy at the furnaces. There is no other way to portray this except as a complete and unmitigated disaster. Though Mao kept his Party Chairman position, he no longer ran the country after the policies were reversed. That fell to Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai.

    For your third comment, Wiki had these figures:


    Due to political and technological changes over the last half of the 20th century, the agricultural production of China greatly increased.

    Crop 1949 Output (tons) 1978 Output (tons) 1999 Output (tons)
    1. Grain 113,180,000 304,770,000 508,390,000
    2. Cotton 444,000 2,167,000 3,831,000
    3. Oil-bearing crops 2,564,000 5,218,000 26,012,000
    4. Sugarcane 2,642,000 21,116,000 74,700,000
    5. Sugarbeet 191,000 2,702,000 8,640,000
    6. Flue-cured tobacco 43,000 1,052,000 2,185,000
    7. Tea 41,000 268,000 676,000
    8. Fruit 1,200,000 6,570,000 62,376,000
    9. Meat 2,200,000 8,563,000 59,609,000
    10. Aquatic products 450,000 4,660,000 41,220,000

    However since 2000 the depletion of China’s main aquifers has led to an overall decrease in grain production, turning China into a net importer. The trend of Chinese dependence on imported food is expected to accelerate as the water shortage worsens.

    Comparing China at that time to Iraq, Iran and North Korea today is disingenuous. Back then the world was split into first, second and third worlds. The first and second worlds kept themselves apart from each other and were dedicated to each other’s eventual destruction. The mentality was completely different than it is today. There were two closed trading systems in the world back then and China belonged to one while the West belonged to the other. It is just as easy to say that the West was closed to China.

    Looking at each of your examples:

    North Korea – North Korea believes in juche, or self reliance. The government does not want to be open to the rest of the world so North Korea closes itself to not only the West but to everyone else.

    Iraq – Iraq isn’t closed to the West or anywhere else. In fact, China’s CNPC and BP are jointly developing a huge oil field there. Can you explain what you mean?

    Iran – The US has embargoes in place with Iran, but other countries trade with it. How is it closed to the West?

    I don’t understand why you would say that history is repeating itself here. Can you be more specific?

  34. Steve Says:

    Ewww… the numbers all lined up when I wrote it, not sure why they changed position.

  35. Wahaha Says:


    I believe this is what Charlie Liu was talking about :


  36. Wahaha Says:

    Chinese dont want 民煮.

    Prove that 民主 is not 民煮.

    民主 is people determines what is best for them.

    民煮 is cooking people with boiling water or boiling oil, like Taiwan, Thailand India.

  37. Otto Kerner Says:


    Your response appears to be a non sequitur. Which competitive parties are involved in that election? Looking at the article, I see repeated references to “the Party”, but, for some reason, they do not specify which party they are talking about. Does it refer to the Democratic Party of Nanjing in some places but to the Jian Nanjing Xiejin Lianmeng in other places?

  38. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha #35:
    Here’s an illustrative tidbit from your link (“a process that allows for more public participation yet lets the Party maintain control of the selection of local officials. [More public participation means that officials can apply for new positions and will compete with other candidates. Maintaining final control by the Party refers to the fact that the ultimate decision of any candidate’s up or down remains with the Party’s Organization apparatus.]”).

    If that’s what Charles meant by “competitive elections” and “adversarial (my correction of his word “advosory”) political parties”, then once again we are utilizing very different versions of the English language.

    BTW, I’m not sure what #36 is supposed to show apart from your excellent grasp of homonyms.

  39. FOARP Says:

    “Wow, I guess Zoher is not aware of stuff like elections expanding, competitive election by advosory political parties, and the legal advances/improvements China has made such as judicial independence and guarantee of rights.”

    This is perhaps one of the silliest things I’ve seen written by Chuck in quite a while. The fact that he cannot spot the fairly obvious contradiction in ‘competitive elections’ being held against ‘advisory political parties’, his obvious lack of any real-life experience of the Chinese ‘electoral’ system where the vast majority of ‘votes’ are cast by people who have no opportunity to learn anything of those running, his inability to recognise that judicial independence is pretty much non-existent in China at the moment whilst the guarantee of rights which may be exercised against the government is hardly one which may be relied on, all go to show that he is an unserious observer of China.

  40. FOARP Says:

    “民煮 is cooking people with boiling water or boiling oil, like Taiwan, Thailand India.”

    Strange that the Taiwanese people have rejected any adoption of the mainland system, I guess they must be brainwashed by the media.

  41. Wahaha Says:

    Strange that the Taiwanese people have rejected any adoption of the mainland system, I guess they must be brainwashed by the media.


    Did so called human right activitists use Taiwan as an example to sell democracy ?

    Who are blinded by the bright shining of the most brilliant theory in human history ?

  42. Wahaha Says:

    Here’s an illustrative tidbit from your link (”a process that allows for more public participation yet lets the Party maintain control of the selection of local officials. [More public participation means that officials can apply for new positions and will compete with other candidates. Maintaining final control by the Party refers to the fact that the ultimate decision of any candidate’s up or down remains with the Party’s Organization apparatus.]“).


    so ?

    Whoever elected are controled by those who control the economy. In China, it is CCP, in India, in America, in Europe, you know who control the economy.

  43. Wahaha Says:

    Your response appears to be a non sequitur. Which competitive parties are involved in that election? Looking at the article, I see repeated references to “the Party”, but, for some reason, they do not specify which party they are talking about. Does it refer to the Democratic Party of Nanjing in some places but to the Jian Nanjing Xiejin Lianmeng in other places?


    Well, there is no competitive party but there are competitive candidates.

    You know Hu and Wen were from the poorest area in China, dont you ? Jiang zheming was from Shanghai, the richest place in China.

  44. FOARP Says:

    @Wahahaha –

    “You know Hu and Wen were from the poorest area in China, dont you ?”

    Actually, I’m still not exactly clear where Hu is from, is it Jixi in Anhui or Taizhou in Jiangsu? Jixi might qualify as poor, Taizhou perhaps not.

    “Did so called human right activitists use Taiwan as an example to sell democracy ?

    Who are blinded by the bright shining of the most brilliant theory in human history ?”

    I suggest you google a guy known as WuerKaixi, currently living in Taiwan and – yes – touting Taiwan as an example for China. And there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, Taiwan is a society which by global standards enjoys strong freedom of speech, high standards of living, and firm rule of law.

  45. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha:
    a. if the CCP gets the final say on whether a candidate is “up or down”, that ain’t no election. That’s an appointment. Why even bother with the charade of calling it an election?
    b. “Whoever elected are controled by those who control the economy” — same old thing from you once again, and again without much to substantiate your suggesion (except the CCP part of course). But don’t sell the CCP short; they don’t just control the economy. They control the army, the media…..

    c. “Well, there is no competitive party but there are competitive candidates” — too bad they aren’t competing for the support of the people, but rather merely for the support of the CCP.

  46. Jerry Says:


    I just looked at the article you linked, Nanjing experiments yet again with new method of promoting officials.

    First thing, I went to the “about us” page. I saw this:

    The Carter Center China Program

    One of the most important democratic experiments of the last 25 years has been the movement in 600,000 villages across China toward open, competitive elections, allowing 75 percent of the nation’s 1.3 billion people to elect their local leaders, equivalent to city council members in the United States.

    For a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center has worked to help standardize the vast array of electoral procedures taking place in this new democratic environment and foster better governance in local communities. Today, while continuing to monitor local elections, the program is focused on rural and urban community building, and civic education about rights, laws, and political participation.

    God bless Jimmy, his center and his noble causes. I admire the immense uphill task they have taken on in China. Important words to note in the blurb above here are “toward open, competitive elections”.

    To me, the article’s title says a lot about what is to follow, ” Nanjing experiments yet again with new method of promoting officials”. And then some.

    Here are some phrases and sentences I noted in the article.

    a process that allows for more public participation yet lets the Party maintain control of the selection of local officials.

    competed in a TV debate in hopes of being selected for one of four director’s positions

    Sixteen candidates competed. More than 240 people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including People’s Congress deputies and municipal officials, were invited to comment and vote on the candidates.

    Telephone hotlines were also set up to allow viewers to comment on the candidates.

    It has been estimated that over 200,000 local residents viewed the broadcast live via either television or internet.

    Although Nanjing residents didn’t vote directly for the candidates, they had an opportunity to express their opinions and report any illegal behavior on the part of the candidates.

    It is one way for residents to participate in the election,” a Nanjing local newspaper commented.

    the three candidates with the most votes for each position were recommended to the Nanjing Municipal Party Committee and its Standing Committee, which made the final selection.

    Perhaps this is progress in China, but I find myself underwhelmed. In other words, you did not have a real election. If you did not have a real election, then you did not have a real, competitive election.

    Hell, the voting on American Idol is an open, competitive election.

    Picture this in America. What if somebody were to make this proposal, perhaps Darth Cheney. The Republican Party will become the only party in America. (sorry to scare you!) What if the people running the Republican Party decided to name 240 people to select the top 3 nominees for president? A debate and nominating convention are held. All Americans are invited to call in to give feedback and “report any illegal behavior on the part of the candidates”. The 3 top nominees are named and a month later, the leaders of the GOP select the president. And, voila, Cheney picks himself.

    How do you think the American populace would greet this plan? As progress? As an incitement to coups and/or revolution; perhaps? As working toward open, competitive elections; I don’t think so.

    Until shown differently, I feel free to state that there has not been an open, competitive election in Communist China. Please feel free to show that my statement is incorrect! Please!

  47. Otto Kerner Says:


    “Well, there is no competitive party but there are competitive candidates.”

    I had asked very specifically about competitive parties. This is why your response was a non sequitur.

    For those who are curious, this is why I have all but given up on Fool’s Mountain as a useful forum for discussion. Too many participants simply say whatever, with no sense of accountability as to its accuracy or relevance, making the argument essentially a wild goose chase.

  48. Jason Says:


    Well, China has Super Girl Competition which is the same as the competitive process as American Idol.

    On the Republican and Democrat competitive process, I believe there is none. Their competitive process is MONEY and MORE Money and media coverage. The more money the candidate have and the more media coverage they have, the chance of winning is imminent.

  49. FOARP Says:

    @Jason – Actually, as far as anyone can work out, it’s the readership that changes the media’s political point of view, not the other way round. The classic example is the change in position of the The Sun from pro-Conservative to pro-Labour before the 1997 election in the UK, the switch (by Britain’s most widely circulated newspaper) actually had no impact on voter choice, likewise the recent switch by The Sun back to supporting the Conservatives has had no impact. This is not surprising when you consider that people choose newspaper which agree with their own point of view, not the other way round. Check out this paper for the rest:


  50. Jason Says:


    What I mean is the media’s shunning unpopular candidates from debates. From not covering Independents primary elections to Independents in the presidential election, the media has shunned their voices for a much large competitive edge.

  51. Rhan Says:

    Hi Steve (33)
    Most that condemn Mao is either foreigner or the so-called liberal Chinese, and I used to be one of them. However after many years, I tend to become hesitant on why so many Chinese persisting to show their affection and adoration toward a so-called dictator, especially during a time when China open it door where there is ease of information access and living standard begin to improve tremendously. I could have an wrong impression for being too sensible to notice that the tone of most Chinese who mention the name Mao ZhuXi is unexpectedly fill up with respect and admiration instead of critical and vile. This could be due to propaganda, or we are being too simplistic in our approach to make judgement on Mao. We grown up watching western movie would likely to say cowboy is good while Red Indian is bad, USA the savior while USSR the destroyer. Here in this part of the world, we simply wrap up that the first 30 years was a mess and the last 30 years is a bless? I ask myself how come a leader that was very sharp in his political and military strategy could behave so dumb in some other field? Did we overlook some gray area like resources limitation he faced and the in depth ingrained feudalistic mindset of the mass he is trying to break? Just like an eagle that expresses his amusement why the deer don’t take off from the earth while attacked by the lion?

    1. Perhaps no one could verify the 30 million at this point of time, we leave it as it is.
    2. Many that criticized China, India and the developing country of polluting the environment today shall ask ourselves what is the way forward? Would science, engineering and capitalism solve the earth problem? We walk into an orang asli (Malaysia native) settlement and utter in disbelief what a primitive means of farming and habitation. At the same time, shall I conclude that this people had inferior knowledge in science and technology or I should finally thank god that there are inhabitant reside on earth that truly understand living with nature? My point is Mao believed in mass movement and his understanding of science and technology may not be that mediocre as we see it.
    3. I have to agree that in most measurable aspect, there are clearly progresses after the long time span otherwise CCP shall pack decades ago. However, I m not too sure if there is an overall improvement in term of education, health care, living standard and the most important, pride of being Chinese, and the feel of dignity making a living in farming?
    4. History does repeat mean to say even famine and mass death would not shake a bit the US stances to defeat the “evil axis”.

    Sorry my comment was not a straight reply to the point you raised as I actually more or less concur with your reasoning and detail. I expand and divert a little in the hope that this may induce some dissimilar view on Mao.

  52. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry:
    “Hell, the voting on American Idol is an open, competitive election” — that’s a good one. And you can vote as many times as you want.

    To Jason:
    “On the Republican and Democrat competitive process, I believe there is none.” – are you referring to each party’s nomination process, or the actual election? I don’t know how the Americans handle their party nominations. As for the election itself, however you may feel about that process, it’s certainly not a non-existent process as you seem to suggest.

    I do agree with you about the debates. Those debates should be all-party debates, and not just blue/red ones. For any given jurisdiction, if someone’s in the horse race, they should be entitled to a place in the debate.

  53. Jerry Says:

    @Jason #48 #50, @S.K. Cheung #52

    “Well, China has Super Girl Competition which is the same as the competitive process as American Idol.” (#48)

    Geez, I seemed to have missed that in the Carter Center report. If that is your only open, competitive election in China, that is pathetic.

    “On the Republican and Democrat competitive process, I believe there is none. Their competitive process is MONEY …” (#48)

    Either there is no process or there is a process. You can’t have it both ways. This is a binomial decision.

    I do not like how US campaign financing has gotten out of control, either. I have written that many times. But this tu quoque on your part, still does not answer my statement, which I have revised to clarify my intention.

    Until shown differently, I feel free to state that there has not been an open, competitive political election in Communist China. Please feel free to show that my statement is incorrect! Please!

    Let me clarify that even further with “… how about a fair, credible, honest, open election for all, monitored by some organization like the Jimmy Carter Center. Let the people choose for themselves.” And we are talking political elections.



    “What I mean is the media’s shunning unpopular candidates from debates.”

    Jason, I agree with you. All candidates should be invited to the national debates and regional debates. It will help the people make better decisions.

    As far as requiring the American media, especially TV, of providing equal time to all candidates at all levels, that is a very good concept. We currently have an equal time rule which needs a lot of work.


    “And you can vote as many times as you want.” (#52)

    Sounds like Chicago and Cook County. “Vote early; vote often!” ::LMAO::

    I agree with you on the debates.

    Regarding our election process, the campaign financing needs a lot of work. Right now there is too much influence peddling. But the American system can change, and we don’t have to wait on the government to change it.

    Regarding the equal time rule, the current rule needs work. Currently, it is only nominally equal. All candidates need exposure so that Americans can make the best decisions. To which I say god bless Jon Stewart and Bill Maher for putting pressure on the MSM. And the blogosphere for putting pressure on the MSM. The more the merrier. We need a vibrant media.

  54. Jason Says:


    Do you think this: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1892848,00.html somewhat satisfy your criteria of fair, credible, honest, open election for all?

    And the Super Girl and American Idol comparison was a tongue in cheek comment. Don’t be upset. 😀

  55. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jason:
    these village elections have been mentioned in the past. Certainly a good start. Though I wonder how the candidates are nominated to stand for election. If it’s an open nomination process and anyone can put their name forward, that’s fantastic. If the candidates are hand-picked by the CCP, maybe not quite as fantastic, but better than nothing, I suppose.

    The 80-90% voter turnout is extremely impressive. Seems that it goes to show the grassroots enthusiasm for a “democratic” process. It’s too bad that this process has not yet been tried higher up the food chain. Hopefully someday…

  56. Jason Says:


    Following voter registration, candidates are nominated directly by villagers. In most provinces, the requirement is to have only one more candidate than there are seats to be filled as chair, deputy chair, and ordinary members. In recent years, nominations in some provinces have been organized through villagers attending either a meeting of the Village Assembly or a meeting of the Villagers’ Small Group, while the latest development in other provinces is to have no pre-election nomination.

  57. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jason,

    thanks for the link. That was very informative. The last 2 paragraphs were particularly pertinent for contextualizing the current village election mechanism. Hope it represents the start of the process, and not the end of it. Time will tell.

  58. admin Says:

    Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?

    by Joseph Ball


  59. pug_ster Says:

    Good article Admin,

    Perhaps nobody knows the number of people who died in the Great Leap Forward as China didn’t keep an accurate number of people died as the result of it. The number of deaths that many people would speculate if that population growth/decrease during those years and did not speculate the reasons why. One of the things that wasn’t taken into account at the time is that people might not choose to have children because of the famine, and 50% decrease of childbirth from year to year is not uncommon. It also questions that the people who usually dies of the famine are the very young and the very old, yet the statistics could not reflect that conclusion. I am not saying people did not die as a resume of starvation as the result of the Great Leap Forward, but the number is greatly exaggerated.

  60. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Admin,

    interesting article. Looks like it’s “western media bias” in reverse, in the sense that it’s an op-ed piece, representing the thoroughly researched views of one guy, that’s actually kind to Mao.

    It’s noteworthy that, despite the title, given the length of the article, and the amount of corresponding research, he doesn’t answer his own question. He does, however, vilify most of the other research on the topic. And where competing estimates collide, or when data seem to be contradictory, he tends to draw conclusions toward one side of the spectrum as opposed to the other (as is his right, since it’s his article). And let’s face it. He did his homework; he laid it out there; but he’s certainly got an axe to grind.

    His point, in a nutshell, seems to be that Mao did less harm than that of which he is accused; that he did more good than he is credited for; and that he laid the groundwork for subsequent years. The first part is in the eye of the beholder, and depends on who you choose to believe. The second part is also a question of perspective. For instance, did making steel in the backyard really evoke an epiphany for Chinese people en mass? As for the final part, it’s really a motherhood statement. Of course he laid the groundwork for subsequent years, just as 1960 lays the groundwork for 1961 etc. The question to me is whether China could’ve found herself in 1979 in better shape than she did, based on where she started in 1949. Yet another impossible question to answer, which is essentially the same as what this article asked (and didn’t answer).

  61. Jerry Says:

    @Jason #54 #56, @S.K. Cheung #55 #57

    #54 “Do you think this: Postcard from Postcard from Da’an: More and More, Rural China Is Going to the Polls somewhat satisfy your criteria of fair, credible, honest, open election for all?”

    For now, this is a refreshing change. I like it and admire its direction. I have some caveats which I will post in the near future.

    “And the Super Girl and American Idol comparison was a tongue in cheek comment. Don’t be upset.”

    OK! I missed the joke the first time. I though you were serious. 😀

    In #55, SK pretty much sums up my feelings. And, SK, as my future caveats will show, I am concerned that the villagers’ enthusiasm will be throttled by the “hidden dragon”. I wish the Chinese people good luck in this pursuit. Please note that I did not say CCP or PRC.


    SK and Jason, I am guardedly optimistic about the village election process as described in the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network’s summary. (link in #56)

    An assessment of the significance of China’s village elections has much to do with the question whether such ‘limited democracy’ can lead to genuine democracy. There are different ways of assessing how democratic elections are. The three universal criteria of free, fair and meaningful elections are appropriate terms of reference. China does not meet any recognized standards of free and fair elections in choosing its national parliament and local councils, and in many cases elected village leaders do not exercise as much authority as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretaries do. However, just because the village elections are not fully free or fair, and some VCs do not command complete authority, it cannot be concluded that they are completely unfree, unfair, or meaningless. Elections should not be evaluated against some absolute standard but rather viewed as positioned on a democratic continuum.

    This is a cautious note of optimism and hope for the future of the Chinese people. And here is to less reliance on Pew opinion surveys and more on the direct voice of all Chinese, rich or poor, urban or rural. And to self-governance by the Chinese people.

    And I also hope that Americans make our democracy more robust and representative of our will, too. Bye-bye, plutocrats!!

    After two decades of continuously improved direct elections at the village level, elections at higher levels of government appear technically feasible; the question is whether and how there will be further change in the direction of democratization.

    Aye, therein lies the rub! This is not an automatic in either the US or China. Eternal vigilance is required.

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