Early this year, a giant gold-painted statue of Chairman Mao was ordered to be removed from a village in central China’s Henan province. This little drama says a lot about the controversy surrounding the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.
On the one hand, the authorities stubbornly stick to the vague verdict of 70% right and 30% and don’t allow the public to have an open discussion about his exact rights and wrongs because his image is still very much associated with that of the Party. On that other hand, the authorities wouldn’t want to give him too high a profile because it would give an indication that China is shifting towards the left and because Mao is not universally loved in China and it would give an indication.
The liberal-minded, highly educated people and those whose families suffered during a series political campaigns don’t like him, even hate him.
Some leftists love him, particularly those who are not doing so well in the reform era. They nostalgically associated Mao with the eras when there was supposedly more equality little corruption.
Some nationalistic people also like Mao, viewing him as a man who let Chinese people to stand up and give them an identity.
Plenty of farmers view him as the best emperor China ever had. In the countryside, many households hung Mao’s portrait.
What I find incredible is that even some people who did suffer under Mao’s regime refuse to hold him responsible for the disasters, perhaps because the personality cult and the god-like statue Mao enjoyed.
I remember there have been several surveys among the young people and Mao kept coming up as the most admired leaders – obviously students don’t learn the whole truth at school.
I sincerely hope that the authorities would allow people to know what he did exactly and the damage and what kind of person he was. Only then can China move on and drive towards a modern society.