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Former South African president Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95, receiving tribute and unanimous praise from around the globe.
Mandela devoted his life to the pursuit of freedom and equality, and he became an icon who buried the apartheid system. As an advocate of political compromise, he provided inspirations for humane politics.
Mandela spent 27 years in apartheid jails, which disenabled him from directly involving in anti-apartheid struggles. But he was a persevering moral icon. His term as South African president only lasted five years, but he promoted ethnic compromise with great courage and leadership, realizing the largely steady transition from white minority rule to black majority rule.
Mandela was most impressive for his moral image. His personal political and moral performance was outstanding, which was recognized by worldwide public opinion. Meanwhile, before Mandela was released from jail, the apartheid system was already spurned by mainstream public opinion in the West. And his release was related to Western pressure on South Africa's white minority rule, and his promotion of ethnic compromise was welcomed across the world.
To a certain extent, serving as a president for only one term was pivotal to his perfect moral image. He initiated a new era in South Africa, but was not trapped in the difficulties of balancing the economy between different ethnic groups.
Mandela was once listed as having terrorist connections by the US. But after he came out of jail, he never confronted mainstream Western interests, and instead promoted reconciliation and a slow fix to South Africa's persistent racial-economic inequality. This helped him won favor from Western public opinion.
Mandela's life was filled with drastic turns. He was strong and tolerant. In this world, there are many people fighting for freedom and put in jail. But Mandela surpassed one-sided or even radical thinking. He viewed South Africa and the world from a broad perspective.
In the wake of Mandela's death, many paying tribute try to pull this icon into their camp and make Mandela an agent of their own values or even political interests. For instance, in China, some netizens described Mandela only as a fighter for liberal values, which actually belittles him. Mandela's image is much richer.
One of Mandela's points of significance is that both the West and the East identify with him. This consensus is very precious for this conflict-ridden world. As a medium-sized country, South Africa barely has any geopolitical conflicts with major powers. But can big powers escape from divergences and create more Mandela-style consensus?