China salutes Mao on 125th birthday

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/26 22:53:39

Scholars: Chairman’s legacy invaluable

A statue of former chairman Mao Zedong stands in Zhongshan Square, Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Residents rushed to the square Wednesday to mark the 125th anniversary of Mao's birth. Photo: IC

Wednesday marks the 125th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, and commemorations across the country showed that Chinese people shared a consensus on Mao's contribution and acknowledged the legacy of Mao's era as the foundation for China's successful reform and opening-up, Chinese experts noted.

President Xi Jinping's latest evaluation on Mao in his keynote speech at a grand gathering on December 18 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up noted that members of the Communist Party of China (CPC), with Comrade Mao Zedong as their chief representative, laid the fundamental political precondition and institutional foundation for all development and progress achieved in contemporary China.

Although the process of their exploration experienced serious setbacks, they provided precious experiences, theoretical preparation and a material basis for the initiation of "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" in a new historic stage, Xi said.

In an earlier speech on January 5, 2013, Xi expressed the idea that the historic periods both before and after reform and opening-up should not be used to negate each other.

Some people are trying to cut ties between Mao's legacy and the success that China has achieved with reform and opening-up, or make them contradictory to each other, Fan Yongpeng, deputy director of the China Institute at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

"This is absolutely wrong," Fan said. "It's just like you get full after eating six cakes but then you say: I should have eaten the sixth cake at the very beginning as the other five were unnecessary."

Chinese scholars noted that Mao's legacy covers many fields including an independent and comprehensive industrial system and a mature basic education system that wiped out widespread illiteracy and provided a grand source of engineers and technicians.

They noted other achievements that laid the confidence for Chinese people to act independently without submission to other hegemonies: the construction of a strategic nuclear deterrence capability and a military victory against the most powerful military coalition in the world on the Korean Peninsula - the first military victory against the West that Chinese realized since the Opium War in 1841, they said.

Without these achievements in Mao's era, China could not have successfully conducted reform and opening-up, Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"There is a very simple example. When foreign investors came to Chinese villages in 1980s, they found most Chinese farmers could read a newspaper, which meant the literacy of the country was very high and then they decided to invest in China and very soon that investment turned into economic profits for both investors and local people," Su said. 

"Some other developing countries also have a great population, such as India, but the population isn't necessarily the same as the labor force when you have no work skills, working desire or working discipline," Su noted. "Literacy is highly important."

Fan noted that Mao's contribution to education reform was not only literacy. Mao ordered Chinese universities to attach great importance to science and engineering education, "and that's why China can get millions of well-educated engineers and technicians every year from colleges. They are the fundamental reason why China has performed excellently in the construction of infrastructure."

Visitors commemorate

Shaoshan, Mao's hometown in Central China's Hunan Province, received thousands of visitors from across the whole country on Wednesday.

Visitors arrive in well organized groups and are dressed in their old school uniforms from Mao's era and clutch red flags, Mao portraits and old-school revolutionary banners.

The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall located in Tiananmen Square normally closes in the afternoon, but on Wednesday it opened 8-11:30 am and 2-4 pm.

A 65-year-old visitor to the hall on Wednesday told the Global Times that "Mao's era was undeveloped and life was tough, but most people were clean in their minds and interpersonal relationships were simple."

"Now our lives are much better than  in that era, but it seems like society is getting more complicated. That's why the people in my generation are always missing something of that era," said the visitor surnamed Li.

Another visitor, 32, who went to Shaoshan for the Wednesday commemoration, told the Global Times, "We have noticed that Mao made some mistakes, but his contribution and sacrifices to our nation is much greater. Don't exaggerate his mistakes and cover over his contribution."

A lot of official WeChat social media accounts released articles to commemorate Mao on Wednesday including People's Daily, People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League. The articles included Xi's evaluations of Mao, Mao's legacies that benefited reform and opening-up, and Mao's poetry.

A few radical far-left Maoists have expressed a yearning to turn back the clock and return the country back to Mao's era.

"These people are not the majority at all," said Su Wei, the Party School professor, "and the voice that they release is not about simple emotion but has a political purpose which is opposed by the mainstream of society and the government because we oppose any step back in history and we insist on reform and opening-up."


blog comments powered by Disqus