China’s younger generation sees Chairman Mao Zedong as one of the most admired people, writes author Zhang Lijia on her weblog, recalling a meeting under one of the few statues of Mao in Shenyang. The difficult relation with a former leader.
Since I was with a foreigner, several people came up to talk to us, quite a few of them students. A young man who called himself Alexander told me proudly that he is planning to go to Canada to study next year. When I asked him about what he thought of Mao, he said: “Chairman Mao was great! Our great leader and national hero.”
I thought to myself: well, if the great leader were still alive, you wouldn’t dare to study English or even dream to go abroad. I am not surprised by his answer. In various surveys among the Chinese youth about the most admired men in the world, Mao repeatedly comes on the top of the list. For many Chinese, the young and the old, Mao was the man who united China, who made China to stand up in the world and who gave its people an identity. Besides, the young people have not had a chance to study Mao truthfully. The official verdict on Mao is 70% correct and 30% wrong. The authorities don’t want its citizens know too much about his mistakes or the causes of such mistakes – after all, they reflected the faults of the Party and the system. Years ago, I was invited by a Chinese publishing company to write a book on western image of Mao, to be published in 1993, to commemorate 100th anniversary of his birth. I read all the books I could find in English on the man and interviewed many westerns from all walks of life. But the book failed to pass the censorship – his image was far too negative, I was told.
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