De-mystifying Mao

This is for all you muesli-eating Guardian readers:

The author of Wild Swans and her historian husband, Jon Halliday, have torn away the many masks and falsehoods with which Mao and the Communist party of China to this day have hidden the true picture of Mao the man and Mao the ruler. Mao now stands revealed as one of the greatest monsters of the 20th century alongside Hitler and Stalin. Indeed, in terms of sheer numbers of deaths for which he responsible, Mao, with some 70 million, exceeded both.

Far from being the first Chinese communist leader to stand up for the Chinese peasantry and to respond to their needs and lead them out of exploitation, Mao is exposed as a man who disdained the peasants, despite his protestations to the contrary. He is shown during his command of armed forces in the countryside in the late 1920s and early 30s to have lived off the produce of the local peasants to the extent of leaving them destitute. He consciously used terror as a means to enforce his will on the party and on the people who came under his rule. In the course of the Long March, Mao is shown to have had no qualms in sacrificing thousands of scarce fighting men in fruitless diversions to serve no other purpose than to advance his bid for leadership.

His callous disregard for the lives of comrades and fellow Chinese became more evident once he commanded the larger stage of China itself. Against the advice of his commanders on the ground, Mao persisted in prolonging the Korean war in the expectation of tying down hundreds of thousands of American troops, regardless of the disproportionate sacrifice of far greater Chinese casualties. The livelihood of China’s peasants was tightly squeezed through most of Mao’s rule, not simply to meet the needs of industry and the urban population, but also to pay the Soviet Union and the east Europeans for the development of advanced weapons – especially for the development of nuclear weapons.

More people need to know this.

6 thoughts on “De-mystifying Mao”

  1. Yeah, the comparision to Bush is amazing.

    After all, he hates the peasants, and he consciously used terror as a means to enforce his will on the party and on the people who came under his rule.

    Yeah, more people should know this.

  2. If you want to compare Bush to the most heinous mass murderer of all time, can’t you at least do it in a colorful way?

    I mean, you are being absurd so really go for it, with a Chimpy McChimp, a Halliburton, a Kenny Boy/Enron, and a Bushitler or two.

    Don’t slack off just because I’m spanking your hero.

  3. But I think you have to understand something else: many people in China think Mao was a disaster, but they think that disaster was preferable to Japanese genocide.

    You’re free to differ, but that’s roughly the choice they had at that point, and it’s a choice nobody should have to make.

    Once the Japanese were out, they had a choice between Chang Kai-shek and Mao, not between King George and George Washington. And Chang Kai-shek was nothing to write home about, either.

  4. I think you have to understand that you’re making excuses for the biggest mass-murderer in history, and you shouldn’t do that.

    Mao was scum, and he hurt China immensely. To the extent that China can escape his legacy, it will improve, and only to that extent. Mao’s legacy is still apparent in China in its suppression of free speech, its savage treatment of dissidents, its corrupt government-owned enterprises, and its reliance on cheap migrant labor and prison labor.

    Anyone who doesn’t see Mao as a vile and heinous figure has no standing to criticize the Great Liberator George W. Bush, champion of democracy.

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