As I write these words, it is 30 years to the day since Chairman Mao Tse-tung died. Using the Wade-Giles transliteration system, which was still dominant in the 1970s, seems appropriate in that sentence because the China that Mao built, the vision that he had for culture and society, has since faded, as has Wade-Giles.
China has moved on. The effect of Mao?s acid, the disfiguration
that he caused to the face of China, is still evident. These are pockmarks that will remain forever. But on the whole, while many of China?s people respect him as a great man, they have put his philosophy behind them. And China is a better place for it.
In the cities, nobody cares. Politics and all the desperate political debates of the 20th century have become an irrelevancy as people face the challenges and the distractions of a world that is increasingly integrated, competitive and media-filled.
The government, which is so critical of Japan for its textbook manipulations of history, is continuing its own reconfiguration of past events.
What is objective history, you might well ask. Good question.
A new textbook for Shanghai schools has boiled down all the twists and turns of 20th century China, the Cultural Revolution and all the rest, into a couple of sentences. Mao is safely out of the reach of controversy.
One wonders how long it will be before the Mao statues still standing in compounds in many cities are finally dismantled. It may be a while. A defanged Mao can be just left there, on his pedestal and on the banknotes.
Instead of representing restless upheaval, he has now been re-cast to represent stability. Wonderful irony.
In the countryside, Mao?s picture can be seen everywhere, but it is not so much about the man himself. Those pictures are not an expression of support for his policies.
He has become nothing more than a lucky charm.
Another wonderful irony.
He fought to destroy the old China, to root out all elements of traditional Chinese beliefs and culture, and replace them with his own weird socialist/Maoist approach. Feudal superstition was a part of what he wanted to exterminate. To have him now playing a role in place of many of the gods and spirits of old is a rightfully cruel fate.
As a businessman in China, I feel genuine gratitude towards him every day.
If it had not been for his contributions to China, the mainland of the 1990s and today could easily have been in much the same stage of economic development as South Korea and Taiwan, which would have meant far fewer opportunities for us all. Thank you, Chairman Mao.