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  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 11:40am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Leaders must fully embrace reform to end people's yearning for Mao era

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 December, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 December, 2013, 6:41am

It remains a conundrum of China's economic miracle that so many people still openly yearn for a return to the Mao era. That not only says something about discontent with inequality and injustice and disgust at rampant official corruption, but also about the whitewashing of the history of Mao Zedong's reign in order to safeguard one-party rule. President Xi Jinping did not attempt to solve it in his speech to mark the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth, instead performing a balancing act. While praising Mao's teachings, Xi said revolutionary leaders were not to be worshipped like gods, nor should they be "negated" completely because they made mistakes. Historical mistakes could not be blamed on individuals. Xi followed the line of former leader Deng Xiaoping that Mao's achievements, which include uniting the country after civil war, outweighed his failings.

Xi's speech was watched closely for clues to the direction in which the mainland is heading because he has sent mixed "left" and "right" messages - firstly in Maoist rhetoric to consolidate his power and tackle corruption, and secondly in support for reforms to give the private sector a bigger role in the economy.

It will have come as a disappointment, but not a surprise, to liberals within China and people outside who have argued that in order to move on, the Chinese leadership must come to terms with the need for transparency about the disasters and calamities of Mao's rule of the 1950s and 1960s by giving a full account. Indeed, one reason for nostalgia for the Mao era, when everyone was poor and therefore equal and corruption could not flourish, is that the leadership has not told mainlanders the truth. The young generally have no idea what he was responsible for. But that is one thing the leadership cannot yet bring itself to tackle, because Communist Party ideology and the legitimacy of its rule is still based on Mao's teachings. To do so would be seen to totally negate the party's origin and founding principals. Hence Xi's balancing act.

That said, China cannot turn back. But Maoist ideology and economic development need to be reconciled. The reason corruption and income disparity so mar China's achievements, provide ammunition for leftist opponents of reform and prompt people to yearn for Mao's days, is not that reforms have failed. It is that they are far from complete. They will remain so until the leadership shows the will and courage to embrace more transparency, accountability and the rule of law. A new generation of party leaders should push on with them.


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“But Maoist ideology and economic development need to be reconciled.”
By 1978, Deng Xiaoping had already done that. It is called ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics” in which the capitalist market economy could flourish within the socialist superstructure. What is important here is that while it is legitimate for the capitalists, within the law and without serious harm to society, to maximize profit, create employment and pay taxes, the government remains socialist. The economy in which capitalism flourishes under the direction and care of a socialist (Chinese version) government for the benefits of the country and people is called socialist market economy.
So President Xi’s support for reforms to give the private sector a bigger role in the economy is consistent with a socialist market economy. Economic reforms in China should not be a vehicle for a capitalist counter-revolution in China.
Corruption (an ancient problem) and income growth through enhanced earning powers (income disparity is unavoidable in any society owing to various reasons) with low inflation for the people are issues that must be resolved diligently as much as possible.
Moreover, it could not do justice to Mao’s legacy, if his contributions to China and the Chinese people prior to the 1950s and 1960s are not considered and when the extent of the effects of foreign aggression, threats and economic sanctions against China on the alleged Mao’s mistakes are not known. Future historians may have better access to those foreign sources to have a fairer debate on these issues.
Anyway, Chinese leaders are wise to focus on the helping to better the lives of about 650 million people still living in rural poverty than to open the wounds of China so keenly desired by the sinophobes and global hegemonists.
Mao is the acknowledged Chinese leader who helped China and the Chinese people drive foreign imperialists and aggressors from most of the Chinese land and gave Chinese people another chance to work in peace for a better life for themselves and their children.
The risen Mao is now helping many from having their Chinese souls harvested by the god of the imperialists and global hgemonists and guarding against a capitalist counter-revolution in China.


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