Questions over timing of documentary about Mao right-hand man Liu Shaoqi

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 7:04pm

A new documentary series portraying Mao Zedong’s right-hand man, Liu Shaoqi, will begin shooting on Wednesday, official media reported.

The former No 2 leader of China under Mao – and concurrently the country’s president – was best known for directing workers’ revolutions and implementing policies on economic reconstruction.

Liu was once poised to be Mao’s successor to the party chairmanship but abruptly fell out of the chairman’s favour during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. He disappeared from public life and died in 1969.

It was not until 1980 when the reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took power that Liu’s name was politically rehabilitated.

The documentary will emphasise the military accomplishments of Liu, the China Youth Daily newspaper reported, despite him being more commonly remembered for leading proletariat revolutions, directing economic development and carrying out land reform in the early years of the People’s Republic of China.

Co-produced by the PLA Academy of Military Science and the China Youth Daily, the mouthpiece of Communist Youth League of China, the series has five episodes, each 40 minutes long. They are set to air next year.

The announcement roughly coincided with a Reuters report that General Liu Yuan, Liu Shaoqi’s eldest son, was set to be appointed to China’s top military decision-making body in October.

The promotion was a reward for his whistle-blowing in the recent anti-corruption fight within the military, the report said.

The timing of the documentary and Liu Yuan’s ascent has fuelled some speculation on whether the documentary signalled the younger Liu’s bright career prospects.

But Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based political analyst, dismissed this.

“Personally I do not find any evidence to support there is a connection between [the two developments],” he told South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

”Although of course if Liu Yuan is indeed promoted it would definitely help the documentary’s production,” Deng said.

“The film’s focus on Liu’s military contribution is mainly because there are already plenty of films depicting his other roles … Moreover, his military presence in the Communist Party’s history is not unfound,” Deng said.

The documentary will be based on field interviews, but also feature dramatic re-enactments of historical events.