A recent high profile appearance and comment by Mao Zedong’s nephew lead to a flurry of activity on China’s social networks, ahead of the 18th Communist Party congress.
Li Shi, also known as Mao Yuanxin, nephew of the late supreme leader Mao Zedong, made a public visit to a major national water conservancy site on October 20, marking the 60 anniversary of his uncle first proposing the project.
Li Shi left a Chinese idiom as a comment at the site: “When you drink water, think of its source.”
This has come at a sensitive time as the 18th Communist Party congress, where a once-a-decade leadership reshuffle takes place, is to be held next week.
On China’s social networking sites, most comments from netizens were negative about Li’s appearance.
Some netizens believe Li made the comment to urge people to be grateful for Mao Zedong’s rule, amid recent rumours that Mao’s philosophy will be dropped from a revised constitution at the upcoming party congress.
Other liberal academics question why Li was treated like an official when he has no official status. Wu Jiaxiang, a liberal scholar, asked on Weibo, “[why is he] treated like a crown prince?”
Some netizens even raised the question of Li Shi's behaviour during the Cultural Revolution when he was a Red Guard, accusing him of being responsible for several violent crackdowns on political dissidents, which lead to many deaths.
Several former high ranking party officials have made public appearances prior to the 18th Communist Party congress, which veteran journalist and writer Dai Qing said is aimed at boosting support for party factions under their stewardship.