How do the Chinese people view Mao Zedong?
April 10, 2010 | Posted by Chris
Mao's portrait adorns Tian'anmen (the Gate of Heavenly Peace) at Beijing's famous square of the same name.It's hard to overstate how much the Chinese people revere Mao Zedong. In the Chinese consciousness he's something like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson combined into one: founding father, war hero, sage leader and political philospher. While history books in America and elsewhere tend to focus on the glaring failures of Mao's leadership, the narrative in China focuses on the bright spots of his record and what he represents to Chinese national self-realization. In other words, Mao Zedong is regarded as a Great Man in Chinese history, much like the first Emperor Qinshihuang who united China for the first time over two thousand years ago (and to whom Mao liked to compare himself). In his biography of Mao, Jonathan Spence writes that the two achievements Mao considered his greatest were central to the reunification of China: the expulsion of the Nationalists to Taiwan and the defense of China against Japan. In 1981, with the mess of the Cultural Revolution being swept up and economic reforms underway, the Central Committee of the Communist Party announced a resolution on the legacy of Mao, seeking closure to his era of leadership. According to biographer Philip Short, the Committee found that despite "gross mistakes...his merits are primary and his errors secondary," and it concluded that Mao's record stood at 70% merits and 30% errors. This 70-30 judgment had its precedents. For example, it was also the ratio at which Mao appraised the successes and failures of Joseph Stalin, and Mao himself was reported to have expressed satisfaction "if future generations could give him this '70-30' rating after his death."
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