CUHK Series:Developing Chinas West: A Critical Path to Balanced National Development

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Therefore, in teaching this class I hope to faithfully relay to you all the observations and experiences of a historical witness, I hope to arouse some interest in you, and perhaps among you a few will go on to your own research on Mao. Maybe because of this some of you will become interested in Mao and go on to research him. Once you have researched Mao Zedong and reached your own conclusions, then my mission will be complete. I hope that at that time you can all forget everything that I have told you today. The above may serve as my opening remarks.

Below, I would like to speak on four topics.

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One: My relationship with Mao and the Mao era. This is perhaps a coincidence of history. In the past it was mistakenly believed that his position was established in at the Zunyi Conference,[9] but over the past few years there has been a breakthrough on this question by historians of Party history. Zhang Wentian remained as General Secretary, and not, as was believed, in name only.

In September of that year, Wang Jiaxiang relayed this directive at the CCP Politburo Conference, and at the 6th Plenary Session of the 6th Politburo in October ,[12] Mao for the first time represented the central Politburo by delivering a political report.

My intellectual makeup, my ideas, the path of my life, all took form and were established under the direct influence of Mao Zedong. It reflects a particular characteristic of our era, we grew up through revolution, a revolution that drew the most ordinary, most marginal people into the tide of history, something perhaps harder to directly experience in Taiwan.

When the Cultural Revolution broke out I was in Guizhou, in a remote village deep in the mountains, but even there, there was revolution. Our generation has a flesh and blood relationship with history, these historical campaigns directly influenced our lives, our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.

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What strikes my students when they read my book, My Retrospection and Reflection, [18] is that for them, history is something external, a subject that needs to be understood. For us, however, this is not the case, history is simply oneself. My generation has an extremely tangled relationship with the history and revolution led by Mao Zedong. Each person carries within them a great dilemma, a dilemma particular to each intellectual. The greatest problem of revolution is that it constricts the space for freedom of the individual.

A great number of intellectuals felt this kind of constriction and sought impotently to break from its tethers - from this there comes confusion. But I am an intellectual of a different ilk, I actively sought to participate in, not break free from, revolution. We too had our own style of thought, perhaps not consistent with Mao Zedong; but it remained only thought, and we were unable to realize this thought and influence the course of history. These dilemmas are likely foreign to you, my audience. But even when pushed aside and suppressed, I still resolutely and actively threw myself into the revolution, and in the process entangled myself irrevocably with the Mao era and revolutionary history.

But walking out from under the shadow of Mao has been an extremely difficult process. My complicated relationship with the Mao era can be presented in two ways. On the one hand, I am shaped by that era. Mao Zedong culture has already seeped into my flesh and into my soul and its traces cannot be altered. No matter how I struggle, critique, or examine myself, I remain an incorrigible idealist, romantic and utopian.

On the other hand, I am even more a self-conscious rebel of the Mao era. My historical mission is to turn on my old comrades, to carry out the thorough clearing up and critique of Mao as only those of the same generation can do. I shall, when I have lost track of time, make a distant journey alone. Lu Xun at that time was himself befuddled by his entanglement with several thousand years of Chinese traditional culture.

Lu Xun called himself the last intellectual of traditional China - please allow me to brag and tell you that I am the last intellectual of the Mao era. For me, sorting out and critiquing Mao Zedong culture is a kind of painful sorting out and critiquing of myself, and at the same time is a kind of self-redemption. I have already settled up my relationship with Lu Xun. If I can do the same for my relationship with Mao, then I can meet my maker with a clear conscience and account for my life. Thereupon she thrusts both hands toward heaven, and from between her lips spills forth an utterance born from the margins between human and animal - not of this world, and thus without words.

My critique is burdened with complex emotions, perhaps limiting it, but at the same time rendering it unique. You may have noticed that in my account above I repeatedly use two concepts: Mao Zedong thought, and Mao Zedong culture. What do I mean by Mao Zedong culture? This is the second question I wish to speak on.

Two: A few fundamental features of Mao Zedong thought and culture. Mao Zedong was no ordinary man. He is characterized by six traits which I have previously summarized. First, as Karl Marx once said, we cannot stop at interpreting the world, we must also transform it. As a Marxist, Mao was not only a thinker who interpreted the world, but also an agent who transformed it.

Marxists believe that theory and practice must be reconciled, that thinkers and doers must bond as one - this is what distinguishes Mao. In general, the philosopher and the activist are distinct from one another, a division of labor existing between the two. To raise a simple example, in the French Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a philosopher, while Maximillian de Robespierre played the role of activist.


Theory and practice are driven by different kinds of logic: theory is concerned with the absolute and is thus uncompromising, but practice must be negotiated; thought is visionary, while practice emphasizes the existing. If a person is both a thinker and a doer, then they will hold a great advantage, but if they are unable to correctly resolve the different logics of thought and practice, then from time to time they will bring disaster upon society. This is a complicated question, and I can only broach it here.

If students are interested, we can discuss this more in private. Packed as they are with the imagination, passion, and the utopian ideals of a poet, they are endlessly moving. But as soon as such ideas are transformed into practice, they will often bring about disaster. Mao often exhibits just such a conversion: romanticism at the theoretical level mutating into despotism at the practical level. Of course, this is an extremely involved process, one that requires concrete research and description.

Of course, we can say that Lu Xun had his right to speak, but Liang Shiqiu had this same right; they could, in practice, each exercise their own right to criticize the other without either inflicting a mortal injury.

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Financing mainly comes from the employer who is obliged to pay premiums; some minor contributions are paid by the enrollees. The importance of this point cannot be understated. Urban development for the twenty-first century: Managing resources and creating infrastructure. This is ironic because, once China had modernized and no longer needed Japan, the communist leaders turned the anti-Japan propaganda back on. Further bolstering Mao worship are those intellectuals, who, over recent years, have taken a Maoist turn. Zhang, Wang, Yang, and Teng Leung, S.

But Mao was different, he wielded tremendous political and economic power, and along with this came the absolute power of his speech. His power was neither supervised nor restricted. Fifth, even among totalitarian rulers such as Stalin, Mao sets himself apart. Such dictators usually only control the bodies of the people; dissidents, heretics, and opponents are at most sent to prison or labor camps and thus are neutralized corporeally.

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Mao, however, sought also to remould thought. He said once that two types of people existed in Chinese tradition: heroes and sages. Mao sought to position himself as a hero, but desired even more the role of sage.

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This is both awesome and dreadful, and is without precedent. Finally, what he sought to rule and transform is the nation with the largest population in the world, with an influence both widespread and far-reaching. Mao was completely conscious in the use of his own thought to remould China and the world, as well as the spiritual world of the Chinese people, and further, to establish, according to his own way of thinking, a complete set of organizational structures for social life that extended from the center down to the most basic level of localities. This is not simply a phenomenon of thought, but one of matter and organization.

Qian Liqun, "Mao and his Era"

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This kind of Mao Zedong culture, having passed through a long period of organized, planned, and guided inculcation, has already come to form the national collective unconscious in mainland China, a new national character. We absolutely cannot underestimate the success and consequence of Mao Zedong thought in its remoulding of the people and intellectuals of mainland China.

I remember when the previously closed-off PRC began to open again to the world, many foreigners had quite a surprise when meeting mainland Chinese people again after so long. They discovered that the current Chinese individual had undergone a great transformation from the Chinese person of their historical memory. For example, the Doctrine of the Mean invoked in Chinese tradition, is now nowhere to be found in mainland China. Of course, there has also been positive change; that the mainland Chinese people now have greater self-confidence is related also to the influence of Mao.

A few Taiwanese friends, including some here today, tell me that they sometimes feel that the way their mainland fellows think, behave, and speak, is a little odd and hard to fathom. This means that its influence continues to be passed on from generation to generation. More pertinent is that some of the concepts, as well as ways of thinking, behaving, feeling, and communicating of both those who currently wield power in China, as well as those who seek to rebel, bear remarkable similarities to those of Mao. This also applies in practice to the leadership and nucleus of opposing factions.

The influence of Mao Zedong culture on thought and ideology, spirit and personality, whether positive or negative, will profoundly affect the realities and developmental path of China. In my view, researching this influence is a very good point of entry for an examination of the many problems facing China today. Lu Xun, in his day, said: whatever kind of citizen you have, that will be the kind of government you have. First, is its relationship with the Communist Party.

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The Chinese authorities assert that Mao Zedong thought is a product of the collective wisdom of the Chinese Communist Party, and I think this reflects reality. Mao Zedong culture was formed through interaction with such people; interaction that includes cooperation and complementarity, as well as restriction and conflict.

But Mao Zedong culture does not belong to the Party alone, the Chinese people including intellectuals also participated its creation and development as they both buoyed up and reaped benefits from this culture. We cannot simply view Chinese intellectuals as subjects and victims of the Mao era, they were also active participants in history.

They bear their own responsibility for the history that unfolded in China in the Twentieth Century.


Mao Zedong culture, from thought to realization that is the realization of thought , had to pass through many intermediaries. Mao Zedong culture emphasizes mass-campaigns and mass-participation and deploying the masses to carry out class struggle and construction. History is a result of a combination of forces Mao Zedong, the CCP, the intellectuals, the masses , although Mao represents the overall driving force, he was, in the end, not omnipotent. It is only in the complex interaction between these forces that Mao Zedong culture took shape.

I want to raise one point in particular - one central to the focus of my research. In the Mao era, it was very difficult for the people to be exposed to other modes of thinking; the sources of thought were quite limited. To those dissatisfied with, or holding a critical awareness of, the status quo, it is in this Mao that they often find inspiration and even encouragement.

In this way, for heterodox thinkers in the mainland and to some extent including myself , the primary spiritual godfather is none other than Mao Zedong. But this thought, once received by the people, developed according its own logic, one difficult for Mao to control. At this point, Mao acted to suppress such rebels who crossed the bottom line; about this Mao was completely unambiguous. This also became another kind of interaction.

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What I have said above orbits about one point, which is that Mao Zedong culture took form through the interaction of all kinds of complicated interactions, and only through the concrete observation of these manifold relationships, from inside the Party to outside, from the top to the bottom, can one grasp their complexity, and their abundance. So it has been. So it is! In , on the eve of the 17th CCP National Congress,[31] more than a hundred old cadres presented a memorial in which they made a clear cut criticism of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin b.

These old cadres called for a return to the Maoist line, as well as a relaunching of the Cultural Revolution. They absolutely will not abandon the system of one-party rule established by Mao. More concretely, there are three points of inviolability. The first is that freedom of speech, association and publication will not be granted to the public; there may be a loosening, but never a total release. Today however, no matter how discontent the people are with the status quo, there is no alternative in which to place their trust; they can only hope for the transformation of the CCP itself.

These three points are absolutely inviolable. Mao, for example, used class struggle to control the nation, whereas the current regime takes economic development as core. There are currently two kinds of forces that place their trust in the person of Mao. The first are those who resist at the grassroots, and in particular, workers.

During Reform and Opening however, the worker lost these benefits in large-scale unemployment and layoffs. This has changed a little of late. Initially, however, it was Mao Zedong thought that served as the crucial resource. In countless taxicabs dangle icons of Mao, warding off evil spirits. There are two prerequisites for such a deification: one must either have preternatural wisdom, or a godlike ability to ward-off misfortune—Mao Zedong had both.

Further bolstering Mao worship are those intellectuals, who, over recent years, have taken a Maoist turn. Follow this author. New articles by this author. New citations to this author. New articles related to this author's research. Email address for updates. My profile My library Metrics Alerts.

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