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Why China is Hiding the Horrors of Its Past

While the Chinese government continues to transform Xinjiang through its cultural genocide program aimed at eliminating the distinct identity of the Uyghur population, it is also putting a high priority on controlling the history of the region and its people. In October 2018, the state-run newspaper People’s Daily published an article outlining the official stance towards Xinjiang’s history, saying, “A correct understanding of the history of Xinjiang is not about examination of specific historical details. It is about a deep understanding of the Party Central Committee’s basic understanding, viewpoints and conclusions on issues related to Xinjiang’s history, culture, religion and so on, and enhancing our confidence in Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.”

The statement illustrates how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) generally regards the purpose of history. For the CCP, the purpose of historical study is not to understand past mistakes to ensure they are not repeated, an extremely important goal for a nation with the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward in the living memory of much of its population. The purpose of history is to serve the political and ideological goals of the government.

China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Much of the actual history of Xinjiang runs counter to those goals. The province of Xinjiang was founded when General Zuo Zongtang (in fact, the namesake of “General Tso’s Chicken”), re-conquered the area in 1877 under the order of the Qing Government, setting the foundation for the establishment of Xinjiang Province in 1884. The Qing conquest of this region is associated with widespread violence against the local Uyghur and Hui populations as well Uyghur violence against ethnic Chinese. Such historical facts underscore the overwhelming disunity of the region, thereby undermining the CCP’s current narrative about Xinjiang.

Xi Jinping March 2017

While the CCP has, for decades, treated historical knowledge both as a potential threat, as well as a tool for generating an extreme breed of nationalism, it has grown more hostile towards a wide range of historical facts under President Xi Jinping. In 2018, the People’s Daily reported that Xi declared, “We must clearly stand against the wrong view of history, establish a correct view of history with rational discernment, and ensure that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era always follows the correct course.”

Efforts under Xi to promote the “correct view of history” are ambitious. For example, his government established well-funded programs to craft and promote the official history of the Qing, China’s last imperial dynasty. This era is particularly important because, similar to the present, it oversaw a great deal of conflict with the local populations of Xinjiang and Tibet. The Qing era is also important because it witnessed China’s “humiliation” at the hands of Western powers, the memory of which is used by the CCP as an abundant source of nationalism. This history of “humiliation” helps bolster the contemporary wave of propaganda about the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” aimed at legitimizing CCP rule.

What is arguably most sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party are discussions of any historical events in which the CCP appears to be at fault, whether it be violence in Xinjiang or the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In the current political environment, these events call into question the legitimacy of the CCP, and therefore, information about them is increasingly restricted. But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1980s, public discussions and writings (known as “scar literature”) of the horrors of Mao’s rule were largely tolerated by the government. This was also a period when such history appeared to be less relevant, and therefore, less threatening to the Party. At that time, the country was reforming its political institutions, liberalizing its economy, and some high-ranking CCP officials were even considering full democratization.

In contrast, the Chinese government today has recently returned to personalistic rule, entrenched the state deep in the economy, and moved the country toward totalitarianism. Under such conditions, the CCP’s historical mistakes, particularly those of Mao, seem much more relevant and are, therefore, much more threatening to the CCP. The expression “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” speaks volumes about why the CCP is so eager to control and manipulate its history: it may currently be repeating what are widely regarded as some of the Party’s worst mistakes of the 20th century.

One such highly-relevant historical mistake the government is increasingly eager to control is the Cultural Revolution. Even within China, there is virtually unanimous agreement that the movement was a major failure of CCP rule. While this period has always been sensitive, the Party was, until recently, relatively forthcoming about this. However, it is now moving to further restrict knowledge and discussion of it.

A professor assaulted by students during the Cultural Revolution

Until 2019, national middle-school history textbooks had an entire chapter on the Cultural Revolution, showing the movement in a distinctly negative light. Of Mao’s errors, it said, “In the 1960s, Mao Zedong mistakenly believed that there were revisionists within the Central Party, and the party and the country faced threats of capitalist restoration.” In 2019, the Ministry of Education released a new version of the textbook in which the Cultural Revolution material was significantly shortened and combined with other periods into a single chapter called “Arduous Exploration and Development Achievements.” It not only took out the word “mistakenly” from the above quote, but also downplays the erroneous and tragic nature of the Cultural Revolution by saying “Nothing happens smoothly in the world, and history is always advancing in ups and downs.”

The government has also moved to further restrict discussion of the Cultural Revolution and other sensitive history throughout society. In 2013, shortly after Xi came to power, the Central Office of the CCP released a “Bulletin on the Current Situation in the Ideological Field” for local officials across the country, stating that “historical mistakes of the CCP” should not be discussed. Continuing this trend, in 2018, a document was leaked online from the National Radio and Television Administration that required TV and internet series to not only avoid discussing history, but avoid drawing any parallels with real historical events or time periods. The document used Game of Thrones as an example of compliance, as the series contains no historical elements or parallels.

The Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping has good reason to reduce awareness of the excesses of the Mao period, including the Cultural Revolution: many of President Xi Jinping’s policies and campaigns bear significant resemblance to this period. In 2018, Xi Jinping’s government launched a massive, nationwide campaign called “Eliminate the Dark and Evil Forces.” Both this campaign and the Cultural Revolution were attempts to consolidate personal power over the political system and society. Though billed in China’s English-language media as merely a campaign against organized crime, it is in fact much more far-reaching and ideological in its aims. Similar to the Cultural Revolution, it aims to purge society of “impure” elements.

The targets of this campaign vary by jurisdiction. In multiple locations it has targeted and demonized doctors, as did the Cultural Revolution. In Hunan province, it targeted HIV patients, the mentally ill, and parents who have lost their child as “Dark and Evil Forces.” It has also gone after corrupt party officials with connections to local mafia, making the campaign a convenient excuse to take out political enemies within the party, a liberty that Mao made extensive use of in the 1960s.

Similar to the Mao-era, the campaign ramps up propaganda dissemination, with local governments encouraged to install public propaganda about the “Dark and Evil Forces.” Frequent visitors to China will notice that, since around 2015, ideological propaganda banners have become omnipresent. Earlier this year, Chinese netizens reacted with fury to pictures of a massive red banner above the entrance to a Kindergarten saying, “Insist on starting early to nip the evil forces in the bud.”

Propaganda banner at a kindergarten in Guiyang, Guizhou

Another similarity between Xi and Mao’s rule is that citizens are encouraged to inform on one another to the authorities, creating a culture of fear and self-censorship. For example, as the CCP attempts to reduce the influence of Western ideas in the country, university students have reported on professors deemed to be promoting liberal values. And as part of the “Eliminate the Dark and Evil Forces” campaign, citizens are, in some jurisdictions, even encouraged with monetary incentives to inform on members of groups deemed “Dark and Evil” by local authorities.

Of course, there are major limitations to any comparison between Xi’s rule and the Mao era, and the differences arguably outweigh the similarities. For one, tens of millions of people were persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. This hasn’t happened under Xi’s rule or at least not nearly as viciously as during the Cultural Revolution. Xi’s rule is also much less murderous than that of Mao. Additionally, unlike the current “Eliminate the Dark and Evil Forces” campaign, the Cultural Revolution was extremely disruptive to the economy, as the country was edging towards anarchy under the grip of the Red Guards.

Nevertheless, both periods are characterized by personalistic rule, totalitarianism, and a culture of fear, all of which are more than enough for discussions of the Cultural Revolution to be both highly relevant and highly sensitive. Moreover, the comparison is apt enough for knowledge of the period to be dangerous in the hands of disgruntled members of society negatively affected by Xi’s hardline governance.

The real danger of such historical mistakes comes not from the presence of stubborn facts but from how people fundamentally view the role of history. History is dangerous for the CCP when people use it to better understand the present and their country. But as Louisa Lim, the author The People’s Republic of Amnesia points out, the CCP aims to control how people conceive of the purpose of history itself. If the people have fully internalized the idea that the sole purpose of historical study is to serve the interests of the state, people lose the desire to understand historical truth altogether.

Thus, if Xi’s government can convince the populace that historical study is solely about ensuring that “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era always follows the correct course,” then one day, Xi may not need to worry so much about inconvenient historical facts smuggled into the country, even if they show the worst parts of history repeating themselves.

 

Nick Taber is a writer and consultant on policy and business in China. He received his Master’s from the London School of Economics in 2016, where he researched the economics of state-capitalism and trade in China and Vietnam.  Follow him on Twitter: @TaberTooth

44 Comments

  1. Morgan Foster says

    “The purpose of history is to serve the political and ideological goals of the government.”

    In a less sophisticated manner, we see much the same thing happening in public school districts around the United States.

    History books are being rewritten to serve the political and idealogical goals of the Democratic Party.

    • question says

      “History books are being rewritten to serve the political and idealogical[sic] goals of the Democratic Party.”

      This is silly, especially on this article.

      The (generally religious) right has a richer, longer history advocating for book censorship, and this can be easily verified (e.g. “Book censorship in the United States” in Wikipedia). Most of the recent controversies arise from the left trying to raise awareness to atrocities (e.g. Columbus, more focus on slavery), trying to elevate non-white historical figures, or trying to be more conclusive about facts (e.g. evolution). If anything, arguing against these changes is to argue for exactly what China is doing in this article.

      The USA can both be great while at the same time have a critical eye towards its past. We can celebrate western culture while at the same time acknowledge that we did not get it for free. The left is fighting so hard for the latter because the right outright refuses it. Nobody (worth listening to) is discussing removing America’s greatness.

      The real question should be: why is it so controversial to discuss our controversial past?

      • Morgan Foster says

        @question

        Here’s one for you. Why do people say “the real question should be …” when that was not the question?

        • question says

          @Morgan Foster

          I believe “the real question should be” arises when pointing out that the original question (or statement, in my reply to your case) is looking at a symptom to an underlying problem.

          In this case, to me your original statement about the Democratic party is misguided. I’d argue that history was not accurate, and it should not be a controversy to make it more accurate. Thus, why is it a controversy to do so?

          • Morgan Foster says

            @question

            You are making quite an assumption, there. You are accepting without question that the “new history”, that is, the one that (as I adopted from the article) “serves the political and ideological goals of the Democratic Party”, is “more accurate”.

            Is it more accurate? It’s hardly the point. That is to say, it was not my point and because you were responding to my comment, I hope you will concede that the point is mine.

      • beyondyesandno says

        question – “The left is fighting so hard for the latter because the right outright refuses it.”

        The conceit of the left is that it has the more accurate read of the past. Ask your average leftist about Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke and Kant, and you’ll likely receive a blank stare.

      • Once Upon a Time says

        I’m going to “call out” this comment as a Tu Quoque fallacy. The left IS repeating Red Guard tactics, e.g. destroying professors who don’t tow the party line in an effort to erase history, calling anything that isn’t in lockstep “racism,” tearing down statues, and erasing names. A theater named for Lillian Gish is being renamed simply because she was in The Birth of a Nation, for example. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name removed from her museum due to a single line in one of her many books.

        “Arguing against these changes is to argue for exactly what China is doing in this article. The USA can both be great while at the same time have a critical eye towards its past.”

        You can’t have a critical eye towards the past if you’re tearing down remnants of the past and erasing names. I’ve been around for a long time. It has long been part of the curriculum to call slavery a great injustice. We don’t need to go so far as to knock down statues. Besides, the reason for knocking them down is silly — that it makes perfectly safe people “feel unsafe.” That’s just silly and infantilizing. It also isn’t going to change the past any more than it’s going to erase the various hatreds that humans are apt to entertain.

        And what do you mean “we did not get it for free”? Are you suggesting that only POC’s supported the building of this country? That would be fallacious too. The Left is also trying desperately to give credit where credit is not due. Like it or not, the developments that most shaped the rapid progress of the 20th century is due to the titans of the Gilded Age. Yet the Left will erase their names should there be any smudge of racism in their records.

        I would suggest spending a little more time with your history books. There was a lot of wholesale suffering for everyone, not just POC’s. This sanctifying of black Americans to the point of handing them credit for where we are today is just not true.

      • The left tends to distill very complex subject into right and wrong. Take slavery for example. They tend to act as if slavery wasn’t controversial at the time of the signing of the Constitution. This is not even close to the truth. Nor grasp the deep complexity of the issue. Another example is they tend to blame, almost exclusively, whites for the Indian Wars. Again, this is a simplistic take on a very complex situation. It is okay to talk about the troubles this country has had, but let’s do it objectively.
        Another example is the New Deal is taught as gospel as saving the US from the depression. FDRs own secretary of treasury admitted in testimony that the New Deal, rather than helping, actually probably extended the depression.
        Another example is the idea of eugenics, which was closely associated with the progressive movement. And the civil rights movement was primarily a Republican cause and that LBJ was opposed to it until he was president and could benefit from it politically. And the southern strategy is commonly taught to have resulted in causing old southern Democrats, disillusioned with the civil rights movement to switch to the GOP. Voting data, however, contradicts this hypothesis.
        There are actually volumes written looking at how modern textbooks distort history in such a manner as to benefit the progressive viewpoint.
        Yes earlier textbooks had a definite bias, but to argue that modern textbooks are any less biased is simply Pollyandish.

  2. codadmin says

    The answer is simple, China is not a conquered nation.

    Only conquered nations ‘criticise’ themselves like Western nations do.

    • mitchellporter says

      Interesting fact, the final dynasty of China – Qing, mentioned in this article – was actually the product of a minority conquest. The Mongols conquered China (Yuan dynasty), then when that collapsed there was rule by Han majority (Ming dynasty), then they were conquered by Manchu (Qing dynasty). And when Qing rule grew weak, all kinds of movements developed under the surface. I was thinking just yesterday that the west is like that now.

  3. David of Kirkland says

    ‘stating that “historical mistakes of the CCP” should not be discussed’
    Dare anybody ask what are the historical mistakes that should not be discussed?

    • Morgan Foster says

      @David of Kirkland

      “Historical mistakes” is a tricky sort of concept. One must first establish that the Chinese government was trying to accomplish something – call it “A”. If the government then does something that fails to accomplish the goals of “A”, outside observers might say “the Chinese government made a mistake, there.”

      But if the government then says, “Well, that’s not what we were trying to do at all. We were actually trying to accomplish “B” (despite what we may have said at the time), and in that sense, we succeeded!” And then they’ll say it wasn’t a mistake at all.

      So, who gets to authoritatively establish that there was a mistake? Nick Taber, or the Chinese government? Who will the Chinese people listen to?

      Probably not Nick Taber, in the end.

    • In China “historical mistakes” is a frequently employed euphemism. It is a convenient way for the CCP to excuse deliberate policies or actions that resulted in the deaths of great numbers of Chinese people.

      @David of Kirkland

      The Great Leap Forward was a series of policies (intended to bring about rapid economic growth and industrialisation) that resulted in economic catastrophe and the deaths of tens of millions due to starvation. To radically simplify: Mao gave inspiring speeches about how (with sufficient Communist zeal) small allotments of land could produce enormous harvests of rice or wheat. His words then became official policy, and rural counties were expected to deliver unrealistic grain harvests to the national stockpile. Local officials drastically over-reported harvests in order to bolster favour with the central government. When collectors came to collect, local officials brutalised farmers into handing over literally every grain of rice or wheat. Over-reporting and subsequent brutalisation of peasants became systematic at the county level. Upwards of 40 million Chinese rural people died of starvation. Nationally owned grain was stored in silos in Shanghai for foreign sale. The Great Leap Forward could, very generously, be viewed as a “mistake” as the deaths themselves were not Mao’s intention. Mao is, however, on record as saying “If half of China’s people have to die for the revolution to be successful, so be it.”

      The Cultural Revolution was a policy instituted by Mao for the sole purpose of saving his own skin when he faced expulsion from the Party (after his economic policies proved disastrous). In Stalinist fashion, Mao denounced all his detractors (inside the Party and out) as “counter-revolutionary”. Those accused were publically humiliated and tortured (and in rural Guangxi province – cannibalised). Educated people (teachers for example) were exiled to remote provinces for “re-education through labour.” The Cultural Revolution was continuously stoked by Mao until his death, and led to recurring cycles of denouncement, humiliation and torture.

      The Tiananmen Square Massacre is probably the most well-known Chinese historical event, and is among the least known historical events inside mainland China (around 90% of current university students are not aware that it occurred). The CCP’s official stance, however, is that the “Tiananmen Square Incident” was not a mistake, but the correct and responsible action against “misled” students.

  4. Becky Laquisha says

    More and more in beginning to come around to the Chinese way of getting stuff done. We need more ruthless expedience in the United States. It’s winner take all.

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  6. “The document used Game of Thrones as an example of compliance, as the series contains no historical elements or parallels.”
    Somebody is going to have a field day with that! Just don’t tell the Chinese government.

  7. Sasha says

    You need to look at at the core problem that history proves again and again. Its human beings that cause all our difficulties.

    It never matters what nationality they are because power breeds arrogance and arrogance breeds disgust and disgust breeds violence.

    The disgust from the dictators is at the empathy of the populace as the dictator continues to impose rules and regulations on the populace awaiting some response rather than apathetic acknowledgement.

    Xi , like most dictators, surround themselves with “Yes men”.

    The first priority in the selection of the “Yes men” is the Army. Once the top generals etc. are given money and assets then the next step is the Treasury.

    Stalin hated statisticians because they often presented figures on population and the economy that differed with what Stalin stated. So he just shot them or to be totally correct his “Yes men” shot them. Easy solution!

    Now Stalin, Mao, Mussolini etc. etc. all followed the same path and stayed in power for quite a while due to the total apathy of “ If it’s not my back door being threatened , I don’t care!”

    Xi will develop into another Stalin of course with secret incarcerations and murders because his “Yes men” will begin to fear alternate “yes men” that Xi appoints.

    The more things change the more things stay the same.

  8. Andrew Scott says

    Why is it that I’ve got to go through red tape to get to Cuba but I can fly into Beijing, no questions asked? Cuba is downright relaxed compared to China. Religious minorities that get tortured and imprisoned in China practice freely in Cuba. If there are valid reasons for restricting travel to Cuba, they should apply to China. If China is okay, so is Cuba.

    • Vijay S. Jodha says

      Because China didn’t try to nuke USA, Cuba did. Also a continuing tribute to Jack. Merely naming the airport in New York or a school in Harvard not enough, a blockade can/must continue.

  9. John D Stevenson says

    I was visited China in 2014. On Tianeman Square, there is a 2.5 hour line around Mao’s tomb just to to see his dumb stuffed ass… Not to gawk but to revere! They cast lotus flowers on the mausoleum all day every day!. The Chinese are cray-cray and should not be underestimated!

  10. Donnerhauser says

    A very interesting article, thank you.

    I am particularly concerned about the rise of China given the authoritarian nationalism they promote and I am concerned about what will happen when the economic growth they’ve been coasting on ceases.

    • I’d be much more concerned about what will happen if their economic growth doesn’t cease. China is becoming more belligerent by the second in international affairs. It uses military force to continuously expand its borders and “sovereignty”. About three years ago, Chinese news outlets circulated a report on “wars China will have to fight in the next 20 years”, all of which involved military expansion of China’s territory. An economic crisis is one of the best things we can hope for.

      • Mark Zhang says

        belligerent???? Does China have god knows how many military bases around the world?
        Does China bomb the shit out of developing countries for their oil murdering upwards of a million people?

        Get this. All China’s territorial claims are historic, and supported by guess who……Taiwan!

        Indeed the Taiwanese government still considers Mongolia to be part of China.

        Just base your arguments on facts eh? Otherwise you end up looking like a fool. You probably are, but don’t make it so obvious

        • That is the default response whenever China’s foreign policy or military aggression is criticised. Basically: “Why are you defending America?!”

          I did not mention America, and do not support America’s military activities in the Middle East.

          Critical coverage of Chinese affairs is censored outright from mainland Chinese news (the Hong Kong protests, to cite a recent example). Chinese people are told that the only reason anyone could possibly criticise CCP policy is “American interference”.

          As to China’s claims of sovereignty and “historical precedent”: All populated areas of the world have experienced historical invasions, divisions, takeovers, and changes in political system. The Mongolian Empire, for example, included much of what is now Northern China. Should China’s territory be returned to Mongolia?

          Cherry-picking of convenient occasions in history is used as a dubious pretext for the modern day Communist Party claiming sovereignty over other countries.

          America’s pretexts for invasions of Middle Eastern nations are no better, but most Americans are aware their nation is not peaceful, is not always right, and has done plenty of unreasonable things in the past.

  11. Geary Johansen says

    The present always casts a shadow over the past. For example, in American History’s Biggest Fibs Lucy Worsley points out that the Boston Tea Party was about representation and about Tea, but hardly about taxation. The British had recently reduced taxation on incoming goods to negligible levels, in an effort to smooth tensions- and completely missed the point that, having adopted somewhat of a mercantile attitude from the British, the Americans wanted control over their own markets and competition.

    In the UK and the US, the current revival of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, in the form of shows like Sherlock and Elementary, would likely stall in it’s tracks- if the Leftists were actually to go back and read the original stories- as from a modern context, much of the diction and attitudes expressed in his works would be considered very non-PC by contemporary standards. This would be a shame given the influence Arthur Conan Doyle had on the Anglo-Saxon model of police work, particularly in relation to the early development of forensics as a criminologists tool.

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  13. Chester Draws says

    The Xinjiang bit at the front seems tacked on. As if to draw in readers to an entirely different topic. Ten years ago it would have been Tibet.

    Xinjiang was reconquered in the late 19th century, having been part of China on and off for two millennia. While some argue that it should be independent, the Chinese have far more reason to regard it as China than the US can Hawaii. It has been independent of Chinese and Mongol rule only briefly.

    At the time of reconquering, it wasn’t a nation state, just the territory of Warlords. If let to be independent, with no history of self-rule it would likely become like the other stans — an authoritarian regime worse than the Chinese. Instead of suppression of the Moslem elements, it would suppression of the various ethnic elements. Of which there are many.

    While the Chinese are bad, the alternative isn’t necessarily better.

  14. Mike Carney says

    I don’t understand how Mr. Taber missed (?) the substantial increase in persecution of Christian churches and people all over China with home churches being spied on and broken up, crosses being totally removed from public view, and so on. The Christian population has been growing very widely and rapidly in China.

    This is the real fear of the CCP.

  15. TheSnark says

    China’s current economic growth will slow at some point, and they will suffer from a recession. For now much of the growth is due to government stimulus (direct and indirect) and inertia from the earlier high-growth days. But you can’t grow faster than everyone else forever, especially when your working-age population is falling and with a governmental constantly intervening in the economy.

    But, the last time China experienced an economic slowdown was in 1988-9, which resulted in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. So the government has been trying to put off the inevitable reckoning as long as possible, which will just make it worse when it does happen. In the meantime, they are putting in as many social/political control as they can in an effort to keep the lid on when the inevitable comes about.

    Basically, Xi is terrified of his own people.

  16. Mark says

    Bad things happened in China post 1949. But far far more good things happened.

    While the Great Leap Forward was a setback —mainly due to a US embargo, and appalling weather, the mortality rates of the time were around those of India’s and other developing countries of the time. The mortality rates fell relative to the stunning gains in life expectancy during the first decade of the PRC. But they were average by developing world standards.

    During the years of the Cultural Revolution, life expectancy rose by 10 years.
    https://tinyurl.com/y2jye7b3

    In the overall analysis the Chinese communist party has saved more lives than any other political movement in history. As this Yale study shows: China’s growth in life expectancy between 1950 and 1980 ranks as among the most rapid sustained increases in documented global history.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331212/

    • Tim Lewis says

      Mark said, “bad things happened in China post 1949.” Thanks for that, because the rest of what you wrote made me ill. The utter disregard of intellectual honesty necessary to defend genocide is truly astonishing.

      • Mark Zhang says

        Seek truth from facts.

        All the facts show that Mao perhaps saved more lives than any other political figure in human history

        • People who “perhaps” saved more lives than any other political figures in human history:

          Mao
          Stalin
          Hitler

          • Mao’s policies caused the deaths of at least 40 million people due to starvation. Claiming that those who survived were “saved by Mao” is pretty audacious.

  17. GSW says

    “For the CCP, the purpose of historical study is not to understand past mistakes to ensure they are not repeated… The purpose of history is to serve the political and ideological goals of the government.” @Nick Taber

    I’m underwhelmed by this insight. Does the author imagine that the political use of history is unique to Chinese authorities? If so, a brief scan of the titles of many of the articles posted on Quillete would establish that the attempt to read history through political and ideological lenses is a near universal of the modern human condition.

    “Of course, there are major limitations to any comparison between Xi’s rule and the Mao era, and the differences arguably outweigh the similarities.” @Nick Taber

    This disclaimer comes only after several paragraphs linking contemporary Chinese politics to the “Mao era.” Of course, it’s true there are “major limitations” — but the author’s emphasis in this article is on similarities (“Hiding the Horrors” etc.) rather than exploring “the differences [that] outweigh the similiarities.” For readers, this weak disclaimer offers nothing more than lip service to the concept of a fair and balanced examination.

    “Bad things happened in China post 1949. But far far more good things happened.” @Mark

    Without at all minimising the (very) “bad things,” overall your observation is a sound one. It won’t be popular with many Quillete posters and readers who don’t know much of anything about China save the talking points of the highly propagandistic western media. To them, I would simply say, consider that China (with its 1.4 billion souls) has lifted itself out of extreme poverty and technological/industrial backwardness since 1990 without significant foreign aid or expatriate remittances.

    • Mark Zhang says

      The hard yards was done in the Maoist era. Stunning increases in health, life expectancy, and literacy, under Mao, laid the foundations of the economic liftoff under Deng and his successors.

      You are right, Taber’s pompous ass statement is meaningless because it applies to almost every government, and indeed every group or individual. Taber is a pseudo intellectual blowhard.

  18. Douglas says

    “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
    George Orwell knew of this aspect of communism decades ago and we are onluy now discussing the rightness of it.

  19. Mark Zhang says

    “For the CCP, the purpose of historical study is not to understand past mistakes to ensure…blah blah blah”

    Yeah, and how many british schoolkids are taught about the opium wars and british imperialism in china?

    • codadmin says

      I agree with what you’re trying to say, but British school kids learn at an increasingly early age how ‘evil’ their country is because of imperialism.

      The British, like most other western nations, are de-facto conquered nations.

  20. Brent says

    Never mind their ancient history, in and after Mao’s revolution Mao and his cohorts killed between 35 and 100 million in the great cleansing of thought.

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