Saturday, December 25, 2021

Zhang Zhikun: Saying a few things to Commemorate Mao Zedong's 128th birth anniversary


(From Mao's Reply to Guo Moruo, 1963: So many deeds cry out to be done, And always urgently; The world rolls on, Time presses. Ten thousand years are too long, Seize the day, seize the hour!)

2021-12-25 22:48:58author: Zhang ZhiKun source: red song club network

(Translator's preface:  Today, December 26, 2021 is the 128th anniversary of the birth of Comrade Mao Zedong. There are dozens of articles like this one on the Chinese internet today, all praising Mao Zedong's revolutionary legacy and deploring the state of Chinese society today.  There are photos of commemorative activities being held throughout China - a Mao Zedong "fever" for sure!)

Mao Zedong fever[1] continues to rise in China, and there is a sea of articles commemorating him, in stark contrast to previous years. When I think about a decade ago, there were only a few articles like this, which made me feel the vicissitudes of time. Now it is completely different, as heroes and heroines from all walks of life have reunited under the banner of Mao Zedong, explaining Mao Zedong's thought and spirit, as well as its significance for contemporary China, and digging deeper into its future influence, reaching an unprecedented theoretical height and depth of thought that was previously unattainable. Since this is the case, I can only express some things on the memory of the great man Chairman Mao Zedong, as I did back then.

(1) Where did China's military power rank in the world during the Mao era?

In the current world, rankings are prevalent, and the military is no exception. It is said that in today's global military ranking, China is ranked second, the second military power after the United States. Of course, there is also a theory that it is in third place, behind the United States and Russia. But regardless of the second or third place, it is said to be a very impressive and significant achievement.

This leads one to wonder where China ranked militarily in Mao's time. Which is greater, lower or more important, the military achievements of China at that time or the military achievements of China today?

There are generally two dimensions that people recognise when measuring military achievements: one is the level of armed force building, and the other is the actual battle results and outcomes. The relationship between these two is that one takes into account the state of peace and the other focuses on the fundamental functions; one is a superficial phenomenon and the other is a deep and practical one, and they corroborate and support each other.

Using this yardstick to measure the military achievements of the world's major powers, one can find that the military achievements of the United States were brilliant after the Cold War, as the hegemony achieved a series of military victories during this period, while the Soviet Union, which had its share of victories and defeats during the Cold War and lost more than it won, entered the Russian period and experienced a turnaround from defeat to victory, a turnaround that was completed by Vladimir Putin. This is the basic point of departure and final destination for people evaluating US-Russian (Soviet) military power.

China is a different story. In Mao's time China was vastly inferior to the US and the Soviet Union in terms of weaponry, and although it was catching up fast, it was not modernised to the same extent as they were. Even so, no one would have dared to underestimate China's military achievements at the time, as it had achieved a series of impressive results in its campaigns against the United States, India and the border conflict with the Soviet Union, and because of this, China was recognised as the third largest military power in the world by the strategic reviews of the time.

Obviously, at that time, China had neither become "rich" nor "strong", but had only just "stood up". Some people describe this newly risen China as poor, chaotic, collapsed and a failure. But it is impressive that such a China has not only been ranked third in military power, but has also achieved a series of real military victories and become a globally recognised military power. If one follows the very fashionable GDP logic of today, it is difficult to justify in any way. To solve this conundrum, some simply overturn it and say that it is now time to say goodbye to war. Of course, this claim may be a demand for China to say goodbye to war and not for the US, because in reality, on the contrary, the hegemon is preparing to wage new and larger wars, including against China.

(2) Who could have designed the establishment of the Republic better than Mao Zedong

It is a well-known fact that Mao Zedong was the principal founder of the People's Republic of China, and it is also an accepted fact that today China's basic institutions, including the state and political systems, are still the same framework as they were then.

This being the case, we have to ask two questions.

One, is the basic system of the People's Republic as a country good?

Secondly, who else could have come up with a more brilliant political design than this?

To answer the first question, we say that the system of the People's Republic is a great political masterpiece, a design that has taken Chinese history to new heights, a system that fully embodies the superiority of socialism, the excellence of Chinese history and culture, the excellence of the Chinese nation, and is a model of combining the universal truths of Marxism with Chinese reality. This system is the prerequisite and basis for China's development and progress, and it is still alive and vibrant today, as evidenced by the rapid development to build a moderately prosperous society, as well as the achievements and spirit of the great anti-epidemic, and the so-called reform and opening up, all of which were essentially made possible on the basis of this basic system, as General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his speech at the conference to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, that the founding of China "created the fundamental social conditions for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It has brought about the most extensive and profound social transformation in the history of the Chinese nation" and "laid the fundamental political premise and institutional foundation for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". This is a brand new form of human civilisation.

To answer the second question, no one was wiser or more brilliant than Chairman Mao Zedong. Because he had very rich political experience, he had seen the various attempts at social systems and their failures after the fall of the Chinese dynasties, as well as the various cases under the systems of capitalist countries, and even more so the huge failure in the institutional design of the Republic of China before him, and therefore the difficult exploration of what kind of China the future should be began from the time of the Jiangxi base area, and after the victory in the War of Resistance had begun to be a quite concrete design, which did not take final shape until the moment of the founding of the new China. It can be said that without Mao Zedong there would have been no New China as a country and system; likewise, if it had not been for Mao Zedong, no other person would have been able to produce such a brilliant design.

(3) Mao Zedong is back, can the modern version of the landed gentry still stay?

Mao Zedong had many enemies throughout his life, one of the more prominent categories being the landed gentry, whose defeat was the most immediate goal of his revolution and struggle. After dozens of revolutions, Mao's goal was achieved and the landed gentry became extinct in mainland China. Not only did they lose the economic and social basis on which they existed, but even the remnants of their past were generally transformed into new people.

But history is always spiralling upwards. An upward spiral means that there is a constant reincarnation on newer and higher pedestals. This is also the case with the landed gentry, who have also undergone a historical reincarnation. Nowadays in China, the modern version of the landed gentry has become quite prominent and influential as a social group.

Of course, everyone knows that this is only a social phenomenon, and that the deeper reasons for the emergence of such a landscape are the result of dramatic economic and social structural changes, the inevitable fruits of a context in which exploitation and private ownership are once again growing, the gap between the rich and the poor is once again widening and aggravating, and the antagonism between the rich and the poor is once again confronting each other. Against such a background and under such conditions, it should be said that the new version of the landed gentry should have been given their own historical feast[2].

But history has played another big joke on them. The modern version of China's landed gentry had not even enjoyed themselves for a few days before they were surprised to find that Mao Zedong had returned, and returned very quickly and universally, from top to bottom, from inside to outside, from here to there, and his political spectre was almost everywhere and in everything, and what he brought back was the original heart of the Communist Party, collectivism, the socialist communalism, and common prosperity. This is troublesome, because the impact and shock will be so widespread and profound that the new-age tycoons will first be dumbfounded, and then terrified and distraught in the face of this.

Needless to say, the return of Mao's history will certainly provoke deep and widespread panic and fear, and the question of where China's modern version of the landed gentry will find itself in the future will once again become a major issue.

(4) On Mao's "mistakes"

For a long time, in modern Chinese politics and public opinion, there have been people who have been working on the proposition of Mao's "merits" and "faults", in essence, holding on to the mistakes of Chairman Mao Zedong and thus denying his historical status and political image.

Of course, Mao Zedong had made mistakes, and even he himself said that it was impossible for people not to make mistakes, but only for those who did so to make them less often and correct them better. Nowadays, when we look back and re-examine the proposition of Mao's "merits" and "faults" on a new historical basis, the insights can be renewed in a different way.

One is whether Mao Zedong's merits and demerits can be divided into several parts.

Some people think that Mao Zedong's merits and demerits should be divided into three or seven[3], others think it should be divided into two or eight, and others think it should be divided into four or six, and there was once a very heated debate. The author's experience is that, as the founder of the country, can Mao's performance and mistakes be compared in size, high or low, and measured in importance? The performance he created can be replaced by no one, and his mistakes can be changed completely, can these two be equal? I think that the division of Mao Zedong's merits and demerits can be put to rest, and this should be the conclusion of history.

Secondly, mistakes must also stand the test of time

Right and wrong are never absolute; they have historically varied from one person to another, and from one historical condition to another. What is considered wrong by one group of people may seem right to another group; what seems wrong in one era may seem right in another. This is also true of Mao's mistakes, and it is particularly worth pointing out that, after being tested and washed away by the passage of time, some of the many mistakes that were once said to be Mao's are today seen simply as far-sighted and remarkable in their historical penetration.

The third is what Mao Zedong thought of and did not think of

Mao Zedong was no exception, and there were things he did and did not think of. He had thought of and foresaw many things for the most backward China, such as modernisation, "overtaking the British and catching up with the Americans", the possible re-emergence of pro-American forces and a certain resurgence of capitalism, but he might not have imagined that corruption had been so widespread under the Communist Party, that some regimes had collapsed on a large scale, and that the people's army that he had built up had once been so widespread that it had become a "military". The triad society was so rampant that it developed to the extent that certain places and areas were completely blackened from the outside to the inside and from the bottom to the top; gambling and drugs were so widespread that they were once found in every street and alley...all these were things that this great man could not have imagined even if he had broken his head. The deterioration of the rulers is even more terrifying than the deterioration of China. This is an undeniable fact.

The fourth is what Mao could and could not do

A prominent grip of the accusations about Mao's mistakes is that he did not engage in reform and opening up, but was closed and conservative. In hindsight, this too is debatable. Let alone whether this was really the case, even if it was, under the social and historical conditions of China at that time, after the overthrow of the Three Great Mountains[4] and the triumph of the revolution, could the Chinese people allow Western capital to come back and set up factories in China? Could the capitalists be allowed to continue to exploit the workers? This does not make logical sense in any way.

Under the historical conditions of the time, all Mao could do was to rely on the strength of the Chinese people, to promote the spirit of self-reliance and hard work, to reduce the material wealth needs of all the people, especially those in power, to a minimum level, and to build a solid industrial and economic foundation for China for the future at this cost. The economy as understood in Mao's time was not the get-rich-quick economy of today, but an economy that made up for the country's historical debt of industrialisation, to walk the path of centuries of Western industrial development in just a few decades, and to place heavy industry in an overriding position of importance. Only after these things have been done can he go and fill his belly to put on make-up and dress up. He had to take a long-term view and be responsible to the people, to history, to the nation, not to a few people, a few categories of people, or a few groups. Mao's vow not to follow Li Zicheng's example[5] meant that some people's desire to have a good time after they had won the kingdom fell through. Otherwise, massive corruption might have had to start 30 or 40 years earlier.

(Above: There is a growing call for Mao's birthday to replace Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as a day of national celebration -  a People's Holiday)

(5) Mao Zedong was a strategic equal to the United States

The United States today claims to have many masters of strategy, and these people have indeed made many Chinese "experts" and "scholars" look up to them, thinking that they are models and pinnacles. The various concepts, judgments and logic developed by these American strategy scholars have become a guideline for some Chinese, and are followed with the same urgency as the orders of the Supreme Lord, lest they be neglected.

This is an embarrassing situation to put it mildly. China today is certainly below the US in terms of strategic strength, but more importantly, it is also below the US in terms of the academic and strategic level. I am not aware of any famous Chinese strategic scholars or masters who are highly regarded and respected by the US, which is almost like saying that if we compare the strategies of China and the US, China is not only inferior in power but also in skill. Such a situation would undoubtedly make China's disadvantageous and passive situation even more serious, and it is inevitable that China and the United States would not be on an equal footing in terms of strategy.

But this was not the case with China in Mao's time. At that time, China was vastly different from the United States in terms of strategic strength, much greater than today, but it was far superior to the United States in terms of the level of strategy and tactics. Simply put, it was weak in static strength and strong in dynamic play. Because of this, China at the time was never at a disadvantage in its dealings with the United States and was strategically on par. The reason for this was Mao's high level of strategic planning at the time. In the United States at the time, Mao was recognised and revered by the strategic community as a world-class strategic master. It was for this reason that the United States at that time had a very high strategic regard for China and was very cautious about conflict with China, and later was anxious to get out of confrontation with China. Imagine how the US, which claimed to be the world's hegemon, could have taken China seriously if it had not been in awe of it from the bottom of its heart.

In dealing with the United States, Mao Zedong was the highest and toughest, compared to Khrushchev, who was no good, and Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek), who was nothing more than an aggrieved man.

Now, more and more Chinese people can look at Mao Zedong beyond the limits of their personal grudges and times. Under such a perspective, I am afraid that Mao fever is inevitable, and whether one wants it or not, it will become a major trend, and a new climax will occur this year when the anniversary of Mao's birth is approaching.

Above and below: Tens of thousands of people from all over China joined together to remember Mao Zedong in the early hours of Sunday morning at the Mao Zedong Bronze Statue Square in Shaoshan. (Photo taken from Hong Kong
The China News Service reports that many people have been arriving at Mao Zedong Square since 00:00 on Sunday. After putting on their masks and taking the initiative to cooperate with the staff to check their body temperature, health codes and trip cards, people held flowers and waved red flags as they sang and danced in the square.

[1] Think Beatlemania in the 60s to understand Mao Zedong fever today.

[2] A reference to "A Feast of History", a book published by Long March Publishing House in 2009, in which the great achievements of outstanding Chinese throughout history, was celebrated. Here it is used ironically.

[3] The 1981 Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, drawn up by Deng Xiaoping and his gang of capitalist-roaders, contained 25 references to “mistakes” made by or associated with Comrade Mao Zedong, but they still needed to hide behind his great reputation, so they said his achievements were 70% and his mistakes 30%.

[4] Feudalism, bureaucrat-capitalism and imperialism.

[5] Li Zicheng had led a peasant rebellion that invaded Beijing and, in 1644, toppled the Ming Dynasty. Even though he overran Beijing, the would-be emperor failed to keep power because he and his colleagues alienated the masses by adopting an aristocratic lifestyle. His rule lasted less than a year.

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