Mao Zedong: Pass notes No 3,270

Has the Chinese government abandoned the philosophies of the founding father of the revolution?

Age: Ageless.

Appearance: Eternal bad-hair day poster boy.

Occupation: Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, formerly.

Formerly? What's he been up to lately? Not much. He died in 1976, aged 82.

But under "age" you put "ageless". You should have put "dead". Ageless only in the sense that, as Chinese president Hu Jintao once put it, "the banner of Mao Zedong Thought will always be held high, at all times and in all circumstances".

What does that mean? Roughly translated it means: "Mao's legacy will continue to be invoked by a leadership desperate to retain ideological legitimacy."

And how's that tactic working out for them? They've abandoned it.

Already? It's only been, what, 36 years? Times change. Two recent policy statements contained none of the usual mentions of "Mao Zedong Thought", instead referencing "Deng Xiaoping Theory" and the "Three Represents".

What are they? And what's the difference? Where Mao Zedong Thought was concerned primarily with class struggle and building a socialist state, Deng Xiaoping Theory attempted to reconcile market capitalism with socialist ideals. The "Three Represents" (economic advancement, cultural development, political consensus) refers to the pursuit of democratic reforms.

Does this mean China is becoming less communist? Maybe a little less. It does show that in what counts as dark economic times in China – growth a mere 7.4% – reformers may be gaining the upper hand over traditional leftists.

Tell me more about this Mao Zedong. Born the son of a wealthy farmer, Mao rose to become leader of the Chinese Communist party, unified the country under socialist rule, purged capitalists, instituted land reform and turned China into a military and economic world power, killing between 40 and 70 million people along the way.

So, a mixed bag then. His successor Deng Xiaoping famously said Mao was "70% right and 30% wrong".

Do say: "Anything that propels China towards openness, democracy and the means to import loads of stuff is OK by me."

Don't say: "What would Mao think?"

The GuardianTramp

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