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The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Mao Reconsidered, Part III
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There were two Reigns of Terror if we would but remember and consider them: the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions. But our shudders are all for the ‘horrors’ of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak. But what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heartbreak?

Mark Twain. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Part One of this trilogy described in detail how Mao did more good for more people than anyone in history. In Part Two, his logistical genius saved millions from dying in what could have become an epic famine. In this final episode Mao spends his last decade ending peasants’ ‘deaths from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak,’ introducing democracy and changing China’s ancient culture forever.

Birth of a Revolution

While our understanding of the French Revolution comes from its beneficiaries, ordinary French citizens who celebrate it annually, our understanding of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution comes exclusively from exiled Chinese elites. Its beneficiaries, the eighty percent of Chinese we call ‘peasants,’ made their first appearance there for the first time in China’s 3,000 year history and have since been airbrushed from it.

A voracious reader, Mao Zedong observed, “As I continued reading the old romances and tales of Chinese literature it occurred to me that there was something peculiar about such stories: the absence of peasants who tilled the land. All the characters were warriors, officials or scholars; there was never a peasant hero. I wondered about this for two years and then I analyzed the content of the stories. I found that they all glorified men of arms, rulers of the people, who did not have to work the land because they owned and controlled it and, evidently, forced the peasants work it for them”.

In 1957, eight years after taking power, Mao warned colleagues that the socialist transformation had not ended China’s social contradictions: “There are people who seem to think that, as state power has been won, they can sleep soundly, unworried, and play the tyrant at will. But the masses will oppose such persons, throw stones at them and beat them with their hoes, which will, I think, serve them right and please me immensely. Moreover, sometimes fighting is the only way to solve a problem. The people have good reason to remove bureaucrats from office.. I say it is fine to remove them, they ought to be removed, the Communist Party needs to learn a lesson. If students and workers take to the streets you comrades should regard it as a good thing.. Workers should be allowed to strike and the masses to hold demonstrations. Processions and demonstrations are provided for in our Constitution and, when the Constitution is revised, I suggest the freedom to strike be added so that the workers are explicitly permitted to strike”.

Critics had made the same observation about Russia’s revolution but, for Mao, the revolution was only the first step, “We began a new Long March in 1949 and we are still only on the first lap,” he told André Malraux. “Victory is the mother of all illusions.. Humanity left to its own devices does not necessarily re-establish capitalism, but it does re-establish inequality. The forces tending towards the creation of a new class are powerful”. The danger, he said, was a political leadership that turned its back on socialism, bourgeois elements who produced a new bureaucratic class that he attributed to China’s Stalinist bureaucratic hierarchy, a new exploiting class fashioned from a ‘bourgeois bureaucratic class sucking the workers’ blood’. He reminded colleagues of ‘peasant rebellions, when frustrations burst forth in emotional storms in which hatreds, resentments and a sense of hopeless desperation break through social restraints in an overwhelming surge’.

But no-one listened, nothing changed and he concluded that the problem was cultural: the ancient tradition of privileged officials and submissive, deferential peasants was to blame and this status quo needed changing–a job for which Mao was uniquely qualified. As Robert Payne, who knew him, explained in 1948, “Mao holds all the arts of China in his hands. Lenin had neither the learning nor the inclination to assume the role of transformer of culture. Mao, far more widely read and with a comparative subtlety of mind, has clearly determined to accept the position thrust on him and no one can foresee the changes in the basic structure of Chinese culture which will derive ultimately from his will.”

A Guilty Secret

By 1966, the Communist Party had been in power for sixteen years but, behind its successes lurked a guilty secret: eighty percent of rural Chinese remained semi-destitute, illiterate, without access to basic needs, education or medical care. The Revolution had changed little beyond ownership of their tiny plots, which remained subject to the vicissitudes of weather and fortune. As Chungwu Kung observed, “China was a people’s democratic dictatorship in theory only; in practice, political and cultural power was held by scholarly and bureaucratic intellectuals who commanded vast influence and prestige”.

Mao proposed giving five hundred million peasants equality, democracy, justice and dignity. He would direct their frustration ‘outward, through the force of ideology expressed in a political slogan, breaking the shackles of repression through study and converting their thought into creative action’. One Spring morning in 1966 he told startled colleagues, “I firmly believe that a few months of chaos, luan, will be mostly for the good,” and so became the only national leader in history to overthrow his own government.

Since the Party controlled the means of production, he said, dispossession and, thus, violence would be unnecessary. Instead, he proposed an exclusively cultural revolution and recruited students to stir things up. Shanghai university students founded the Red Guard movement in response and their luan lasted a few months until, as the CIA perceptively reported⁠, adolescent zealotry created chaos:

“While it would be too much to say that the cultural revolution has followed a precise master plan–there have been too many tactical adjustments and shifts along the way–it is clear that Mao envisaged two distinct phases from the start: destructive and constructive.

“The Red Guards were Mao’s vanguard during the destructive phase but proved to be a woefully defective instrument during the constructive phase. Mao’s disillusionment with the Red Guards became apparent after their dismal, self-seeking performance during the initial ‘power-seizures’ of early 1967 and was intensified by their indiscriminate internecine warfare during the following summer. Time and again, Mao ordered the young students to rectify themselves voluntarily. They did not do so, thereby confirming in Mao’s mind his assessment of the negative qualities of China’s intellectuals. As early as 1939, Mao had written that the sole criterion by which to judge whether or not a youth is revolutionary is if he is ‘willing to integrate himself with the broad masses of workers and peasants and does so in practice’. The Red Guards had not been willing to do so. Thus, Mao replaced them with a new vanguard–the working class–when he decided that the time had come to start building and consolidating his new revolutionary order, and he forcibly dispatched the young intellectuals [China’s current president and prime minister among them] to rural areas by the hundreds of thousands for further ‘revolutionary purification’”.

An enthusiastic revolutionary and son of a senior cadre, Yang Xiguang, sought sympathy from hisfamily’s elderly housekeeper after reading posters denouncing his parents. The woman, who had behaved submissively towards them for many years, told him that she completely approved of their downfall, confessed that her submission had been largely feigned, that Yang’s parents had exploited her all along and that the city’s housekeepers were organizing their own rebel group. “I felt my world turned upside down. Lots of common people had smiled at me before the Cultural Revolution for being the son of a big shot but I now felt it had only been pretense.. I suddenly recognized the keenness of the contradiction, that those at the bottom actually hated those at the top”.

After a few months, Mao met with the Red Guard leaders and told them that factional conflicts had to stop, “The masses don’t like civil wars.. The people are unhappy, the workers are unhappy, the peasants are unhappy. The Beijing residents are unhappy, the students in most schools are unhappy.” But, as he had anticipated, the fat was in the fire: urban workers needed little stirring and, by late October, activism had spread from school to factory and from factory to factory and, according to Maurice Meisner, “The old bureaucracy, in a desperate effort to save itself, expended its last financial resources bribing workers into political passivity,” appeasing them and buying time for political maneuvering.

But social discontent–rooted in workers’ material life–remained: their productivity had increased by 250 percent since 1957 and the cost of living had increased by nearly ten percent but their incomes were five percent lower and their protests about wages, benefits and work conditions inevitablyraised political, moral and ideological questions and issues of self-worth, dignity and autonomy. Their demands expressed a yearning for human dignity and democratic control over socioeconomic life. One temporary worker recalled, “We were simply inferior. In the factory, if people didn’t know your name, they would just call you linshi gong [temporary worker], which sounded contemptuous. Therefore the word linshi gong was a taboo among us. We would rather call one another lin xiong or ‘temporary brothers’”.

A Program of Revolutionary Rebellion, issued by the Mao Zedong Thought Association of Hundreds of Millions of Peasants in Dong’an (a rural county in Hunan) complained about heavy tax burdens and excessive labor levies and listed their demands

  • Peasants must enjoy genuine political and economic freedom.
  • Their rights should not be violated, and illegal and abusive practices, such as tying up, beating, denunciation, and deception, must be abolished.
  • Peasants should receive the same political treatment as workers, cadres, and technical professionals.
  • As long as peasants have done a good job in collective production, their income derived from sideline production (such as cultivating private plots, raising pigs, chickens, and ducks, and embroidery) should not be vilified as capitalist.
  • Insofar as provision of goods is concerned, peasants should be treated in the same way as people from other occupations and should not be treated unequally. For example, the system of providing beans and tofu based on ration coupons must be abolished; and cloth coupons should be distributed equally among workers, cadres, city residents, and the rural population, regardless of status distinctions.
  • Peasants who become ill must be covered by the public health-care system in the same way in which cadres and state workers are. No matter how seriously ill a state worker becomes, all possible means will be tried to bring him back, and all expenses will be covered by the government. When a peasant gets seriously ill, however, if the treatment would cost several hundred yuan, then the patient’s fate would be to wait for death. The peasants’ well-being enjoys no guarantee. Such a system is patently unjust.
  • A nationwide movement that would “lessen burdens of the peasants, enhance their economic and political status, thoroughly lift them out of poverty, . . . overthrow the unjust social system, turn an inverted history on its own head, and struggle for the complete victory of hundreds of millions of peasants.

In the Country

With the youngsters now back in the classroom or rusticated, Mao placed his faith in his own class. “The peasants are clear-sighted. Who is bad and who is not, who is the worst and who is not quite so vicious, who deserves severe punishment and who deserves to be let off lightly: the peasants keep clear accounts and very seldom has the punishment exceeded the crime”. He charged them to narrow the ‘three differences’ between mental and manual work, workers and peasants, city and countryside and to establish ‘three-in-one production teams’ of workers, technicians and specialists to raise productivity through participative innovation.

Follow closely Chairman Mao’s grand battle strategy and create a new level of revolutionary purity
Follow closely Chairman Mao’s grand battle strategy and create a new level of revolutionary purity

Everyone, he said, should practice the ‘Four Great Freedoms (later to be enshrined in the Constitution): speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big-character posters’. He promised that the government would turn their ideas into concrete programs. Dongping Han describes what happened next:

I grew up in Jimo, a Chinese village. In 1966, there were many illiterate people in my village. The Cultural Revolution weakened professionalsʼ control of education and allowed workers and peasants to have more say in their children’s education. Peasants were allowed to run their own village schools. A village would build its own primary school with local materials, hire its own teachers and provide free access to all children in the village. Several villages would pool their resources to build a free middle school for all peasant children, then the local commune would open free high schools for them. There were 1,050 villages in Jimo County and every village set up a primary school. All the rural children were able to go to school free.

Before the Cultural Revolution there were only seven middle schools in Jimo County, which had a population of 750,000. Now the number of middle schools increased to 249 and all primary school graduates could attend them free of charge, without passing tests. In the previous seventeen years 1,500 people graduated from the only high school in Jimo County and half went to college and never came back and Jimo was unable to train a single high school graduate for each village in the County. Now, every commune had three high schools. When I graduated from middle school in 1972, only 70 per cent of my classmates could enter high school. When my younger sister graduated in 1973, all her classmates could go to high school. By the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1976, there were 100 high school graduates in my village and 12,000 in my commune.

The expansion of education during the Cultural Revolution years was unprecedented in Chinese history. It profoundly transformed the Chinese people and society. As the people became more educated, they became more empowered in both political and economic activities. In response to peasants’ demands, Mao next suspended college entrance examinations and called for high school graduates to work at least two years in a factory, the countryside, or the army to become eligible for college entrance. In 1973 the academic test was dropped and students were selected by fellow workers and peasants based on their work performance and, later, graduates were required to return to serve the communities that had sent them”.

With his educational reforms underway, Mao next addressed peasants’ health.

“Tell the Ministry of Public Health that it only works for fifteen percent of the population and that this fifteen percent is mainly composed of urban gentlemen, while the broad masses of the peasants get no medical treatment: they have no doctors and they have no medicine. The Ministry is not a Ministry of Public Health for the people, so why not change its name to the Ministry of Urban Health, of Gentlemen’s Health, or even to the Ministry of Urban Gentlemen’s Health? The methods of medical examination and treatment currently used by hospitals are not at all appropriate for the countryside and the way doctors are trained only benefits the cities. Yet in China over five hundred million of our people are peasants. Medical education must be reformed. It will be enough to give three years’ training to graduates from higher primary schools. They can then study and raise their standards, mainly through practice. If this kind of doctor is sent down to the countryside–even if they haven’t much talent–they will be better than the current quacks and witch doctors, and the villagers can afford to keep them”.

His Rural Cooperative Medical System trained Barefoot Doctors–who had lived in their villages all their lives and were available day and night–to administer vaccinations, demonstrate correct handling of pesticides, introduce new sanitation methods and, by teaching nutrition and child care, cut infant and maternal mortality by half. Urban doctors, now required to tour the countryside, provided free treatment and trained promising barefoot doctors at urban hospitals. By the end of 1976, every village in China had a clinic and China’s death rate had fallen by eighteen percent [thanks to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, an artifact of the period, A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual, is still in print].

Mao next turned to democratizing the workers, insisting that true democracy requires financial equality among all participants, “For democracy to work for the betterment of all, all must be empowered and there can be no privileged class”. In his manual of democratic activism, The Little Red Book, he told them how to go about it:

  • Pay attention to uniting and working with comrades who differ with you. This should be borne in mind both in the localities and in the army and applies to relations with people outside the Party. We have come together from every corner of the country and should be good at uniting in our work not only with comrades who hold the same views as we but also with those who hold different views.
  • Guard against arrogance. For anyone in a leading position, this is a matter of principle and an important condition for maintaining unity. Even those who have made no serious mistakes and have achieved very great success in their work should not be arrogant. In the political life of our people, how should right be distinguished from wrong in one’s words and actions?
  • On the basis of the principles of our Constitution, the will of the overwhelming majority of our people and the common political positions which have been proclaimed on various occasions by our political parties and groups, we consider that, broadly speaking, the criteria should be as follows:
    • Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.
    • They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction.
    • They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people’s democratic dictatorship.
    • They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism.
    • They should help to strengthen, and not discard or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party.
    • They should be beneficial, not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peace-loving people of the world. It is necessary to criticize people’s shortcomings but, in doing so, we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of wholehearted eagerness to protect and educate them.
  • To treat comrades like enemies is to take the stance of the enemy.

The elite spent the next decade living in ordinary houses, sending their children to local schools, bicycling to work and peasants elected village leaders who worked in the fields for three hundred days a year and county officials who spent two hundred days in manual labor.

To dramatize their empowerment, Mao promoted peasant ‘Red expert,’ Chen Yonggu to Minister of Agriculture and Chen spread best practices through cooperative networks. The New York Times, September 24, 1974, reported⁠ the visit of a team of American agronomists and quoted Nobelist Norman Borlaug, “You had to look hard to find a bad field. Everything was green and nice everywhere we traveled. I felt the progress had been much more remarkable than I expected”. The delegation’s leader, plant geneticist and father of the Green Revolution, Sterling Wortman, described the rice crop, “Really first rate. There was just field after field that was as good as anything you can see. They’re all being brought up to the level of skills of the best people. They all share the available inputs”. [Full report: Science, 1975, vol.188:549-555]

Throughout the developing world, Wortman’s Green Revolution was then lowering world grain prices, destroying millions of small farms, ruining farmers and communities, causing millions of suicides and creating the vast shanty towns that persist in to this day. Mao compared this misguided development to the USSR’s centralized model of industrialization which, during its development dash, had located gigantic cement and fertilizer plants in cities and built expensive highways to deliver their products to the countryside. China, Mao insisted, would build small plants locally, save money and create local jobs and the peasants exploited Wortman’s increased productivity by deploying surplus labor to man local industrial enterprises where they learned skills without leaving their communities.

Work teams constructed 1,500 chemical fertilizer plants and thousands of farm machinery factories, the population grew fifty percent and industrial output rose fifty-eight percent, outpacing both Germany’s thirty-three percent and Japan’s forty-three percent during their development phases and GDP grew fifty-eight percent over the decade. Journalist Sidney Rittenberg recalled the transformation in their collective consciousness, “Nobody locked their doors. The banks–there was a local bank branch on many, many corners–the door was wide open, the currency was stacked up on the table in plain sight of the door, there were no guards and they never had a bank robbery. Never”.

Rural participation in the arts rose. Short stories, poetry, paintings and sculpture, music and dance flowered and, in place of old court dramas, revolutionary works in opera and ballet–some of which have entered the international canon–emphasized workers’ and peasants’ resistance to oppression. In a play from the time, If I Were Genuine, a peasant youth disguises himself as a general’s son to get privileged treatment, free theatre tickets and an apartment from officials hoping to win the general’s favor. Arrested, he refused to admit guilt, saying that his only fault was not having a real general for a father because, if his father were a general, everything he did would have been legitimate. The play was produced uncensored on TV and became a national favorite.

Mobo Gao describes⁠ the impact on peasant culture, “The rural villagers, for the first time, organized theater troupes and put on performances that incorporated the contents and structure of the eight model Peking operas with local language and music. The villagers not only entertained themselves but also learned how to read and write by getting into the texts and plays. And they organized sports meets and held matches with other villages. All these activities gave the villagers an opportunity to meet, communicate, fall in love, and gave them a sense of discipline and organization and created a public sphere where meetings and communications went beyond the traditional household and village clans. This had never happened before and has never happened since”.

In response to peasants’ demands, Mao suspended college entrance examinations and called for high school graduates to work at least two years in a factory, the countryside or the army to become eligible for college entrance. In 1973 the academic test was dropped and students were selected by fellow workers and peasants based on their work performance and, later, graduates were required to return to serve the communities that had sent them.


But China did not have the luxury of endless social experimentation, nor did government officials have superhuman endurance. The socioeconomic grievances and political antagonisms Mao’s reforms unleashed often took on lives of their own and many eruptions were local, with specific groups making diverse demands in apparently unrelated contexts, including millennial clan quarrels. Some rebels began questioning the existing political order and the combination of disorder caused by mass activism below and leadership power conflicts above created a genuine political crisis that Mao and the members of his inner circle decided must be tactfully neutralized and resolutely resolved.

After Mao’s death, his frightened heirs set about destroying most of the Cultural Revolution’s gains, as Dongping Han, who lived through in a village during the transformation, remembers:

In 1966, when the Cultural Revolution started, there were many illiterate people in my village. My mother never went to school and my father had learned how to read and write simple words by attending night school in his factory. My elder sister had only three years of primary school education. In my neighborhood, many children who were a few years older than I either never went to school or dropped out after one or two years of primary school. Not many people finished primary school, and only a few went as far as junior high school in my village. During the educational reforms of the Cultural Revolution, my village set up its own primary school and hired its own teachers. Every child in the village could go to the village school free of charge. My village also set up a junior middle school with six other villages. Every child could go to this joint village middle school free of charge and without passing any examinations. The commune that included my village set up two high schools. About 70 percent of school-age children in the commune went to these high schools free of charge and without passing any screening tests. All my siblings except my elder sister, who was four years older than I, were able to finish high school. At the time we did not feel this was extraordinary at all. Most people took going to high school for granted. Upon graduation from high school, I went back to my village like everybody else, and worked on the collective farm for one year and then worked in the village factory for three more years before going to college in the spring of 1978.

While I was in college the Cultural Revolution, together with its educational reform, was denounced by the government. Deng Xiaoping, the paramount Chinese leader then, said that schools should be like schools. The implication was: the rural schools set up during the Cultural Revolution educational reforms were not like real schools..

Ten years later, in 1986, while teaching at Zhengzhou University, I was involved in a research project in rural Henan with a group of American historians and political scientists. The presence of foreigners in a rural village attracted a big crowd of children of different ages. Out of curiosity I asked some children to read some newspaper headlines. One after another they shook their heads. I thought they were simply shy, but other children explained that they were not in school. To my dismay, it was the same story everywhere that we went. I asked people why this happened. They told me that since the collectives were broken up and land was divided among individual households village schools were no longer free. Some families could not afford to send their children to school. Others needed their children to help in the fields. Girls were among the first to be sacrificed, as they were assigned to household chores and to take care of younger siblings: their parents were more reluctant to invest in their futures than in those of their brothers.

Rural children’s loss of educational opportunities shocked me and forced me to think. The government attributed the lack of educational opportunities to the poverty of Chinese rural areas. However, I reached a different conclusion. It was not poverty that deprived the rural children of educational opportunities. Poverty is only a relative term. Why were the children of villagers able to finish high school during the Cultural Revolution? China’s rural areas were poorer then than now.

Cautiously, and skeptically, I began to appreciate the significance of rural educational reforms during the Cultural Revolution. I myself am a product of these reforms. As an educator I found it hard to remain indifferent to the sad consequences of the condemnation of the rural educational reform of the Cultural Revolution years. I asked myself many questions and decided to study the issue. However, I could not do the research in China then because the Chinese government did not allow research related to the Cultural Revolution.

In 1990, I came to study in the History Department at the University of Vermont for my master’s degree. I decided to write my thesis on the Cultural Revolution. I felt that there was a need to go beneath the surface structure of the events that occurred at that time. After I entered the doctoral program in political science at Brandeis University I was able to return to China a number of times to research in depth the evolution and consequences of educational policy in the country where I grew up. As I began to investigate the education reforms of the Cultural Revolution, I came to understand that they were integrally linked with a comprehensive program of rural development. I broadened the scope of my study to include the changes in rural political culture and efforts to advance agriculture and develop rural industry that were initiated during the Cultural Revolution decade. I conclude, based on the evidence I present in this book, that educational reform, changes in political culture and rural economic development were closely linked. –The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village.

Years later, at the height of a government campaign to delegitimize the Cultural Revolution, seventy-five percent of survey respondents confessed to feeling nostalgia for those heady days and even President Xi Jinping, who suffered more than most, would only say, “It was emotional. It was a mood. When the ideals of the Cultural Revolution couldn’t be realized, it proved an illusion”.

Excerpted from CHINA 2020: Everything You Know is Wrong. Forthcoming, 2018.

• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: China, Mao Zedong, Maoism 
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  1. Che Guava says:

    I have made the same comments here before, not in reply to your series especially with regard to dismantlng of rural health care and education when things were settling after elimination of the ‘gang of four’, solidifying when Deng became Gen. Sec. Of course, bad developments.

    Other than that, you have an overly rosy view of Mao on so many points. The nonsensical record-breaking swim. The logistical talent who lost so many on the Long March. The tactical genius who avoided conflict with Imperial Japan forces as far as possible.

    The strategic genius who needed the gifts of Japanese arms and formerly occupied territory captured by the Soviet Red Army as a launching pad for civil war.

    The goon who felt so deserving to be post-Stalin leader of Communism that he ended with betraying Vietnam and making a de facto alliance with the USA, after as much interference in Poland, former Yugoslavia, and Albania as possible in earlier times, also later support for CIA-aligned forces in Africa and Asia.

    … and your describing him as peasant origin, it is so false, hard to see what you are doing there to saying such a lie.

    Having read much of his writing and history of China, also asking Chinese friends (not the brain-dead type), am agreeing with some of what you are saying, but part is seeming to me to be in bad faith.

  2. Yee says:

    I don’t know what the original goal of the Cultural Revolution was, but it resulted in breaking the “mental inferiority” of the lower class. This is very important. The elites may still consider themselves better than the rest of the people, but the rest of people don’t consider themselves lesser than the elites, this is what matters.

    Actually, I always think American Blacks failed to achieve the same with their Civil Rights movement, was the reason they create a separate culture for themselves within the society they share with the Whites.

  3. @Che Guava

    it is a very good read regardless. before this, before unz, everything about mao was bad. some white washing aside, it still presents alot of new info for me at least.

    Other than that, you have an overly rosy view of Mao on so many points. The nonsensical record-breaking swim. The logistical talent who lost so many on the Long March. The tactical genius who avoided conflict with Imperial Japan forces as far as possible.

    I feel like alot of these are unfair. they were basically under constant attack by the KMT during the entire march. don’t know about his tactical genius, but the commies were only in control of one province, while the kmt controlled entire china. and the province they controlled was pretty far inland right?

    The strategic genius who needed the gifts of Japanese arms and formerly occupied territory captured by the Soviet Red Army as a launching pad for civil war.

    so he should refused the arms and fight bare handed? kick a gift horse in the mouth? I don’t understand this thinking.

    The goon who felt so deserving to be post-Stalin leader of Communism that he ended with betraying Vietnam and making a de facto alliance with the USA, after as much interference in Poland, former Yugoslavia, and Albania as possible in earlier times, also later support for CIA-aligned forces in Africa and Asia.

    wasn’t the alliance with usa after the break up with ussr and vietnam alliance with ussr + invasion of a chinese ally? you are white washing your self :)))

    … and your describing him as peasant origin, it is so false, hard to see what you are doing there to saying such a lie.

    he was a landowner for sure, a peasant wouldn’t have the skills needed to lead a rebellion.

    Having read much of his writing and history of China, also asking Chinese friends (not the brain-dead type), am agreeing with some of what you are saying, but part is seeming to me to be in bad faith.

    biases are always present in everything you read. even your comment 🙂

    be careful of what you read and read everything.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
    , @Anonymous
  4. Brabantian says: • Website

    In another major article of revisionist history, Dr Galima Galiullina on the Veterans Today site, has posted an extensive argument that Joseph Stalin was also a very great and unfairly libelled figure

    Galiullina maintains that the stories about Stalin killing tens of millions are largely the work of Trotskyite propagandists linked to Wall Street and international bankers … that Nikita Khruschev was lying and making up stuff in his famous denunciation of Stalin in the mid-1950s … and that the Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was essentially making stuff up about the gulag in order to be famous, but then repented at the end of his life after seeing the empty shallowness of the West

    A key passage from Galiullina’s article where she gives some very specific, much lower numbers about people killed during Stalin’s time in office:

    As for figures of the extent of suffering between 1921 and 1954, Nikita Khrushchev obtained from the Prosecutor of the USSR Rudenko, Interior Minister Kruglov and Minister of Justice Gorshenin, the following figures:

    Between 1921 and 1954 some 3,777,380 people were convicted of counter-revolutionary crimes. Of these, 642,980 (17%) were sentenced to the maximum punishment (execution). Another 2,369,220 (63%) people were banished to the various camps serving terms of up to 25 years. Finally, deportation of 765,180 (20%) people occurred throughout the 33-year period.

    Even at two-thirds of a million executed, that is still a lot of ‘eggs broken’ in order to ‘make an omelet’

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  5. Che Guava says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    You too. I would be quite sure that I have read and, at times experienced, far more than God Free, or you for any nonsense you are saying.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  6. Joe Wong says:
    @Che Guava

    Before the Long March, CCP had nearly half million of troops, it was Otto Braun, a German communist, from USSR managed to lose 90% of them by insisting to fight a WWI type of battles against the superior armed KMT. Long March was forced upon the CCP while Mao was not even in charge, and you blamed Mao for the loss? You surely are a fake news pundit trolling CIA fabricated cold war propaganda to mislead the world with half-baked revisionist historical narrative.

    You should know Chinese civil war started from 1911, while CCP had been fighting KMT since 1930 way before the arrival of USSR Red Army in Manchuria. Besides Stalin was a classic Tsar imperialist and double talker, he did not help CCP when Mao was leading the CCP against the KMT, he was aiding the KMT instead. After CCP became a meaningful chip, Stalin send in his pawns like Bo Gu and Otto Braun to supplant Mao.

    Are you saying a strategic genius should fight with bare hands instead of maximize resource to beat an enemy you wanted to defeat? What happened to the strategic genius Otto Braun you adored? He nearly killed the PRC in stillborn.

    After the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese claimed they were the 3rd strongest military in the world, with USSR’s backing the Vietnamese wanted to establish Indochina Federation including Indochina Peninsula and southern part of China. The Vietnamese was invading China from the south, while USSR had détente with the USA, massed more than a million troops on the northern border of China and threatened China with nuclear attacka; you call China fighting for its survival to avoid another Opium war capitulation as betraying Vietnam and making a de factor alliance with USA? You seem not merely a misguided troll; you are a graduate of Dick Cheney School of Imperialism to spread seeds of discords.

    East Europeans are White racists just like their Western neighbours. Poles, Yugoslavians, and Albanians will laugh at Chinese funny during the USSR time if Chinese gave advice to their internal affairs? You are fabricating make-believe stories even Hollywood failed to image.

    CIA engineered racial genocides in SE Asia to eradicate Overseas Chinese influence in order to maintain American imperialist hegemony and their greedy interests in the SE Asia like all the previous imperialists from the West; you should know it is worse than crimes against humanity by white washing the CIA’s crimes against humanity.

    Mao is from a peasant family which owned small plots of land. You need to tell the CIA to correct their training manual so you are not going to make such simple mistake undermining your creditability when you are trolling half-baked truth unwittingly.

    This article is about Mao’s attempt to change Chinese mentality, what do the external affairs you are citing have anything to do with Mao’s attempt to change Chinese social behaviour? Is it because renaissance cannot happen in China in according to the Eurocentrism, so its leader must be demonized?

    • Replies: @Ray
  7. Many thanks to Mr. Roberts for this alternative view of the Cultural Revolution. The counter-revolution initiated by Deng Xiaoping continues apace to this day with billionaires enriching themselves off the cheap labor of ordinary working people, Lamborghini showrooms in Shanghai while, in this supposedly “communist” nation, there is no universal public health.

    • Replies: @Alden
    , @Astuteobservor II
  8. @Che Guava

    counter nothing, attacks right away :)))

    • LOL: Che Guava
  9. @Brabantian

    stalin was bad, hence mao was equally as bad. I, brabantian has proclaimed!!! as I counter nothing written in the article.

  10. Mao was a typical communist and ran a Chinese slaughter house that killed an estimated 100 million Chinese . This was about the norm for the communists as the Zionists in Russia killed an estimated 60 million and the slaughter house was ran by Zionist Bolsheviks.

  11. Ray says:
    @Che Guava

    The Long march happened because Mao was removed from military leadership, and the new leadership pitted the Chinese red army against a numerical superior and better equipped army in positional warfare. Mao earned the leadership back by proving that his manoeuvres were able to evade the enemies. Mao consolidated his leadership again when his decision to move North proved right instead of moving West.

    The red army has around 50,000 soldiers left in 1936. It built up to 1 million strong in 1945 by continually attacking and harassing Japanese and pro-Japanese troops. If Mao has been avoiding combat with the Japanese how was the Communist forces able to get into Northeast China first by foot and under Nationalist blockage. The US helped ship Nationalist troop there but was still behind. According to you the Soviet gave arms to Mao to equip his army. How could that happen when only a 10,000 rag tag army was sent into Northeast China in 1945, and the Soviet gave control of the cities to the Nationalist? And how could you ignored the enormous arms shipment by both the USSR and USA to the Nationalist from 1937 to 1945? How did that puny 10,000 army of 1945 grow into over 1 million by 1948? Please do yourself a favour by studying the campaign in Northeast China to get a better understanding of the Chinese civil.

    The Sino-Soviet break happened for many reason in 1960. The Communist bloc is not monolithic. Mao did not appoint himself the leader of Communism. His influence on the world was due to the development of the PRC. The PRC supported Mandela, Mugabe etc against CIA backed forces. The PRC worked with the USSR against the US in Vietnam, but work with the USA, Islamic countires against USSR in Afghanistan. Even after the Sino-Soviet break the USSR voted for the PRC in the UN general assembly continuous. This is all geopolitics.

    There is no such thing as betrayal in geopolitics. The Soviet Union recognized the Nationalist government and prefer to deal with them instead of Communist, is that betrayal? The Nationalist allow the Soviet to keep the rail road concession and Port Arthur but Communist China want them back, is that ungratefulness on the part of Communist China? The CIA destabilized Cambodia and Laos, after unification Vietnam try to fill in the vacuum. China prevented that while wining diplomatic recognition from all Southeast Asian countries. The PRC, Thailand and CIA all supported the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese. It is all geopolitics please don’t be naive.

    Mao’s father was a retired soldier, so he grew up poor but his father was shrew in business and become a landowner when Mao become a teenager. After his parents passed away, Mao convinced his two brothers and cousins to join the Communist. They are not super wealthy but gave up all their land and property to the poor in his village.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  12. Joe Wong says:

    The most evil people on the earth is the Anglo-Saxon White, the amount of murdered, abused, starved, and raped makes even Nazi’s crimes against humanity look pail since their arrival on the internal sense. The evil deeds they committed are so deeply rooted they are even causing mass killing and human suffering on the industrial scale around the world nowadays. You can find every conflict happening around the world has Anglo-Saxon White’s finger print on it.

    The Anglo-Saxon White needs to fabricate fake atrocities against other people so that nobody is going to ever discuss or mention the evil deeds they have committed.

    • Replies: @Ringo
    , @Anonymous
  13. @Yee

    Actually, I always think American Blacks failed to achieve the same with their Civil Rights movement, was the reason they create a separate culture for themselves within the society they share with the Whites.

    Blacks had a separate culture before the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement disrupted it (the “revolutionary” phase, starting in the ’70s).

    I’m not trying to judge good or bad, it is what it is, but Black culture was much stronger (as its own entity) when they were separate.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  14. Alden says:

    There are no old age pensions either. That’s why China ships seniors to America when they are 64.

    On their 65 birthday the immigrant charity interpetters take them to the social security office and sign them up for SSI and the full range of medical and other senior benefits.

    America is the health, education and child benefit department of Mexico and C America, and the old age pension and medical pension system of China.

    • Replies: @TonyVodvarka
  15. Ringo says:
    @Joe Wong

    Not quite sure of the veracity of this statement.
    With regard to China (as has been pointed out here by an Unz columnist), the worst disasters to befall the Chinese people:
    1. the invasion of China by fellow East Asian Japanese
    2. the Chinese Civil War
    3. the Taiping rebellion (ended by WASP mercenaries at the behest of the Chinese Empress.)
    4. the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine, the Great Cultural Revolution
    5. (minor: war with North Viet Nam).
    Not much perpetrated by Whites against Chinese.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
    , @Ray
  16. Anonymous [AKA "Difficult Bird"] says:

    In the most simplistic terms, Mao was marginalized after the disastrous Great Leap Forward. So he launched the Culture Revolution to grapple the power back from Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
    , @luba
  17. @TonyVodvarka

    from what I have read, chinese healthcare is 70% govt, 30% co pay, for everything(might not be everywhere yet). there is also a retirement plan like social security in the usa now. even old people who has already retired just need to pay 90k to buy into the ss plans.

    alot of things changed. it really does require constant reading to keep up.

    • Replies: @TonyVodvarka
  18. @another fred

    maybe that was why it was killed. a separate entity is bad for societal cohesion.

  19. FKA Max says: • Website

    Off-topic To the moderators: Please, forward to Mr. Unz due to potentially serious bug in the new Unz Review video system.

    My comment reporting this bug seems to be stuck in moderation:

    I also saw that no one has commented on videos in over four days which is rather unusual, may there is also a bug in the Unz Review Video section commenting system?

    Thank you.

    China’s Smoking Addiction | China Uncensored

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
    , @FKA Max
  20. Ron Unz says:
    @FKA Max

    Thanks for noticing that! It’s been fixed…

    • Replies: @FKA Max
    , @FKA Max
  21. Vinteuil says:

    Yan Shen, where are you?

    Surely you must have an opinion, here?

  22. FKA Max says: • Website
    @FKA Max

    Typo: … *maybe* there is also a bug in the Unz Review Video section commenting system?

    Tobacco’s Shifting Burden: From the Rich to the Poor



    Counterintuitive finding: smoking and obesity decrease one’s lifetime healthcare costs (more disease offset by reduced lifespan). Scary info in the hands of cost-cutting social engineers.

    • Replies: @FKA Max
  23. Vinteuil says:

    “Rural participation in the arts rose. Short stories, poetry, paintings and sculpture, music and dance flowered and, in place of old court dramas, revolutionary works in opera and ballet–some of which have entered the international canon–emphasized workers’ and peasants’ resistance to oppression.”

    You mean, like, say, The Red Detachment of Women? – quite possibly the worst & stupidest work of “art” ever commited by seemingly intelligent human beings?

    You’re kidding – right?

  24. Joe Wong says:

    The worst suffering of Chinese was caused by the destruction of economic, social, moral and political structure and order initiated by the Opium poisoning over a period of a hundred years. That destruction of Chinese social fabric was wide spread and deep. After the Opium War the subsequent more than a hundred years of unequal treaties plunged China into dark age of poverty, decease, moral decay, war, ignorance, semi-colonization, … by the White Western imperialists and unrepentant war criminal Japanese. The items you listed are just part of the large scheme of things.

    Perhaps you need to read what the White has documented or wrote about what they have achieved in China in the 18th or 19th century to get a grip of the White’s responsibility.

    You can list all the atrocities happened in the ME and blamed the ISIS, but the matter of fact is all of those crimes are initiated by the White, particular the Anglo-Saxon. You should know in law not only the murderer is guilty, the mastermind or conspirator is as guilty as the murderer.

    • Replies: @Ringo
  25. Vinteuil says:

    It’s interesting, by the way, that the Russian Revolution led, ultimately, to, e.g., the 5th & 8th Symphonies of Shostakovich – while the Chinese Revolution led, ultimately, to stuff like the Yellow River Concerto. Go figure.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  26. @Astuteobservor II

    There has been a great chasm between government benefits in the larger urban areas and the countryside and perhaps your figures are based on the former. However, my information above is based on what I heard on a couple of trips to the PRC a few years ago. I’m glad to hear that things are improving.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    I agree. I haven’t processed everything the authors saying but I definately see Mao differently now.

    Probably the author is exaggerating on some points, but not everything said against Mao is true.

    I think a lot if elites in the West are fearful of Mao because they fear the peasants turning on the elites here in the West.

    • Replies: @Alden
  28. I agree with most of what you said in previous two part of this trilogy, but not this one. The Cultural Revolution was about culture, about which path China should take. This was what the government propaganda told us during that time. Now looking back, I do believe this was Mao’s purpose.

    The Cultural Revolution is hard for people to understand or to evaluate, even for Chinese elites. Looking at the chaos, the craziness and the numerous tragedies, it is hard for people to say anything good about. I experienced it during my childhood and part of my youth. As a child with both parents persecuted and locked up, I was often subject to bully, ridicule and discrimination, and I was keenly aware of all these since I was four. As a gifted the kid with habit of reasoning and questioning, a lot of information forced upon me from school and media didn’t make sense or was wrong to me, but I couldn’t openly question it or talk about it. It was depressing. It was a bad time for any one with ability to think independently. When the “Gang of Four” was arrested about a month after Mao’s death, it was a true sense of liberation for almost everybody, even the factory workers who live next door to us.

    The craziness and the bad things happened during the Culture Revolution can’t be whitewashed. Deng Xiao-Ping and the CCP blamed them to the “Gang of Four”. Most people accepted it at the time. As Chinese society moving forward and becoming more open, more and more people started to blame Mao and political system of China. Mao was demonized by Chinese elites, especially those pro-western people, during Jiang and Hu administrations. But Mao is still deeply loved by vast majority of Chinese underclass, we can see this by the crowd at his mausoleum in Beijing and his hometown every year during his birthday and the day of his death.

    I’ll write more when I have time and hopefully can answer Unz’s question that I promised him on the other thread.

    • Replies: @kauchai
  29. Ray says:
    @Joe Wong

    I just want to add that Bo Gu and Zhou En Lai should share the blame because they are in charge as well. The CPC and KMT wouldn’t be able to start the Huangpu Military Academy without Soviet help. The CPC and KMT civil war started after KMT right wingers started killing suspected Communist. The April 12th 1927, massacre is the largest Chinese on Chinese massacre but thanks to main stream media propaganda, it is virtually unknown to the world. Most morons just kept bringing up Tiananmen incident which is nothing but a footnote in history.

    Although during the Sino-Japanese war the lion share of Soviet aid went to Jiang, the Soviet did help CPC. For example, some Chinese future leaders attended the Fruzne military academy and Sun Yat Sen university. Deng Xiao Ping was a classmate of Jiang Jing Guo at the latter. The USSR also hosted children of CPC leadership. So you shouldn’t blame Stalin for being realist in his dealing with the CPC or the West. Remember that the west especially the US supply the bulk of oil and metal to Imperial Japan. Without that Japanese invasion wouldn’t be possible. Also, Stalin is the only one who would help China in 1937. If he is Tsarist, what do you call the West who prefer to supply Imperial Japan?

    After the Korean war, the USSR transfer 9/10 of their technology know how to the PRC. This help is essential in the modernization of China. You shouldn’t get emotional like the others and should deal with history in a realistic way.

  30. Ray says:

    1. Invasion made possible by the west supply of oil and metal to Imperial Japan.
    2. You might as well say that more Americans died in the civil war than WWI and II combined. So American should hate Lincoln more than Kaiser, Hitler or Hirohito.
    3. The Opium War made the Taiping rebellion possible.
    4. When China was importing grain from Australia, Canada; the US tried to stop it. The US role’s in GLF is much uglier than Mao. The US did it intentionally.
    5. So by your argument because every year more Americans died of gun crimes or drugs in the US. The US should stop commemorating Pearl Harbor and 911?

    By your reasoning the US only has itself to blame since all mojor disasters self inflicted.

    • Replies: @Ringo
  31. Ray says:
    @Desert Fox

    No, Xi Jin Ping “killed” more, almost 10 million every year!

  32. FKA Max says: • Website
    @Ron Unz

    Thank you very much, Mr. Unz.

    The problem described here seems to persist.

    Maybe the corrected version has not been downloaded by the server yet, or still needs to propagate through the system?

    Thank you very much.

  33. FKA Max says: • Website
    @FKA Max

    Mao, MAO and smoking:

    Chairman Mao Zedong was a notorious chain-smoker. In an epic black-and-white photograph from 1957, the dictator is seen sitting on a sofa surrounded by a group of young women from the Communist Youth League happily helping him to light a cigarette.

    During the Communist Revolution, Mao famously promised his troops food, shelter and cigarettes.


    Monoamine oxidases and tobacco smoking.

    Smokers have 30-40 % lower MAOB and 20-30 % lower MAOA activity than non-smokers.

    MAO Key Reason for Depression When Smokers Quit

    Acute withdrawal from heavy smoking may increase levels of monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A), consistent with observations of depressed mood during smoking cessation, results of a brain-imaging study suggest.

    Co-authors Jeffrey H. Meyer, Alan A. Wilson, and Sylvain Houle disclosed relationships with Eli Lilly, H. Lundbeck A/S, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and SK Biopharmaceuticals. Meyer also disclosed a patent interest related to use of MAO measures to diagnose or treat mood disorders, and that he is involved in ongoing work to develop natural health products to treat high-MAO-A states. Co-author Tony P. George disclosed a relationship with Pfizer.

    Cigarettes have a similar effect as antidepressants, more here and , which could explain why the Chinese government encourages/tolerates smoking; it creates revenue for the state and keeps the proletariat happy and less rebellious, etc.

    Is SMOKING a big problem in China? Hu Knows!

    Hu Knows
    Published on Dec 2, 2017
    Smoking is really super popular in China, come find out what Hu Knows!

  34. Yee says:


    “There are no old age pensions either. That’s why China ships seniors to America when they are 64.”

    That’s not true.
    China has state-runned healthcare and pension systems, although rural and urban are 2 separate systems.

    I’m not familiar with the rural ones, only that they rely heavily on government funding because farmers are required to pay very little into the fund, something like US$15 a year, and they receive much smaller pension then city residents.

    For city dwellers, we’re required to pay 8% of basic salary into pension fund, 2% for healthcare for 15 years, then start receive pension at age 60 for men, 50 for women. Although there’s talks to adjust the retirement age to 65 by 2045.

    For medical, the system pays 80% of the bill up to 300K Yuan a year (US$45K), you pay the rest with your accumulated 2% from your own account. 300K is enough for 2 heart surgery. So unless you have life long illness or require expensive imported medicine, you have decent coverage.

    Pension is quite generous, which is why young couples can afford the ridiculously real estate price which is plain robbery, because parents are able to help them.

  35. Ringo says:
    @Joe Wong

    Pretty far fetched.

    Two Western business men sitting at a bar in China. One says: “I’ve just arrived in China, how about you?” Other: “I’ve been here a few years now.” First: “Oh yeah? How do they treat you?”
    Second: “oh just fine, what I can’t stand is the way they treat each other.”

    American businessman touring a Chinese factory in Shenzhen where 300 Chinese solder and assemble circuit boards, says to his Chinese host:
    “You know, it’s amazing. All of these people doing such fine, intricate work, and not a single employee wears glasses.” Host: “Oh, when their eyes go bad we fire them.”

    I just spent the Summer in Africa (Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nambia). The locals seem to have a lot of hostility towards the Chinese. Towards Westerners?, not so much. Wonder why?

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
    , @Anonymous
  36. Alden says:

    There are no more peasants in the west.

    What we have is permanent welfare recipients who will never revolt because they can live without work as well as those who do work and pay taxes to support the government and the welfare aristocrats.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  37. Ringo says:

    That’s a new one on me. I’ve never in my life heard an American blame any outsider for our Civil War.

    I think you’ll find the US embargoed Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. That was one of Japan’s grievances against us.

    If it weren’t for the US, China (and Korea and Indochina) would be a colony of Japan, and from what I’d been told by a lot of older Chinese, it wouldn’t have been too pleasant.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  38. Joe Wong says:

    “After the Korean war, the USSR transfer 9/10 of their technology know how to the PRC?” It seems the American indeed considered the Russian as “one of us” like Eisenhower commented in his memoirs, even the generosity of the Eurocentrism extends to the Russia despite the bitter rivalry between them.

    The Russian is not more generous than the greedy Westerners, the lesson of their aids cemented Chinese determination to be “self-reliant.” Without the painful lessons taught by the Russian during the “transfer 9/10 of their technology know how,” China won’t become self-sufficient and independent today. Perhaps you and on behalf of the Russian can claim credit that China-miracle is created by the American and their partners’ sanctions, embargos, and harassments.

  39. Joe Wong says:

    What do you expect, around the world every spot of chaos and conflict is the result of Anglo-Saxon’s handy work, sowing discord, stirring animosity, and divide and conquer. Mind you the American did not invent these interventions; they just copied from the British who has been doing it since Elisabeth the First.

    Chinese builds and American destroys, when the American cannot compete, they do what is their forte, i.e. if I cannot have it nobody can have it. BTW you should know hearsay and fake news are synonymous.

    • Replies: @Ringo
  40. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Those are peasants too. Just fat and happy peasants.

    Just wait till a recession strikes and see how things play out.

  41. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This is just hyperbole.

    You could just as easily get some stories about how Americans are not liked in African countries and in other parts of the world. That sentiment is very common.

  42. kauchai says:

    I think you have “answered” your own conundrum on why you do not agree with godfree roberts. Your description of the chaos and “madness” of the CR was acknowledged by roberts as a case of the red guards’ over zealousness and Mao himself had taken great efforts to rein them in. But you also mentioned that Mao is still deeply revered by the “vast majority of chinese underclass”. You obviously did not come from peasant background and had suffered at the hands of these over zealous officials, understandably so.

    Perhaps Mao did not explain well his intentions with the CR, perhaps it is also true (according to some commenters here) that he was seeking to re-establish his leadership position after the GLF. But after 16 years at the helm of the country and he still saw massive poverty and little social mobility while at the same time being embargoed by almost the entire western establishment and difficult relations with the soviet union, what was he to do? After all, rebuilding and re-energizing china was what he and his colleagues set out to do in the first place.

    Abandon the communism/socialism enterprise which took so much lives and treasure to achieve and look for alternative political/social/economic models? The question is; what alternative models can he and his colleagues look forward to? China had experienced feudal dynasties, democracy and anarchy that exacted a heavy price that set the nation back for hundreds of years. And Mao had correctly identified a class of people that were mostly responsible for china’s malaise, namely the elites.

    From the inception in his early thinking to change china, he had always targeted this group of people. The opportunity came in 1949 and he set about to wipe the slate clean. I can only conclude that the CR is a continuation of this act but unfortunately the methods he employed did not go down well with most people, including most of his ruling colleagues. After Deng took over, most of Mao’s reforms were overturned and the elite class re-emerged and blossomed under Jiang zemin and Hu jintao and corruption breeds like rats. If not for XJP and his corruption war against “tigers and flies”, china would be in dire straits today, which will be to the delight of the west.

    Just how does one go about bringing a sea change in the mindset of 500 million people (at the time) for the better?

  43. FKA Max says: • Website
    @Ron Unz


    I just noticed one more bug/error message. The comments archive search engine/option seems to be down.

    Searched the word “are” on your home page = No results found.

    The same result comes up with other common word searches, same problem also on my comments archive home page.

    Thank you very much.

  44. Ringo says:
    @Joe Wong

    Yes, I know those damn Anglo Saxons and their destructive handy work:
    Invention of telephone, electrical power, electric motors, phonograph, telegraph, airplane, transistor, solar cell, plastics, television, railroads, antibiotics, computers, laser, moon landings, communication satellites, nylon, mass production, genetic engineering, air conditioning, internet, cellphones, contraceptives, photocopiers, jet engine…….

  45. @Ringo

    you completely missed his point though, his entire comment was flipping your comment against you, perfectly I might add 🙂

    it made this part of your reply comical :

    That’s a new one on me. I’ve never in my life heard an American blame any outsider for our Civil War.

    you essentially killed your comment that he replied to.

  46. @kauchai

    I agree with a lot of what you said. In my earlier post, I just stated some facts, didn’t have enough time to write anything about what I think of the CR. I’ll write it later. I think blaming the craziness on overzealous red guards is as superficial as blaming the “Gang of Four”, Mao. or the political system of China, and it won’t be able to explain everything.

  47. DB Cooper says:

    “Just how does one go about bringing a sea change in the mindset of 500 million people (at the time) for the better?”

    China is doing pretty good for the past three decades and I have noticed there are some revisionism regarding Mao and the Cultural Revolution and one of the narratives is that Cultural Revolution is needed in order to bring about a change of the mindset of the ordinary people. This is just nonsense. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other Confucius societies like South Korea and Japan have all modernized without going through the mayhem and trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Nor have other Western countries like Britain, Germany or France went through something similar to Cultural Revolution in order for those societies to modernize. Preindustrial West (Medieval Europe) is even more backward, feudal and repressive than preindustrial China.

    Cultural Revolution has done great damage to China and it is to the credit of the pragmatic Deng that China is what it is today.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    , @kauchai
  48. @DB Cooper

    Nor have other Western countries like Britain, Germany or France went through something similar to Cultural Revolution in order for those societies to modernize.

    The death toll of the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants was enormous, and Scott Alexander claims that modern liberalism as we know it arose from its ashes, and arguably from that the open-mindedness that inspired the blossoming of science. I think its a fair argument for this.

    Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other Confucius societies like South Korea and Japan have all modernized without going through the mayhem and trauma of the Cultural Revolution

    But they remain stagnant and ritualistic to this day. For better or worse, the culture of China is far more dynamic now; Shenzhen has an energy that Tokyo, etc. doesn’t have. In a short period of time, China has advanced even faster than they have and actually have demonstrated meaningful innovation in the last year. Its impossible to imagine this kind of speed or willingness to experiment in any other East Asian country.

    Of course, it also has a lot of negative results. But it may be that this was the only way to move things forward.

    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  49. @kauchai

    After Deng took over, most of Mao’s reforms were overturned and the elite class re-emerged and blossomed under Jiang zemin and Hu jintao and corruption breeds like rats. If not for XJP and his corruption war against “tigers and flies”, china would be in dire straits today, which will be to the delight of the west.

    And yet missing that for all of their other flaws, these elites also helped China put out double digit growth. I’m not dismissing the need to wipe out corruption – every single dynasty has died due to corruption and this is an existential affair.

    But it is also the elites that have served as the main guiding force and its not like XJP isn’t an elite in his own right, or the current membership of the CCP are from a massively rural background; heck, there’s a member of the Aisin Gioro royal house in the National People’s Congress if I recall correctly.

    The romanticizing of the peasant is something that bothers me deeply. Almost my entire family was wiped out for being “landowners” by the excesses of this peasant class.

    • Replies: @kauchai
  50. Anonymous [AKA "Campos"] says:

    Of course you have read and experienced. It usually happens when one is trained before he is assigned to some region or country. You know what I mean. If not, Ringo will explain.

  51. Yee says:

    DB Cooper,

    “Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other Confucius societies like South Korea and Japan have all modernized without going through the mayhem and trauma of the Cultural Revolution.”

    Perhaps the elites in Japan, Korea, HK and Singapore still have too much authority over the masses. Anyway, their elites just lead them to follow the West.

    I think Cultural Revolution was necessary at that time, it destroyed the elite’s deeply root contempt for the working class, or rather, it taught the working class self-respect. It also wiped clean of all the superstition, clannish, tribal powers in grassroot level.

    I seriously think Arab nations and India could use a cultural revolution.

    • Agree: TonyVodvarka
    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  52. Che Guava says:


    Your rant is unwise. You are also misunderstanding my own views, possibly intentional on your part.

  53. @Alden

    Urban professionals and white collar workers retire at fifty. They stared at us in amazement when my wife said she was till working at sixty-two. Parks and urban spaces are packed with them doing their tai chi in the morning.

    • Replies: @TonyVodvarka
  54. Che Guava says:


    I also know the historical details. You clearly did not read my post and know little.

    The real gift from the USSR was much later, with the Red Army invasion of Manchuria, late summer, 1945.

    Much Japanese war materiel left beind, and a stable base.

    Launching pad for the civil war, not revolution.

    Of course, I am knowing that USSR was supporting 国民党 (Kuomintang) forces most of the time, as was USA, although that support from the USA and strategic reality were to eventually changing Stalin’s mind.

    Learn more, and try to read a post in full before replying to it.

    I read yours, but it is the hot-headed mess, nothing factual I was not knowing before, a little fiction.

    • Replies: @Joe Wong
  55. @TonyVodvarka

    Things have changed a lot after XJP, for better or worse. The increased social net has been one of them.

  56. @Yee

    japan got a huge jump start as the supplier for the korean war + access to the american market.

    south korea also got the same for vietnam war + american aid. it didn’t get much better till about early 90s.

    taiwan, even with all the wealth taken from mainland china when kmt left, they still didn’t do well till late 80s, 90s. that is with american aid and market access.

    china did as well it could despite sanctions, grain and tech embargoes. at least in the time period of the article.

    that was a very very cheap shot at china by him by comparing it to these places, especially given china’s size, sanctions and embargoes. any new info = revisionist!!! how dare you go against the narrative!!!

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  57. @TonyVodvarka

    Oops! As corrected by Mr. Yee above, women retire at fifty, men at sixty.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  58. Joe Wong says:
    @Che Guava

    Yeah, you know Chinese history as much as those 18th and 19th century Eurocentrists, constructing and reconstructing China in according to their ‘god-fearing’ morally defunct evil ‘puritan’ imagination.

    The USSR Red Army disassembled all the Japanese industrial structure and shipped them back to Siberia as war spoil and compensation for their war effort against the Japanese before they handed Manchuria back to the CCP. If the USSR Red Army left the Japanese industrial structure to the CCP there was no need to ask for aid from them by the CCP to re-industrialize Manchuria again at exorbitant price. You should know USSR did not take RMB as payment, they took food as payment, that is one of reasons Chinese were on the boarder of starving during the 50s and 60s despite recorded level of harvesting.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  59. DB Cooper says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    “…from that the open-mindedness that inspired the blossoming of science”

    It is actually the other way. It is the blossoming of science that change the mindset of a society. And science blossom because science work, not because it exists on a science friendly mindset society. This is why the notion that China need to have a wholesale change of mindset in order to modernize is nonsense. By the way the Cultural Revolution did change the mindset of the Chinese people but not in a way you would expected. Cultural Revolution makes the Chinese society more distrustful of each other. I remember in the early days mainland students and scholars in the US were very reserved and seldom talk about their personal matters among other mainland people. They were actually more trustful of non-mainland Chinese than mainland Chinese, and I experience this first hand. I notice a mark difference in outlook among mainland students of this generation than their counterparts several decades ago and this is because the ghost of the Cultural Revolution has faded away.

    It is true that other Asian societies are relatively stagnant in comparison to Shenzhen China but it has nothing to do with China having gone through Cultural Revolution. Cultural Revolution sets China back a decade at the very least. China really took off around 1993 after Deng’s ‘Southern Tour’ when Deng once and for make China went full-blown on market economy and release the pent-up energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the industrious Chinese people.

  60. DB Cooper says:
    @DB Cooper

    I might add that even today at the core the US is still extremely anti-science (this is very different than Europe), yet it doesn’t stop the US to become an industrialized society.

  61. Che Guava says:

    Good point.

    My orphan Chinese friend and neighbour did not want to watch Red Detachment at all. So, we watched The Last Emperor instead, dubbed into mandarin, Japanese subatitles foi me.

    Both enjoyed, but from Chiina streaming, partly cut.

    God Free is not stupid, but is.

  62. Che Guava says:

    You wil finding it is only applying to party flunkies and associated bureaucras, and only the tiny portion of them

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  63. @DB Cooper

    what roberts was trying to point out in this article was CR wasn’t all bad. it did some good before it went out of control. and this is just part 3 of this entire series. this is just pointing out some of the good CR achieved. very interesting read to say the least.

    about distrustfulness, I actually 100% agree with you on this point. it actually helps them out when doing business. but then I can also state the same thing about american paranoia 🙂 we are a very, very paranoia society. I also think the main contributor/cause for the distrust/paranoia is the huge pop at 1.4 billion. when you have to compete with 1.4 billion others for resources, one can become cut throat. that is a given.

  64. Yee says:

    Che Guava,

    “You wil finding it is only applying to party flunkies and associated bureaucras, and only the tiny portion of them.”

    What a strange lie…

    It not only applys to every citizen, but also to foreigners with work visa too. Foreigners may choose to pay the 15 year to collect pension, or take back what they pay into the fund when they leave China. Actually, the govt has troubles getting people to join the plan, not the other way around. Because workers don’t really want to pay their 8%.

    Old people get free public transportation too at 65, and free entrance to a lot of tourist attractions.

  65. Yee says:

    Anyway, I heard that hierarchy culture in Japanese and Korean companies are pretty stiflying. Not something to be envy of, IMO.

  66. @Che Guava

    “Other than that, you have an overly rosy view of Mao on so many points. The nonsensical record-breaking swim. The logistical talent who lost so many on the Long March. The tactical genius who avoided conflict with Imperial Japan forces as far as possible.”

    Mao won the war. Period.

    And not by accident: Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, a keen military historian, ranked four of Mao’s campaigns with the best of Napoleon, Caesar and Alexander. He then went on to grow the economy twice as fast as America’s, double the population and their life expectancy and make China a world power.

    You miss the forest for the trees.

    • Replies: @WHAT
    , @Che Guava
  67. @Yee

    Yes. I think that, in terms of Mao’s stated purpose for the CR, it was a huge success. The peasants escaped from their inferior status and never reverted to it. That’s huge.

  68. @Desert Fox

    Please read Parts 1 and 2 of this trilogy before making comments like that. It makes no sense whatever.

  69. @Desert Fox

    Can you provide independent evidence to back up your claims about China? Or are you just blowing smoke?

    • Replies: @Desert Fox
  70. @Anonymous

    Bullshit. Mao launched the CR for the reasons he stated at the time. Otherwise his colleagues wouldn’t have gone along with it.

    And it was a complete success in terms of his intention for it. That’s why 10,000,000 people visit his birthplace each year. They’re people he liberated, ex-slaves, so to speak.

  71. @Vinteuil

    Not hard to figure out. Symphonies and concertos are Western artifacts, not Chinese and not representative of Chinese civilization.

    • Replies: @Vinteuil
  72. kauchai says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    “…its not like XJP isn’t an elite in his own right,..”

    XJP was never an elite. XJP’s father (Xi zhongxun – a vice-premier at the time) was incarcerated for 16 years from 1962 after he supported a cadre to write a letter to criticize the leadership for some issue. From that time onwards his family lost whatever “elite-ness” that was accrued and XJP himself was sent to the countryside under Mao’s CR program. He also lost a sister in the process.

    See roberts’ excerpt:

    “…even President Xi Jinping, who suffered more than most, would only say, “It was emotional. It was a mood. When the ideals of the Cultural Revolution couldn’t be realized, it proved an illusion”.”

    To claim that china’s progress today was in no small part due to the elite is again self-serving. From Jiang Zemin/Zhu rongji, Hu Jintao/Wen Jiabao to the current Xi jinping/Li keqiang administrations, how many in the politburo standing committee were/are “princelings”?

    China’s phenomenal development only took off after the 1989 Tiananmen incident, which by the way i look at it, was a result of Deng and his cadres putting too much faith in Milton Friedman’s free market theory. Deng knew he was the main cause of the Tiananmen fiasco but like all great men he never owned up to the fact.

    After Tiananmen, Deng was put out to pasture by the conservatives, but the old man had enough sense, skill, old-boy network and experience to work his way back in by 1992-3 and quietly threw out milton friedman. Instead of free market, it was; “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, crossing the river by feeling the stones, hide your capability and bide your chances, socialism with chinese characteristics”.

    He subsequently handed the reins to Jiang Zemin and Zhu rongji. It was this pair that took china’s GDP to the high teens in the 90’s and well into the 2000’s. Neither one of them are elites nor are they from elite families. In fact, Zhu Rongji was an abandoned orphan. And china today is a true paragon of meritocracy. Hmmm…wonder where this trait came from?

    As for your family, i feel sorry for you but fret not, you are in good company. Deng Xiaoping had to give up his family’s huge land holdings too as was the case with many others in the CCP and china at large.

  73. kauchai says:
    @DB Cooper

    ” China is doing pretty good for the past three decades and I have noticed there are some revisionism regarding Mao and the Cultural Revolution and one of the narratives is that Cultural Revolution is needed in order to bring about a change of the mindset of the ordinary people. This is just nonsense. ”

    Just as godfree roberts said, much of what the world knows about china either came from chinese elites who emigrated or were displaced (and therefore harbour ill feelings) or from so-called western china experts the likes of orville schell, sterling seagrave, david shambaugh, frank dikotter, jung chang, and the coterie from the cottage industry.

    People like godfree roberts and Dong hanping, represent another angle to the china story. Like all historical events, there are always more than one side to the story and after reading the works from the china expert cottage industry, i got a bad case of “sugar surge”. It is about time, some one come forward to offer different takes on events like the GLF or CR and I welcome this development like an oasis in the desert.

    It is easy to summarily dismiss the CR as “nonsense” but human societies the world over had been subjected to these kind of shock therapy and many emerged for the better. The american civil war, the french revolution, the industrial revolutions, the meiji restoration, etc, etc, brought immense changes and benefits for these countries, their peoples and the world. The CR if for nothing else, instilled a sense of “rights” among the peasantry and today we can see that this have morphed into china being one of the most socially mobile and meritocratic countries. It was not by accident that 80% of the improvement in the UN poverty reduction numbers came from china alone.

    ” Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other Confucius societies like South Korea and Japan have all modernized without going through the mayhem and trauma of the Cultural Revolution. ”

    South Korea is a empire puppet from day one. Its first president Ri Sin Man was flown into Seoul in 1948 by the empire to setup shop and he immediately began a communist witch hunt that resulted in hundreds of thousands being murdered by his own troops, troops recruited from the former japanese imperial army and the empire’s very own. He was assassinated in 1962 and was replaced by park chung hee (father to the now disgraced and imprisoned park geun-hye). Park chung hee had the sense to industrialise south korea but he did so under iron fists. Untold number of koreans perished under his rule, often under mysterious and trumped up charges. Park himself was assassinated and was replaced by Chun doo hwan, another military officer. Under him, the killings continued on and it was not until the 1980’s that south korea brought order to rule. Even now, korean society are divided along historical lines. Isn’t this mayhem enough?

    Taiwan, post 1949 was ruled by chiang kai shek with iron fists that was continued by his son, chiang chingkuo. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in chiang’s anti-communist political repression that started on 28 Feb 1947. This led to the declaration of martial law from 19 may 1949 to 15 July 1987. For 38 years, taiwanese society existed in fear and deprivation of this “white terror”. Ask the taiwanese if this is not mayhem!

    Singapore was a riot torn country from british imperial days up to and beyond the separation from Malaya in 1965. Race riots and fear of communist infiltration forced the PAP government to enforce tough and draconian laws such as the ISA, (Internal Security Act). Not mayhem?

    Ask the people of HK, what the brits did when they put down the 1967 pro-china demonstrations. How many were killed and how many were stuffed into prison without trials? Is this not mayhem?

  74. WHAT says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Monty’s own meager archievements disqualify him as a credible benchmarking agent. You will not find Zhukov or Patton praising the slope.
    And it’s not very hard to “grow economy” if starting position has no economy to speak of in the first place. You just have to be not totally retarded, to which Mao was dangerously close.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  75. @DB Cooper

    And science blossom because science work, not because it exists on a science friendly mindset society.

    Yes and no. Science can indeed thrive and sometimes strangle all other development as the “source of truth” but at the same time, innovative thought can only happen in a society that provides for it. Kyung Hee Kim writes in The Creativity Crisis about how innovation in Samsung, for example, was consistently stifled by the structure of seniority and it takes no great leap of imagination to note the similarities in tightly controlled Japanese companies(besides process innovations, which they indeed excelled at).

    I’ve experienced this myself – in Silicon Valley, of all places – so I can testify to its impact.

    Breaking this thought process was probably necessary for the existence of something freewheeling like Shenzhen, which manages to exist almost in its own bubble of reality. And its hard to say that it wasn’t due in a way to the breaking of the stagnant thought processes, the de-prioritization of seniority, and a reduction of risk averseness that came from a violent upheaval. Its often said, and rightly, that the CR destroyed a lot of the “politeness” of the culture. But the that politeness also imposed some expectations on respect for the elderly, respect for current order, etc, and none of that is conducive to being fast, innovative and disruptive(to use a buzzword).

    It might be a better world, but these days, all that matters is who advance and utilizes/monetizes technology first. Prokhor Zakharov would be happy.

    • Replies: @Icm2
  76. @WHAT

    No-one uses Monty as a benchmark. Neither Zhukov nor Patton knew of Mao’s campaigns, but those who did–and had access to their details were very explicit in giving Mao all the credit for both the battle strategies and the overall strategy of guerrilla warfare, a discipline of which he is the acknowledged master.

    Mao himself was anti-war and anti-violence all his life, dismissed the war as being merely ‘necessary’ and admitted several major mistakes and was much prouder of the Cultural Revolution.

    “it’s not very hard to “grow economy” if starting position has no economy to speak of in the first place”. Rubbish. Look at India and Indonesia, which started much richer.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  77. @Godfree Roberts

    Please apply a logic check to your last par. as it stands.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  78. @Wizard of Oz

    Please quote the comments you’re referring to.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  79. Vinteuil says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    So why do you claim that “music and dance flowered and, in place of old court dramas, revolutionary works in opera and ballet–some of which have entered the international canon–emphasized workers’ and peasants’ resistance to oppression?”

    The “revolutionary works in opera and ballet” of which you speak were embarassingly crude imitations of Western forms, filled out with mao-istically correct ideological content. None of them “entered the international canon,” and none of them ever will.

    This is just one of many points where you quite obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  80. Icm2 says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    The de-emphasis of seniority in Chinese society is certainly a tangible benefit of the CR. The enforcement of hierarchical culture in South Korea and Japan continues to stifle creativity, innovation, and productivity. While China still lags its more hierarchical East Asian neighbors in most scientific and technological areas, I have no doubt that its workplace culture is inherently more dynamic and better at encouraging innovation. In my opinion, this holds true even in comparisons with Silicon Valley companies. This indirect legacy of the CR will prove to be a long-term advantage of Chinese companies over their international competitors. See: the dominance of DJI in the consumer drone industry. DJI simply out-innovated and outmaneuvered every one of its overseas competitors. Its products were not only cheaper but also more innovative. As a result, it now holds an effective monopoly over the international market (~70% share), with most other drone makers having exited the industry.

  81. @Vinteuil

    You have obviously never attended a performance of the Red Detachment of Women, nor do you understand the use of art to serve the needs of ordinary people rather than kings, queens and fairies.

    • Replies: @Vinteuil
  82. Che Guava says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    That is a good comment, and true points.

    The original jump start for Japan economic recovery was not only that, but permission from Macarthur and from there, USA occupation govt. to retain loot from East Asia. Much gold, in particular.

    Many ruling political families are still to sitting on their shares of that loot.

  83. Che Guava says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    I have enjoyed reading your trllogy nf articles, but my refutation ir also sincere, and based on reality.

    You have not replied to them.except for WWII generals comments on Mao”s strategy after the Red Army was setting up a safe base for operations in Manchuria.

    As you, I woule imagine, I love The White-Haired Girl and Red Detachment as art, but my orphan friend from PRC is hating them.

  84. Che Guava says:
    @Che Guava

    I will raise the question of’stolen’ art treasures in Taipei.

    If they were in PRC in ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, many would have been destroyed.

    Was recently watching a documentary on Shaolin monks, their skills live, because the state realised their skills are very useful, but the temple was destroyed in ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’, now just a hideous concrete mess.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
    , @Luba
  85. @Che Guava

    Along with many artifacts, including the Summer Palace, the Shaolin temple has been ‘destroyed’ at least eight times in Chinese history.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
    , @Che Guava
  86. Vinteuil says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    There are several performances of the Red Detachment of Women, complete, available on YouTube. Anybody interested can look & listen – for as long as he can stand it.

    I’ll say this for it – it’s better than *Hamilton* – which is also available, complete, on YouTube.

  87. @Godfree Roberts

    Two problems with your explosion of irritation. It is not difficult to grow from nothing (or very little) because any production will count as growth. And then of course your own words deny that Indonesia and India started at comparably negligible levels.

    I understand that you didn’t want to get into a lengthy analysis. But you remind me of a similar comparison, namely Sri Lanka and Singapore in the 50s when Lee Kwan Yew lamented that Singapore didn’t have a fraction of SL’s natural wealth or its healthy foreign exchange reserves. You might like to equate Lee and Mao but a more interesting case might be made for the NE Asian (?Confucian!) cultures – or maybe the genes.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  88. @Godfree Roberts

    So was it the Brits who showed wrt the Summer Palace the last great gesture of respect to Chinese traditions?

    OT but I am reminded of my recent visit to the magificent palace at Mysore (Mysuru if you prefer the local Kannada version) which I was surprised to find was built under the Raj. Apparently the previous one was of wood and burned down about 1890, having escaped the British and sepoy onslaught of ?1799.

  89. @Wizard of Oz

    The figures don’t begin to tell the story.

    When Mao stepped onto the world stage, the nation was convulsed by civil war, Russia had taken Mongolia and a piece of Xinjiang, Japan occupied three northern provinces, Britain had taken Hong Kong, Portugal Macau, France pieces of Shanghai, Germany Tsingtao, and the U.S. shared their immunities and profits.

    China was agrarian, backward, feudalistic, ignorant and violent. Of its four hundred million people, fifty-million were drug addicts, eighty percent could neither read nor write and life expectancy was thirty-five years. Peasants paid seventy percent of their produce in rent, women’s feet were bound, desperate mothers sold their children in exchange for food and poor people sold themselves, preferring slavery to starvation. The Japanese had killed twenty-million and General Chiang Kai-Shek wrote that, of every thousand youths he recruited, barely a hundred survived the march to their training base. U.S. Ambassador John Leighton Stuart reported that, during his second year in China, ten million people starved to death in three provinces.

    Mao ended the worst centuries of suffering in China’s long history, prompting historian Maurice Meisner to compare him to its greatest emperor, “However harsh the rule of the new Communist state, the establishment of order and security brought enormous and immediate benefits to the great majority of the Chinese people…In this sense, 1949 stands as a milestone in Chinese history comparable only to 221 BC, when the various feudal states of antiquity were united into an empire under the Qin dynasty”.

    China was excluded from the family of nations and endured crushing embargoes on food, finance technology, medicine and farming equipment until Mao retired in 1974. By that time, however, the invaders, bandits and warlords were gone, life expectancy was sixty-seven, the population had doubled, literacy was eighty-four percent, wealth disparity had disappeared, electricity reached poor areas, infrastructure was fully restored, the economy had grown five hundred percent, drug addiction was a memory, women were liberated, girls were educated, crime was rare and everyone had food and shelter and, thanks to his massive dam and irrigation projects, China’s 750,000 square miles of arable land had grown to two million.

    Meisner continues, “The higher yields obtained on individual family farms during later years would not have been possible without the vast irrigation and flood-control projects–dams, irrigation works and river dikes–constructed by collectivized peasants in the 1950s and 1960s. Steel production rose from 1.4 to thirty-two million tons; coal from sixty-six to 617 million tons; cement from three to sixty-five million tons; timber from eleven to fifty-one million tons; electricity from seven to 256 billion kwh.; crude oil from nothing to 104 million tons; and chemical fertilizer from thirty-nine thousand to 8.7 million tons. Mao’s China produced jet aircraft, locomotives, oceangoing ships, ICBMs and hydrogen bombs and had a satellite in orbit. By some key social and demographic indicators, China compared favorably even with middle income countries whose per capita GDP was five times greater”. (

    In 25 years Mao reunited, reimagined, reformed and revitalized the largest, oldest civilization on earth, modernized it after a century of failed modernizations, liberated more women than anyone in history and ended thousands of years of famines.

    No-one in history comes close.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
    , @Vinteuil
  90. @Godfree Roberts

    I note the “no one” but still would like to compare the material achievements (including female education e.g.) under Mao with the achievements of the Japanese and, more recently, the South Koreans and then the post- Mao capitalists or whatever one calls Deng Xiao Ping and his heirs.

    It is worth remembering how little may be needed of physical infrastructure if other conditions are right. Consider for example the destruction of German cities in WW2 and how war production nonetheless increased and the V1, V2 and Me262 all brought into action. Then… after the war… the German economic miracle (with even East Germany showing the advantage of being German rather than say Greek). The fact that China had nuclear weapons by 1964 suggests resources that you maybe have not credited (including Soviet assistance?). And you over egg the pudding a bit by referring to Soviet occupation of Mongolia and part of Xinjiang…. so what?

    Still I am grateful for your opening my eyes to alternative views of what may have been best in all the circumstances for the Chinese masses (for whom I have the pragmatic regard as seeing them as having a lot more potential to create a liveable world for our great grandchildren than the burgeoning millions of Africa (with some Igbo, Yoruba, maybe Luo and other exceptions) and the Muslim subcontinent. And my blue eyed blonde niece and nephew winning trips to Beijing for making prizewinning speeches in Mandarin will have your articles forwarded to them to keep them encouraged.

    • Replies: @kauchai
  91. Che Guava says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Again, thanks for the reply. but on only one point.

    Many I was making are valid, as many in your articles.

    If you want to really raising a wasp’s nest, you could continue from this series to an article on the liberation of Tibet, as with Mao, i would have mixed impressions of it, but on a very small scale, it is always of interest to me how similar the fashion styles of Pu Yi and the young Dalai Lama were.

    • Replies: @luba
  92. Vinteuil says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    “In 25 years Mao reunited, reimagined, reformed and revitalized the largest, oldest civilization on earth, modernized it after a century of failed modernizations, liberated more women than anyone in history and ended thousands of years of famines.”

    Substitute “Stalin” for “Mao” in the above, and you might have a stronger case.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  93. kauchai says:
    @Wizard of Oz

    ” The fact that China had nuclear weapons by 1964 suggests resources that you maybe have not credited (including Soviet assistance?).”

    Since 1949 Mao never had good relationship with Stalin and this personal enmity spilled over with Nikita Krushchev. It all started with stalin’s insistence on the CCP and Mao adopting the war tactics of the comintern that resulted in cruel defeats and disasters in the early years of the war against the KMT. When the CCP rebelled against this, stalin responded by cutting back arms support to almost zero. The soviets were starting to pull out of china in the late 50’s and by 1960 soviet presence in china was completely gone.

    Based on the fact that the soviets had just developed their first atomic bomb in 1949, it is highly unlikely that stalin or krushchev would had passed the technology to china. In addition, china had territorial disputes with russia, kazakhstan, and other soviet satellite states on its border. Krushchev at one stage even threatened to nuke china if they did not drop their claim to kazakhstan.

    “…(for whom I have the pragmatic regard as seeing them as having a lot more potential to create a liveable world for our great grandchildren…”

    I have no worries about china creating a “liveable” world for posterity. Conversely, I am very worried about the empire destroying this world in a thermo nuclear inferno for threatening small states like north korea, iran, syria and now russia and china. The puppets sitting in the white house had been duped into believing that continental united states is immune to nuclear bombs since JFK.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  94. @Vinteuil

    How can you justify the bit about civilization, even just the “largest, oldest” bit? Are you saying that what Stalin did to try and continue the update begun under Peter the Great of Russia’s building on a base which started with Mesopotamia and progressed intermittently via Egypt, Greece, Rome, Western Europe and Italy and on to the NW Europeans plus Germany that largely survived or recovered from the 30 Years War counted to justify your “largest,oldest claim” – not to forget the reimagining claim?

    And as to ending “thousands of years of famines”!! I don’t know how Russian famines compared with Chinese or Indian ones historically but you do seem to have forgotten the Holomodor!

  95. @kauchai

    I think your point about the unwillingness of Stalin by the late 50s to give much help to China is consistent with China’s first atomic weapon and its weapons program being less than state of the art though it is consistent with the Soviet Union being willing to earn some credit even for third best help. And it does of course reinforce my speculative point about China having its own intellectual resources. I would guess there were more Professors of History with Harvard PhDs purged than professors of Physics!

  96. Anonymous [AKA "wdo"] says:

    @Godfree Roberts: I am living in and researching about China for quite some time and found that I could agree on quite some things from your articles. I would be interestedin the finished book (although I am not sure it will be printed in China, but maybe as an ebook pdf).
    I tried however to get into contact over the website (“send me the free chapter”), but received no reaction. You are hard to contact.

  97. Anonymous [AKA "Prince Kapone"] says: • Website
    @Joe Wong

    You’re damn sure right

  98. luba says:

    Mao stepped down as President of PRC at second National People’s Congress in spring of 1959, since he had already been President for terms starting from 1949. Therefore Liu Shaoqi was elected as President in 1959.

    In March 1953, Stalin died with no heir. Khrushchev finally took the power after a bloody struggle.This prompted Mao to propose in the second half of 1953 to divide the power structure of the government into two levels in order to groom the suitable successor to avoid what happened in Soviet:

    -Level 1 leaders, i.e. Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaopin responsible for daily business.

    -Level 2 leaders for advisor roles. Mao concentrated more on philosophy/ideology and military because he was worried KMT would try to wage a war and India was very agressive along the borders. From April 1959, Mao, Zhu De, Dong Biwu, etc. retired formally to level 2.

    When talking about GLF and its consequence, people seldom mention the roles Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping played, who were actually running the daily management of economy in 1958. Neither Liu nor Deng has working expierence with grain production in the countryside. So they took the exaggerated/falsified havest figures from the local officials as truth and foolishly encouraged them to continue.

    For exmple, Liu Shaoqi started his first “Communist Expriemental Commune” in Xu Shui County, Hebei Provincce, from which came the first exaggeration of havest figures, e.g. a cabbage weighted 250 kilo, wheat 6000 kilo/mu. (1 mu=0.067 hectare), etc.

    Li Shaoqi encouraged the peasants to speed up to upgrade from collective co-ops to communes, to run public canteens, to set up local steel furnaces.

    Li Jinquan, Governor of Sichuan Province and Deng’s inner circle loyalist, boasted the rice havest in Chengdu suburb was 1200 kilo/mu, in fact 400 kilo/mu maximum. The actual output of rice in 1959 in Sichuan was 15.82 million tons,but Li exaggerated the figure to 35 million tons, 49% of which then should go to the central government. When he couldn’t fulfill his quota, he used all sorts of cruel methods to extort/expropriate the rice from the peasants and local cadres. That’s why Sichuan was one of the worst hit areas duing GLF.

    People from Sichuan hated his guts, they beat him almost to death during Culture Revolution because of his cruelness. However, after Deng became the top boss again, Li got promotion.

    Here is link of photo of Deng standing on the grain stacks of an exaggerated havest field 08.10.1958: You can use google to translate the whole letter that Mao wrote to some officials, in which he expressed his doubts about the exaggerated harvest figures all around China.

    Mao wrote: “Last year the havest per mu was 300 jin, it would be very good to increase it by 100 or 200 jin. To say it to 800 or 1000 or even more is simply exaggeration. What’s point (by exaggeration)?”

  99. Luba says:
    @Che Guava

    There are 696,344 pieces of stolen’ art treasures in Taipei.

    There are 1,862, 690 pieces of art collections at Palace Museum in Beijing, of which 1,683,336 pieces are first class collections. The curator says that the problem he has now is lack of enough place to exhibit all of them. The Palace Museum is trying to move out all adminstration out of the Palace so as to get some extra space.

    Apart Palace Museum, there are at least dozens of museums in China with world class collections, such as:

    Shaanxi History Museum (one of my favorite museums).

    Hubei Musuem (more than 2000 year old music instrument, which can still be used to play music).

    Sichuan Jinsha Site Museum ( Golden Sun Bird – 3000 year old).

    Henan Museum : Human Head Pottery Jar – 6000 year old, Jiahu Bone Flute made from the bone of crane, ca 7,800-9,000 old)

    Those talk that many art and antique treasures would have been destroyed in ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ is exaggeration, IMHO. It is an useful excuse for Westen and Taipei musuems e.g.Brtish Museum & Co to justify their stealing and pilferage of the treasures from China.

    Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was not about destroying Chinese culture heritage but about the corrupted and entitled officals.

  100. luba says:
    @Che Guava

    @Che Guava

    If you are really intested in Chinese antique artifacts, I’d suggest you take a look of this documentary which shows some of the most exquisite and beautiful collections (range from 7800/9000 to 2000 years old) in Chinese mueseums:

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