Saturday, August 11, 2007

One of history's worst mass murderers is still the most honoured man in China

People become like their gods, goes an old Greek saying. We might modernise it as: "People become at least a little like their heroes".

So why is a man who was directly responsible for the deaths of some 70 million people, still the most honoured man in China?

I mean Mao, of course.

Probably the most exhaustive possible book on the man is titled Mao: the Unknown Story (just published by Vintage Books). Authors Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have, between them, produced nearly a thousand pages, based on ten years of research, including interviews with close associates of Mao as well as a massive number of other people who interacted at various levels and in various ways with him and his regime.

So we are not going to get a more authoritative look at the man in the near future anyway, and possibly not ever.

The book, like the man, is hard to engage with, and yet impossible to put down. You have unending documentation of his determination to grab and keep power, of the corruption that resulted, of Mao's unfeeling cruelties, and of his enormous ego. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that more than 70 million people were "eliminated" directly because of Mao's rule.

How could Indian Prime Minister Nehru and those around him have possibly got this man so totally wrong as to have considered him a "brother" of India? Days after being garlanded and feted in India, Mao ordered the attack on India which resulted in carnage of the Sino-Indian war (a huge amount of Indian territory is to this day held by China - and the current power-brokers in Inda are content to let all that slide in the interests of making money today). But those are sore matters. Let's not go there (as Americans say). Or not any further.

The point is that this power-crazed beast is, in spite of China's much-vaunted opening to the world, still the most honoured man in the country, with photographs everywhere and ritual homage still being done to his memory.

How can China ever expect to join the community of civilised nations as long as this man is not denounced by its elite? How can ordinary Chinese hope to have any chance of genuine freedom and dignity as long as this man is virtually deified in their country? Sphere: Related Content

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