In the Boston Review, Roderick MacFarquhar examines how China under Xi Jinping both embraces and revises the political legacy of Mao Zedong. As MacFarquhar writes, even as Xi seeks to contain and control that kind of revolutionary fervor that Mao was content to unleash, he continually invokes Moa's thought and image to legitimize his own rule. Read an excerpt from the piece below, or the full text here.
China has indeed become a power recognized by all, particularly its neighbors. Mao would almost certainly have relished that power. But what of his Cultural Revolution dreams of equality and collectivism? How relevant is Mao Zedong Thought in light of China's high levels of inequality? Are Mao’s portraits in Tiananmen Square and at his mausoleum of any political significance today? Does Mao still matter?
Nobody is more conscious of the importance of these questions than China’s current ruler, Xi Jinping. President Xi constantly admonishes the Chinese people not to divide the history of the PRC into a Maoist period and a reform period. For him such a division would imply that there was a bad period and a good period, like the Stalinist and post-Stalinist periods (after Khrushchev’s “secret speech” denouncing Stalin in 1956) in Soviet historiography. Xi values the basic elements of the Leninist state set up under Mao in 1949 because he clearly sees in them the only way to preserve Communist Party rule in the future.
Image via Boston Review.