Thu, Oct 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Mao's dark side darker than Chang has shown

By Li Fu-chung 李福鐘

The Chinese edition of Mao: The Unknown Story, written by Jung Chang (張戎) and her husband Jon Halliday, was released in Taiwan last month. This biography about former Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong (毛澤東) should be judged as a historical work, but has received more attention in Taiwan for the controversy it generated in the publishing scene earlier this year.

The incident has blown over, but issues deserving of serious attention remain to be clarified. Former National Revolutionary Army and Republic of China Army general Hu Zongnan's (胡宗南) offspring may have focused on whether or not the book describes Hu correctly, but the ultimate question that the great majority of readers are interested in is the same question that the authors ask in the book: what is Mao's true face?

The reason this question is so important is because Mao's image remains a substantive symbol of legitimacy for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As a result, books that portray Mao in a negative light, such as Chang's book and Li Zhisui's (李志綏) The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao's Personal Physician, are banned in China.

The CCP knows that if Mao's actions were to be judged as wrong, then former Chinese leaders such as Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇), Zhou Enlai (周恩來), Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) and other national founders would be considered his accomplices.

This is why Mao is still worshipped by the CCP, and as long as he remains a demigod, the CCP will be built on a foundation of superstition and myth.

Hungarian-born writer Arthur Koestler's well-known 1941 novel Darkness at Noon is set in the 1930s during the Stalinist purges promulgated by the Soviet Communist Party and reflects the public's deep-seated fear of living under communist rule.

The beginning of the book tells the story of Rubashov, who is arrested by authorities while sleeping. Rubashov is jailed and then sentenced to be executed by a firing squad.

While waiting to die, he realizes that the source of the terror Joseph Stalin -- the former general secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party -- inspires results from the institutionalized belief that he is forever right.

Thus, people executed under Stalin should admit that he is right even at the point when bullets enter their bodies.

Over the past five decades, Beijing has executed and imprisoned millions of Chinese people in a series of so-called reforms and revolutions. Although these multitudes are dead and buried, history has yet to render a verdict on their deaths.

This can be attributed to the continuation of the myth that Chairman Mao, the CCP's eternal "Number One," was infallible, and thus gives legitimacy to the CCP.

Chang's careful research reveals Mao as an inflexible tyrant constantly obsessed with mind games and wielding power. But her description of Mao does not truly reflect the dark side of his character. This fault means that many readers still have no idea of how such a calculating strategist could so easily become the "big brother" of hundreds of millions of Chinese people.

Many Western academics have conducted research into Mao's life. However, most have not focused on analyzing the Chinese style of cultural politics that informed Mao's views.

Earlier China experts, such as Benjamin Schwartz, Stuart Schram and Lucian Pye, or more recently Ross Terrill and Jonathan Spence, have all written biographies about Mao, but each has emphasized different aspects of his life, and thus the complete picture of his dark side has yet to be disclosed.

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