In December 1966, Liu Tao (劉濤), daughter of then-Chinese state chairman Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇), wrote a “big character poster” under the title “Rebel against Liu Shaoqi, follow chairman Mao and carry out revolution all my life.” Less than a week later, she and her brother Liu Yunzhen (劉允真) wrote another poster with the headline “Look, the ugly soul of Liu Shaoqi.”
During China’s Cultural Revolution, countless sycophants put their parents through hell by drawing a line between themselves and their parents to demonstrate their loyalty to Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong (毛澤東). Such acts often caused irreparable rifts between family members.
Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) said: “When you talk about things like ‘selling out’ and ‘denouncing,’ in those days they were commonplace. It was called ‘drawing a line.’ Drawing a line between yourself and your father’s generation — it happened all over the place... I recently had a conversation with some young filmgoers and they asked whether it was not really too cold-hearted to do such a thing. I said that cold is the wrong word for it. It was hot-blooded. What was it? It was devotion. For someone to draw a line out of their devotion to the times and their beliefs, that was drawing a line in a hot-blooded way. So it was something that happened in those days in particular. Nowadays, a lot of young people who see my film think it seems very special, but actually anyone who lived through those times knows that things like that really happened a lot.”
Taiwan-based bakery cafe 85°C was forced to draw a line between itself and Taiwan just because President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had a cup of coffee at one of its stores in Los Angeles.
In December last year, broadcasts of the TV drama series My Dear Boy (我的男孩), starring and produced by Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin (林心如), were halted in China because the production was subsidized by the Ministry of Culture. To get the ban lifted, Lin was forced to draw a line between herself and Taiwan.
Early this month, Taiwanese actress Vivian Sung (宋芸樺) had to do the same thing, for the sake of the Chinese market.
During the Cultural Revolution, people were forced to draw a line between themselves and their parents to show their devotion to the state. What Zhang calls “something special that happened in those days” is now being revived in China, where Taiwanese businesses and entertainers are forced to draw a line between themselves and their “mother” — Taiwan — and express their devotion to China instead.
The kind of lunacy that happened under the centralized rule of Mao, who fostered a cult of personality, has reappeared under the rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who likewise promotes worship of himself.
It is said that history does not repeat itself, but what happens later often strongly resembles what happened before.
It is also said that those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. The Cultural Revolution held China back for at least 20 years.
Will the lunacy of today’s new cultural revolution cause Xi’s “Chinese dream” to crumble and fall? Only time will tell.
Yu Kung is a businessman.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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