Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 5 News List

China celebrates Mao's anniversary

AP , SHANGHAI

A group of Chinese pay their respects with flowers on the 110th anniversary of the birth of the late revolutionary Mao Zedong at his mausoleum in Beijing yesterday. The revolutionary and often brutal leader has long been praised for establishing the People's Republic of China in 1949, but he has also been widely debunked for his post-1949 communist atrocities such as the ``Great Leap Forward'' program and the 1966 to 1976 Cultural Revolution.

PHOTO: AFP

China marked the 110th anniversary of revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's birth yesterday with a rap song, new books and praise by state media -- but little public notice from the country's increasingly market-oriented communist leaders.

Dozens of plays, exhibitions and television documentaries were scheduled to glorify the life of Mao, the communist founder who led China from 1949 until his death in 1976.

"The greatness of comrade Mao Zedong (毛澤東), his glorious thought, great achievements, and massive charisma continue to influence generation after generation," the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said in an editorial titled, "The Great Mao Zedong."

However, in a sign of Mao's declining political importance, the editorial appeared on page four of the newspaper. The front page was dominated by a picture of current President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) meeting with Taiwanese investors -- an indication of how the party now places economic progress over ideology.

In a pop culture twist, a rap titled "The Two Musts," after one of the former Great Leader's sayings on politics, appears on a new album titled "Mao Zedong and Us."

Its lyrics say:

"You must preserve modesty and prudence.

"You must preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle."

The low-key official commemoration underscored the desire to hold Mao up as a model of leadership and service, while playing down his destructive political campaigns and vendettas.

Soon after Mao's death, the party began undoing many of his restrictions on private business, as well as some of its intrusions into the arts and private life.

And in a move that would have horrified Mao, the party earlier this week proposed amending the Chinese Constitution to guarantee the right to private property. It will raise the official status of the entrepreneurs who once were considered the enemy but now drive China's economy.

Still, Mao's political theories remain a required course in universities. A steady stream of books, films and even Web sites cater to an abiding interest in his life.

The Mao memorial hall in Shaoshan -- the southern town where he was born on Dec. 26, 1893 -- recently installed multimedia presentations, along with the thousands of pieces of clothing, books, crockware and other articles used by Mao in his daily life, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Some 40 million people have visited the hall, including top leaders from more than 100 nations, it said.

Commemorations have also delved into the lives of Mao's descendants, none of whom has been prominent in Chinese politics since his death.

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