News / Asia

China Observes Mao's Birthday With Mixed Feelings

  • People stand in line to enter the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Beijing, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • A man holds up a portrait of Mao Zedong as he and others gather in front of a giant statue of Mao to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of the former leader in his hometown, Shaoshan, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • Retired female workers dressed as red army soldiers sing revolutionary songs during a performance to mark the 120th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong in Huaibei, Anhui province, China, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • Boats carrying a giant image of Mao Zedong and Chinese national flags lead winter swimmers in the Yangtze River to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of Mao in Wuhan, Hubei province, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • Supporters wave a flag with an image of Mao Zedong that says "People missing Chairman Mao", as people gather to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of the former leader in his hometown, Shaoshan, Dec. 25, 2013.
PHOTOS: China Observes Mao's Birthday
VOA News
China on Thursday observes the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, who enjoys a mixed legacy in the country whose government he founded and led for nearly three decades.

Since his death in 1976, the official government position has been to recognize Mao's contributions as 70 percent positive and 30 percent negative.

A poll by the state-run Global Times suggests Chinese view him even more positively than that, with 85 percent of respondents saying Mao's merits outweigh his mistakes.

Mao's supporters, many of whom tend to be older and remember his rule, say he helped free China from foreign influence, pulling it out of chaos to create a unified country.

But others blame him for the deaths of tens of millions as a result of controversial social experiments such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

William Sharp, a professor of East Asia Studies at the Hawaii-Pacific University, tells VOA Mao's legacy remains unexamined, partly because of the government's control over the debate.

"His rule had moments that were greatly tumultuous," he said. "The Great Leap Forward in the mid 1950s saw the death of about 30 million people. And this is still a topic that's taboo for public discussion in China."

Even still, those critical of Mao's legacy seem to be increasing. The Global Times poll suggested the younger and more educated are less likely to revere the revolutionary leader.

Confronting the socialist elements of Mao's legacy is also complicated for Chinese leaders, who have undertaken a series of market reforms since his death.

To deal with this contradiction, Beijing has referred to China's hybrid form of economy, as not just socialist, but "socialist with Chinese characteristics."

The reforms have brought great wealth to China, but they have also come with a rise in corruption and waste that has prompted a fierce public backlash.

Reflecting these sensitivities, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for solemn, simple and pragmatic celebrations to mark Mao's birthday.

Gordon Houlden of the University of Alberta's China Institute says this is consistent with Xi's crackdown on corruption within Communist Party ranks.

"On the other hand, there's a nervousness about too much adulation of Mao, partly because he stood for a very different sort of China than one finds now in 2013," he said. "So I think for that reason, it's in the political interests for the current president to not let society or fans of Mao get carried away and emphasize a different sort of China than he had in mind."

But Houlden says China's growing global stature means Mao will remain a key figure of the 20th century, as well as a longstanding figure of importance within China.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: China
December 25, 2013 8:23 PM
I think Mao Zhedong is not only a vicious dictator, who made a lot of mistakes, caused lots of people died, but also a mistake of the history, he planted the corrupt communism into China by cheating and voilence

by: Taiji Robinhood
December 25, 2013 6:49 PM
No one can deny that Mao was a great politician, military strategist, poet, ..... The more you know about him, the deeper you will love him.
In Response

by: Chang from: USA
December 26, 2013 1:45 AM
How can you love someone that killed a lot of innocent people? A man with all power tend to be corrupted. Mao is like one of the Chinese kings. In this case may be a very bad king.

by: Anonymous
December 25, 2013 1:48 PM
Although Mr. Mao had made many mistakes in his time, he still is the most great leader of China because he took a substantial of benefit to his country and the people no matter how other country's people and oppositions blame him. He should be a spirit leader of the country.
In Response

by: Wu from: China
December 26, 2013 1:52 AM
Put up a poll and see how the Chinese people say ...
A good leader is the one that has the gut to admit the mistake he made and make correction.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs