Shaoshan is a small village found in a valley
of the Hunan province, where, a little over a century ago, Mao
Zedong was born. The first thing heard in Shaoshan is the music,
and the music is inescapable. Suspended from posts towering over
Mao's childhood home are loudspeakers from which the same tune
is emitted over and over, a hit of the Cultural Revolution titled
"We Love You Mao." 
The Chinese people were faced with an incredibly
difficult situation in 1976 following the death of Mao Zedong.
What was China to do now that the man whom millions accepted as
the leader of their country's rebirth to greatness has passed
away? China was in mourning within moments of the announcement.
Although Mao rarely had been seen in public during the five years
preceding his death, he was nevertheless, the only leader that
China had known since the Communist armies swept triumphantly
into Peking and proclaimed the People's Republic twenty-seven
years earlier. He was not only the originator of China's socialist
revolution but its guide, its teacher, and its prophet.
Common sense foretold of the impossibility of
erasing Communism and replacing Chairman Mao. He departed the
world with his succession and China's future uncertain. With his
death, historians and reporters around the world offered predictions
of what was to become of China. They saw an instant end to Maoist
theory. Through careful examination of Chinese life both under
and after Mao, it is clear that the critics of 1976 were naïve
in their prophecies and that Mao Zedong still remains the central,
dominant figure in Chinese political culture today. 
The Communists rode into China under the guise
that they were the idealistic patriotic "good guys"
 here to protect the poor Chinese from the brutality
of the corrupt Nationalists. Prior to 1949, China was a devastated
country in need of transformation. Inflation was so high that
prices rose on a daily basis, only a very small minority could
read, and in winter children often froze from lack of proper clothing.
The Communists took this wreck of a nation and began the reconstruction
brick by brick. With the arrival of Mao and the new government,
China was stable for the first time in years. Inflation was halted,
status of women raised, and an end was put to prostitution, foot-binding,
the use of concubines, child marriages, and opium addiction. The
Communists united China, redistributed land and wealth, and destroyed
the special interests that were asphyxiating economic growth.
The Communists brought hope to an otherwise hopeless nation. For
many of the poor peasants, the 1949 revolution really was liberation.
Yet bliss turned to agony within the first five
years following the Revolution when Mao called for mass arrests,
executions, forced labor, liquidation of anti-Communists, and
inter-party purges. He soon initiated a series of "Five-year
Plans" in an effort to turn China into an industrial power.
In 1958 a second, more radical plan known as the "Great Leap
Forward" began. This plan was designed to increase industrial
and agricultural expansion simultaneously. However, the Communists
set unrealistic goals and when they were not met, chaos ensued.
Industrial production declined and agricultural output dropped
by 25%. There was an unending grain shortage as China's population
increased, and famine became widespread claiming the lives of
nearly 40 million Chinese by 1960. Newspapers failed to report
this information and the government, in an attempt to prevent
news of the famine from spreading, forbade any peasant from leaving
their village commune even to beg for food. Every day the Chinese
were forced to work an unrealistic amount of hours, without breaks,
just to try and keep up with Mao's Great Leap Forward. The Chinese
were exhausted, depressed, and hopeless. They lived each day in
the fear that it would be their last. Living took courage. It
was their way of fighting back. 
The Cultural Revolution began in 1966 with Mao's
disgust of the older generation's lack of revolutionary zeal.
It was a nightmare decade with large-scale cannibalism in which
worker turned against worker, neighbor against neighbor and children
against their own parents. In an effort to discourage class distinction,
Mao authorized student rebellions against authority. He used the
students to crush opponents, potential opponents and to eliminate
the highest ranking government officials and party leaders whose
communism was seen as not "pure" enough. By the end
of the two years, more than 400,000 died, two-thirds of the Party
was replaced, and three million were 
arrested and sent to labor camps. The Cultural Revolution
not only left millions dead, it also crushed humanitarian values
and defiled the sanctity of the human spirit, without which there
remains very little to separate men and beasts. 
An unimaginable number of Chinese were left with the painful images
of what had happened.
Mao fed off the chaos he created-it was considered
justifiable and a necessary component of his rule which lasted
even after his death. During his years as Chairman, Mao encouraged
procreation. He believed that more people would lead to a bigger
army which would eventually make China stronger. Mao did not see
overpopulation as a problem, but rather as a strength. Nonetheless,
it is unquestionably because of Mao that the party has had to
issue a restrictive family planning policy. The Chinese are allowed
one child and many "rural couples feel that they have not
accomplished life's mission until they have produced a baby complete
with a penis." A woman who breaks the rules by having an
extra child faces huge fines, the prospect of her home being knocked
down, and the likelihood of being forced to undergo Sterilization.
Sadly perhaps the most distinctive feature of China today is the
social controls that it 
employs. The Communist Party relies upon an ingenious "iron
triangle:" the residence permit, which limits where you live;
the secret personnel file, which records your sins and political
reliability; and the work unit, which supervises every aspect
of your life. The triangle controls your life. The Chinese government
is about oppression and death; it is a society in chains.
On September 20, 1976, Time Magazine reporter
Sven Simon wrote that, "for the immediate future, China's
new leaders will certainly mouth his slogans. 
But without the presence of the Great Helmsman to back them up,
they may have grave difficulties making his lifelong dream a reality."
Although thoughts of Mao and of the ideological purity he represented
may appear as Simon believed, far 
from consciousness, there have been a number of recent instances
that suggest otherwise. For example, in December 1996 there was
an auction in Beijing of artwork and porcelain that had been created
for Mao during the Cultural Revolution. To general astonishment,
works considered worthless a few years earlier reached prices
in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What does this mean?
To many, nothing. But, for a number of years China has been in
a craze for Mao artifacts-Mao pens, buttons and ceramic busts-that
seem motivated as much by a passion for tastelessness as for Mao
Veteran China reporter Orville Schnell believes
that this Mao phenomenon is a sign that China has reached its
penultimate stage in the de-Maoification 
process. In the December 1992 issue of Atlantic Monthly,
Schnell wrote that the commercialization of Mao meant that he
was "slowly being stripped of his imperial quality, of his
ability to evoke either awe or fear." Nevertheless, the Mao
craze is more than just nostalgia. It does signify something,
but not what China experts think. Assuredly, people are not spending
hundreds of thousands of dollars on Mao artifacts just to throw
them away; they are being kept because China wants to remember
Mao. This Mao craze suggests that as the communist party modernizes
China, it is not rejecting the Great Helmsman but rather integrating
him into the broader sweep of Chinese history. 
Mao is no longer merely a communist ideologue; now he is an emperor.
China critics like Schnell believe that China is a nation "ready
to burst out of its totalitarian larval stage into a lovely democracy."
However, indispensable to this belief is the idea that China has
de-Maoed itself-has buried Mao as Germany buried Hitler and Russia
buried Stalin, when in fact, the opposite is true. Mao Zedong
ultimately remains the prevailing figure in Chinese political
culture. He is still an imperial presence; he is still respected;
he is, even, still cool. 
The evidence is everywhere in China.
In the countryside, new and massive temples have
been built to Mao in the provinces on Fujian, Guangdong, and most
recently, Gushuicun. These temples are frequently visited by party
officials and peasants who believe Mao can do everything from
cure illnesses to guarantee a good crop. 
Convinced they would join Mao in the afterlife, several workers
at a Sichuan factory committed suicide in 1993, the one-hundredth
anniversary of Mao's birth. Artists are still incorporating Mao
into their works, taxicab drivers in Beijing and Shanghai dangle
Mao's portrait from their rearview mirrors, and a gigantic portrait
of Mao still hangs over Tiananmen Square. Most importantly, however,
is that in the party and in the universities, the fashionable
political philosophy is not democracy; it is the new Maoism.
Mao has not suddenly made a comeback. He never
left. Unlike Germany or Russia, China has never made a significant
attempt to confront its past; it never successfully completed
de-Maoification. Yes there have been books like The Catastrophes
of Chinese Leftism, and films such as "To Live"
and "The Last Emperor" that have delved enthusiastically
into the Communist Party's "dirty laundry" thus illustrating
the loosened grip China has on rewriting history, but the point
is being missed. 
It is not the responsibility of the authors and the filmmakers
to reveal the truth, but rather the government's. In 1981, party
scholars did officially acknowledge that the Cultural Revolution
was wrong and Mao had made mistakes. Yet there was no apology,
and admiration of Mao was ultimately preserved as they actually
commended his record as being "seventy percent positive."
The Chinese people are afraid to blacken Mao as they will indirectly
be blackening their party and their country as well. Even more
important, however, is that Mao cannot be shamed because he was
not a Marxist of the Western variety. He successfully integrated
Marxism and peasant nationalism to forge a potent anti-Western
weapon. Mao Zedong was a leader who lived and behaved like a classic
Chinese emperor. He led a nationalist peasant movement to "create
a single nation- state that was rooted in the patrimonial traditions
of the Chinese empire." In sum, Mao, his revolution, and
his ideologies did not represent a break with the past but rather
an extension of it: one last Chinese struggle against the West.
In a poll taken in 1994, forty percent of Chinese
respondents picked Mao as their favorite leader, compared to less
than ten percent for Deng Xiaoping. "Today Chinese youths
don't know or take seriously Mao's mistakes,"
 Yan Jiaqi, a former member or the Chinese Academy
of Social Sciences told Asiaweek. "They think he was
a great leader. They only know Deng's mistakes." This is
just one example of how in China, "ignorance is bliss."
Despite the denouncement of the Cultural Revolution,
the cult of Mao endured. The Party continued to absorb itself
intellectually with Maoism as two main groups emerged: Maoist
fundamentalists and nostalgists. They yearned for the golden age
of dignity and honor present during the 1950s. 
The party Maoists kept the faith alive but had to conceal it as
the barbarity of the Cultural Revolution had not yet disappeared
from the minds of its victims. For the philosophy of Mao to once
again take flight, there needed to be an event that would awaken
among the people the resting fear that China might fall prey to
the West and therefore be stripped of its greatness. 
One such event occurred on June 4, 1989, as Chinese troops plowed
down student protesters at Tiananmen Square. An estimated 600-800
people were killed and several thousand injured. After the events
at Tiananmen, the idea of China descending into chaos and collapse
prompted the party to revive the idea of class struggle. Deng
Xiaopong declared inter-party "anti-rightist" purges
and carried out Maoist-style education campaign "thought
reforms" in the countryside. The post-Tiananmen age was about
oppression and death. China was a society in chains.
It was individual determination and indomitable
will that made Mao Zedong the most influential revolutionary of
his generation and, for better or worse, one of the greatest figures
of the 20th Century. Mao's death was an end that had long been
anticipated, but for some reason it came as a shock nonetheless
for both China and the world. During the 1960s he seemed to have
been elevated to the heights of the gods, and after he died he
was indeed more a creature of myth than a real person. Mao left
this world with his succession and China's future uncertain. He
left with his party in a state of panic and confusion as they
unsuccessfully tried to fit the pieces back together. He left
knowing that he could not be forgotten.
There is no way to measure the effect Mao has
had on the generation that endured his dehumanization of China
and lived to remember it. So, what does the future hold in store
for China? China today faces the turmoil that rapid modernization
always brings: changes in job patterns, rids of individuality,
urbanization, replacement of the extended family with the nuclear
family, and the unraveling of traditional morality. Or as Mao
revisionism. The victims have been left to find
their own peace, or try to forget or to continue on in pain. The
danger, however, in letting the past half century fade away is
that all those who forget run the risk of repeating that failure.
One can only hope that China will soon be able to accept its past,
learn from its mistakes and move on. Only then can it be assured
that the events of the past fifty years never again resurface.
Additionally, it cannot be until the Chinese are allowed to thoroughly
examine the details of their history and once and for all bury
Mao that they will finally receive the liberation that was promised
them in 1949. Until that time, the strains of "We Love You
Mao" will follow us out of Shaoshan.
*Footnotes and Works Cited not included
1. Good title
2. Strong intro
3. Clear thesis. Good. The
mistake most students make is not clearly stating their thesis.
Plus you always want it on your first page. Also, the reader
should always be able to disagree with your thesis.
4. It is good that you put
"good guys" in quotes because it lets me know that
you know that it is not a professional term. You may wish to
restate this sentence.
5. Sentences should only
have two thoughts. You can be detailed and still concise.
6. This is vague. How are
they fighting back?
7. Always use "had been"
in place of was/were.
8. Again, separate thoughts.
9. Good. Students often use
"they" following a country.
10. Too big of a jump. Connect.
11. Don't split appear and
12. Define de-Maoification
13. Careful of being too
14. Prove this!
15. Do they? Are you sure?
16. What is the new Maoism?
17. Bringing in the other
18. Why is this the case?
19. What is it that they
like about it that they forgive the Cultural Revolution?
20. Who is afraid? Expand.