Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shades of Mao

An interesting footnote is that the anniversary of Chairman Mao's death -- September 9 -- has come and gone, and there was no official commemoration of this event, that was earth-shattering back in 1976.
Instead, textbooks are devoting less space to the Great Helmsman, and, according to Italian journalist Francesco Sisci, Mao's portrait in Tiananmen Square is shrinking by a few centimetres each year.
Despite this quiet process of de-Maoification, people are still fervent about the Great Leader, now appealing to young people who see him as a pop culture figure than as someone who inspired but also tortured people's lives during his tumultuous reign.
And this being the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, how would Mao feel about China today? Would he shrink back in horror at all the capitalist ideas taking root (albeit with Chinese characteristics)? Seeing young women in mini skirts and permed hair, nails painted black, while young guys slouch in their low-slung jeans and wearing trendy T-shirts?
But perhaps he would be thrilled to know that as more people are purchasing cars (apparently China is the number one car buyer now), many are planning to take "self-drive tours", or as we'd say in North America, a road trip around the country for the National Day holiday.
My friend told me that for this year's week-long holiday, his colleague is planning to take a road trip to Yan'an with her husband, to the caves where Mao was based towards the end of the Long March.
But my friend pointed out, "But don't you have a child?" as her mother is back in her hometown looking after her baby daughter.

"She's with my mom so my husband and I can go travel," she replied.
He was flabbergasted on hearing his coworker express no interest in seeing her daughter who she only sees a few times a year.

It won't be surprising when her daughter grows up and hardly knows her parents. Then again this is not unusual as many young professionals and migrant workers leave their progeny behind to work; but not even wanting to see her child is bizarre.
Perhaps Mao would be pleased to hear that in some respects he is still able to break up the family unit. It's not work units or danwei, but economic conditions that have created this splitting up of families.

His legacy continues.

1 comment:

jdmartinsen said...

I'm curious as to where the author got the information about the shrinking picture, particularly because of other errors made in the article.

The film Founding of a Republic premiered on 17 September, not on 1 October, and state media (in the form of both Xinhua and China News Service) did commemorate the anniversary of Mao's death with articles and photo galleries.