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Yang-Yang Dispatch

The Many Loved and Hated Faces of Mao
July 29, 2000

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Look around! He's everywhere!
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Everywhere you go in China, there are images of Chairman Mao all over the place. He is on posters and t-shirts, smiling at passing tourists who are looking to buy that perfect Chinese souvenir. Carrying around Mao's image has become a hip fashion statement, for both locals and tourists alike. Mao is, after all, founder of the People's Republic of China (PRC) who had led the Red Army to liberate the Chinese people from the Kuomintang in 1949. He is to China in the same way that Stalin is to Communism in the Soviet Union and Hitler is to the Nazi Party in Germany. But the difference is that while the international community now recognizes the horrors Stalin and Hitler caused to their people and to the world, Mao's image has somehow emerged untarnished, remaining in a position of reverence to so many Chinese people.

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Yuck! You can see his dead body if you get inside!
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Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, let me describe to you the interest and respect that continues to be paid to the Chairman's dead body. When we went to visit his grave in Beijing, it was amazing to see the long, constantly moving line of people, winding all around the massive Tiananmen Square, who waited for over an hour just to get a few seconds' glimpse of the Chairman's body. In line were Chinese and foreigners alike, from all over the country and all over the world.

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I remember when I came back to China on vacation a few summers ago and started my own collection of Communist pins, hats, and bags. I just thought they were really cool and somehow connected me with my Chinese past yet allowed me to make a fashion statement at the same time. To me, Mao and the days of the masses blindly following Communism were long over.

Surely for the elderly, at least, there must be more to that powerful image. They lived through those moments in history and remember never getting enough to eat.

What about today? Has all that painful and tormented history just faded into the past, with Mao now emerging as a pop star like Britney Spears?

Yang-Yang

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...
yang-yangchen@bigfoot.com

 

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