Burying Mao

Burying Mao

The founder of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, might never get a real burial. His body is likely to rest for quite some time to come in the Tienanmen Square mausoleum.

But the 18th Congress of the CPC, beginning this week, is all set to bury the last formal references to Maoist ideology. This Monday, official Chinese media reported that the Central Committee has approved an important amendment to the constitution of the CPC.

While no details were given, the amendment is expected to remove "Mao Zedong Thought" from the ideological banner of the party. The CPC has held up "Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought" as the guiding principles for many decades.

As it opened up to the world from the late 1970s under the reformist leadership of Deng Xiaoping, Marxism-Leninism was steadily de-emphasised. Deng's guidance, instead, was on building "socialism with Chinese characteristics". (Critics would say Deng was laying the foundation for "capitalism with Chinese characteristics".)

But the problem of dealing with Mao's disastrous political legacy remained. Denouncing him in the manner that the Russian Communists did with Joseph Stalin (after the dictator's death) was not an option.

Deng, ever the pragmatist, chose to simply abandon Maoism while letting Mao's popular deification continue. While it worked well for Deng's successors, they might have good political reasons now to dump Mao Zedong thought.

Dangerous leftism

Having endured Mao's terrible experiments — the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution" — Deng was convinced that "leftism" would remain the bigger threat to the modernisation of China than "rightism".

After violently crushing the challenge from the liberal pro-democracy movement in the summer of 1989, Deng had no desire to let the leftists regain political control of China.

In early 1992, Deng went out on a tour of China's southern provinces and called for renewed economic reforms while maintaining the political dominance of the CPC.

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