The Western media has been relatively quiet about China except some sabre rattling on South China Sea. There are the usual noises about the collapse of China, hard landing on Chinese economy, and so called human rights violations. Europe has been preoccupied by the Syrian refugees and Greek economic crisis. U.S. has the theater of absurd of quadrennial election and “The Game of Throne” to deal with. But the question of income inequality affects everyone in the world now, more than climate change which probably will not be felt until 50 years from now. The rise of Sanders and Trump is very much a reaction to income stagnation in U.S.. It is a question China has downplayed and trying to avoid, but recent events may yet force it to the forefront. I am talking here about a little known concert in the Hall of People on May 2, which Chinese media ignored, and the reactions to it.
The concert “The Hope in the Meadow” consists 56 young girls in chorus singing various old standard Red Songs, such as “Sailing Seas depends on Helmsman”, and recent ones showing reverence for Xi Jinping such as “How Do We Name You?”. In a open letter written by Ma Xiaoli around May 7, who is a so called second generation Red Princessling to General Office of Chinese Communist Party Central Committee accuse of it being trying to revive CR, blacken Xi, and in general violated the party rule against personality cult. It generated debates from liberals who feel threatened and furious counterattacks from the left who not only defend it from free speech point of view, but broaden it to linking the ongoing corruption investigations and income inequality, to actual attacks on Deng Xiaoping’s family linking them to corruption. I was amazed to read all those commentaries in May 8, but everything was deleted on May 9, except some links from Hong Kong and other overseas sites.
Ma Xiaoli was one of former Red Guards who apologized for their actions during CR. In exchange of letters with Luo Diandian in Jan 2016, they both expanded their views that CR need to be open up exorcised. They used the De-Nazification of Germany and Truth Commission of South Africa as examples. They are both well educated and obviously sincere in their remorse. They acknowledge their parents were not just the victims, but maybe partly responsible for the policies leading to CR. Although they show disdain for the peasant background of Chinese revolutionaries and implied criticism of Mao, I do not condemn them for their petit-bourgeoisie tendencies, of their dismissing their critics as “Fifty-cents Maoists”, but sincerely hope they can read my critique of their views.
I was a college student in U.S. during the CR, in danger of flunking out and losing my scholarship, yearning to join the Red Guards. Instead because of the draft I elected to join the Army Signal Corps to avoid infantry. I watched the unfolding of CR in U.S. and Viet Nam. During the years I read all the horrors happening. I may not have personally experienced them as actual victim, but having read “Lord of the Flies”, I can imagine young idealists became disillusioned with the revolution. Yet I still consider myself a Marxist and have a high opinion of Mao.
In Kurasawa’s film “Rashomon”, there are different telling of actual events that differ wildly. In analyzing CR, there are personal view, historical view, Western view, and Chinese view. Ms. Ma and Luo and a whole generation may have suffered, but what are they compare to the sweep of history? I certainly disagree vehemently with their characterization with events of WW2 or apartheid. Xi Jinping has said that you can’t separate the 30 years of early People’s Republic with the later 30 years, they are inextricably linked, not to mention the history of last 150 years, or 2,000 years. Those second generation Red Princelings may be victims during CR, but they are also the beneficiaries now and part of the 1% or 0.1%. They fear any return of chaos or new CR. I do favor opening up discussions of CR, but to learn lessons for the future, not to assign blames. The war against tigers and flies has been going on since Xi became General secretary. I remember in the 1950s when I borrowed my uncle’s monthly party booklet there were always juicy news about the downfall of various party secretaries for corruption. I think Mao was aware the need to purify the party and initiated various movements which resulted in CR. Mao may be impatient to change human nature and released forces beyond his control. Like the first emperor of Qin, he may be revile by some, but also history will honor him.
Xi Jinping may face pushback on his fight against corruption, as vested interests feel threatened, but the popularity of red songs and reverence for Mao demonstrated that egalitarianism is an ideal finding fertile ground not only in China, but the phenomenon of Sanders and Trump, and the rebellion against income inequality might become unstoppable even in U.S.. After all, the Chinese National Anthem and Internationale are also red songs.