Recently I had a chance to speak with Boi Boi Huong (mp3, audio play link below). Her family emigrated to Holland from Vietnam when she was young. While in college, she took a stronger interest in China, and in fact completing her thesis on the Great Leap Forward. The timing of her work was interesting, because this had been just couple of years following 1989. Western academia and press at that time were especially hostile to China and China’s political system. The Great Leap Forward has always being used in the Western press and academia to vilify Mao Zedong and his policies, especially with the millions of deaths coinciding that period. Once Huong found out a bit about the circumstances of that period, she was able to quickly figure out the dominant narratives in the West were flawed. (Make sure to also read Ray‘s excellent post, “Another Look at the Great Leap Forward” and Allen‘s robust analysis of the death numbers, “Did Millions Die in the Great Leap Forward: A Quick Note on the Underlying Statistics.”)
As many Hidden Harmonies readers who are of Chinese descent likely could identify, having everything related to ‘China’, be it culture, history, people, ideas, companies, government, or whatever constantly cast in negative light really represses a bit of who we are. We may be citizens of whichever country we live in, but we should be allowed to feel proud about our heritage just like everyone else. To the Chinese, Mao was a symbol of modern China. Under his leadership, ordinary Chinese were finally freed from imperialism, invasions, and centuries of miserable life. Mao is more than the mere mistakes he has committed. Nor is he any of that exaggerated sins pinned against him in the West.
Click on the play button or right-click on the link to save the podcast for local listening: link. Please bear in mind English is not Huong’s primary language.