The People’s Response

On Monday we spent the day studying Mao’s leadership by visiting his home town of Shaoshan and talking with locals and visitors.  The students interviewed people about their feelings about Mao and will create podcasts analyzing what they heard with regard to what they’ve studied.  Meet students Jonah and Niel who tell about the experience:

“Hi, my name is Jonah; I am a junior attending Concordia International Shanghai. I recently moved from Tokyo, Japan where I attended The American School In Japan. This year will be my first year participating in National History Day, where I will be doing a project on the Ford Model-T.

Today we visited the 10.1 meter-high copper statue of Mao Zedong in Shaoshan. The statue was erected in 1994 on the 100th birthday of Mao and is 10.1 meters high because of the creation of the Peoples Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Along with my other group-members, I had a chance to talk to some visitors to the site. We asked what Mao meant to them and why they were visiting.

We received general responses from most people saying there was a lot of respect for the area and Mao. For the most part the responses were friendly except for one woman who mocked us for trying to understand Mao and what he means to the people of China. In general I felt like there was an ineffable amount of respect from everyone visiting the site. It was very interesting seeing people respect something and react to it like a religious monument even though it is a historical one.” –Jonah

“Hi. My name is Niel and I am from Singapore. I am currently studying in Concordia International School Shanghai, and I am pleased to have this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with regard to Mao’s history.

Today we met Chairman Mao’s old neighbor, Mrs. Tan, whose family was visited by Mao in his hometown for the first time in 32 years, which is something that she is very proud of. Mrs. Tan is a huge follower of Mao, which can be seen through her very being. She was once a poor person, but today she owns close to 400 restaurants through hard work and determination. Mrs. Tan turns 82 this year. Yet, this does not seem to give her any inconveniences. On the contrary, she carries herself with pride and energy. It is as if she draws her vigor and energy from Mao.

Mrs. Tan is the living example that Mao still empowers people today.

We know that Mao made some serious mistakes during his reign. However, this has not reduced the love that the people hold toward him. To make a comparison, Mao is known as the father of China, while Deng Xiaoping, who, in my opinion, was the one that led China out of troubled times during the latter half of the 20th century, is only known as ‘comrade.’  After further interaction with the local people, we discovered that many Chinese still worship Mao as a figure of hope.

When I think of Mao’s actions with regard to the loyalty of his people, a conversation between Confucius and his disciple Zi Gong springs to mind.

Zi Gong once asked Confucius the essentials of a nation, to which Confucius replied three items: food, military, and the people’s confidence in the ruler.  Zi Gong then asked that if one item had to be forgone, which item would it be? Confucius replied the military could be sacrificed first. Zi Gong then asked again. “What if another item had to go?”

Confucius replied, food. His reasoning was that if the people have no confidence in the ruler, the people have nothing to stand for.

This concept is almost similar to what Mao did. He was willing to sacrifice people to famine in the Great Leap Forward instead of openly admitting his wrongs, which would have shattered the people’s confidence in him, since he was supposed to be the one to deliver China from such an age. People were told that the deaths were due to natural disasters and not the Chairman’s fault. So, was the people’s confidence really important to the country in view of the famine that occurred? What about the people greatly empowered by Mao to achieve great things, like Mrs. Tan? For a country to survive, is food more important, or is the people’s confidence in the ruler more important?

P.S.  Mao denounced Confucianism during the Cultural Revolution as he insisted that everything old (items, traditions etc.) be eliminated. Thus, to adhere to a Confucian principle during his years of reign is quite ironic.”  –Niel

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The People’s Response

  1. JMOLJ

    Niel, you give a very thoughtful application of a Confucian story. I agree with your assessment of Deng Xiao Ping. Mrs. Tan sounds like quite the woman! You are truly fortunate for getting to study these events on site. Thanks for your insights. I’d love to hear your thoughts after your trip concludes. Please post your post-trip reflections as well.

  2. Liliu

    Niel: Very interesting post. I’m impressed!

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