Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Mao namesake believes China will be set free [The Age]

Seeds of change from within? Rightist Mao Yushi under scrutiny here reveals the diverging Chinese mind from the centralised regime. Labelled a ”slave of the West”, a ‘‘race traitor”, and ”running dog” by leftist websites and netizens, Mao is one intellectual convinced China is on the brink of democratic change, his expectation is that ”we will witness reform in the next five to 10 years.”

For a glimpse of Mao Yushi in a video interview, check out Dialogue: Cities on the low-carbon road (China Daily). For the article in question that sparked the outrage, check out the Economist’s coverage – Boundlessly loyal to the great monster (May 26, 2011)

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Mao namesake believes China will be set free
John Garnaut, Beijing
Source – The Age, published November 12, 2011

Liberal intellectual Mao Yushi is relentless in his pursuit of greater freedoms for the Chinese people. Photo: Sanghee Liu

You might think that after enduring a mass hate campaign, including threats of blackmail and brutality, it would be time for an 82-year-old intellectual to consider taking a backward step.

But that would underestimate the fortitude of Mao Yushi, an important mentor for several leading liberal economists, as well as the conviction he shares with thousands of other active Chinese liberals that history is on his side.

”I feel human history keeps progressing,” said Mr Mao, in an interview in his apartment in West Beijing.

Mr Mao lamented China’s backsliding on economic reforms and its recent surge of political repression.

He dismissed the country’s incoming leaders as being beholden to the current ones and for being focused only on protecting the Communist Party regime.

And he said officials and wealth have fused together into formidable vested interests that resist reform.

But he is nevertheless convinced that the country is on the brink of democratic change. ”I don’t know how it will happen but I feel confident,” he said. ”We will witness reform in the next five to 10 years.”

The rolling revolutions that have toppled dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have accentuated the confidence of Chinese liberals and also the insecurities of Chinese leaders. The international instability has prompted the Communist Party’s security apparatus to significantly step up crackdowns and campaigns against liberal professionals and activists.

But much of the repression and extrajudicial brutality against China’s amorphous liberal movement seems to have made it stronger. Dissident artist Ai Weiwei was released from his 81 days in jail on condition that he does not speak to foreign media or send messages on his Twitter account, but lately he has been doing both.

This week, after authorities told Ai he had to pay a dubious 15 million yuan ($A2.3 million) tax bill in 15 days, hundreds of supporters donated more than 6 million yuan to help him pay it.

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng – who was jailed for four years after attempting legal redress for mass forced abortions and sterilisations – was ”released” into illegal home detention and smuggled a video out to show his mistreatment. He was savagely beaten and hundreds of supporters have travelled from around the country to show their support and have themselves been beaten, arrested and robbed by government thugs. And yet they keep recording their experiences on the internet and coming back.

Zhou Zhixing, a well-connected media publisher, told The Saturday Age that very few people believed the Party’s ideology any more, even within the Party.

”We are a pro-liberal elite website and 80 per cent of Chinese elites are pro-liberal,” said Mr Zhou, who runs the influential website Gongshi and a boundary-pushing magazine, Leader.

Liberal voices are more numerous and their arguments more coherent in China’s increasingly polarised political debates, but leftist activists are given far greater leeway to say what they like.

Mao Yushi’s recent cycle of trouble started in April when he wrote an essay about another Mao, the former god-like chairman, titled ”Returning Mao Zedong to Human Form”.

The Chairman’s ”thirst for power dominated his life, and to this end he went entirely mad”, he wrote.

Mr Mao’s own family had suffered greatly under Chairman Mao and he was appalled that such realities were being submerged by a tide of neo-Maoist nostalgia and leftist activism. Mr Mao posted his essay on his Sina blog and censors immediately took it down. He reposted it, they deleted it, but others reposted it on thousands of sites, including the progressive media platform Caixin Online.

Suddenly, the elderly scholar became the key target in the most ferocious neo-Maoist campaign yet.

Leftist websites and netizens labelled him a ”slave of the West”, a ”race traitor”, and ”running dog” and portrayed him with a hangman’s noose around his neck.

”We demanded a people’s prosecution of Mao Yushi … because he slandered Mao Zedong” Han Deqiang, founder of China’s leading leftist and Maoist website Utopia, told The Saturday Age.

Police visited the elderly intellectual several times and asked him not to write any more about the subject.

Mr Mao agreed, he said, but only ”to give them face”.

Lately he has been probing more deeply into the dark psychology of Chairman Mao.

”Every dictator believed he was loved and that he is being loved by his people, including [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi,” said Mr Mao.

”They all have the same thought process: how could people oppose me if they are not being stirred up by the West?”

Mr Mao said the next generation of leaders provide no grounds for hope as they have all been hand-picked by former Party chief Jiang Zemin or current President Hu Jintao.

”They didn’t choose reformists but diehard protectors of the Communist Party regime,” said Mr Mao.

And yet in contrast with some other nations, Mr Mao said China ”is not likely to see civil war”.

”Whether things improve when China’s dynasty changes depends on the maturity of the people,” he said. ”Thanks to the internet, the level of people’s awareness and knowledge has improved a lot.”

Last week, Mr Mao appeared on a panel at the Central University of Finance and Economics, in what was his first public appearance since being blackballed earlier in the year.

”During the break lots of students surrounded me and showed their support for me,” he said. ”They shouted ‘down with Mao Zedong’.”


Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Education, Environment, Influence, International Relations, Internet, Jasmine Revolution, Media, Nationalism, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Soft Power, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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