The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Mao Zedong - Personality Cult

Mao Zedong - the Great Helmsman - is the best-known figure in the 20th century. The Chinese people have always regarded Comrade Mao Zedong as their respected and beloved great leader and teacher. Some ordinary people psychologically needed a great person to hold in high esteem, and Mao filled that need. Some people said Chairman Mao was like the Monkey King in the traditional Chinese fairy tale of the Pilgrimage to the West, who was invincible and was commissioned by the Heaven to bring fairness and equality to the world.

Mao was deified into a near-saint -- the Great Helmsman who was "always correct". At the height of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), Mao's selected poems and other quotations were enshrined as "supreme instructions" that guided class struggles. The political wind and cloud were contained in the cult of personality,which influenced the development of the era.

The "great helmsman" was de-deified after the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). but to his worshipers, Chairman Mao stands for auspice and victory, represents social justice and is a man that leads them to common wealth. So they believe in, respect and love Chairman Mao.

Mao Zedong's remarks of Chengdu Central Working Conference in 1958 was not the origin of the personality cult within the CPC. The real onset was the over-eulogy of Mao Zedong by some of the leaders within the CPC during the process of CPC's propaganding, so as to resist the Kuomingtang's attack in ideology line in the last phase of the Anti-Japanese War.

After the six Sixth Plenum of the Central Committee, the meeting of the Political Bureau in March of 1943, the Yanan Rectification, the propaganda of the 7th meeting of the CPC, and with the support of the Communist International, Mao Zedong eventually became the recognized leader of the party and the military, as well as Mao Zedongs Thoughts as Chinas guiding ideology.

In 1945, the Chinese Communist Party held the "Seventh Conference" in Yanan, Liu Shaoji delivered a report at the meeting, a total of 105 times mentioned the name of Mao Zedong. And he explain, "our great leader Mao has used his ideas to raise our idea of the whole nation to an unprecedented height. This is the Mao Zedong thought!" This had great impact. Liu Shaoji become the second in command of the CCP, replaced the possition of Zhu De and Zhou Enlai who original had the possition higher than Liu Shaoqi even higher than Mao.

After the foundation of the PRC, the main reasons of personality cult's regenerating within the Party were the influence of Mao Zedong's huge historical contribution and transcendent charm; China's highly-concentrated power structure; third,self-appreciation of leaders, the push of Chinses traditional culture and the proganding of the unique public opinion. From the founding of New China to the spring of 1953, though Mao Zedong at the core leadership of the CPC Central Committee, China had made a series of great victories such as winning the War, reviving the national economy etc., Mao Zedong still maintained a modest attitude against himself and his personality cult.

Mao Zedong began feeling pride and could not listen to the different views. Under the impact of Khrushchevs the anti-Stalin movement, which exposed and criticized the errors on the Stalinist cult of personality at the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union, and to emphasize the collective leadership and against the cult of personality, the worship of Mao Zedongs personal momentum had be restrained. Liu Shaoqi and Peng Dehuai and so on did not like the cult of personality, and in 1956 the Chinese Communist Partys Eighth Congress, the contents of "Mao Zedong thought" were deleted in the CCP Constitution. Mao was unhappy with Liu Shaoqi and others.

Mao Zedong began to appreciate the cult of personality right from the Rectification Campaign to the Lushan meeting. From the anti-rightist campaign in 1957 on, Mao Zedong's subjective arbitrary style started to take shape, and to suppress different views within the party. He appreciated and promoted his personal worship in the meeting of 1958 in Chengdu. Some party leaders echoed the worship of Mao Zedongs personal views, so personal style of worship began prevailing in the party.

On May 5, 1958, at the second plenary session of the eighth CCP central committee, Mao put his old partner Lin Biao to vice chairman of the party. Lin Biao suported Mao's personality cult much more strongly than Liu Shaoqi had in the past. Lin said, " Chairman Maos one word is worth ten thousand sentences."

After the Lushan meeting, Lin Biao and others who wanted to win the favor of Mao Zedong and gain political capital deliberated on Mao Zedong and the cult of personality, to promote the atmosphere of worship of Mao.

Responsibility for the errors committed in the work of this period rested with the collective leadership of the Central Committee of the Party headed by Comrade Mao Zedong. Although Comrade Mao Zedong must be held chiefly responsible, the blame cannot be laid on him alone for all those errors. During this period, his theoretical and practical mistakes concerning class struggle in a socialist society became increasingly serious, his personal arbitrariness gradually undermined democratic centralism in Party life and the personality cult grew graver and graver. The Central Committee of the Party failed to rectify these mistakes in good time. Careerists like Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and Kang Sheng, harboring ulterior motives, made use of these errors and inflated them.

This led to the Great Leap Forward in 1958, with the ultimate economic consequences of an extremely weakened state, and countless people were killed by great famine. Later it led to the inauguration of the "Cultural Revolution".

In 1970, Mao remarked to Edgar Snow (in a famous comment) that he felt had influenced some places around Beijing but had, in many ways, left much of Chinese society untouched. This was the kind of poetic statement Mao made to make a point i.e. that his life had been an uphill struggle, and that he often felt like he was just starting to stir things up. [in that Edgar Snow exchange, Mao described himself as I am a heshang dasan. This was widely mis-translated, including in Life magazine, as "a lonely monk walking with a leaking umbrella" (a forelorn and despairing self-image). In fact Mao was referring to being wufa wutian -- a monk without topknot or sky -- i.e. someone without a handle on him the gods could grab. Mao was in fact describing himself an unrepentent and unrestrainable rebel -- as a wandering monk without law or god.]

No other Chinese leaders or even the world leaders are such often copied like Mao. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Shanghai Arts and Design Company (SADC) was one of only two organizations in China authorized to produce so-called "standard" images of the Chairman. Every portrait of Mao had to strictly follow the likeness from a black and white photo of Chairman Mao shot in 1964, which was called No.4 Standard Picture of Mao Zedong. During the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), as the personality cult surrounding Chairman Mao intensified, the Lead Portrait Group's workload increased. The portrait that hangs in Tiananmen Square today was also replicated from this No.4 photo.

In 1967, the Red Guards of Beijing's Tsinghua University erected a tall Mao statue, initiating a nationwide wave of making Mao statues. A uniform standard has been set, which says the figure of Chairman Mao should stand 7.1 meters tall to coincide with the founding date of the Party, and the total height including the base should be 12.26 meters to symbolize his birthday. The statues must show Mao standing, either waving the right hand or with his hands at his back.

The fever cooled down in June 1969 when the central government issued a document, calling for the end to "formal and pompous" ways of promoting Mao's image. A veteran sculptor estimated that more than 2,000 Mao outdoor statues were erected between 1967 and 1969. In 1980, the central leadership released an instruction telling everyone to curb the personality cult. Since then many Mao statues have been taken down, including the statue in Tsinghua.

Incomplete statistics show that there are about 180 outdoor Mao statues built during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) still standing, and some of them have been classed as cultural relics. In 1993, the 100th anniversary of Mao's birth, some places re-erected Mao statues, and the creation of Mao statues restarted. But unlike the old days when sculpture work was voluntary, the statues are now sold for cash.

The products of extreme personality cult reached a climax between 1966 and 1969, the first three years of cultural revolution.(1966-76) During the years, more than 8 billion badges were made.

Mao Zedong used food as a symbol or administrative contrivance for mass mobilization and political maneuvering during the Great Leap Forward and its aftermath. This type of food politics was based on some seemingly trivial matters, such as Maos personal preferences for certain foods, a steamed bun brought to his attention by his bodyguard, his diet during the famine, and so on. On one hand, in a political environment dominated by Maos personality cult and in a culture that placed great importance on culinary matters, the triviality of Maos food preferences or comments nevertheless had a cascade effect that endlessly multiplied and extended into much broader statecraft.

By the 1980s the historical tasks of the mind emancipation movement were to emancipate the thinking of the whole Party from the personality cult of Mao Zedong, and extricate the people from the trammels of dogmatizing and deifying his directives and policy-decisions. The thesis expounded at the CPC's 13th Congress held in 1987 on China's primary stage of socialism was the result of emancipation of the mind since 1978 and should be a new starting point for further emancipation of the mind.

Mao's legacy is still affecting a vast number of young people in China. The Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought is a required course for college students. A Mao portrait bought in Beijing is always regarded as a very precious souvenir for villagers, while Mao's mausoleum is usually a must-go for their maiden trips to the national capital.

A survey by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group in 2008 in 40 Chinese cities and towns, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, showed that 11.2 percent of respondents enshrine Mao Zedong at home, way ahead of those that worship the Buddha, God of Wealth, and other gods.

Products with imprints of the red history are popular again recently. Caps, purses, wallets and mugs printed with red stars, slogan, head portrait of Mao and the heroic soldier Lei Feng are like a punk fashion among young people and foreign visitors. The gift market at Yuyuan Garden is the best option to buy such products. The souvenir store of the site of First National Congress of CPC also sells such products, but the prices are much higher than that in Yuyuan Garden. People expecting to buy Maos badges and other relics can go to antique markets in the city. The market on Dongtai Road in Huangpu District can provide a good bargain.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 28-12-2017 18:37:12 ZULU