The upheavals throughout the Near East have precedent in China. If one should wish to study the impact that modernity has on archaic civilizations, you can study China throughout the 20th century, especially the rise and rule of Mao. No one is more responsible for the deaths of untold millions than Mao. Conservative estimates put the death toll around 30 million. No one, not Hitler or Stalin comes close to Mao.
By far the single best work on Mao is from Dr. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, titled ‘Mao: The Untold Story”. This is the groundbreaking book that shook Beijing and its nearly insufferable hold it has on Mao’s legacy. I should also mention ‘Tombstone’ by Yang Jisheng and ‘The Great Famine in China’ by Zhou Xun. All have taken the personal difficulty of unmasking the self-mythologized efficacy that became an iconic Satanic Mao.
This year marks the 52nd year commemorating the height of The Great Leap that ushered in Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Both should be seen synoptically, for Mao failed in the first and sought revenge in the second.
The senseless, merciless terror that ravaged China with the arrival of Mao is inseparable from the militant atheist Marxist creed that propelled a unified China out from the imminent, near fatal decline of hereditary autocracy.
The Soviet archive reveals a dour, faceless terror that consumed China. The very embodiment that Orwell or Huxley sought to achieve in the despotic portrayal of the ends that Marxism serves: an exhausted, easily ameliorated human person. Something both Alexander Solzhenitsyn and John Paul II beckoned awaits a materialist West if we should abandon the moral foundations of liberty.
For the better part of a decade I corresponded with Nien Cheng, a close personal friend of Mao and author of ‘Life & Death in Shanghai’ a story chronicling Cheng’s effort to find her daughters murderer while suffering the ordeal that became the Cultural Revolution. Cheng was the CEO of BP (British Petroleum) in Shanghai. We spend years corresponding in lieu of a friendship she had with Dr. Luke W. McCann, a Roman Catholic Priest and scholar at Marist College, New York.
Touring her home in Washington, D.C., I asked her to explain the ideological impetus behind Collectivization. I was referring to how each commune developed smelting pots from which to collect and smelt all types of metallic household ore. I’ll never forget her answer.
She stated that although Mao revered agrarian life, he was no Thomas Jefferson. Mao never acknowledged the moral foundations of society. An insight that has its origin in the West alone! Mao distrusted peasantry. But his real aim was in breaking down the natural bonds of the family; by revolutionizing discrete parts of Asian society in China, he was able to appeal to the mythic authority underwriting feudal dynastic life. Mao’s Satanic insight was something Tocqueville understood. By using the functioning residue of an overly Confucian ‘centralizing’ tradition indigenous to China, Mao was capable of unifying China in a political manner unseen in centuries. The smelting pots of the commune embodied the atheist militancy that underwrote Mao’s ideas. The family was to be destroyed in an effort to self-create an atomized human person.
He failed. But he sough revenge by purging those whom he thought prevented him from succeeding. When Pol Pot of Cambodia began emptying out the cities and hospitals at gunpoint, horse whipping the people into the fields, he was emulating a mythic Mao.
The failure that became Mao would only be picked up by Deng. An exhausted and feeble China grudgingly accepted the ‘Christian’ ways of an ‘Imperial’ West. The birth of this new hegemonic, fractured China is found in a massive grave pit of nearly 50 million people. Transformation with a price.