Contrasting politicians’ republics with crowned republics before the Senate Inquiry into a bill to hold a plebiscite at the next election, Senator Bob Brown suggested to me another form of republic, a people’s republic. China has just marked the 60th anniversary of its People’s Republic.
But Mao Tse-tung was apparently unmoved when he proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. According to a reporter there, 91 year old Li Pu, Mao Tse-tung took the microphone and said simply: “I announce the founding of the People’s Republic of China’. Then he read a list of the names of the most senior officials of the new Government.”
“He wasn’t nervous. He didn’t seem moved. He just read out his announcement and that was that.“He was an evil man, a b*****d and it’s typical of bad people not to show their emotions. So it was impossible to tell what he was feeling.”
According to Jane McCartney in The Times (1/10), Mr Li said that Mao remained calm.
“I was a reporter. I had a job to do. I walked around the podium watching people and observing and looking for anything extra I could write.”
Once he had finished speaking and Li Pu asked him for his speech. Chairman Mao handed him the piece of paper with a list of the names of the 56 senior officials of the first Government of Communist China.
“He said to me: ‘Please report this accurately. And don’t lose it’.
”One thing that Chairman Mao did not say in his speech was a phrase that has come to be associated with that historic moment.
“Mao Tse-tung was speaking to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in September when he said ‘The Chinese people have stood up’. Everyone thinks he uttered those words at the founding ceremony, but he didn’t.
”But Mao's crackpot economic notions, notably the infamous 1958 Great Leap Forward, created famines that killed 20-36 million Chinese peasants. Mao's aides dared not tell him millions were starving.
Eric Margolis has long struggled to understand Mao. In “Remembering China’s Great Helmsman” ( Huffington Post 29 September 2009) he asks whether he was modern history's greatest revolutionary and an earth-shaker, or a demented mass murderer who nearly destroyed China, as his critics claim?
“Great times produce great men. Mao rose from the chaos of 1920's China to lead the newfound Communist Party. He fought Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, an assortment of powerful regional warlords, and, later, Japanese invaders. China suffered some 15-20 million dead from 1928-1949.
“Mao was an accomplished poet, writer and historian, a profound thinker, and a superb military strategist. His works on guerrilla war sit on my desk. Mao crushed the US-backed Nationalist's 4.3-million strong armies in a series of titanic battles, forcing his rival, Chiang Kai-shek, to flee to Taiwan.
“Mao gave the Communists political, strategic, and ideological direction. Aiding him were a group of outstanding generals — the "Ten Marshals" — among them Zhu De, Lin Piao, Peng Dehui, Chen Yi and Nie Rongzhen — who crushed Chiang Kai-shek's armies. They rank among World War II's finest generals, but most Westerners know nothing about China's epic eight-year struggle against Japan or its long civil war.
“The Great Helmsman united fractured, war-torn China, restoring its pride and self-confidence after two centuries of humiliation. Mao thwarted both Soviet and US efforts to turn China into a client state, and built up China's military power.
…prodigal with his people's lives…
"Red Emperor" Mao was prodigal with his people's lives, and, according to aides who were close to him, was shockingly indifferent to their suffering. Many senior officials worried about the deification of Mao and its effects upon the Great Helmsman.
“Mao horrified even brutal Soviet leaders by saying he was prepared to lose half his people to emerge victorious from a nuclear war.
“When the Communist Party resisted Mao, he tried to destroy it by unleashing the Great Cultural Revolution. China was plunged into chaos and civil war. China's brilliant, much under-rated premier, Zhou Enlai, curbed some of Mao's worst excesses, repeatedly thwarted the party's hard left, and rescued China by engineering Deng Xiaoping into power.
“Deng crushed die-hard Maoists known as the Gang of Four and restored order. His sweeping economic reforms revitalized China, unleashing its latent economic power. But Deng's great achievements — and this week's huge birthday party in Beijing — would not have been possible without Mao's unification of China and imposition of an all-powerful one-party state.
“So, as with many Chinese, I'm uncertain how to qualify Chairman Mao. I stand in awe of his achievements and brilliance, but cannot forget the suffering he inflicted on China. Deng was as great a revolutionary as Mao, yet one whose hands were unstained by blood.
“Like Stalin — once called "half man, half beast" — Mao appealed as much as he repelled. Most Chinese now regard Mao as their nation's beloved, respected father — but who went dangerously senile before his death in 1976. The egos of old dictators and kings can be very dangerous.
“I suspect as time goes by Mao's misdeeds, like Stalin's, will fade away and he will again be glorified as China's greatest ruler in the past 2,000 years. The glowing image of the Great Helmsman will continue to hang over the gate of Beijing's Forbidden City.”
…a crowned republic in China…
There was once a crowned republic in China. It lived under the rule of law. And it set the example for the economic development of China.
This was Hong Kong, where the pragmatism of the British led them to conclude that it would be unwise, given the proximity of the People's Republic, to do what they did in every other colony, at least until the last moment.
This was to establish a local version of the Westminster system, according self government to those governed.
By the degree of immigration into Hong Kong, even when it meant swimming across to the island through shark infested seas, the Chinese people indicated which system they preferred.