It is 30 years since Mao Dzedong, the founder of communist China passed away. We should have expected ?Chairman Mao? to be all over Beijing and other cities of China his taciturn face announcing the arrival of the new Marxist-Leninist revolution. We should have expected groups of Chinese youth carrying the Red Book like the Christians do the Bible in their pockets, flaunting it as offering solutions to all problems of the earth. There should have been flood of communist delegations from other countries being hosted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), singing paeans for Chairman Mao. Our own Marxists used to have this refrain: ?China'srevolution is our revolution; China'schairman is our chairman?. One Marxist acolyte Mohit Sen wrote : ?Mao remains as one of the defining figures of modern history?.
But tourists who flock China now in millions are not finding any Mao posters plastered across Beijing'sstreets. The Chinese newspapers have announced instead the arrival of luxury car maker Dalmier-Chryster, the German-US auto giant with an investment of 1.9 billion dollars to make 25,000 ultra luxury Mercedes Benz cars, 80,000 Chrysler salons etc. In the year that Red China should be observing the 30th anniversary of the passing away of its founder, it is the huge car market that is making news. Seven million vehicles a year?that is what China makes now or rather foreign companies in China do.
Mao used to flash warnings to the United States almost every year of resorting to war. In Chairman Mao'scountry today it is the US and other foreign investments that fuel a runaway economic growth. FDI may be a bugbear for our Marxist comrades who ask us to take lessons from Mao'sChina. But in Mao'sChina FDI is the sweetest thing. It had reached a fantastic level of 72.4 billion dollars annually by 2005. We here still expect that it would be 10 billion dollars this year. Big cars, bigger and swankier airports, all sorts of consumer goods and Western music systems, five and seven star hotels, expressways, and real estate boom define China'sidentity today. Burgeoning exports, stock exchanges, in fact everything that you would term as symbols of liberal capitalism overshadow Mao'sportraits in the regime that the great revolutionary established after a Long March extending to almost half a century. Maoist Marxism is dead, Long Live Mao!
If there is one thing on which all the world agrees it is that what drives Red China today is not Marxism but the market economy. Called as the Great Helmsman in the 60s of the last century, Mao sought to rebuild China as a Marxist-Leninist model for the next generation. He launched the Great Leap forward where China would surpass the West through a state owned, state directed planning. Even an early enthusiast for Mao, Marxist Mohit Sen, trained for two years in Mao'sChina, had to admit later in his book??A traveler and the Road? that the Great Leap Forwarded and the People'sCommunes that were to usher it, ?ended in total and terrible disaster?.
The Great Chairman himself deified all over China in the 50s and 60s as the fount of all wisdom, died a lonely sorrowful figure. Publications that have come out in the last 40 years tell a terrible story of the Marxist becoming a victim of his own personality cult. Even his doctor has revealed that he was suffering from venereal disease. His fourth wife had taken charge of the Communist Party during his last years. The infamouns ?Gang of Four? headed by his fourth wife, was later denounced by Deng Hsiao-ping the realist who was sidelined during the cultural revolution but rose to power on the ruins of the Maoist economy. It has now been revealed that Deng had turned to Singapore'sman of destiny Lee Kuna Yu for advice on how to rescue China form the ruin that Mao brought to the country'seconomy. And Lee told Deng: get on the liberal economics badwagon. And that is what Deng did when he came to power. Deng justified the radical swing from Marxism to Market economy with his famous words: ?The color of the cat does not matter so long as it catches the mice.?
Our own dyed-in-the wool Marxist Prakash Karat and his party'schief minister in Kolkatta form a similar contrast to Mao and Deng. Karat fumes at Dr. Manmohan Singh when the Prime Minister proposes radical reforms in banking, insurance, public sector, FDI etc. The Marxist chief minister in Kolkatta woos FDI from anywhere spreading the ?red carpet? for foreign business delegations like China does now. Indonesia'sSalim group has signed with him for an entire city to be constructed for market economy to flourish. The Great Eastern Hotel, for ages a public sector bastion has been sold to Bharat Hotel of Delhi'sSagar Suri. The Marxist union of the workers told its members not to accept the compensation package but the workers deserted the union and took the package and left. Hotels, airports, industrial-business complexes, the Marxist Chief Minister would rather follow Deng'sexample while his party boss in Delhi hails ?Chairman Mao? and warns the Prime Minister against opening the economy any further.
Karat seeks to gag Dr. Singh in the name of Puritanical Marxism. But in the citadel of Mao the theme is different. ?The Chinese government will continue to adhere to the policy of opening ourselves to the outside world? says Wen Jiabao, China'sPrime Minister. The Marxists are found of talking of ?Contradictions? quoting Marx, Lenin and Mao and claiming that only Marx'stheory has the capacity to resolve them. But Red China and Karat'sown party are full of contradictions that have not been solved. Beijing continues to be liberal in promoting market economy but is now face to face with the inevitable consequence of demand for political reforms. The political noose has recently been tightened with more restrictions on free access to information, by dumbing down Internet, routing all news through the China'sofficial news agency and coming down heavily on peasant demands and on religious groups. Deng'sown record of bloody suppression of student protests at Beijing'sTienanmen Square still rankles the conscience of every liberal economist and businessman who is amazed by China'sprogress under a market economy.
Tienanmen massacre was a defining moment that told the world that China'scommunist leadership despite its adoptions of market economic reforms, remains committed to keeping political liberties at bay. That way, Deng'scat still is of Mao'sorigin. But was Mao who himself oversaw the decimation of millions of peasants in forcible imposition of People'sCommunes on the Chinese farmers, an exception or a rule? Since the death of Mao, many political thinkers and analysts have pointed out that in almost all countries that adopted communism, the distinguishing feature of the Red regimes has been similar killings. Khrushchev was the first communist Russian to admit that his former boss, Joseph Stalin had bequeathed a history of mass deaths, organised executions of even communist colleagues and perpetrating all those horrors that Robert Conquest has revealed in his book on Stalin. In North Korea, even recently famine was killing off millions while the communist boss, Kim sung, was making missiles and nukes to threaten his neighbours. What about Cambodia and its Killing Fields where intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, were all done to death brutally by the communist regime of Pol Pot? Deng was himself a victim of Mao'scultural revolution that was in fact a cleaver stratagem to keep the Chinese masses from knowing the truth about communist economics failing.
In some way Deng'smarket economic reforms saved the Chinese Communist party from the same predicament that its Soviet counterpart faced soon after boss Brezshnev'sdeath. By the end of the 1980s, satellite TV had breached through the iron curtain and told the Soviet and Eastern Europe'sbenighted people the truth – that the liberal economy in the West had given rising standards of living while they themselves were suffering to stand in queue for basic requirements like bread and eggs. That made the Poles, the Germans, the Hungarians etc overthrow their communist regimes. Finally the Russians too joined in leading to the destruction of the communist regime and the ban on the once ruling Communist Party.
In China, the economic reforms of Deng had improved people'sliving conditions, gave them a model to admire and benefits to savour rather than repeat dry ideological platitudes on empty stomachs. Mao was a political, personal and economic tragedy. No wonder that Beijing is not reminding its people of this tragic-comic phase of their history even if Mao'sstray portraits appear here and there. Even the party daily gave only a cursory mention of Mao on this anniversary. He was a bad dream that no one wants to be reminded about. That is why the news about Mercs being produced is a solace for the Chinese now sold on a burgeoning aspirational game.