As China enters new era, how much of Mao will stay?

Tue Nov 6, 2012 4:31pm EST
 

By John Ruwitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - In 1981, five years after his death, China's ruling Communist Party began to save history from Mao Zedong.

Today, speculation about whether it is poised to finish the job has cast a spotlight on one of the most emotive debates simmering inside the party - how much of Mao can it erase without undermining its authority.

The debate is also a proxy for the more tangible battle inside the party over the direction and extent of future reforms.

Recent omissions of the term "Mao Zedong Thought" from some policy statements have piqued speculation that the party might remove it from the party charter when it amends the document at the 18th Party Congress, which starts on Thursday.

To critics, boilerplate references to "Mao Zedong Thought" have been devoid of meaning for years. Mao, after all, thought revolution and communism - not harmony and capitalism. It seems clear which path the party has chosen for China.

Supporters, however, note that "Mao Thought" long ago was expanded to encompass much more than just Mao's individual, and often radical, cogitations. It was, at its essence, a set of arguments that originally justified the pursuit of Marxist revolution in poor, agrarian China.

Supporters believe to this day that it underpins the party's legitimacy and grounds it in a set of guiding principles.

This year's downfall of Bo Xilai, the former leader of the western city of Chongqing who once had prospects for higher office, is a consequence of the battle within the party, experts say.   Continued...

 
A statue of the late Chairman Mao Zedong is seen at Dong Fang Hong Square in Nanjie village of Luohe city in China's central Henan province in this September 25, 2012 file photo. In 1981, five years after his death, China's ruling Communist Party began to save history from Mao Zedong. Today, speculation about whether it is poised to finish the job has cast a spotlight on one of the most emotive debates simmering inside the party - how much of Mao can it erase without undermining its authority. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files