The ‘Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China’ adopted by the Communist Party of China (CPC) on June 27, 1981 remains the only document, which tried to appraise ‘the historical role of Comrade Mao Zedong’.
The resolution admitted that ‘he made gross mistakes during the cultural revolution’, while emphasising that ‘his contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes’. Despite making the people suffer devastatingly, the CPC just cannot let go of its ideological moorings and continues to abide by the ‘Mao Zedong Thought’, albeit pragmatically. The personality cult was sought to be replaced by ‘the rule by consensus’ within the CPC.
Mao’s mistakes have not made him any less popular in China even after 37 years of his death. Places associated with him are famed centres of ‘red tourism’, generating billions of yuan in revenue and keeping the Chinese tethered to the Communist ideology in these changing times.
No wonder that even the government of Mao’s native village has earmarked 15.5 billion yuan to celebrate his 120th birth anniversary on December 26. Such a huge expenditure appears shocking in the backdrop of the thrift campaign launched by Xi Jinping at the inception of his tenure.
Communist China has been rife with ideological contest. Deng Xiaoping managed to propagate reform and opening up of China only after Mao’s death, but his every move nudging China towards ‘the socialist market economy’ was contested by the anti-reform faction within the Party.
Xi’s ascension, too, was anything but smooth. The Bo Xilai episode brought the fissures within the party to the fore. Even awarding the life sentence to Bo, a noted votary of ‘red culture’ widely perceived as representing the pro-Maoist/anti-reform faction, has not muzzled his supporters who have formed the Zhi Xian Party, literally meaning ‘the constitution is the supreme authority’ party. This points towards an ideological contest between the pro-reform and anti-reform factions, both claiming to uphold the sanctity of the Mao Zedong Thought.
The growing opposition from the pro-Maoist/anti-reform faction within the party is increasingly becoming prominent. Hence, the successful implementation of the measures announced after the Third Plenum is fraught with challenges.
Prashant Kaushik is an MPhil candidate, Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
The views expressed by the author are personal