Move over Arjun Singh. Compared to your one-nut-here-and-one-bolt-there modifications in school history books, China’s leaders have dropped wars, dynasties and, hold your breath, communist revolutions from their high-school history textbooks. And all ye ex-Naxal student leaders-turned-bourgeois salary-earners out there, hold on to your Little Red Book, for the new Chinese textbooks have only a single mention of Mao Zedong. With the Communist Party of China still ruling from Beijing and Mao’s portrait looking down on Tiananmen Square — where his embalmed remains pass off for the Chinese equivalent of the Taj Mahal — that’s like Indian textbooks having a one-line mention of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. But, of course, the New China is as much about Mao as today’s India is about Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
The Chinese history books, introduced on an experimental basis in a few places like Shanghai and Qingdao, and to be used in the rest of the country by 2010, are more keen on recording ‘aspirational’ rather than ‘ideological’ events. Thus, the communist movement is truncated to one chapter among the total 52, while former President Jiang Zemin’s philosophy of ‘The Three Representatives’ (revolution, construction and reforms), US stock markets, Bill Gates and Japanese bullet trains find extensive mention.
History, as the author of A History of the English Speaking Peoples pointed out, is written by the victors. The Chinese, always more gung-ho than others when they put their minds to something, know that China-style capitalism has won. Meanwhile, Arjun Singh, poor codger, remains a visionary stuck in a democracy that still believes in teaching youngsters history instead of practical and palatable propaganda.