How do the Chinese feel about communism?

Between communism and capitalism : Where is China going?

Mr. Schmidt-Glintzer, you published an essay under the heading “Is Trump America's Mao?”. How do you come to this comparison?

It was brought up for discussion by an Australian sinologist. Trump and Mao are authoritarian personalities, both are ready to disregard institutions, both proclaim their slogans to the whole people - one through the Mao Bible and daily quotes in the newspapers, the other via Twitter. Playing with such parallels is appealing, but misleading.

A US expert recently wrote that the Chinese appreciate tough, even rowdy negotiating partners. Does Trump hit the right note with his aggressiveness towards Beijing?

The Chinese are already impressed by the demanding, self-confident. On the other hand, they don't want to be treated from above. A few years ago, at the press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, it was announced that from now on only Chinese will be spoken here - if you don't understand it, you need an interpreter. China pursued one goal above all else in the 20th century. It wanted to be on an equal footing with other large, territorially expanded cultures. With Europe, with America. It didn't want to be the starving weakling. It wanted to move into the modern age, also through the development of its cities, despite the dominance of agriculture and the province for a long time.

As a patriotic communist, Mao Zedong succeeded in uniting his country in 1949 after the fall of the empire, after the civil war and the Japanese invasion. What would he say about China today?

He would be shocked by capitalism and at the same time happy about what has been achieved. Mao was an ambivalent personality. “There will be a fight” - that's what I called my biography about him, and I think that would be his feeling in the current situation. Fight for market shares, shares in prosperity and in resources such as water. The question of how a growing human race manages that a large part of it does not have to live in misery is still unanswered.

You write that Mao spent most of the time in bed, "from here he was close to his pool". You imagine a revolutionary differently.

He was strong-willed but physically ailing, and became easily depressed at a young age. He was a hypochondriac. He did not go to Stalin's funeral for fear of catching a cold.

Your book was intended for the series "Dictators of the 20th Century". Then you began to doubt whether Mao is a figure like Hitler or Stalin. Why?

The German Wehrmacht had sworn an oath on Hitler. Such a following did not exist in China. In this respect, the systematic crimes of National Socialism are something different from the atrocities that took place in different phases of the Chinese revolution. The term dictator obscures the fact that Mao had a large number of supporters who were not necessarily his followers. His power was relative. It is too early to make a definitive assessment. We do not yet know what role China will play internationally in the next few decades, and it depends on how one day this founder figure is assessed. It is quite possible that Mao will be compared to Abraham Lincoln or Charlemagne.

For Mao's “great leap forward”, that is, his attempt to industrialize China in a few years from 1958 to 1961 by means of a command economy, the researcher Frank Dikötter assumes a death toll of 45 million.

This policy was a disaster of the first order, with huge famine. In some cases, the leadership had no idea that the party cadre passed on grain to cities and exports that was actually needed in the countryside. But unborn children are included in the numbers mentioned. If we orient ourselves to this, then Deng Xiaoping would also have ...

... Mao's successor, who opened the country in the 1980s and liberalized it economically ...

... with its one-child policy many more dead on the conscience. This body count misses the point historically because it does not look at people's suffering, but only at statistics.

A Chinese professor lost his job in January because he regretted on the Weibo short message service that Mao did not die immediately after the establishment of the state. “The great helmsman” is still sacred.

Even in ancient China, the emperor was needed as a unitary figure in a huge empire. But one should not believe that the figure Mao Zedong has a godlike function. There is certainly distance and indifference, with some also rejection. The question is whether one can imagine that there is no longer a portrait hanging on the gate to Tiananmen Square, for example a Chinese flag.

When young people, incited by Mao, plunged the country into chaos during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, many leftists in the West cheered. Is that why you decided to study Sinology at the end of the 1960s?

Not at all. At first I was interested in ancient Chinese philosophy; my dissertation deals with Buddhism 15 00 years ago. Back then these were things of yesterday for the Chinese and anyway for the politically interested students in West Germany. In 1968/69 there was such a wave at the university when people came who wanted to study Mao. To be fair, it has to be said that the Cultural Revolution fascinated even conservatives. This departure into simplicity, that apparently had its charm. I traveled to communist China very late, you couldn't go there. Back then, Christmas 1980, I was probably one of the first to visit the Mao mausoleum.

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