Mao Zedong’s Legacy: Part 2 of 2

July 4, 2018

Before I get to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, I want to point out a few of Mao’s achievements. In the “Land of Famines”, China’s last famine was in 1958-62. For the first time in China’s long history, there hasn’t been a famine since 1962, fourteen years to Mao’s death in 1976 and another forty-two years since then.

The Mao era started in October 1949.  Mao said the People’s Republic of China would be free of inequality, poverty and foreign domination. The population of China was 541,670,000. Women were given new rights at work and in marriage, and foot binding was abolished. To deal with disease, Mao launched programs to improve health care that never existed before, and most of the people were inoculated against the most common diseases. When Mao died, the average life expectancy had increased from 35 to 55, and it is now 76.

When Mao died, the population had increased to more than 700,000. Extreme poverty had been reduced by about 14 percent. Since his death, poverty was reduced to where it is today at 6.5 percent of the population.

With a poverty rate of about 95-percent, Mao had promised land reforms to divide the land more equally. In 1950, with Mao’s blessing, rural property owners were judged enemies of the people by the rest of the rural people and hundreds of thousands were executed for their alleged abuses and crimes against the people that denounced them.

Soon after discovering that the famine was real, Mao ended the Great Leap Forward and publicly admitted he had been wrong and stepped aside to let someone else run the country. The large communes were abandoned, and the peasants returned to their villages and were given land again.  At the time, Mao was popular with the people but he still resigned as the head of state.

Then Mao wrote his infamous “Little Red Book” and used it to start the Cultural Revolution.

Zhang Baoqing, an early Red Guard member in Beijing, said, “Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) to keep up the momentum for change. We thought if we followed Mao, we could not go wrong.”

Millions, mostly teenagers, willingly followed Mao’s advice.

The Cultural Revolutions stated goal was to preserve ‘true’ Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society and to re-impose Mao Zedong Thought as the dominant ideology within the Party.

Britannica.com says, “Mao pursued his goals through the Red Guards, groups of the country’s urban youths that were created through mass mobilization efforts. They were directed to root out those among the country’s population who weren’t ‘sufficiently revolutionary’ and those suspected of being ‘bourgeois.’ The Red Guards had little oversight, and their actions led to anarchy and terror, as ‘suspect’ individuals—traditionalists, educators, and intellectuals, for example—were persecuted and killed. The Red Guards were soon reined in by officials, although the brutality of the revolution continued. The revolution also saw high-ranking CCP officials falling in and out of favor, such as Deng Xiaoping and Lin Biao.

“The revolution ended in the fall of 1976, after the death of Mao … The revolution left many people dead (estimates range from 500,000 to 2,000,000), displaced millions of people, and completely disrupted the country’s economy.”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Mao Zedong’s Legacy: Part 1 of 2

July 3, 2018

Mao ruled China as its head of state from 1949 – 1959. To understand what Mao faced, it helps to know what life was like in China before 1949.

China had few railroads. Before 1949, there were 6,835 miles in service and most of those rail lines were in the northeast and coastal areas of China.

China did not have a paved highway system, did not have an electric grid linking every village and city. In fact, most of the electricity was only generated in a few cities like Shanghai and Beijing where wealthy foreigners lived. There was no telephone system in rural China and most of the cities where wealthy foreigners didn’t live. The average lifespan was 35. The literacy rate was only 15-to-25 percent, and poverty was worse than it was in 1981 when it was 88 percent. In 1949, when Mao became China’s leader, extreme poverty was closer to 95 percent.

China had just emerged from more than a century of wars: the Taiping Rebellion (about 20 million killed), the two Opium Wars started by England and France, the Boxer Rebellion, the chaos and anarchy after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, the long Civil War between the Chinese Communists and the Nationals (1927 – 1950), World War II (15 – 20 million killed by Japanese troops), the Korean War (180,000 Chinese troops killed), the failure of Mao’s Great Leap Forward that resulted in what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine, and the ravages of his Cultural Revolution.

Britannica.com says, “The disorganization and waste created by the Great Leap, compounded by natural disasters and by the termination of Soviet economic aid, led to widespread famine in which, according to much later official Chinese accounts, millions of people died. …”

“The official Chinese view, defined in June 1981, is that his leadership was basically correct until the summer of 1957, but from then on it was mixed at best and frequently wrong. It cannot be disputed that Mao’s two major innovations of his later years, the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, were ill-conceived and led to disastrous consequences. His goals of combating bureaucracy, encouraging popular participation, and stressing China’s self-reliance were generally laudable—and the industrialization that began during Mao’s reign did indeed lay a foundation for China’s remarkable economic development since the late 20th century—but the methods he used to pursue them were often violent and self-defeating.”

Before anyone blames Mao’s policies on what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine, 1958-62, you should know about China as the “Land of Famines.”

The Oxford Research Encyclopedias says, “The fall of the Qing and the birth of China’s new Republican government in 1912 did not reduce the number, severity, or impact of famines. Destroying the imperial system of government that had lasted for two millennia proved far easier than building a new system. In the first decades after 1912 the collapse of central political authority, constant fighting between rival warlords, increasing foreign domination, and unprecedented environmental decline undermined efforts to prevent successive natural and manmade disasters from resulting in famines. … Xia Mingfang estimates that more than 15.2 million people died in ten major drought famines that struck during the Republican period (1912–1949), and another 2.5 million Chinese perished in thirty serious floods. Major disasters struck so frequently that many Chinese observers joined Western relief workers in calling China the ‘Land of Famine’.”

Continued with Part 2 on July 4, 2018

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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There is a Sexual Revolution Taking Place in China.

November 28, 2017

A review of “Behind the Red Door” by Richard Burger
Review by Tom Carter

Among the many misimpressions westerners tend to have of China, sex as some kind of taboo topic here seems to be the most common, if not clichéd.  Forgetting for a moment that, owing to a population of 1.3 billion, somebody must be doing it, what most of us don’t seem to know is that, at several points throughout the millennia, China has been a society of extreme sexual openness.

And now, according to author Richard Burger’s new book Behind the Red Door, the Chinese are once again on the verge of a sexual revolution.

Best known for his knives-out commentary on The Peking Duck, one of China’s longest-running expat blogs, Burger takes a similar approach to surveying the subject of sex among the Sinae, leaving no explicit ivory carving unexamined, no raunchy ancient poetry unrecited, and, ahem, no miniskirt unturned.

Opening (metaphorically and literally) with an introduction about hymen restoration surgery, Burger delves dàndàn-deep into the olden days of Daoism, those prurient practitioners of free love who encouraged multiple sex partners as the ultimate co-joining of Yin and Yang.  Promiscuity, along with prostitution, flourished during the Tang Dynasty – recognized as China’s cultural zenith – which Burger’s research surmises is no mere coincidence.


In this video, “The sexual revolution in China is underway, but not without its contradictions. The ‘sexless China’ over three decades ago is long gone, but gays still enter sham marriages, some women have hymen restorations before their weddings, and some men have a second ‘wife’ or a mistress. In an interview with Xinhua, Richard Burger, author of ‘Behind the Red Door: Sex in China,’ explains the ongoing Chinese sexual revolution.”

Enter the Yuan Dynasty, and its conservative customs of Confucianism, whereby sex became regarded only “for the purpose of producing heirs.”  As much as we love to hate him, Mao Zedong is credited as single-handedly wiping out all those nasty neo-Confucius doctrines, including eliminating foot binding, forbidding spousal abuse, allowing divorce, banning prostitution (except, of course, for Party parties), and encouraging women to work.  But in typical fashion, laws were taken too far; within 20 years, China under Mao became a wholly androgynous state.

We then transition from China’s red past into the pink-lit present, whence prostitution is just a karaoke bar away, yet possession of pornography is punishable by imprisonment – despite the fact that millions of single Chinese men (called bare branches) will never have wives or even girlfriends due to gross gender imbalance.

Burger laudably also tackles the sex trade from a female’s perspective, including an interview with a housewife-turned-hair-salon hostess who, ironically, finds greater success with foreigners than with her own sex-starved albeit ageist countrymen.

Western dating practices among hip, urban Chinese are duly contrasted with traditional courtship conventions, though, when it comes down to settling down, Burger points out that the Chinese are still generally resistant to the idea that marriage can be based on love.  This topic naturally segues into the all-but-acceptable custom of kept women (little third), as well as homowives, those tens of millions of straight women trapped in passionless unions with closeted gay men out of filial piety.

Behind the Red Door concludes by stressing that while the Chinese remain a sexually open society at heart, contradictive policies (enforced by dubious statistics) designed to discard human desire are written into law yet seldom enforced, simply because “sexual contentment is seen as an important pacifier to keep society stable and harmonious.”

____________________________

Travel Photographer Tom Carter traveled for 2-years across the 33-provinces of China to show the diversity of Chinese people in  China: Portrait of a People, the most comprehensive photography book on modern China published by a single author.

This guest post by Tom Carter first appeared in China in City Weekend Magazine. Reblogged with permission of Tom Carter. Behind the Red Door was published by Earnshaw Books.

Tom Carter is married to a Chinese citizen, and he lives and works in China.


Feminism Flourished in China almost Fourteen Hundred Years Ago

September 13, 2017

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says Feminism is a social movement that seeks equal rights for women.

The dates Britannica throws out for the age of feminist are the Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in the United States that called for full legal equality with men.

Merriam-Webster’s definition for feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes and organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

For centuries Western women were treated as chattel, the property of men. History 120 says, “Most Americans treated married women according to the concept of coverture, a concept inherited from English common law. Under the doctrine of coverture, a woman was legally considered the chattel of her husband, his possession. Any property she might hold before her marriage became her husband’s on her wedding day, and she had no legal right to appear in court, to sign contracts or to do business.”

Female Emperor Wu Zetian (625 to 705 AD) was a very early feminist who ruled the Tang Dynasty as an emperor and was China’s only woman emperor.

Women in World History says the Tang Dynasty was a time of relative freedom for women. Women would not bind their feet for a few more centuries or live submissive lives. It was a time in which a number of exceptional women contributed in the areas of China’s culture and politics.

Wu Zetian demanded the right of an emperor and kept male concubines. She also challenged Confucian beliefs against rule by women and started a campaign to elevate the position of women.

After watching the video and reading the entry in Britannica and the definition in Merriam-Webster, it’s obvious that feminism was alive and well in China more than a thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty.

In fact, in the United States, It wasn’t until August 18, 1920, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as woman suffrage. At the time the U.S. was founded, its female citizens did not share all of the same rights as men, including the right to vote.

After Wu Zetian, women lost the freedom she had given them, but it was returned in 1952 when Mao said women hold up half the sky meaning that women were equal to men.

Before Mao’s victory in 1949, Chinese women were considered of less value than animals. Not only were they actual slaves in their husband’s house, but they were bought and sold like merchandise. The poor and hired peasant women were traded with the land any time a landlord sold his property. Faced with failing crops, families were often forced to sell female infants and girls as concubines, child brides and servants to wealthy families in order for the rest of the family to survive the winter.

Another of Mao’s slogans said, “Any job a man can do, a woman can do.”

This marked the entrance of Chinese women into jobs that had formerly been forbidden to them – everything from crane operators to heart surgeons. The policies adopted by the people ensured equal pay for equal work. No longer do Chinese women do the same jobs as men and get paid half the wages for it.

However, in the U.S. the alleged land of the free with more people in prison than any other country on the planet, the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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How the Past Determines the Future: Part 2 of 2

August 30, 2017

When the Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911, ending imperial rule after more than two thousand years, chaos and anarchy ruled China, while foreigners, Americans included, lived in luxury in the treaty ports that were the result of the Opium Wars and these foreign enclaves were protected by modern, foreign military forces on Chinese soil.

Imagine how Americans would feel if China deployed several of its army divisions in the United States to protect the Chinese living in America.

Then there was Mao surviving Chiang Kai-shek‘s crack down on the labor movement led by the Communist Party. During World War II, Mao’s army not only fought Chiang Kai-shek’s troops but also the Japanese, who killed between ten to twenty million Chinese in their attempt to conquer China.

The peasants trusted Mao’s troops but did not trust Chiang Kai-shek’s army. Do you know why (watch the next video to learn the answer)?

Then there were the wars in Korea (1950 – 195) with an estimated 2.5 million killed/wounded, and Vietnam (1955 – 1975) with an estimated 3.8 million killed/wounded, in addition to America’s necklace of military bases surrounding China to this day.

Mao believed that socialism was going to create a better life for the Chinese people. His failures were attempts to make China strong enough to defend itself against the foreign meddling and invasions that had plagued China since the Opium Wars.

Regardless of all the horrible facts the U.S. media keeps reminding the world about when it comes to China, there are a few facts that are not well known. When Mao became the leader of mainland China in 1949, the average lifespan was age 35. When Mao died in 1976, the average lifespan increased by twenty years to 55. Today the average life expectancy is 71.5 years. In addition, the population of China was 400-million in 1949. Twenty-seven years later when Mao’s died, China’s population had increased to 700-million. How did that happen if Mao allegedly murdered an estimated 60-million or more people?

In addition, forty-one years after Mao’s death, China has done more to reduce poverty than any other country. Ninety percent of poverty reduction in the world took place in China. When Mao came to power in 1949, 95-percent of the Chinese people lived in extreme poverty. By the time Mao died, the quality of life had improved for most Chinese and they were just poor instead of extremely poor.

Imperial records show that China had famines annually for more than 2,000 years where people in one or more provinces suffered and died of starvation. Since 1949, there has only been one famine in China and that was more than fifty-five years ago.

These facts call into question many of the alleged and inflated claims of deaths and suffering caused by the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward and the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Mao was not perfect but even the Chinese people, after he died, graded his leadership as 70% good and 30% bad. The Chinese people that voted lived through the Mao era. Why should their opinions count less than people that never lived in China during that time?

In 1775, Patrick Henry, one of the U.S. Founding Fathers, said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Is there anyone in China today foolish enough to stand up and say, “Give me liberty so we can return to the good old days of chaos, drugs, war, poverty, and starvation”?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

1AA - 244 Positive Reviews - Hall of Fame Reviewer - August 26 - 2017

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China’s Transition Years – Discovering History through Film

July 18, 2017

Farewell, My Concubine covers more than 50-years of Chinese history from 1924 – 1977.

In 1924, prostitute Yanhong sees no other alternative than leaving her son Douzi at a training school for Chinese opera where the boys are beaten, and tortured for forgetting their lines. The only escape is suicide. China’s decades long Civil War between the Communists and Nationalist rages on and then Japan invades China in 1937 and the challenges to survive become worse. After World War II, the Chinese Civil War continues and doesn’t end until 1949.

Two of the boys at the training school, Douzi and Shitou, become friends destined to be great actors, and they impress audiences by performing together. Through the years, with the political situation in China ever changing and not always for the good, Shitou and Douzi remain close.

Chen Kaige, self-trained as a filmmaker, was the director for this award-winning 1993 film. Prior to “Farewell, My Concubine”, Chen received modest acclaim for the “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade”. With “Farewell, My Concubine,” he won the Palme d-or in Cannes.

Although the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, the story captured me from the beginning. If you are interested in Chinese history, this film spans several decades beginning soon after the end of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface, it is a story of two boys that happen to become famous, but they have difficulties and challenges like most of us do. However, the film takes us from the Qing Dynasty to a warlord dominated, struggling republic, the Japanese invasion of World War II, and through Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I saw this movie more than a decade ago and I remember this powerful, dramatic story of one man’s life from the day his mother took a knife and chopped off an extra finger on each hand so he would have five instead of the six he was born with.

Discover Anna May Wong, the American actress who died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Modern China’s Founding Fathers

May 3, 2017

Under Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976), China suffered after he became its leader in 1949, but that isn’t the whole story. During Mao’s Great Leap Forward; what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine (1958 – 62), and the Cultural Revolution, millions died from starvation and purges. What we don’t hear is that China is known as the land of famines. Imperial records show that China has had droughts and famines in one or more of its provinces annually for more than two-thousand years, but there is no mention of the fact that there has not been any famines since the last one in 1962.

In addition, when Mao came to power in 1949, the average lifespan in China was 35. When Mao died, the average lifespan was in the 50s and today it’s in the 70s.

On June 30, 1984, Deng Xiaoping said, “Given that China is still backward, what road can we take to develop the productive forces and raise the people’s standard of living? … Capitalism can only enrich less than 10 percent of the Chinese population; it can never enrich the remaining more than 90 percent. But if we adhere to socialism and apply the principle of distribution to each according to his work, there will not be excessive disparities in wealth. Consequently, no polarization will occur as our productive forces become developed over the next 20 to 30 years.”

Deng Xiaoping was right. Bruce Einhom writing for Business Week, Countries in the Biggest Gaps Between Rich and Poor, October 16, 2009, listed the top countries with the biggest gaps. America was number #3 on the list. China wasn’t on the list.

What does capitalism, Chinese style, look like? Under Deng Xiaoping’s economic policies, China became the world’s factory floor.

Prior to 1979, the year China opened its doors to world trade, it was rare to find anything made in China.

In the last thirty years, something happened that Mao thought he had destroyed. China grew a consumer middle class and that growth hasn’t finished. During a trip to China in 2008, we saw the Chinese middle class everywhere we went. Instead of the majority of tourists being foreigners, they were Chinese traveling to discover their own country.

A middle-class family in China usually owns an apartment, a car, eats out regularly, and takes vacations. National Geographic Magazine in May 2008 said, “They owe their well-being to the government’s (Deng Xiaoping’s) economic policies …”

Current estimates show China’s GDP growth will continue to grow. Since 2000, China’s GDP has grown at an annual average of 9.66 percent. Compare that to the U.S. with a GDP that never breaks 4 percent and was 2.43 percent in 2015. – Google Public Data

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline