torsdag 30. september 2010


"The Chinese people have stood up!" proclaimed Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949. A brilliant tactician, the charismatic and singleminded Mao was able to outmaneuver the feckless and vain Chiang Kai-shek for ultimate control of China, with Chiang beating a retreat to Taiwan, where he and that island remained in a funk until his death. As great a general as he was, however, everyone has long known (even and especially on the mainland) that Mao was mercurial, petty, vindictive and insanely jealous, especially of the one man who had the genuine love and respect of the long-suffering Chinese people. I am referring, of course, to Zhou Enlai, whom Richard Nixon referred to as "the greatest statesman of our era."

Around this time last year, I came across the English translation of Gao Wenqian's 晚年周恩來, Zhou Enlai, the Last Perfect Revolutionary, while browsing at my favorite bookseller in Oslo. It is a riveting read. Gao had been chosen to be Zhou's official biographer, but fell afoul of the party when he began to depict Zhou as a human being with flaws rather than as a living saint. Gao was forced into exile and published his book in Hong Kong (whence the traditional character spelling of Zhou's name in the title--just in case anyone noticed). Probably the best example of Mao's pettiness toward Zhou was his deliberate postponement of treatment for Zhou's bladder cancer until it was too late. Mao did manage to outlive the man he relied on and despised by eight months, only to be galled by the genuine outpouring of grief at Zhou's death, which the infamous Gang of Four did their damnedest to suppress. Those of us of a certain age all know what happened to them.

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