Mao: A Necessary Evil Essay, Research Paper
MAO: A NECESSARY EVIL
The lecture that Philip Short gave on his book Mao: A Necessary Evil was a very interesting insight into the life of the controversial leader of China. He started by talking about Mao s early life, growing up in central China. There was very little outside influence there, and life was lived the same way it had for hundreds of years. His tiny village did not even have electricity or newspapers. What he did receive there was a Confusion education, which would be the bedrock of his thinking throughout his life.
Mao became a Marxist at the age of 27, and he had the advantage of relating these beliefs to the Chinese people through his knowledge and belief in Confucianism.
A huge civil war was underway in China (started in 1912) when Mao took on Marxism. In 1911, revolutionaries overthrew the emperor, and the civil war that came after raged on for decades. The war was terribly bloody, during one outbreak of fighting, over 300,000 people lost their lives. Through all this blood however, it was also a very exhilarating time for China, as Short put it. This is because the revolution opened the doors for outsiders, especially from Japan and Western nations.
Violence continued in China, but in the 1940 s it was not from each other for a while because the Japanese invaded them during World War II. The civil war finally ceased in 1949 when the anti Communists were forced to Taiwan. If all of this fighting was not enough, China also got involved in the Korean War, because of pressure from Stalin.
The next few years are marked by Mao s attempts for the Chinese to catch up to the West. During one of his movements, the Great Leap Forward, 25 million people died because of famine. In another movement, The Cultural Revolution, 1 million died. These blunders are blamed on Mao, as well they should be, but his motives were to improve China. These are a couple of the negatives, but the positive effects of Mao s reign must also be looked at. He brought a decaying, primitive culture and made it into a world power. He transformed China into a modern nation-state (not society though).
This is what Philip Short argues separates Mao from the other two tyrants of his time: Stalin and Hitler. His comparison between Mao and the other two was that of a terrorist and a drunk driver. Stalin and Hitler deliberately caused destruction and death, much like a terrorist. Mao, on the other hand, did not intend to kill. His policies, like that in the Great Leap Forward, were sometimes just idiotic.
So, the question of necessary evil still remains. Some argue that China could have taken the same route as Taiwan, but Taiwan did not become a democracy until 12-15 years ago, and that is when their economy boomed. Hopefully China will also boom, and it is perceivable because democracy is slowly moving in, and creating a middle class. People are starting to own property and automobiles, and better education is now available. Politically, the government has banned some bullish laws, and people are able to think freely, although they can t print it.
Philip Short thinks that it was a necessary evil. He feels, because of the time frame, it was the only way it could be done, and that the pain was necessary. It made the Chinese skeptics, so they would not believe in things so easily and without cause. Short s final argument was looking at China s past. Often when a very violent period took over, the next period was a golden age. Hopefully for the Chinese another golden age is soon coming.