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The First Amendment and a free people a weekly examination of civil liberties and the media in the United States and around the world. The program is produced cooperatively by WGBH Boston and the Institute for democratic communication at Boston University the host of the program is the institute's director Dr. Bernard Reuben. I'm delighted to have as guest today Ross to real Rasta real has just written a book entitled Mao it's about Mao Zedong the former leader of China the creator as it will of Chinese style communism and the leader of the country who lived from 1893 and died at the age of eighty six. Was it Ross in 1970 7 84 just on the year 1976 1976 84. Close enough. But I'm sorry for the inaccuracy roster real speaks
Mandarin Chinese has been in and out of China on extended visits for research six times has written a number of books including works on Chinese cities and their cultural compositions. And on China itself China is the 800 million this new book is published by Harper and Row. Let me start with a simple statement that you may quarrel with and may not but it seems to me that if we are to make progress toward peace. Americans must understand among many other subjects this fantastic subject of China. To understand China we probably have to do it through the political figures that have been on the scene. One of the immense political figures is Mao. And as John said Banks said in reviewing your book which he thinks is absolutely splendid the great historian of China at Harvard. He said it's unusual
that we don't have several good biographies of Mao. You have produced one that I think is first rate is my premise correct that first linkage to understanding in other societies sometimes is through the political figures and then into the culture. Well it's an interesting point. But first of all I agree with you that we have to grapple with this country this culture. It's big There it is a quarter of the human population. When we were at all with the Chinese we were at war in Asia and since the 70s when we've had a good relation with Peking. The only people fighting each other in Asia are the Marxist squabbling among them so yes. I suppose there's a third reason why I think we have to grapple with China and that a
country has different tests that it doesn't have a Judeo Christian background isn't white isn't part of what we think of as history. It's a it's a great challenge to an analysis of things like human rights an analysis of justice what compromises other cultures going to have to make in order to to share a shrinking planet. China is a big challenge and I don't mean by saying that I think that in America we've done less well than other people I think in America there's been a special feeling for China. And. A big effort to try and understand China. Now your other point where the politics is the way to enter in a way. I see China as having been Demuth apologized like it's like a suitcase that's for all I'm open for the American
public and everything's for sale and they're out and we see that it's a mixed bag you've got terrible universities and you've got a lovely Chinese cooking and you've got a tourist destination you've got a country that's buying Boeing aircraft you've got interesting medical experiments and if there's some sports developments will be on the sports page China as that phantom of our imagination. It parts of our history a good Phantom other parts demonic that's given way to something much. More fragmented and I think it's a step toward realism. So in a way we thought we lost China and now America's gained a dozen Chinas and everyone has their points of entry. But I would agree with you about politics in the sense that I think the story of a great man whether it be a
man who was good will who was evil but using great to cover both possibilities is a universal theme we all have to think about leadership. Do we want strong leaders. Why do they become special temptations and so in that sense I think the story of it is. Going to help us understand China better. This was a man from whom. Born in a remote village called Music Mountain or the area was called Music Mountain he's a Southerner who in a lifetime felt uneasy and cities like Shanghai which was cosmopolitan in a sense and in the north where the cooking was bland and there wasn't enough space in Peking. This young model in the early part of the century is a fairly well educated man and for a person from the
remote areas of China and given an unusual opportunity to begin studies on an educational ladder at least he could read and write which was unusual. And he began to feel China as a place. At first he thought it was just the Inner Kingdom so-called. And he was surprised wasn't he to discover one day when he was in his 20s that maps put it on the world a world seen but it wasn't alone it had other countries around. But he never he never accepted the idea that to his own mind anything non-Chinese was as great as anything from the culture of China. Did he in that sense he was a very traditional man. In the past history the Chinese emperor was considered to be the head of everything worthy of interest in the world and a man born still under the law
in a city of China who saw the dynasty for a young man in Hunan provinces capital of Changsha. He did have a lot of that China centered ness about him. Now he didn't want to go and study abroad he didn't want to go to France as some of the others as Joe in LA did the prime minister. He didn't want to go to Russia as his great colleague in late arrival Leo Shah Chee his two trips to the Soviet Union were his only trips ever outside of the Soviet side of China only trips outside of China and they took place when he was already past middle age. So he had this massive complacency that belong to all China. He's also a mystery man as your book brings out in that this man who was the epitome of Chinese communism was one of the few early founders of the Chinese party or members of the Chinese Communist Party. Who steadfastly stood by the nationalist
group in the early days the nationalist Sun Yat sen type of person even though it was not considered proper. I have the hunch that it was because of his interest in traditionalism he he ended as a great traditionalist as a bizarre traditionalist perhaps but in his early days he traded traits that were not essentially revolutionary. Well let's certainly true I'd say he was a cultural conservative in the midst of his political radicalism when there was this core of cultural conservatism. After all this village that you mention it wasn't a coastal place he was a boy of the hinterland the mountains. Yes. He wasn't from a poor family. And as you point out he got some education that he had to battle for. He wasn't poor but he was a rural
boy. And the other reason why he did bend over backwards to cooperate with the Nationalists was that at that time they were more interested in the present issue. The Communist Party of China was then in the pocket of Moscow and they were fantastically doctrinaire spouting things from Marx and Lenin and of course Marx in particular and to had no great respect for the role of the peasantry. And anyone who was a communist in China in the twenties thought that the way the revolution was going to come would be an uprising in the cities as it happened in in Petrograd in the Soviet Union. Mao eventually won power because he went to the villages where he'd come from with a gun and formed bands of peasants and it happened that in the 20s the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai shek saw more point in that than
his own communist party. He also had a another peculiar bit of personal background sets background in that he did work which were the works that. Poor down at the heels intellectual you call him a semi intellectual does such as working in a laundry just to keep his revolutionary activities going. He preferred working in a library though in Peking even though he had one of the most common jobs he his first wife was the daughter of a professor from Peking who he thought was very eminent man in that way he he followed the normal path of a middle class or an aspiring aspiring person anxious to join the middle class. He was very enigmatic. His his pursuit of the peasantry. Therefore it was a rather sophisticated pursuit wasn't it.
It was it was calculated. There was nothing neurotic about you know one of the things I've done in this book is to suggest that he wasn't quite as rebellious as other people have written about him suggest it's true that he didn't like his father. But in the end I believe he he was calculated in his rebellion against his father. His father tried to marry him off at the age of 14 did marry a young male couldn't avoid it. The marriage obviously was never consummated was not consummated and the girl was some years older than he was older than here and she was sort of packaged up for him is a terrible business in a way. It was a first of his four wives. The only one he didn't choose from so. But I feel that that in the end did become like his father he did want to become like his father.
His father had been in the army and developed this poncho for military virtues. His father was scornful of books and read books in the fields between farming jobs. He also later on as if wanting to be a better version of his father he also was disastrously scornful of intellectuals wrote all fashion poems himself but wouldn't let other people do the same thing. His father said that he was lazy and now developed a tremendous sensitivity to laziness and he wanted to to make workers by brain also B B work by hand. So we're not just in the presence of a man who rebelled against his father we're in the presence of a man who in a way was deeply. Impressed by the authoritarian model of his father and he almost could be said to have become an authoritarian on the largest
stage of Chinese politics as his father was in that village he was inherently Macchiavelli in mind and brilliant at Mickey valiant tactics in that. With a small group of names that illiterates like myself who only read about China and don't know Chinese or tall people like Limby I'll leave you shout she Joe and I don't ping Chiang Kai shek his wife. John Ging the latest man why go phone. I'm impressed with how how small the group is and how mouse manipulated the key people from time to time. I'd like to move to the to the latter part of his career. Just say a decade or more decade and a half before he died how he manipulated one of his closest friends through all of
the years of struggle. Lin Biao who was the People's Liberation Army Chief and made him into a culprit because it was good for his own career. Would you enlarge a little bit about that. Well I think in the last 15 years a sorry lot was a disaster for China. I think group pessimistic. I think he grew even more traditionally minded for instance. He got interested in Buddhism which was a throwback to his childhood his mother was a devout Buddhist. He began to distrust everyone around him and he reached down for the younger people. This was part of why I unleashed the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution because he didn't really trust the people around him. And one after another he knocked and as a parent off there waiting her jealousy of the man you mentioned was shut she was the
first to be knocked up. She didn't understand why Mao said of himself he was part monkey and Tyga and in the last 15 years of his life nearly 20 be the monkey I think. And the time I get the time I get that wanted progress for China. The tug has reemerged in China today without a great man to to embody the spirit of the time. But I see the last years of Mao as the years of the monkey the years of doubt the years of fiddling the years of quizzical view. Is it fair to say that he was one of the greatest disasters because of his boiling up of the so-called cultural revolution. That China has faced in that he he said the Chinese continent ablaze his own political motives without
understanding that putting it back together would be a Herculean task. Yes I think he confused politics with. With teaching. He had been a teacher is a young man and he wanted a direct relation to the Chinese people he wanted to feel he could stretch out his hand and feel the texture of the Chinese revolution if possible he would like to have gathered all the people together and exhorted them you know at a town meeting. But you can't do that with as it was then eight hundred million people you've got to have all these intermediate structures between a leader and the people and he he was impatient and he was a a great man in analyzing the old society. He was a brilliant man in finding in a regional strategy to win power. For awhile he was good at building socialism but then in
the late 50s he became a man of us. And I think the turning point which eventually led to the disaster of the Cultural Revolution was the Stalin Association in in Europe. The authority of Communism seemed to him to have crumbled and as I bring out in the book he was obsessed with the Hungarian affair and he kept thinking maybe people would undermine socialism in China the way they had done in Budapest especially the intellectuals that Potosi club song. So he turns against men like the army chief who favors some sort of continued relationship with the Soviet Union. Two in fact every much every one that he clashed with in the last years had a less apocalyptic view of Russia than being the man who came here this short squat little man who was rehabilitated in his time in Mao's time by Mao.
He also favored a different attitude than Mao wanted toward the Soviet Union did he not. Yes because dung is a more pragmatic man. And yet Mao comes along at the end which is which looks almost like a scenario that Hollywood would reject the the awful communist The hater of the United States decides that he must see Henry Kissinger and he lets it known to certain foreign visitors that Nixon should should come and that the emphasis now should be toward the United States. Even prior to that his attitude toward Japan workers was unpopular amongst many Chinese he saw Japan as a what did you say China's little brother younger brother younger brother. There was a touch of arrogance in it just as there was a touch of arrogance in his he's you come to me attitude to foreign countries. He never went off to meet the leaders but he
received them one by one in his book study. And as you say in the last 10 years of his life he was very pro-American but I think we have to break that up a bit here. As a political. Thing. Well he was pro-American because he was anti Russian Yes. What's different now that he's dead is that the people in Peking out pro-American in two additional senses they feel that the values for China's development must come in part from outside China that they can learn from the Harvard Business School. Now never thought that Mao was interested in America at the political strategic level grand strategy. And that's why he and Kissinger got on very well because KISNER also wasn't particularly oriented to economics it was balance of power. And he and Mao talked in that way and Mao told him all about the stratagems of ancient history.
It would have been interesting to have Jefferson and Erasmus meet and it's just as natural to have Kissinger and Mao meet coming from completely different cultures and backgrounds. Here are two men that understood the same sort of Gael political emphasis from different angles that the other would appreciate. Yes. And of course Mao couldn't. See why Watergate should have upset that Nixon and Kissinger government. Here we see how totally democratic he was and in a way Kissinger was a bit on democratic too because Kissinger wanted to keep foreign policy as a realm apart which could be handled on the sofa with with me and with Joe and all these intrusions of the life of the people. Economic issues or constitutional issues into his foreign policy drama was deeply irritating and now sympathize with that Malaita said to the Todd prime minister who told me about this in an interview with
the grit to cook that. You know how could as he said what's wrong with having a tape recorder in your in your office. And he became even more prone Nixon after Nixon's resignation and he had been before and of course he asked him back in 1976. It's a bit as if we had asked you to come and celebrate the centennial bicentennial hereafter afterwards. Well now when when Nixon was invited back and when the emphasis was upon some sort of an American relationship in counterpoint to the dropping of the Soviets many people in the Liberation Army didn't like this many of the former followers and then beyond didn't like this man in fact they they took up arms at one point you tried to assassinate Mao or at least there are rumors to that effect.
I think Lynn's son did have these plans but frankly I don't think Lin himself tried to kill me. I was really getting to the point that the conspirators if they existed and to the extent that they did exist put the label of B-52 on Mao would you explain that a little bit. Well called in the B-52 they called in the B-52 and this was during the Vietnam War a terribly project because China was a friend of Hanoi but B-52 it wasn't that inept you know. By then he was like a B-52 high above everything else and who knows when his next bombing raid would come. Destroying something beneath or giving others a chance to to make hay among the the debris so in this plan and I think the plan was real but spearheaded by Lynn's son Robin by Lynn themself in the plan
was B-52 and they were suddenly going to move against him but the old man was shrewd and like many emperors in Chinese history. He moved first and in the end it was in Lynn that got rid of him. It was it was he that got to rid of Lynn. And this did affect American relations. As you said some of the army would that happy to suddenly switch enemies. One moment it was America the next Roger and Lynn said to me in an angry remark if you can ask Nixon to China why can't I ask Britain. Right right I was also interested in the subtleties of the relationships between these men that those who wanted to do Mao in. Like Lynn the NBA would put a great calligraphy great posters referring to the thoughts
of our eminent humans rather then to Chairman Mao trying to deify him and Mao took the position that they're trying to depersonalize me so they can handle me better is very annoyed with this deification although he was not unimpressed with the whole that I gave him over the peasantry would you would you think that that is particularly Chinese This is the fact that you can read a slogan and everyone in China knows what the slogan really means in terms of the words. Yes it's almost a technique of rule in in a country where the elite is a literary elite as well as a political elite to write poems to write couplets. This is something very elitist about. I mean is it. It's like Plato's philosopher king. The Guardians. They have the doctrine as well as they have the power. Now
was traditional in that sense I'm not sure 20 years from now the people who are who China will be like that. But it was like that on that point restoral the Gang of Four now is is gone in disgrace it's imprisoned in their houses or wherever while golf is surely the head Deng Xiaoping has just retired or stepped down. Is China searching for a leader because one doesn't get the impression that while fun is going to be the dynamic person of the immediate future. Yes Don hasn't really stepped down he's murmured about it but he's still the driving force of the government he said that he won't be so after 1995. But I don't think they need another great man. The time of the administrators know it's the time of the administrators it's a time where
the issues like getting more and more technical. It's a question of tradeoffs. It's a question of of handling and gender. The just doesn't have the black and whites of the past and I have a great man like me would be like having a sculptor around on an assembly line. They don't need him I don't think we'll see another figure like that. If he is an amazing figure an amazing figure of the century and for some centuries past he is akin to Napoleon and to two others in terms of his effect. I recommend most Harley Ross to Riehl's new biography of Mao put out just now by Hopper in role company and I think it will be the revelation one of the first revelations of this fantastic person that will be available to us all and I thank you Ross to real for this edition. Bernard Reuben. The First Amendment and a free people weekly examination of civil liberties and the media in
The First Amendment
Ross Terril - Mao
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"The First Amendment is a weekly talk show hosted by Dr. Bernard Rubin, the director of the Institute for Democratic Communication at Boston University. Each episode features a conversation that examines civil liberties in the media in the 1970s. "
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