Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Revolution’

“A Man’s Ability may be Great or Small…” A Revised Quotation from Chairman Mao

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Speaking of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Campaign to Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius in our last blog, Chairman Mao, the author of those two disasters for all Chinese, comes to mind. Ya know, I have respect for Chairman Mao, even though so much of what he has done is so wrong. I respect him because he has been sincere in trying to help mankind, he has always been honest, and he has tried his best to do what he has believed in. Alas, however, what he has believed in is so wrong! Totalitarianism, for goodness’ sake! Yet, a lot of it is historical circumstances: given China’s two-thousand-year-old totalitarian heritage, what do you expect? Even today, most Chinese people are still pretty totalitarian-minded. They think the one-child policy is great and the state has the right to dictate your number of children; most Chinese people think the government’s wholesale tearing down of Beijing’s historical hutong neighborhoods to “beautify” the city for the Olympics is justified; for the government to have almost unlimited power doesn’t bother most Chinese people, so long as it’s “used wisely”… Heck, they even think, in total disregard for two thousand years of Chinese tradional verdict, that that ultimate totalitarian, the First Emperor of Qin, the granddaddy of all Chinese totalitarians, is a pretty good guy, as in the popular Chinese movie “Hero”!

But back to the topic: the relevant thing about Chairman Mao is a quotation of his* that many have learned by heart forty or so years ago, and I am going to change that quotation a bit to make it valid from my point of view. Here it is, the quotation revised:

“A person’s ability may be great or small, but if he has xiao` 孝 (being good to parents) ti` 悌 (being respectful to elders) and li^ 礼 (courtesy) yi` 义 (sense of moral obligations), then he is already noble minded and pure, a person of moral integrity, a person of value to the world.”

Now I think, revised, that’s a really, really good quotation. Many Chinese parents today, nay, many parents, period, today, only know to push their kids to achieve high, but do not know that morals, character and conduct are more important than grades and study. Many look down upon people who are not as “smart” or “capable,” as in, for example, people with lower school grades, not realizing that what makes a person truly useful to the world and truly capable of achievement is his morals, character and conduct. All who are moral and have good character and conduct deserve our utmost respect, regardless of grades or “ability.”

Feng Xin-ming

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*”A man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit (the spirit of absolute selflessness - F.X.), he is already noble minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man of value to the people.” Mao Zedong, QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG, Foreign Languages Press, Peking (Beijing), 1969, p. 172, “Serving the People - In Memory of Norman Bethune.”


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Cardinal Obligation 6: Between Buyer and Seller

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Finally, the Cardinal Relation between buyer and seller, a sixth Cardinal Relation invented by me - is it also a relationship of mutual help? With all the talk about the “hidden persuaders,” how “big corporations manipulate us to buy their products,” and how “big business” manipulate the market to make us overpay, sometimes it is hard to see how the relation between buyer and seller can be one of mutual help. Socialist ideology and much traditional ideology from around the world, especially the poorer countries, say that buying and selling are somehow inherently dirty as the profit motive (hence “greed”) is involved, and that sellers are morally suspect as they are always looking to “take advantage of the customer” and take the “poor sucker” for all he has. Such is the cynical worldview of the “dog-eat-dog world.”

Sadly, there is still much currency to this type of thinking, especially in the more socialist and poorer parts of the world. No, the honest, non-cheating profit motive is not the same as the dishonest, cheating “greed.” The honest, non-cheating profit motive means striving to help one’s customers better than everyone else, or more than everyone else, or striving to help more customers than everyone else. Those laudable and honorable strivings are the only real ways to make more profit honestly. Of course, collecting on payments due is part of the honest profit motive, and is absolutely necessary to ensure justice and to ensure that the provision of the valuable and useful product or service under consideration is sustainable. It is absolutely honorable, therefore, for a buyer to demand and collect on payments due him, otherwise he will not be able to continue producing his product or service, it will become unsustainable, and soon noone else will be able to enjoy his product or service. He is only being responsible to other consumers and would-be consumers of his product or service to strive to make it sustainable. As for taking advantage of one’s customers in price, quantity, or quality, that is the surest path to ruin for a seller, because there is only a one-time profit and there will be a real dearth of customers as his putrid reputation becomes known.

Buying and selling is truly mutual help on the grandest scale. As I have written back on March 4:

“An extraterrestrial visitor will find the massive and intricate amount of mutual help in human society simply amazing. Millions upon millions of people go to their jobs at set hours and perform their tasks more or less to order, day after day, providing goods and services to help other people. These producers then go regularly to yet other people, like the grocer, the hairdresser, the doctor, and so forth, and receive help in the form of needed goods and services, just so much and no more, with little or no fighting, scrambling, or whining. Everything is very orderly, yet there is no one controlling or directing all this traffic!”

Indeed, advance in the level of wealth and modernization of a society can be seen as nothing other than increase in the quantity and complexity of the mutual help in a society. Every new product or service is just another type of mutual help being brought into being: whereas before we have no life-saving treatment for say, appendicitis, and appendicitis is a sure death sentence, with modernization and medical advance in a society a new type of mutual help is born, the persons called surgeon, surgical nurse, anaesthesiologist, operating room architects, builders, maintainers, janitors, and so forth, who can come together to help people by providing them with the service called an appendenctomy, come into being.

Should it be any wonder that, where there is prevalent recognition of buying and selling as being honorable and respectable, where sellers and buyers are usually honest and usually don’t cheat, the society is relatively rich, and where the opposite is prevalent, the society is poor? It is not an accident; it is cause and effect.

In the old days, when China has been one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world, the attitude prevalent in society has been that one must be honest, must not be greedy, and must not cheat. In the past, Chinese businessmen have had a sterling reputation for honesty, fairness, and being true to their word. In fact, an article in Readers’ Digest that I’ve read during the sixties talks about how the secret to success of the overseas Chinese businessmen in Southeast Asia, besides an amazing work ethic, is their legendary integrity. Alas, that kind of integrity is not much in evidence in the thinking prevalent among people in China these days, thanks to the half century of socialist ideology there.

For the sad situation in the prevalent attitude and thinking among Chinese people nowadays, special responsibility must also be laid on the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1971, and the “Campaign to Critize Lin Biao and Confucius” immediately after, from 1971 to 1976. Those ten years of ideological “ethnic cleansing” have thoroughly rid China of its traditional culture, traditional morality, traditional integrity, and traditional courtesy, in a word, rid China of its moorings.

Feng Xin-ming


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Self Esteem

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Happy New Year everyone! Chinese New Year, that is. Being a website promoting Asian culture, it’s only fitting that we start this blog on Chinese New Year’s Day.

There has been a bunch of feedback on the Mulan article. One person writes:
“Something that has struck a chord with me particularly is your noting that Chinese minds have become feeble. Not that they are not intelligent, nor necessarily hardworking. It is more the ability to understand who they are, where they come from, and developing a secure sense of place and life project. I feel a lot of young Chinese people (both in China and ethnic Chinese abroad) lack a deep confidence. And I think the cultural/political turmoil that China has been through in modern history has a lot to do with it.”

I wholeheartedly agree. It is sad, but I think that modern Chinese culture is a culture of inferiority complex, a culture that lacks self esteem.

Look at any Chinese work that deals with history, a historical movie, like “Hero” for example, or a historical soap opera, like the recent “Emperor of the Great Han (Da Ha Tian Zi)” for example. There it’s always shown, with an air of resignation, how the hero, though kind and good-hearted, nonetheless needs to perform some heinous deeds such as killing a loyal subordinate along with his entire family, “for the greater good.” While in Western works the hero may have personal faults, he never has to do anything so criminal as the Chinese “hero.” When the Chinese hero doesn’t have to do anything heinous, he ends up being tragically beaten, as in the recent movie “Huo Yuan Jia.” Sure, “Huo Yuan Jia’s” producers will say, he was never beaten; he had actually beaten the Japanese fighter; he died at the end of the fight only because he was poisoned! But he was still beaten. He was beaten, and China was beaten, in the sense that China had lost its best fighter by far as a result of the match with the Japanese fighter. In the more popular Western movies the hero doesn’t come to that kind of end! Our heroes are definitely inferior to theirs! Boo hoo for self esteem!

The reason that Chinese culture lacks self esteem is the lack of a recognized, affirmed Chinese history, and the lack of a recognized, affirmed set of core values. By the way, I suspect that’s actually common to all non-Western peoples. At any rate, Chinese history is said to be glorious, but if it’s so glorious where have we gone wrong? Why have we been and why are we still so poor and backward? Answers abound, from the Marxist one to the “Blue Culture, Yellow Culture” one to various unconvincing or even outright racist ones. And what are the core values? Confucianism has been thoroughly thrown out the window. The process has started in 1895, when Japan defeats China over Korea and Liang Qi Qiao and Kang You Wei start their campaign to strip the power of the Son of Heaven down to that of a constitutional monarch. The process rises to a fever pitch in 1924 with the cry of “Down with the Confucius Shop!” during the May Fourth Movement. The process ends with the grand finale of the 1966 Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Today much of Mainland China is devoid of traditional Chinese ideals, mores, norms, and traditional Chinese common courtesy. Yet the replacement, the revolutionary ideals, mores and norms of the Marxist class struggle, have also been thrown out. So what core values are we left with? A void.

Look at American history and American core values in contrast. Every American knows that the 1776 Revolution is just and great, the conquest of the continent, Alaska, and Hawaii has been a manifest destiny blessed by Providence, and every war that America has been in has been just and, except for Vietnam and Korea, victorious. As for core values, most Americans rally around freedom, equality and democracy, and most Americans will tell you that the most important thing to possess is love.

Recognizing and reaffirming Chinese history and Chinese core values, i.e. reaffirming Chinese culture, that’s indeed why I’ve started this website.

This is even sadder, but I think the Chinese inferiorty complex has gotten worse, not better. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, though most Chinese, i.e. mainland Chinese, were wrong that communism and Maoism had given China the most advanced social system and China would overtake the West within a generation, at least most Chinese were confident that China was still the Middle Kingldom and the center of the world. Now, it is pretty unanimous that China is backward and significantly behind the West, and worse, no one can figure out a way to catch up soon. The accepted wisdom from Mainland officialdom and mainland scholars of prominence is that it will take another fifty years for China to reach the level of the mid tier income countries, like Brazil and Portugal! As for catching up with the USA, well, that’s not seen anywhere in the future. Sigh! This lack of confidence on the part of Chinese people, young Chinese people included, is going to persist for a while!

Feng Xin-ming


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