Awaiting China’s implosion

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Over a half-century ago as his communist army was brutally devouring an independent Tibet, Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader, recorded a talk with some visitors.

In the monologue Mao habitually delivered to admirers of the Chinese revolution—for propaganda purposes Mao was viewed as equal if not greater than Lenin by countless acolytes and supporters worldwide—he spoke about the United States dismissively. He called it an “imperial” power condemned by history to fade away because of opposing the winds of change bringing new nations into independence.

Fifty years later Mao’s words ring with bitter irony. He said: “In appearance (the United States) is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe the United States is nothing but a paper tiger.”

In the years preceding the 1949 victory of Chinese communists over their nationalist opponents, the West regularly was informed by those who ventured into China—most famously, Edgar Snow, an American journalist, whose reporting in Red Star Over China became a huge best seller—of the immense awakening of an ancient civilization under the leadership of the Chinese communist party with Mao at its helm.

We know today much more about Mao and his revolution. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao’s most recent biographers, have painfully documented how this one individual is responsible for more than 70 million killed through the years he led the Chinese communists. And the killings continue.


It is now over 30 years since Mao died in September 1976 and a whole new generation of Chinese has come of age, yet his portrait hangs prominently over Tiananmen Square in Beijing and his legacy is guarded by the iron rule of his communist successors.

In the list of tyrants, mass-murderers and psychopaths Mao stands apart. Others in comparison—Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Idi Amin, Ayatollah Khomeini and the rest—are merely horrid and detestable characters.

They lacked the aura of philosopher-statesman that brought so many in the West, including president Richard Nixon and the suave Henry Kissinger during their 1972 trip to China, to praise Mao as the “great helmsman” for his history-making role.

But it is Mao’s China and not the United States that is a paper tiger held together by undisguised force of communist police and informers.

Though Tibet was devoured brutally and other ethnic minorities repressed cruelly, such as the Uighur Turks in the Xinjiang province who are mostly Muslims—I have personally witnessed the situation while travelling through the region—Mao’s successors tremble in fear at the possibility the prison he constructed might dissolve, as did the former Soviet Union.

While some nations debate whether or not to participate in the Beijing Olympics, Mao knew communist China is only as strong as its weakest link. The vast numbers of oppressed people cannot be repressed indefinitely as Tibetans are now reminding Mao’s successors and the rest of the world.

Beijing Olympics might well be the grand festival like once the 1936 Berlin Olympics was, and then there follows the even grander fireworks of China imploding when history finally catches up with its communist leaders.

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