This weekend, unrest can be felt in the air all over China. This weekend, chanting of “Long live Chairman Mao” once again can be heard all over China.
Large scale anti-Japan protests erupted in multiple cities across China this weekend, many of which turned violent with shops smashed and cars (mainly Japanese brands) torn down. These protests may be a direct result of a more than month-long accumulation of anti-Japan sentiments over the dispute between China and Japan over Diaoyu Islands.
Anti-Japan protests are hardly news in China. For historical reasons, the Chinese can always find reasons to protest against Japan or call for boycott of Japanese products every few years. What’s special about the protests this weekend are the scale of the violence occurred and the widely use of pictures of Mao Zhedong in almost every city that had a protest.
A Mao imitator at the anti-Japan protest in Shangqiu, Henan province
In recent years, it’s not uncommon to see open criticisms of Mao online for starting the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine and the Culture Revolution, the combination of which is often referred to as the “10-year Great Calamity”. Millions of people died during those 10 years, not because of natural but man-made disasters. Mao and his Culture Revolution are blamed by many for the loss of morality and traditional values in current China.
But at the end of day, it seems, when crisis comes up, Mao is still seen as China’s guardian, by anti-Japan protesters at least. The interesting thing is that many netizens suspected that this round of violent anti-Japan protests were sponsored and backed by the Chinese government. But seeing all these pictures of Mao during protests, anyone familiar with China’s current politics would have a little question mark in heart, because most of the fans of Mao in China now remain enthusiastic about Mao for his very strong stance against corruption. Any protest with Mao’s image up in the air can easily be turned into one against the Chinese government.
That said, if the protests were truly government-sponsored, then the question would be who gave the order to carry pictures of Mao? And what was it for? Anyone who follows news on China must still remember that one of the accusations of Bo Xilai, China’s disgraced politician, was his reviving of Red Culture in Chongqing. If there is no conspiracy or whatever, then such coincidence reveals a very interesting aspect of what the Chinese people (youth at least) feel today – they miss Mao for his iron fist against both corruption and “foreign bullies.”
Netizens’ feelings about the use of Mao pictures during anti-Japan protests are mixed. Many were reminded of the Culture Revolution, particularly after learning about all the violence occurred during protests. 郑克强 asked: “Don’t understand why protesters held pictures of Mao. Such scenes were so common during the Culture Revolution. What does Mao have to do with Diaoyu Islands?” 查立 commented: “This is Culture Revolution once more. Chinese people are still poisoned by Mao.” 佑丶小喵 agreed: “Are we heading to another Culture Revolution? I hear “Long live Chairman Mao” everywhere.”
On the other hand, supporters for using Mao images are not without a reason. After all, Mao, according to Chinese history books, is the one who have led the Chinese people to victory of the Anti-Japan War during WWII. Under Mao’s pictures, people wrote “We miss you so much.” 范平灿无处安放的青春 commented: “Facing with strong enemies at our door, who else can we miss other than Chairman Mao?” 中国鹰派A agreed: “Chairman Mao made Chinese people stand up [against foreign invasion]. That is why whenever China gets bullied, people think of Chairman Mao.” 闲情偶记 probably spoke out the mind of many: “If Chairman Mao is still alive, Diaoyu Islands would have long been under China’s rule.” And to those who criticized the use of Mao’s images in protests, supporters have only one thing to say, as commented by 观有益明道理: “Only the privileged class fears Chairman Mao and the Culture Revolution.”
But despite the popular use of Mao’s images offline on the streets, Sina Weibo, China’s No. 1 microblogging service, seems to start deleting at-the-scene protest pictures with Mao in them. It’s such a sureal fact to think about – a China that censors Mao.
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Wuhan, Hubei Province, “Protest Diaoyu Islands. Fight fascism.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Xiamen, Fujian Province, “Chairman Mao, Japan is bullying us again.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Wanzhou, Chongqing, “Long live PRC. Protest Chinese territory.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Xining, Qinghai Province, “Grandpa Mao once said, ‘F@ck Japan.’”
Banner “If Mao Zhedong is still alive, who would dare to touch an inch of China’s land.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Shanghai, “Chairman Mao, we miss you.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, “Chairman Mao, we really miss you.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Quzhou, Zhejiang province
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Shenzhen
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Guanzhou
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Beijing
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Changzhou, Jiangsu province
Sign of “Chairman Mao, we miss you” at the anti-Japan protest in Dalian, Liaoning Province
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Nanchang, Jiangxi province with people chanting “Long live Chairman Mao.”
Picture of Mao at the anti-Japan protest in Chengdu Sichuan. Poster said: “I’m so proud of myself at this moment.”
And…signs of the fury may be turning towards Chinese government. A banner posted by netizen 东京丁香花儿 who didn’t provide location information: “If Japan is not destroyed, someone will need to lie in Chairman Mao’s coffin.” (Mao’s body has been on display in a glass coffin at The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall on Tiananmen Spaure since his death.)
To end today’s post, here is a picture that most resembles what China looked like during Culture Revolution years…from Beijing today.
Banner said, “I’d rather there no single grass left in Beijing than to give up Diaoyu Islands.”