Chinese Demonstrators Raise Mao

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Wed Nov 17 13:31:06 MST 1999

2031 GMT, 991116 – Chinese Demonstrators Raise Mao

Demonstrations in the Chinese city of Chongqing flared up again over the
weekend, mirroring protests held a month earlier. According to the
Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, 2,000
demonstrators took to the streets demanding that the local government take
responsibility for losses in illegal investment schemes. The demonstrations
took on a new feel Nov. 15 as protestors waved pictures of Mao Zedong and
chanted "Down with corruption."

The resurgence of the demonstrations against the local government – coupled
with the change in tactics – suggests that this is not a spontaneous
demonstration of public dissatisfaction as the October demonstrations likely
were. Instead, the symbolism employed now is likely a message to the central
government by interests opposed to China’s economic reforms and its opening
to the West. The symbolic use of Mao imagery could very well appear in
economic protests in other cities.

Ironically, the protest in Chongqing occurred on the same day Chinese and
United States officials agreed to a bilateral deal which would further open
Chinese markets while paving the way for Chinese entry into the World Trade
Organization. The deal, while long in the works, brings China to a decision
point. If it fully embraces the economic and structural aspects of the
agreement, a political shift will necessarily follow. China cannot fully
open its markets and adopt a Western economic model, while maintaining
centralized control.

It is this problem that underlies the ongoing struggle within China’s
government. While President Jiang Zemin, resplendent in his Mao suit at the
Oct. 1 celebration of China’s fiftieth anniversary, firmly established
himself as the core of the third generation leadership, the question remains
as to who will replace China’s aging leaders. However, the moderates and
economic reformers, typified by Premier Zhu Rongji, a key author of China’s
economic reforms, are fighting the hard-liners for leadership of the fourth

The image of the people rising up to embrace Mao and to clean out corrupt
government officials becomes a potential rallying point for those opposed to
the economic reformers and those deemed too pro-West. The Chongqing protest
may be just the first of many such indigenous cries from the masses for a
return to the days of Mao, when greed and graft were purged from the
government and Western ideas were not allowed to infect the Chinese

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