Since I no longer have access to Suddeutsche Zeitung‘s daily paper edition, the only German newspaper I read through cover to cover now (well, scan, then read selectively as it would take all week otherwise) is Die Zeit. And by and large, it is a joy to read this weekly paper. One learns that in spite of a relatively low death toll (33 soldiers) in Afghanistan, Die Zeit still anguishes, “Wie lange noch?” (How much longer?). One learns that Hyundai has weathered the global recession better than German car makers. One finds that Germany had an election. It is good to have paper allies like this, particularly when they also give huge full-page interviews to obscure Swiss composers with whom one has commisserated in futuristic halls, purely by the grace of God and French architecture, at the Bastille Opera.
So when they cover China, it is extensive and always interesting. Particularly the October 1 celebrations, for Germans are particularly attuned, one might even say hypersenstive, to commemoration and nationalism. And thus I had to read the following article on the propitiously-numbered page 88, the back page, of October 1 edition:
Theo Summer, “‘Lang lebe das Volk!’: Vor 60 Jahren rief Mao Tse-tung die Volksrepublik China aus. Sein Triumph muendete in eine Schreckensherrschaft, die Millionen Chinesischen Not und Tod brachte,” Die Zeit, 1 october 2009, s. 88.
The translation of the title says it all: “Long Live the People!: 60 Years Ago Mao Declared the PRC: His Triumph Augured a Horrific Rule, Which Brought Suffering and Death to Millions of Chinese.”
So how do you really feel, Theo?
This is an immense one-page essay which recaps the totality of the Great Helmsman’s life. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the essay is how obviously, and how deeply, it is inflected by the interpretation — and the questionable data — of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s destructive biography, Mao: The Unknown Story (2005). This book has obviously made its way into Germany, a land already predisposed to seeking out and exposing the historical misdeeds of dictators of the past.
Sommer recaps all manner of Jung Chang’s interpretations, chief among them a death toll of 70 million on account of Mao, the description of Mao as a “mass murderer,” his plans to rule the world and have nuclear war with the USA.
Incredible! And we wonder why the Germans so love the Dalai Lama and so detest the rule of the CCP. Much has to do with interpretations like this.