Mao Zedong as a Father: Nianpu Notes from January 1951

In the six big volumes of Mao Zedong Nianpu (1949-1976) published in Beijing this past December 2013, a number of new texts can be located, and minor mysteries solved. I was fortunate to pick up copies of all six volumes on a recent trip to Shanghai. Chronologically organized, the writing in January 1951 is particularly interesting.

Having decided in October to go to war in Korea, and having been heavily involved in the planning and execution of that war, Mao in January 1951 was also consumed with interest in the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries, border consolidation, ongoing land reform in previously “unliberated areas,” as well as the occasional cultural policy — an area of great interest for Mao.

The first few days of January 1951 found him more taken than usual with his role as a father — not to the nation, but instead to his own children. Here, we learn how Mao was informed of his son’s death in Korea, and find him just a couple of days later writing a tender note to his daughter, Li Na.

Translations are often a bit rough, but they are my own.

1 January 1951

Mao revises an editorial for Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) on improving the livelihood of the working masses. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 275]  

2 January 1951

Mao complements officials in the south/southwestern province of Guangxi on their plan for anti-bandit work. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 275]  

Mao, along with his wife Jiang Qing (who may be at a rural commune nearby) is informed by a communication from Zhou Enlai and Peng Dehuai that Mao’s son, Mao Anying, had been killed in the Korean War some five weeks prior on 25 November 1950. An excuse for the delay is tendered by Zhou and Peng, who write, referring back to 25 November: “Because at that time you all had colds  [当时我因你们都在感冒中], we decided to send this to you in the future; but Comrade [Liu] Shaoqi already had been sent [this information] to read.” Mao then says what has been known about his own loss; a laconic or terse response.  But then he goes on to praises Gao Ruishi’s idea for establishing cemeteries on the Korean battlefields for the Chinese People’s Volunteers once the war is over; this appears to be some solace and also perhaps appeals to Mao’s imperial or romantic imagination. [Nianpu, Vol. 1, pp. 275-276]

4 January 1951

Mao receives a note from Huang Kecheng [黄克诚] in his old home province of Hunan, explaining that reactionaries in old military schools remain a problem, partially because not many can be arrested, given that their crimes occurred before liberation and they had not committed any crimes since liberation. Does this mean they were puppet troops under the Japanese?  [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 276]

Mao writes two affectionate notes to his daughter Li Na, telling her he heard she was sick, and that he really misses her. “If you recuperate really well and get better soon, everyone will be really happy,” he writes, then noting “There was a huge snow, did you see it?” On January 6, Mao wrote to her again: “Are you or aren’t you feeling a little better? Daddy really misses you.” [Nianpu, Vol. 1, p. 277]

*All references are from Mao Zedong Nianpu, 1949-1976 [Chronology of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976], Vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2013).


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