Spiritual legacy of pragmatism
Chinese university students are devoted to the trappings of modern life – discussing the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs, idolizing Taiwan pop band F4 and carrying their cell phones, but they still express their sincerity by saying, “I swear to Chairman Mao”.
In fact, the influences of the late great Chinese leader, Mao Zedong, who was born on Dec. 26, 1893, on modern youth are not limited to the language of discourse.
Cheng Haowen, a student of astronomy from prestigious Nanjing University in east China’s Jiangsu province, said Mao’s realistic approach, characterized by testing and improving theories in the course of practice, distinguished him from many Chinese figureheads, who were satisfied with being sage and detached from social reality to show their superiority.
Although Mao erroneously initiated the “Cultural Revolution” (1966-1976) in his later years, fostering cult-like admiration for himself, he and his spiritual legacy still deserve to be studied objectively, said Cheng, who was born in 1985.
In 1999, the Ministry of Education listed the Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought as a required course in undergraduate curricula and demanded that each college student spend at least 40 credit hours to learn the course and a pass an exam when applying to graduate schools.
However, the move failed to provoke much enthusiasm.
Su Yingbin, a junior in the Chinese Language Department of Nanjing University, acknowledged that many of his schoolmates considered the policy pointless when first taking the course three years ago.
“Mao’s era ended long time ago and theories of the Communist Party of China have progressed significantly since,” said Su while detailing his former doubts on the necessity of systematically studying Mao’s theories.
Surprisingly, Su and his peers changed their minds after takingthe course for couple of weeks.
“It is amazing to witness Mao creatively applying Marxism introduced from the Western world in the practices of Chinese revolution and achieving great success,” said Guo Zhiqiang, a schoolmate of Su.
A socialist whose inspirational sources can be traced back to Chinese classics such as the works of Sun Zi, an eminent ancient military strategist, Mao left a spiritual legacy of pragmatism, depending on the masses of people and solving problems without resorting to foreign forces, which have an impact on the attitudes of a new generation of university students, said Cheng Haowen.
“Only the Analects of Confucius can match Mao’s theories on shaping Chinese society,” said Guo, who got the highest score among his classmates in the course on Mao.
Compared with students who emphasize Mao’s individual role in influencing Chinese history, older generations are more likely to attribute the so-called “Thought of Chairman Mao” to the collective wisdom of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Wang Mingsheng, a noted professor teaching the Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought in Nanjing University, said that personal mistakes made by Mao in his later years should not be included in the so-called the school of “thought” because the thought is a scientific theoretical system developed by Mao and his fellow revolutionists together”.