Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Recently, some young Americans have praised Mao’s Red-Book Campaign like something cool. As a Chinese national who has first-hand life experience during the Mao’s Communist regime, I feel compelled to tell the true story. Mao’s Red Book campaign was filled with blood and oppression. It was a cult, not cool but cruel.
I was born in 1966, the year when Mao launched the Chinese cultural revolution. Like millions of Chinese parents during Mao’s time, my parents gave me a revolutionary name to show their loyalty to Mao and the Communist Party. In my childhood, I did not have toys, because of poverty and supply shortage, but my father’s small bookshelf was filled with Mao’s red books in different sizes. I liked getting the little ones and playing with them like toys.
My parents forbade me from touching those little Mao’s red books on the bookshelf. Every time they saw me grabbing one, they stopped me and “stared” at me as a warning. One day, my parents were not at home, and I took a red book and tore some pages. Of course, I got a spanking when my parents found out about it. My father was angry… and afraid.
During Mao’s time, everyone was required to carry a Mao’s red book when in public. Whenever people had a meeting or gathering, they were required to recite three to five of Mao’s quotes before talking or discussing any businesses. Tearing a page of a Mao’s red book was a counter-revolutionary crime, and if the government found out, the person could be sentenced to death immediately, without trial.
The Communist Party organized every neighborhood and had people watch and tell on each other and report any speech or behavior that could be deemed as anti-revolution. People at work were forced to have at least two hours reading and reciting Mao’s words from his red books every day. For people without a job, including elderly people and children, the neighborhood organizers of the Party summoned everyone to gather at the stadium to witness “counter revolutionary” criminals being sentenced to death.
Those trials were shows designed to intimidate people. “Counter revolutionary criminals” stood in the middle of the stadium; everyone in the audience had a Mao’s red book in hand, constantly raised the red book, and shouted slogans, such as “Long life Chairman Mao,” “Long life the Chinese Communist Party,” and “Down with the counter revolution.” Every time, the trial ended up with soldiers dragging the so-called criminals to a truck, like a huge pickup, and driving them somewhere to kill them.
When I was five to six years old, my aunt who looked after me and my little brother often took us to a stadium to watch one of those trials. Every time we came back from such a horrible event, my aunt often said to me and my brother, “Don’t touch your father’s red books. Look at those criminals – if they know you tear the book, the police will come to arrest you.”
No one knows how many people died as a result of Mao’s Red-Book campaign, because of strict censorship in China. Mao started the Cultural Revolution by mobilizing gangs of students, called the Red Guards, to violently attack people who disagreed with him. My mother told me that on the street, the Red Guards held big scissors to cut people’s “bourgeois clothes” and women’s hair if the hair was curly, and, shamed them in public. Professors and intellectuals were condemned as right wingers; some of them were murdered or driven to suicide. Historians believe somewhere between 500,000 and two million people lost their lives because of the Cultural Revolution.
In 2016, the National Public Radio (NPR) reported that Frank Dikötter published a new book on the period of the Mao’s Cultural Revolution. According to this book, Mao hoped his movement would make China the pinnacle of the socialist universe and turn him into “the man who leads planet Earth into communism.” Today, Chairman Xi, the new Chinese Communist Party leader, is hastily moving the country in the direction of Mao’s movement. Xi is an advocate of the “Chinese Dream,” which will turn all the world red.
The Chinese government censors every piece of information that they do not want people to know. Young people in China are brainwashed day in and day out, but what really bothers me is that young people in the Western countries ignore the available information about the dictatorship in China and go as far as praising China and its communist regime. Millions of Chinese were victims of Mao’s Red-Book campaign. Anyone who wants to imitate Mao’s Red-Book campaign should be deemed a danger to humanity.
Mao’s Red Book -and the philosophy it promotes- is cruel, not cool!