Mao vs. Mao: A Prominent Chinese Scholar Takes on the Regime’s WWII Fabrications

Mao Yushi’s posts, crediting Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek with the Japanese defeat, flies in the face of Party-approved history.
Mao vs. Mao: A Prominent Chinese Scholar Takes on the Regime’s WWII Fabrications
Mao Zedong's portrait in Tiananmen Square on March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

A furious series of online posts by a famous Chinese economist known for his pro-democratic views went viral among Chinese netizens, criticizing the Communist Party’s manipulation of World War II history for propaganda purposes.

On Sept. 8, the 86-year-old  Mao Yushi issued three consecutive Weibo posts about his views on the Anti-Japanese War Memorial and the recent military parade held in Beijing to celebrate the World War II defeat of Japan. His posts received more than 15,000 shares and 18,000 comments.

Sept. 3 marked the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japan in a eight-year-war, sometimes called the “Anti-Japanese War,” that began in 1937 and eventually became part of the Second World War.

Leading the Chinese forces against Japan were the armies of the Nationalist Party, which headed China’s republican government until being defeated by communist rebels in 1949. Recent portrayals of World War II by mainland media minimize the role played by the Nationalists, instead pushing a narrative that glorifies and exaggerates that of the communist guerrillas.

Mao Yushi’s posts, one of which directly credits Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek with the Japanese defeat, flies in the face of this Party-approved history. The other posts demanded a truthful look at China’s wartime history and encouraged mutual arms reductions among world powers including China and the United States.

“In commemorating the end of World War II, it is my wish that politicians around the world vow to never fight, to defend peace, and to oppose all warlike action including troop reviews, conscription, military exercises, and the arms trade.”

Mao’s statement appears to be a jab at the elaborate military parade held on Sept. 3 in Beijing, which showcased hundreds of vehicles and aircraft as well as over 10,000 personnel.

An Outspoken Academic

Mao Yushi in 2011 (Charlie Fong/Public Domain)
Mao Yushi in 2011 (Charlie Fong/Public Domain)

Though Mao Yushi is now an academic of international repute who ran the Beijing-based Unirule Institute of Economics, he once suffered severe political persecution under communist leader Mao Zedong. (The two are not related.)

In the 1950s, Mao Yushi was labeled a “rightist” and purged repeatedly. In the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Mao spent many years as a factory laborer in Datong, Shanxi Province, before being rehabilitated.

With the death of Chairman Mao, the Chinese regime began a shift towards the market economics that Mao Yushi specializes in. But even now, he continues to speak in support of democracy, rule of law, and historical integrity.

His essay “Returning Mao Zedong to Human Form” sharply criticized the former leader’s disastrous economic and political movements, which led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. Shortly after the essay was posted online, ultra-leftists bombarded Mao Yushi with petitions and even death threats. The essay was later removed.

This April, Mao Yushi was criticized by the state-run mouthpiece Global Times, demonstrating, in his view, that China is still in threat of relapsing back into extreme leftism, the South China Morning Post reported.

Mao vs. Mao

Speaking with a BBC reporter, Mao Yushi said that unlike communist leader Chairman Mao, the military head of the Nationalist Party, Chiang Kai-shek, had stayed resolute in the fighting against the Japanese.

“Mao Zedong made little contribution to the war,” Mao Yushi said. Only 10 percent of the Communist Party’s wartime efforts went to fighting the Japanese, and the chairman even thanked the Japanese for their role in weakening the Nationalist forces prior to their eventual defeat by communist armies in the four years of civil war that followed World War II.

According to the BBC report, Mao Yushi explained that in collections of the chairman’s writings, only those dated prior to 1939 (two years after the Japanese invasion began) mentioned anti-Japanese resistance efforts, indicating the low regard Mao Zedong held for the overall Chinese effort to liberate its occupied territory.

As the policies of the Communist Party drift further from Mao Zedong’s utopian Marxist visions in favor of rapid market-based economic progress, the regime has been struggling to legitimize its continued authoritarian rule over 1.3 billion Chinese.

According to Mark Harrison, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick, the Chinese regime faces an uphill battle in airbrushing its mediocre role in the anti-Japanese resistance.

For instance, when compared to the Soviet Union and its Russian successor state, which lost 26 million people battling Nazi Germany, China’s communist leadership can’t comfortably claim glory from the Second World War, as the major events of the Chinese theater involved Nationalist, not communist forces.

“The Russians derived huge legitimacy from the fact that the Soviet Union was attacked in 1941, and at huge costs, the German army was defeated,” Harrison told Epoch Times in a previous interview. “In China’s case, it’s more difficult.”

Zhang Quanjing, former minister of a powerful Communist Party political department, was quoted in a regime-controlled magazine as saying that Mao Zedong was the primary force behind the Chinese resistance, due to the “correct alignment of ideals, politics, and military forces” the chairman supposedly established.

“Because of this, we can confidently say that Mao Zedong is the great leader that led the Chinese to win the war against Japan,” the article said.

Netizens from around China expressed their agreement with Mao Yushi’s view.

One user, posting from Hunan Province, wrote that “Those who are brainwashed will always reject the truth nor have the courage to awaken to it. They’ve been enslaved for too long.”

A post from Liaoning Province goes “it’s not that young people don’t understand history, but that they don’t understand the real history.”

Noting the Orwellian nature of the Chinese regime’s World War II narrative, a poster from Zhejiang described the historical manipulation at work:

“It’s not frightening to be ignorant of the truth. What is frightening is that history is constantly being distorted and rewritten. The truth is still being covered up. When confronted with alternative voices, opponents do not argue with sound reasoning, but aggressive cursing.”

Jenny Li has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2010. She has reported on Chinese politics, economics, human rights issues, and U.S.-China relations. She has extensively interviewed Chinese scholars, economists, lawyers, and rights activists in China and overseas.