Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Little Red Book vs. the Big White Book (Mao v. Xi)

Ha! Great minds and all that.*
From the Oxford University Press blog,:
As part of our What Everyone Needs to Know series, we take a look at the famous writings of two of China’s predominant leaders.This article first appeared for The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) on 15 May 2018.

There are some similarities between former Chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong’s most famous book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (“The Little Red Book”) and current General Secretary Xi Jinping’s The Governance of China (“Big White Book”)—the second installment of which came out last year, each volume the same cream color and featuring the same photograph of the author. For example, even those in China uninterested in actually reading from the Little Red Book half a century ago would have found it politically useful to have a copy on hand and be able to claim familiarity with it—and the same goes for Xi’s Big White Book now. In addition, it is widely known that Mao’s writings were the works of many authors and there is little doubt that Xi’s ever-expanding corpus is also a collective creation.

There are, however, limits to this sometimes overstated comparison. For example, The Big White Book has not been put to nearly as many uses as the Little Red one. Only the latter was waved aloft at rallies and read aloud from in hospitals by true believers, convinced that its sacred words could make the deaf hear.

In addition, some outside China believed Mao’s short tome would offer guidance as they struggled to bring about radical change in their own countries. Today, there is increasing talk in some quarters of an exportable “China model.” Yet most foreign fans—a group that includes Mark Zuckerberg, who had a copy of Volume One on display on his desk in Silicon Valley when Lu Wei, then the chief Chinese censor, paid Facebook a visit a few years back—have so far contented themselves with claiming that Xi’s Big White Book matters simply because it offers insights into the author’s slogans, goals, and psyche.

The Little Red Book contains short sections from Mao’s writings, composed over the course of decades, while the speeches in The Big White Book were given during a short time span and appear either as lengthy excerpts or in their entirety. Mao had things to say about all the main Marxist concepts and criticized Confucianism as antithetical to his Party’s vision, while Xi ignores class struggle (neither this term nor the word “class” are listed in the Index of Volume One; instead one finds “Clash of Civilizations” and “Cloud-based Computing”). And he quotes Marx and Confucius together, as though the man Mao called a “feudal” philosopher and the German co-author of The Communist Manifesto belonged to the same philosophical school.

In China’s political system, those who end up leading do not take part in public campaigns in which they spell out what they believe and will do once in power. They attain the top spots first, then make statements about what they believe, give speeches about what they have done, and describe their goals. This means that dipping into Volume One of The Governance of China is a bit like working your way through a compilation of stump speeches. He claims that under his watch, China’s 2010 GDP will be doubled by 2020, and that the country will be a thoroughly “modern socialist” one by the middle of the century, when the People’s Republic of China turns 100....MORE
*From August 5's "China to require patriotism education for intellectuals " (and the rise of "Xi thought"):
What was old is new again. I read about this, back in the day they called it the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or something.....

....Now, if only Chairman Xi could package those thoughts into a little book, maybe put an eye-catching red cover on it... 
So, granted that it's the OUP/TLS vs Climateer Investing, and despite the fact they were 2 1/2 months earlier, not having seen the TLS piece I shall still claim credit for (almost) simultaneous invention.