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Maoist Legacy in Contemporary China


Maoism, as defined by Rapp (p. 32), refers to teachings derived from one of Chinese’s most renowned political leader. The leader referred to here is Mao Zedong. The man lived between 1893 and 1976. Individuals who believe in Mao’s teachings and theories about politics and life in general are referred to as Maoists. The ideologies proposed by this man were especially popular in the 1950s and the 1960s. During this time, the ideologies were used as political and military tools of guidance, especially for the Communist Party of China (CPP). Since his death in 1976, Maoism arts and literature have been used in different spheres in contemporary China.

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However, it is important to note that the socialist or Maoist legacy has never been critically assessed in the official discussions of the CPP. The lack of critical assessment notwithstanding, the socialist icons and other cultural capitals associated with this ideology have been increasingly reused and appropriated in a number of ways. A case in point is the use of Maoist icons in the production of art and films, in social mobilization, and in commercial operations.

Such practices are rampant in post-Mao China. The current paper is written against this background. In the paper, the author will critically analyze how the Maoist legacy is received in contemporary China. To this end, the author will use six examples to support their arguments. The examples used include the use of propaganda in the People’s Republic of China, the issue of nominalism in the country, and thought reform in contemporary China. Other examples include the concept of mass line, the Long Lasting Revolutionary Popular, and The Little Red Book and its impacts on modern China.

A Critical Analysis of How the Maoist Legacy is Received in Contemporary China

Use of Propaganda in the People’s Republic of China

Propaganda is widely used in today’s China as it was used during the Mao era. Use of propaganda encompasses concerted efforts involving the spread of government and political information to sway people’s opinion and to influence them to adapt state policies. It is widely used by the ruling communist party. Locally, censorship of views is widely practiced. At the same time, there is use of cultivated ideologies that favor the government policies. In Chinese language, Xuanchuan is synonymous with propaganda or publicity in the western world. The term has become very popular, especially in today’s Republic of China (Brady 70). The government is still censoring the media, including online publications. Such a development is an indication of how propaganda has moved from Mao’s era to contemporary China, creating a picture of a persisting Mao legacy.

During the Mao era, CCP employed propaganda, especially with the Yanan Rectification Movement. The movement and propaganda became an important system during campaigns. The ideologies of the Yanan Rectification Movement and Mao Zedong’s speeches during the movement have been edited and are in use today. In his speeches, Mao emphasized the role of art and literature in the country (Brady 71).

There were two major roles played by arts during Mao’s rule in China. First, art was used to reflect the struggles of the working class. The working class was both the creators of art and the audience who consumed the same. Secondly, art was used as a political tool, especially with the rise of socialism in the country. The use of art to serve political ends was viewed as a threat to the foundations of politics in the country, especially during the Cultural Revolution. The present party rejected this ideology as presented in literature and other forms of art. It was replaced with the art that focused on the peasant’s experience in the country (Brady 73). Art is still an important aspect of propaganda in today’s China. The government uses art to propagate its ideas and to make the state more popular among the people.

Mao Zedong was the son of a peasant farmer. Perhaps due to his background, he made his followers believe in agrarian peasantry force as the only ideology that can be used to transform the capitalist society into socialism. As such, the working class was largely ignored. The working class believed that political power can only be acquired through the barrel of a gun. Art was used in revolts against any organized institution. To this end, it was referred as mean of waging people’s war (Brady 65).

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During the early days, the people’s war, mainly waged by the rural population, involved people organizing themselves into groups that opposed the industrialization aspect of the society. According to Mao, industrialization was the cause of industrial –rural divide. In the view of the Maoists, the development of the urban first world exploited the rural developing third world. Equalitarianism was viewed by Maoists as a means of achieving equality in all social spheres (Brady 61). Today, industrialization still creates differences between the urban population and the rural poor. The government uses industrialization and propaganda to show the world that China is an emerging economic power house. However, the fate of the rural and urban poor is largely ignored by the government.

Equalitarianism was used by Maoists to express their dissatisfactions with the working class. They disagreed with the free market policies, which, to the Maoists, undermined social equality. The struggle has persisted even after the death of Mao. It has led to what is referred to as Post Maoism (Laruelle and Mackay 49). Today, critics are still angered by the social inequalities in China.

The emergence of some political ideologies have compromised Maoist legacy. For example, the Reform and Opening concept propagated by Deng Xiaoping was a blow to Maoism. However, Deng Xiaoping claims that these policies are not the end of Maoism in China. Instead, he asserts that the move still upholds Mao Zedong’s ideologies (Laruelle and Mackay 47). Again, this can be viewed as propaganda at work in contemporary China, an indication of Mao’s legacy.


After Mao’s death, Deng Zedong made radical changes that replaced the former ruler’s ideologies in the People’s Republic of China. Deng Zedong used an approach that assured the people that Mao’s ideology still exist in their midst. According to Laruelle and Mackay (39), Deng employed a concept referred to as nominalsim. As such, this concept can be seen as another form of Maoist’s legacy in contemporary China.

There are general terms used in nominalsim writings. However, these terms are not used universally; rather, they are unique to nominalism. An ideology may denounce the existence of universals, especially those regarding humanity. On the other hand, the same ideology upholds the notion that the abstracts defined by space and time are not in existence. Based on this philosophy, Mao’s ideologies remained in the people’s mind by helping them distinguish between truths and facts. Deng asserted that it was important to differentiate Mao from Maoism. In other words, Deng emphasized the impracticality of Mao’s ideologies. Such impracticalities are evident in comparing social consequences and Mao’s quotes (Laruelle and Mackay 40).

In post-Mao China, nominalsim is used to fight the The Gang of Four, which, according to many, involved the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. During this time, Deng employed nominalsim to promote socialism. For instance, the 1983 anti-spiritual pollution campaign received a lot of publicity (Laruelle and Mackay 43). Such an observation is an indication of how Maoist legacy continues to influence policies in contemporary China.

Post-Mao China is also characterized by what Khot (60) refers to as life blood. In this context, nominalsim was the only way to ensure the continuity of CCP and its relevance to the people. The use of propaganda in Tianmen Square Protest in 1989 was described by elders as a system of expressing CCP ideologies. Such propaganda creates a link between nominalism, use of propaganda and Maoist legacy.

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Thought Reforms, Military Engagements, and Maoism

Many scholars relate modern Chinese strategic thought reform to Maoism. Such a link is evident in the way commands are used, especially in military science (Kipnis 279). Thought reforms in military science, as a result, is seen as another Maoist legacy in contemporary China. Mao employed guerilla war tactics in fighting established institutions. He used command to mobilize the developing world to fight the developed world economies. In modern thought reforms, guerilla tactics are used in centralized and decentralized battles and war campaigns.

Maoist ideologies help contemporary Chinese military organization in wars. Mao notes that commanding a big number of people is the same as commanding a small group. To this end, configuration and designation are employed. In this concept, high-tech local wars are fought using violence to outdo the enemy. For example, the commanders are asked to hit the nodes in order to demolish the enemy’s networks (Kipnis 279).

Mao promoted the use of annihilation concept in war. Using this concept, an enemy is destroyed completely and easily when the conditions are favorable. In the battle, the enemy’s strategies are replaced with own strategies. It is a common phenomenon that is exhibited in contemporary Chinese military engagements (Kipnis 279).

The ideology of people’s war is the current and future Chinese war. When employing the concept of nominalsim, Mao’s quick decisions in war involve preparation for a protracted battle. In modern China, the same is still applied by making quick decisions in battles and in other forms of conflicts. It is an indication of the persistence of Mao’s ideology of preparedness for protracted war (Bosteels 577).

During a protracted war, the use of force and violence is a perquisite as a result of speed and decisiveness to reach strategic goals. To plan for victory, China takes into consideration the benefits of a well organized military and an economy that employs violence. Such an observation is reflected in the ideologies of Mao (Bosteels 578).

Mass Line

Mao emphasized the need for the masses to resist exploitation by the political and economic elites. Before Mao, majority of people who were poor were exploited by few individuals with control over vast established institutions. Mao referred to this kind of scenario as people’s war of the majority. Such war led to the formation of influenced political regime of mass involvement. The war involved members of the lower class that surrounded the cities occupied by the elite in the society. Such wars are still evident today, where the masses are fighting against exploitation by the state and other parties. Individuals waging such campaigns are motivated, to a large extent, by Maoist ideologies.

Mass line is common among Mao followers who propagate the ideology by secretly running websites that promote Maoism. For instance, the Utopia website shows how the movement is still active and how members hold online meetings to express their views. In contradiction, the government of China claims to promote Maoist legacy, but it appears to be engaged in anti-Maoism activities that force such movements as Utopia to go underground. Such an observation is an indication of how different parties in contemporary China (in this case the government and the people) have received Maoism.

The Long Lasting Revolutionary Popular

It is another avenue through which Maoism is reflected in contemporary China. Maoism asserts that revolutionary struggle is long lasting. The struggle persists until power is conquered. Maoists believe that those who struggle end up mobilizing other struggling classes to obstinacy. Individuals who have attained the obstinate level, which is resolute, go beyond the conquest level to achieve equality (Kipnis 280). Such struggles are evident in contemporary China.

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Before achieving equality, the working class must fight to achieve what is referred to as proletarian dictatorship. The achievement helps to solve many problems. For instance, China is seen to have solved most of the problems that were rampant decades ago. Its economy matches those of other developed nations in the world (Kipnis 283). Such achievements can be put down to the adoption of Maoist ideologies by the government.

The Little Red Book: Impacts on Present China’s Social Realm

The book contained most of Mao’s ideas. It inspired both political and military revolutions. The book is one of the most printed literatures in history. It has influenced contemporary China in various ways. It is a symbol of free thoughts. Individuals who believe in Maoism hold the book in high esteem (Brady 58).

Mao used literature and other forms of art to promote his ideologies. The way media is controlled today in China is the same as the way Mao controlled the flow of information. Mao was categorical on the issue of the working class acting as the audience during his speeches. The ideology is evident today in the way the media is handled by the CCP (Brady 62). It seems like today’s government officials are ardent readers of the The Little Red Book.


In this critical analysis, the author noted how Maoism persists in contemporary China. Maoism is reflected in propaganda and contemporary art. Propaganda and art are propagated through the media and such other channels. Nominalsim is another indication of how Maoist ideologies run through modern day ideologies. The use of art in Mao’s writings has motivated people in different social spheres in today’s China. It is clear that art has various impacts on a revolution. It forms the foundation on which ideologies are structured. It is also clear that Maoism lives on it contemporary China.

Works Cited

Bosteels, Bruno. “Post-Maoism: Badiou And Politics.” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 13.3 (2005): 575-634. Print.

Brady, Anne-Marie. “Guiding Hand: The Role of the CCP Central Propaganda Department in the Current Era.” Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture 1.3 (2006): 58–77. Print.

Khot, Nitin. “Maoism in Extremis, Liuism in Command: Economic Modernization as Strategy in Class Struggle in China.” China Report 15.6 (2009): 53-80. Print.

Kipnis, Andrew. “The Anthropology of Power and Maoism.” American Anthropologist 105.2 (2003): 278-288. Print.

Laruelle, Francois, and R. Mackay. Anti-Badiou: The Introduction of Maoism into Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Pub., 2013. Print.

Rapp, John. Daoism and Anarchism: Critiques of State Autonomy in Ancient and Modern China. London: Continuum, 2012. Print.

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