Addressing a symposium held by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping described Mao as “a great figure who changed the face of the nation and led the Chinese people to a new destiny,” and as a “great proletarian revolutionary, strategist and theorist.”
However, Xi also stressed the need to have a “correct” historical view to evaluate a historical figure and even went so far as to acknowledge that Mao had made “mistakes" during his rule. While giving Mao credit for having led the revolution that brought communism to China, Xi also urged that Mao, whose image in China has been magnified into a larger-than-life persona, be viewed in more down-to-earth fashion:
Revolutionary leaders are not gods, but human beings. [We] cannot worship them like gods or refuse to allow people to point out and correct their errors just because they are great; neither can we totally repudiate them and erase their historical feats just because they made mistakes.
Xi and six other high-ranking Chinese leaders visited Mao's mausoleum, where they bowed three times to his statue and “jointly recalled Comrade Mao's glorious achievements,” according to a Xinhua release.
AFP quoted a statement made by Jiang Qi, identified as a 33-year-old construction company employee (and therefore, born after Mao died in 1976), that revealed the effectiveness of the Chinese propaganda machine in burnishing Mao’s image over the years: “Mao was a great leader of the Chinese nation; he was a perfect person and for us young people he is someone to learn from.”
AFP reporter Tom Hancock noted that “Mao's sometimes autocratic rule remains a divisive topic in China” (emphasis added) but did not stipulate when Mao’s rule was not autocratic.
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Huge portrait of Mao at Tiananmen Square: AP Images