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Zhou Enlai 101

Zhou en Lai
One of my favorite blogs, Jottings From the Granite Studio, has a superb post up on Zhou Enlai, entitled, “This date in history: The Death of Zhou Enlai. I see the following as key to the post:

Is our lasting image of Zhou Enlai to be the smooth, urbane diplomat showing up for talks in Geneva in a tailored-suit, silk tie, and fedora? Or will it be the Zhou Enlai standing on top of Tiananmen with a red armband and a little red book, screeching in a high-pitched hysterical frenzy, “Long Live Chairman Mao!” as hordes of fanatical teenagers chant in the square and the Chairman looks on in approval?

I am unable to provide a reasonably intelligent answer to that question and I am not even sure if it is because of my shortcomings on Chinese history or if because it is still too soon to be able to judge dispassionately.

Your thoughts please….

4 responses to “Zhou Enlai 101”

  1. My lasting image of Chou Enlai is that of the head of secret services of the CPC during it’s revolutionary time. He was a very skillful operator, and the actions of the secret services had significant influence in the outcome of the revolutionary war. Chou’s decisiveness and ruthlessness was unprecedented. Whole families disappeared, not just his enemies.

  2. Such comments are easy to forget, and demonstrate the ahistorical anti communism in the West. The issue is how any leader does in response to the challenges of the day, with what means toward what ends. It is impossible to imagine the China of today without the foundations laid by Mao and Zhou.

  3. Recently an english translation of the Zhou biography by Gao Wenqian has been released in the US that looks at how Zhou played both sides, often times dangerously so, during the Cultural Revolution and was able to guarantee his own safety. The book shows how Zhou’s “He is indeed — but considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance to Mao allowed the CR to continue for as long as it did, but his power also meant that it wasn’t as severe as it could have been and he protected as many leaders as he could. In China, and somewhat in the west as well, there is great support for him as being a wonderful leader and the Tiananmen/CR image is one that is forgotten. I think in part its because he’s one of the few “state-sponsored” heroes in government who the Chinese can really get behind.

  4. I have to say that I’m generally of two minds when it comes to Zhou Enlai’s legacy. I firmly believe that he was a political idealist that was thrust into positions that were beyond his control during the Cultural Revolution. I admire his work in saving many of Beijing’s historic relics from zealots in the Red Guard movement. However, not unlike those who collaborated directly with Hitler and Stalin, history has to judge men by both their actions and inactions. As such, being involved in some of the more horrific events the world never saw during the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Zhou is complicit in the results. History, therefore, has to judge him accordingly.

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