Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Mao Era?

June 16, 2015
Following is an edited transcript of a live event hosted at Asia Society New York on May 21, 2015, “ChinaFile Presents: Does Xi Jinping Represent a Return to the Politics of the Mao Era?” The evening convened the scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and Andrew Walder—the publication of whose new book on Mao Zedong was the occasion for the event—with diplomat Susan Shirk and Orville Schell, ChinaFile’s publisher and the Arthur Ross Director for the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society.—The Editors

Orville Schell: Well, thank you to all of you for coming, and thanks to our panelists. Just by way of setting the stage a bit, I remember very vividly when Deng Xiaoping came back into power. Mao Zedong had died, and there was a period in the ’80s when people thought, you know, the revolution is gone. The whole interregnum of Maoist thinking, of Maoist politics, seemed to have just evanesced from the landscape. But there’s something in me as a sort of historian that thought “Whoa, not so fast.” These kinds of things have a way of lingering in the bloodstream in very complicated and subtle ways. And that really is the topic that brings us together here, and the catalytic agent for the evening was Andy Walder’s interesting new book China Under Mao. And so what we really want to do is first of all let Andy ruminate a bit on what he found out in writing this book, in terms of what Mao Zedong was about, and then to maybe look towards the present a bit with our other panelists on how Xi Jinping, what is it that went into his provenance. What is in his bloodstream as a leader, what toolbox does he reach to when he has a problem? How much, in short, does Chairman Mao endure within this new leadership? Is this maybe more or less than we’ve seen in previous years? So Andy, let’s start with you in sort of setting us up a bit here.
—This program was transcribed by Gavin Cross.
Read the full transcript and watch the video at ChinaFile