China – Triumph and Turmoil Episode 2 Review: Mao’s Legacy

CHINA – TRIUMPH AND TURMOIL: Monday 19th March, C4, 8pm

China. A land of mystery, history, and Communism. This latest hour-long instalment of Niall Ferguson’s series looks at Chairman Mao and the way he shaped modern China. Though to be honest, you could just watch one of the history channel’s half-hour efforts and get the same result…

Our narrator starts out well, showing the odd contrast between China’s traditional communist image and their ever increasing capitalist tendencies and sky-rocketing economy. It’s a strange one, as most of the communist nations of the 20th century have been viewed as dour, grey, blue boiler-suited tyrannies. But China is now a manufacturing giant full of billionaire 20-somethings. How does it work? What happened to make China this way? What’s next for China?

Dr Ferguson attempts to shed some light on these questions, with some success, but within minutes he’s comparing Mao and his cronies with the Nazis. In a little Chinese restaurant full of flag-waving Communists, he marvels that “This is like going into a German restaurant where everyone’s…waving swastikas.â€?

Except… no. This is like being in an Asian country where the same Communist party that Mao presided over still rules and has a solid and effective grip on its propaganda. Not like being in a democratic Western European country where Nazism is illegal for a VERY good reason.

Essentially, he tells us that the money China has is due to economic development and Mao helped out by mobilising the masses. The fact he can’t seem to grasp is the idea that the Communist party in China falls somewhere short of Stalinist Russia, and might have changed a little since the revolution, makes his constant amazement at a subject on which he should be expert a little discouraging. An enjoyable introduction nonetheless.

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