Mao and then: 40 years on
Unlike most dictators, Mao Zedong continues to evoke nostalgia among his own countryfolk 40 years after his death. The Chinese Communist Party’s official assessment of him as “70% right, 30% wrong” has allowed many to gloss over his worst excesses (tens of millions died in the famine after the Great Leap Forward and during the Cultural Revolution). Two years after Mao died, Deng Xiaoping started ushering in the economic reforms that launched China on a path of breakneck growth. Mao would probably be appalled at the materialism of present-day China—he preferred the dialectical sort—yet the Communist Party has found no replacement figurehead. Banknotes still bear his face; his giant portrait presides over Tiananmen Square at the political heart of Beijing, where his embalmed body remains too; and tens of thousands of Chinese pay homage at his birthplace in Hunan every year. Dead, then, but not buried.