Brothers In Harms


Reviewing Mao: The Real Story, Frank Dikotter is intrigued by the Chinese tyrant's emphatic devotion to Stalin:

The files from the archives amply demonstrate that Mao was a faithful follower of his master in Moscow. He had a good reason: From the start, the Chinese Communist Party was dependent on the Soviets' financial help and political guidance. Stalin personally assisted Mao's rise to power. The relationship between the two was often tumultuous, but once the red flag fluttered over Beijing in 1949, Mao wasted no time in imposing a harsh communist order modeled on the USSR. As the authors point out, "he looked upon Stalin as his teacher and the Soviet Union, which inspired fear throughout the world, as a model to imitate." Mao was a Stalinist attracted to the elimination of private property, all-pervasive controls on the lives of ordinary people, an unlimited cult of the leader, and huge expenditures on the military. Ironically, it was Stalin who constrained the Stalinisation of China by forcing Mao to slow down the pace of collectivisation, fearful as he was of the emergence of a powerful neighbour who might threaten his dominance.

In fact, the Chinese remained Stalin fans far longer than his fellow countrymen:

While the Soviets took down their portraits and statues of Stalin, in China he remained officially in favor for decades after his death in 1953. Until a few years ago the tyrant's face could still be seen on the walls of bookshops and classrooms, painted in warm tones. He is revered in China to this day, his reputation defended by an army of fierce censors.

(Image: Mao and Stalin on a Chinese stamp, circa 1950, from Wikimedia Commons)