Three Strikes and You’re A Capitalistic Pig

by  Sam C. Chan

Summer 1995

I served on the board of Rochester Chinese-American Association for 6 years. Once during a monthly board meeting, a fellow board member was chatting to me about his recent trip to China. He had never before set foot in mainland China and neither had I (even to this day). Needless to say, as "outsiders," we shared the same fascinations and at times, feelings of disbelieves from the "culture shock" he experienced. Of particular interest to me was his visit to the tomb and memorial of Mao Chi-Dong. I found it to be very ironic, amusing and enlightening all at the same time.

I was surprised to learn that there was an admission fee, just to get in. After all, shouldn't it be a free right for the peasants to pay tribute to past leaders, in a communist country, where such figures are given a divine level status? Charging admission like a circus side-show and profiting just seems... oh, so capitalistic to me.  Strike one!

Once inside, visitors are treated to all kinds of memorabilia from Mao's era. It reminded me of the Jimmy Carter library, or Martin Luther King's home. (I used to make my bi-annual spring pilgrimage to Atlanta to attend Comdex Spring, a computer convention, which alternated between there and Chicago.) Inside this room, Mao's preserved body is displayed in a glass-covered casket. You may even have the honor of placing a rose on it—for a small fee. Now, that's what I call classic capitalism with a capital "C."  Strike two!

After a very brief moment, the group is politely rushed out to make room for the next batch of visitors. With a steady stream of tourists and locals alike, they might as well call it "the revolving door ka-ching machine." As the group is orderly exiting, staffers would sweep up those roses to be resold over-and-over again. They were silk flowers. Capitalism at its finest, indeed!  Strike three!

After all that, I couldn't help but be left with thinking: This is so impressively ingenious and efficient and all… But, what would Chairman Mao himself have to say about such blatant disregard of the communist doctrine?

Perhaps, something along the line of...

"Over my dead body!"

Epilogue: (7/13/05) This was written a decade ago. Today, it's hardly any shock that China has evolved to a hybrid, and mostly market-based economy. It is indeed amazing what they have achieved in such a short time. Our quality of daily life here in the United States has improved significantly as a result of that, especially for the average person. It is regretful that the average person doesn't know the first thing about economy. If we must be exploiters, we might as well be sophisticated and grateful exploiters. Some of us just don't recognize a good exploit when they see one.