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.