[US to China 2012] ACYPL Program Officer Brad Meehan Shakes Things Up in China
And here’s what he had to say:
It’s been 5 full days since we’ve arrived in China. So much has happened that it’s hard to put it all in my personal journal. My fellow delegates and I are currently in Ningbo, a port city that lies south of Shanghai. In spite of how incredible Beijing was, I certainly felt happy to see clear blue skies today in lieu of smog. Everyone that we have met with has been gracious and warm.
An experience occurred on Tuesday that I won’t soon forget. To provide some context, you have to know that I read the book “Wild Swans” prior to coming on this trip. The book talks about, among other things, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and how deeply families in China were affected by both. The book left me with the impression that Mao Tzedong had done a great injustice to the people of China, and I was looking forward to hearing from people in China about their perceptions of Mao. It took me a while to do so, but I finally summoned up the courage to ask the person we were meeting with. His name was Ma Wenpu and he is the vice chair of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His response was intriguing and very direct; basically, he said that Mao had been a founding father of China and that there will not be another person like him. Vice Chairman Ma admitted that Mao made some mistakes, but he then pointed out that American founding fathers weren’t perfect. I appreciated the candid response.
Since then, I’ve had a few opportunities to talk with our All-China Youth Federation hosts about Mao and his legacy. Though they were more willing to say that the Cultural Revolution was a mistake, they also held a sense of deep appreciation for Mao, because he led China to a better state then it had been in before. I am simply left to admit that, as of right now, I don’t have the full story on the matter. I certainly don’t have the full story on China. It is definitely still developing. The disparity between rich and poor is great. Some of the cultural behaviors have left me scratching my head. One thing is for certain: This exchange has so far succeeded in exposing me to a completely different set of ideas. While I may or may not agree with them, I’m happy to be having the experience.