Zheng Lu | China

Mao Never Down, 2007

75 cm
Edition of 8

Courtesy of F2 Gallery, Beijing

The communist party, headed by Mao Zedong came to power in China in 1949, following a bloody civil war that lasted 4 years. During his first years in power, aided by Soviet counselors, Mao strived to consolidate his government through expropriation of agricultural lands and accelerated industrialization.

In 1958, Mao initiated his first five year plan – “The Great Leap Forward”. The aim of the reform was to use the vast cheap labour power in China in order to rapidly boost the economy.

The initiators of the reform believed that it would enable China to surpass the United States and Britain in the production of steel. The plan failed; millions of people were recruited to work in the steel and coal industry, and as a result there was a sharp decline in food production. The little that was produced was exported abroad in order to cover the expenses of the factories and arms that the plan demanded.

Between 1958-1961 China suffered from famine, resulting in the death of approximately 30 million Chinese. When the catastrophic numbers became public knowledge, Mao was marginalized within his party but remained active behind the scenes.

His predecessors promoted more economic freedom and partially reversed the collectivization of agricultural lands. Once the Chinese economy was re-stabilized, Mao stepped forward again and mobilized “The Red Army” to his aid.

He overtly criticized the new Chinese government and called for a cleansing campaign within the party. And indeed, in 1966 began an unprecedented cleansing campaign and The Red Army became the supreme ruler in China.

The cleansing campaign – called The Cultural Revolution - gradually spread, encompassing not only the opponents to the government but also the bureaucracy of the government itself, and including arson and destruction of mosques, monasteries and churches, and eventually works of art and traditional buildings.

The only way to escape charges of being anti-revolutionary was to be engaged in revolutionary acts, i.e. - as Mao himself recommended in “The People’s Daily” from 1967 - to criticize others and charge them with being “anti-revolutionary”.

Even that proved ineffective, since violent disputes occurred within the Red Army forces themselves. In 1969 the Cultural Revolution was officially ended, and Mao returned to power. He initiated a massive campaign to deify himself using an overall cult of personality. He ruled China till his death in 1976. The Communist Party still rules China today.

The Demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, 1989 April 1989 witnessed the beginning of a series of protest acts in China calling for a democratic reform in the communist country.

The demonstrations focused mainly in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The participants were mainly students, intellectuals, industrialists and rural residents. At the peak of the demonstrations, approximately one million people gathered in the square.

Attempts to create a dialogue between the government and the demonstrators failed, when the government demanded to put an end to the demonstrations without offering any solution.

After about a month of demonstrations, which included general strikes, hunger strikes, a placement of the “Goddess of Democracy” statue at the centre of the square and various other acts, a military regime was declared in China.

This act alone did not deter the demonstrators, who enjoyed wide public support. After a few weeks, the authorities decided to forcefully evacuate the square. Chinese soldiers, following orders, dispersed the demonstrations using sub-machine guns and tanks.

The demonstrators decided not to react with violence to that of the army, and left the square. According to The Red Cross estimates, approximately 2,600 Chinese civilians were killed in the demonstrations. Some of the demonstrators arrested by the Chinese police forces are still in prison to this day.