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In China, an Ode to ‘Grandpa Xi’

Jun 18 , 2015

Mao Zedong was the first CCP leader to be praised in a song. Working with the melody of a local folk song in Shaanxi Province where Mao and his colleagues were congregated to re-launch the communist revolution, farmer Li Youyuan reportedly composed a song, “The East is Red,” to praise Mao personally and the Communist Party collectively. In the song, Mao is hailed as the great savior of the Chinese people and the Communist Party as the sun for the entire world. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, when Mao’s personality cult was at its peak, the song was used as China’s unofficial national anthem.

Hua Guofeng, Mao’s successor, was also praised in a song. Based on a folk song of Shanxi, Hua’s native province, composers of the Shanxi Song and Dance Ensemble changed the original lyrics to insert “Political Commissar Hua” and “Chairman Hua” in 1976. The scale of Hua’s personality cult in the song is far below that of Mao in “The East is Red.” In the song, Hua simply listens closely to the words of Chairman Mao and gets rid of the Gang of Four.

Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of China from late 1970s to the 1990s, was not a big fan of personality cults. He was one of the CCP leaders in the 1950s who favored collective leadership instead. As a result of his proposal (possibly initiated by Defense Minister Peng Dehuai), “Mao Zedong Thought” — a mark of Mao’s personality cult — was deleted from the CCP’s Constitution at the Eighth National Party Congress in 1956 (though Mao had the line reinserted at the Ninth Party Congress in 1969). Despite Deng’s feelings on the matter, however, a song called “The Story of Spring” was written in 1994 by Jiang Kairu and Ye Xuquan and composed by Wang Yougui to praise Deng’s achievements as the general architect of China’s open-door and reform policies. Deng’s name is not mentioned in the lyrics, however; he is simply referred to as “an old man.”

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