Thumbs up for Tarantino; thumbs down for Chan

As we’ve observed over and over again in recent weeks at this site, the current conflicts over the pro-liberty protesters in Hong Kong – and over the growing arrogance of China generally in its relations with the free world – have separated the sheep from the goats. Here are a couple of stories we haven’t covered yet.

Quentin Tarantino

To begin with, there’s Quentin Tarantino. We’ve criticized the brilliant, eccentric writer-director on this site, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due. His new Brad Pitt-Leonardo di Caprio vehicle, Once upon a Time in Hollywood, has been generating even more buzz than his pictures usually do, and looks like it has a fair chance to pick up a few statuettes at Oscar time. But there’s been one problem: the bigwigs in China, a top market for Hollywood films these days, insisted that he make certain cuts before they would allow the movie to be released there. To be sure, when Beijing objected to scenes of violence and nudity in one of his previous works, Django Unchained, he did agree to clip out a few of the scenes that bothered them. But this time Tarantino – who has rights to final cut – responded to their demands with a firm no.

Michael Chan

Then there’s Canadian politician Michael Chan, a former minister of immigration and international trade in the government of Ontario who now sits on the board of governors of Seneca College. He’s come out firmly against the Hong Kong protest, echoing Beijing’s spurious claims that they’re the work of dark “foreign forces” that are interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and out to make trouble for China. “I have been thinking, why are these young people so radical, so passionate [and] committed to do these things? And why so many people?” Chan said. “If there is no deeply hidden organization in this, or deeply hidden push from the outside, there is no way that such large-scale turmoil would happen in Hong Kong in a few months.”

Chan’s career history is far from irrelevant here. When he was in government, according to the Globe and Mail, Canadian intelligence was seriously concerned about the closeness of his relationship with Chinese consular officials in Toronto and privately warned higher-ups about Chan’s “conduct and the risk of foreign influence.” The Globe and Mail quoted Gloria Fung, president of a group called Canada-Hong Kong Link, as saying that Chan is clearly “not using Canadian values nor the universal values of Western democracies in making all these comments. Rather, he abides by the values of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Gasp! The Guardian tells the truth about Mao

Mao Zedong

When we glance at the Guardian, the favored newspaper of Britain’s left-wing elites, we’re used to seeing nonstop demonizing of moderates, libertarians, and conservatives alongside articles in which the virtue of socialism is taken for granted and out-and-out Communism is whitewashed. So it came as something of a shock, last Saturday, to encounter a more than 3,000-word essay in the Guardian that presented a sane and sober view of Maoism. The author, Julia Lovell, whose book Maoism: A History has just been published, began by referencing “the strange, looming presence of Mao in contemporary China,” which, despite its radical economic changes over the past few decades, is, she explained, “still held together by the legacies of Maoism.” Even though the sanguinary utopianism of the Cultural Revolution era has been replaced by authoritarian capitalism, wrote Lovell, the ghost of Mao still hovers over the nation of one billion-plus, and can be found in, among other things, “the deep politicisation of its judiciary; the supremacy of the one-party state; the intolerance of dissident voices.” Moreover, Xi Jinping has resurrected the long-dormant personality cult of Mao.

Xi Jinping

And the West, warns Lovell, has largely failed to notice. For decades, observing China’s economic success from afar, many Westerners have assumed that China has been gradually changing, that it has been becoming a place less alien to us, a nation more like our own. Wrong, insists Lovell. “The opposite has happened,” she writes. She points out – and this hadn’t even occurred to us – that if the Chinese Communist Party is still in charge five years from now, it will have outlasted the reign of its Soviet counterpart.

But you don’t have to go to China to find Maoism. You never did. Maoism, Lovell reminds us, has inspired revolts in countries ranging from Cambodia to Peru – revolts in which, as she admirably underscores, millions of people died. For eight decades, Maoist thought has been “a pivotal influence on global insubordination and intolerance.”

Julia Lovell

And what is Maoism, as opposed to Soviet-style Marxism? Lovell is helpful here. Unlike Stalin, Mao presided over “guerrilla wars deep in the countryside.” He preached “revolutionary zeal” and “anarchic insubordination” and “a pathological suspicion of the educated.” Stalin was no less evil and bloodthirsty than Mao, but the USSR never had an equivalent to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The most radical ’68ers in the West looked not to the Kremlin but to Mao, especially his “message to his youthful Red Guards that it was ‘right to rebel.’” Mao posters adored dorm rooms in American college; copies of The Little Red Book abounded. In fact, the Black Panthers – that terrorist group celebrated, then as now, in chic leftist circles in the U.S. – “sold Little Red Books to generate funds to buy their first guns.” In West Germany, the violent but trendy Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader-Meinhof group) parroted lines from Mao, such as “imperialism and all reactionaries [are] paper tigers.” Today, Maoist insurgents threaten peace and freedom in 20 of India’s 28 states, and “self-avowed Maoists” now rule Nepal. So much for Francis Fukuyama’s declaration after the fall of the Iron Curtain that “the end of history” was at hand. “Write Maoism back into the global history of the 20th century,” emphasizes Lovell, and you get a “different narrative from the standard one in which communism loses the cold war in 1989.” Bottom line: with China now challenging America’s economic superiority and global power, it makes no sense whatsoever to pretend that Communism lost out to capitalism thirty years ago.