Friday, September 01, 2006

Textbook Revisionism: China and the Continuing Market Revolution

Shanghai, China revamps its history books and reduces Mao and the Communist Revolution to a clip, examining the revolution as a phenomenon rather than preaching it as the truth. Mao's Revolution has been replaced with Deng Xiaoping's economic vision for a new China. Deng is the man largely credited with China's market-oriented reforms.

The NYTimes reports:

"The new textbooks de-emphasize dynastic change, peasant struggle, ethnic rivalry and war, some critics say, because the leadership does not want people thinking that such things matter a great deal. Officials prefer to create the impression that Chinese through the ages cared more about innovation, technology and trade relationships with the outside world."

China should tread carefully changing history overnight. China will set off red flags if it pares socialism to a single short chapter in the senior high school history course, whittles Chinese Communism before economic reform to a meager sentence, and deflates Mao to a single instance in an etiquette chapter. Won't kids say "Wait? What about the Chinese history I've grown up with? What about Mao frozen dull and yellow inTian'anmenn square?" Won't these distortions or historical glosses mean anything? Maybe that's naive of me. Free market nations are forward looking.

And it's not like China is without it's share of historical coverups. There's a dissertation length post that could be written about our own country's historical revisionism. Zinn's People's History is a fine place to start. Like here, my bet is that only the brightest and most inquisitive Chinese students will care.


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