Three Key Figures in the Chinese History


I call three modern Chinese figures as follows: “Mao Zedong is a mountain, Zhou Enlai is water, and Deng Xiaoping is a road.”

Why is Mao Zedong a mountain? Why is Zhou Enlai water and Deng Xiaoping a road? Today’s China is a road created by crossing mountains and rivers. I make this comparison because In order to climb the mountain of Mao Zedong, it is necessary to first pass the waters of Zhou Enlai. Mao Zedong grew up in Hunan as a heroic, self centered, and rebellious figure. He is skilled in starts and writing and wished to be a tall and proud mountain in front of others. Zhou Enlai was born in Huaian, Jiangsu province, a place with an abundance of water. He is humble and caring. “The water is the boat’s mother” is a famous saying. Zhou Enlai performed his duties as the water well. Foreign views on the two figures, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, are fascinating. “If Mao Zedong had not existed, the flames of China’s revolution would not have fired, and if Zhou Enlai had not existed, those flames would have turned into ash.”

There is also another opinion: “For the past century, China was in Mao Zedong’s brain and in Zhou Enlai’s hands.” However modern Chinese history begins to clear up only when all three historical figures are examined together. Mao is a born rebel caught in the legendary revolution and Zhou Enlai began China’s legendary growth based on “four modernization routes.” There is even stories that the “Deng Xiaoping period” did not continue out of the “Mao Zedong era” but instead overcame the “Mao Zedong era” and continued the “Zhou Enlai era”. Of course, there is no such thing as “Zhou Enlai era”. Zhou enlai’s views were brought to light by Deng Xiaoping. Then I asked to myself, “What is Deng Xiaoping?” Mao Zedong was a mountain and Zhou Enlai was water, but I could not think of a comparison for Deng Xiaoping. Deng Xiaoping was born in Guangan County, Sichuan province which is the land of old Zhou. The road is a tough path and 16 year old Deng Xiaoping took a boat to Shanghai when visiting France because the land route was busy. The sight of Kando ,hanging on a rock or a cliff, is breathtaking and frightening. Deng Xiaoping has the fate to pave his own roads.

Is China’s Is Reform and Opening a Normal path to take? China’s communist revolution is not a revolution lead by a few ordinary people or a group of armed rebels overthrowing an administration. If Mao Zedong’s words that power comes from the gun is understood too narrowly, it is hard to understand China’s communist administration. You can think of Liu-bian who raised the Han dynasty, and the vice-chief of the Ming Dynasty. The Mongolian Yuan Dynasty and Manchu Qing Dynasty are also worth a look. It is able to be realized how bloody and fatal it is to conquer middle class. The Chinese Communist Party was made in 1921 and this year will be its 97th year. It was in 1949 that they proclaimed Communist China, which was just in 28 years. For 28 years, the Chinese party only fought and it was days and nights of struggle.They fought and struggled with Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang, and had to push the Japanese army out of China. How have you been after the foundation? The Korean War in the following year, the People’s Solidarity for Peace, anti-right-wing struggle, and the cultural revolution for 10 years. It was a series of struggles similar to war. Even if we do not mentions the words “spirit of the times”, there is a flow, role, and merit in all eras. Three of them have been Communist parties since the 1920s. Until they die, they have dedicated themselves to the party. 50 years, 60 years or more.

Although China has risen to world power, we all know well that it did not happen in a short amount of time. Comparing the three figures to mountain, water, and road was based on their personal and political characteristics. The words “Mao Zedong is a mountain, Zhou Enlai is water, and Deng Xiaoping is a road” is thought of positively by the Chinese. Those who have read the author’s chinese translated texts have approved his words. “It amazes me. How do you bring out such comparisons?” Watching these reactions, I read the minds of the Chinese who were proud to group the three legendary figures, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping to read Chinese modern history.


By Joong Lee, former President of Soongsil University and Vice President of Yanbian University, author of “Mao Zedong and China”.

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