Airbrushing History

Salil Tripathi, responding to my post “Goodbye Mao, Hello Olympics”, points me to an old piece he wrote in the New Statesman:

A history textbook that revels in globalisation, praises the role of the New York Stock Exchange and stresses the importance of J P Morgan and Bill Gates may sound like required inspirational reading for the American classroom, especially when a figure as significant as Chairman Mao merits barely a passing mention.

But the book in question is being used in Shanghai’s state schools. It is a rewriting of history so brazen that it could be possible only under a regime already highly practised with the airbrush. Socialism merits a single chapter, less space than the industrial revolution, and Chinese communism before the economic reforms of 1979 gets just one sentence. Yes, one sentence.

Salil also points out in his email to me:

The FEER issue (June 08) in which I interviewed Ma Jian was banned, and destroyed, by the Chinese. Ma Jian’s (and my) crime? That he wanted people never to forget Tiananmen.

Tiananmen? What’s that?