Zhou Enlai still inspires people 40 years later
Friday marked the 40th anniversary of former premier Zhou Enlai’s death. A large number of articles showed up in the media and social media remembering him.
As one of the greatest statesmen whose life went through the revolution and the earlier years of the People’s Republic of China, his reputation has sustained the test of time.
During his 26 years as New China’s first premier, the country witnessed great achievements as well as setbacks. Debates remain over the assessment of those years. There are also many stories being published in recent years revealing "secrets" of that time, some of which involved unfavorable comments about Zhou.
The Communist Party of China did make some mistakes. Many leaders of that time had their historical limits.
But some of the "reassessments" of them are malicious. Some rewrote historical figures outside of their historical context. Some pieced together materials for pre-intended conclusions.
History is fair. In the earlier years following the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Zhou was touted as a perfect statesman. Later on when more historical materials came out, people started to learn about a more complicated Zhou. However, on the 40th anniversary of his death, the prevailing public remembrance of Zhou is still as a great statesman.
The reason is simple. Zhou was indeed a great man. He played an important role when the older generation of leaders, including Mao Zedong, jointly spearheaded a new era. People look at Zhou as a figure closely bound with the country’s ups and downs.
Generally speaking, the image of the first generation of leaders of the People’s Republic remains positive. Those leaders went through mistakes such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution, but most of them are still respected by people of the following generations.
It proves that the people agree with the general path the country has gone through. Admitting China has gone through some detours along the way, people recognize the achievements it has made. They are happy to see the changes that have taken place in the past decades.
The nation’s collective historical perspective has been growing more mature. Although the society has become more diversified in an age of information, the mainstream view of the society has become more stable.
A lot of things have changed in the past 40 years. But people today still look up at Zhou and his comrades. People say the country at that time could not survive without Zhou.
It indicates that people today still support the cause that Zhou devoted his lifetime to, and hope to see Zhou’s dreams come true.