In “What We Learned in China” (President’s Page, Oct. 22), Woodrow Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 reflects on her one-year sabbatical in China with her family. I applaud Dean Slaughter’s choice of sabbatical and appreciate her generally perceptive insights on China’s rapid changes.
However, her assertion that “Mao is a distant memory, far more present as a kitsch icon than a serious symbol” is superficial and a (somewhat understandable) product of talking with younger Chinese people.
She would have obtained a rather different perspective on Mao from talking with my wife, who spent five very difficult, cold, and hungry years in a remote corner of China’s northeast, while her father languished in solitary confinement as a political prisoner in a Chinese jail for an equal length of time. Or, for that matter, her classmates, who still remember vividly and with considerable emotion who were Red Guards and who were their victims. Such memories and their close association with Mao are not so distant among this age group, many of whom are still in leadership positions within China’s public and private sectors.