Analysis Of Mao's Last Dancer

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Imagine you are a small child. Imagine that you live in a state of constant fear of persecution. Imagine your worries for your family and friends when you see men and women painted as counter-revolutionaries paraded down the street, tortured, ridiculed and then shot. Despite your constantly-rumbling and always empty stomach, despite the squalid conditions in which you live, despite the lack of health care your family has access to: despite all of this, you are told that there is an even worse place on Earth. That place is the West. It is a worse place to live, because they live in perpetual darkness…
The autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin, is very effective in raising awareness of the injustice experienced by the peasant population
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In 1958, Mao employed tactics in an attempt to “modernise” China and create an economy that rivalled America’s. ‘The Great Leap Forward’ focussed heavily on factories and boosting the economy and, due to this, agriculture fell by the wayside. Li states that “By the time I was born three years of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and bad weather had resulted in one of the greatest famines the world had ever seen. Nearly thirty million Chinese died” (8). After the Great Leap Forward failed, Mao introduced the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The Cultural Revolution led to the loss of Chinese culture and all connections to the West. Li says of his family’s New Year’s customs that “Before Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution we would have displayed a family tree and a picture of the god of fortune on the northern wall above the table. But this tradition was now considered a threat to communist beliefs. Any family doing this would be regarded as counter-revolutionary, for which there were heavy penalties, including jail” (39). The practice of traditional ceremonies or the suggestion of any Western influence in the home would have resulted in the punishment and rehabilitation of citizens who did not abide by the Communist way of life. Li convincingly documents his family’s fear of persecution and the …show more content…
He describes his family’s lack of space – twenty people were crowded into a six-room house – and their plight of constant hunger. Communist ideology speaks of equality for all while employing a strict regime in order to maintain control; in reality, the peasant population remained marginalised and were given little opportunity to climb the ranks in order to create a better life for themselves. Mao’s regime in China, while promising more opportunity for the peasant population, eventually succeeded in raising the quality of life of Chinese rural workers through education but in no way did it achieve the equality that communism espoused. Li explains that small changes were made within his commune, like education and health care, to improve the living conditions of the farm labourers. He states that “The barefoot doctor was one of Mao’s inventions, a product of the Cultural Revolution” (23). These barefoot doctors improved the health care and the treatments accessible to the peasant population. Thus, although life had improved for peasants in China, life was still a struggle, with Li stating that “My family was very poor, but there were even poorer people in our commune” (pg.8). This quote emphasises the truly horrific conditions within peasant villages and how, despite the changes made by Mao, the living conditions for the agricultural workers had improved only

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