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December 18, 1970

Record of Conversation from [Chairman Mao Zedong’s] Meeting with [Edgar] Snow

Record of Conversation from [Chairman Mao Zedong’s] Meeting with [Edgar] Snow

(December 18, 1970)


Snow: I have been meaning to write to you, and this time I finally got to write you, if l may bother you.


Mao: You did not bother me. [When I met you] last time in 1965, I asked you [if you wanted, you could] come to see me. If you had come earlier, I could have showed you what happened during the Cultural Revolution and the all-round civil war. During the allround civil war, people were divided into two groups and were fighting throughout the country. It happened in factories, schools, provinces, counties, and even in governmental departments such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, we had to do so because there were counter-revolutionaries and capitalist-roaders[1] in the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had lost control for one-and-a-half months because the counterrevolutionaries took power.


Snow: Did it happen while the office of the British Charge d'affaires was burned?[2]


Mao: Exactly. In July and August of 1967 especially, the whole country was in chaos; but it was good for us because our opponents eventually were exposed in this turmoil. A small number of people were the enemy. The enemy's name is "the May 16th [Movement].”[3]


Snow: I would like to ask a question. Should I consider what you have just told me as a source for formal publication, an introduction to the historical background, or as a conversation between friends or as all of the above?


Mao: This is not meant for publication but for your own social investigation, historical research, and research about the future. I read your published conversation with Premier Zhou; it was good, but do not publish this conversation. I have read the Chinese translation of the article you published in an Italian magazine.


Snow: What do you think about it?


Mao: Not bad. However, I think the erroneous opinions you mentioned are not important. For example, you indicated that I enjoyed the personality cult about myself. I think that you Americans have more examples of the personality cult. You named your capital after President Washington. You also named the district of Washington after Columbus.


Snow: And there is at least one town named Washington in every state.


Mao: Absolutely disgusting! There is no problem with admiring the scientists. For example, [Charles Robert] Darwin, [Immanuel] Kant and even the American scholar [Lewis Henry] Morgan, who defined the primitive society. Even [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels liked Morgan's works. We all adore someone. Would you be glad if nobody adored you? Would you be glad if nobody read your books and articles? We all need some personality cult, even you [need it] .


Every governor, every president, and every ministry head in the U.S. would not be able to work well without a group of people who adore them.


I don't like the Democratic Party; in comparison, I like the Republican Party better. We prefer the Nixon administration because he is more honest. Although he has more hard-line policies, he has soft-line policies too. If he wishes to visit Beijing, tell him to come secretly and not to make it open. It does not matter if our negotiations do not go smoothly. Why should our relations always be deadlocked? But you Americans cannot make it secret because it is impossible for your president to leave the country secretly. If he comes to China, he must trumpet that he tries to play the China card for restraining the Soviet Union. And that is why he is not willing to do so right now. It will not bring America any advantages to restrain the Soviet Union right now; and it is not wise to restrain China, either.


You said that we made the right decisions; we decided five years ago not to dispatch our troops [to Vietnam?], and so Nixon decided not to attack China. I don't think so. We sent a million soldiers as "Chinese People's Volunteers" to Korea. General [Douglas] MacArthur tried to bomb Manchuria, that is, the Northeast of China, but [Harry S.] Truman dismissed him eventually. Then that MacArthur turned into a pacifist, can you believe that? People in the world just keep changing like that, but there are people like you and me who do not change.


This Lime you have had a chance to visit factories, rural areas and schools. It is good for your study of Chinese society. This visit is very different from your previous ones, and has deeper meanings.


Snow: The current agricultural situation in China is very good.


Mao: However, Chinese agriculture is still dependent on manual labor and uses cattle for plowing.


Snow: This time I re-visited some communes that I had been to ten years ago. They have made tremendous progress.


Mao: Now they have made some progress, but they are still underdeveloped. The literacy rate is still low and very few women are concerned about birth control.


Snow: I still think they are much better than five or ten years ago.


Mao: I agree that they have made some progress, but not "tremendous" progress.


Snow: At least there is nobody objecting to birth control any more.


Mao: Don't be misled. Women in the rural areas always want to have boys. If the first child is a girl, she will give birth to a second child due to desire for a boy child. If the second child is a girl again, she will give birth to child after child until she finally has a boy. And that is why one woman gave birth to nine girls by the time she was fotiy-five years old.


Snow: But the majority of people, especially the young ones, do not object to birth control any more.


Mao: People still think men are superior to women in China. It is not a good custom. Perhaps it is the same in the United States. It takes time for people to change their minds.


Snow: There is a large-scale women's liberation movement in the U.S. right now. They ask for absolute equality between men and women.


Mao: Absolute equality is still unfeasible nowadays.


It does not matter whether you are a Chinese or an American, I place my great hopes on both Chinese and American peoples, especially the American people; our first [priority] is Asia, Africa and Latin America, and our second [priority] is Europe, North America and Australia.


There are 200 million people living in the U.S. We would rather place our hopes on the Americans than the on Soviets. We will be very glad if there would be a leading party that could make revolution in the U.S., because America is a leading industrial country in the world, and its culture is well developed.


Currently one of our policies is not to allow Americans to visit China. Is it an appropriate policy? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should think it over. We should invite the leftists, centrists and rightists, and let them all come. Why should we invite the rightists? Because Nixon is a rightist, and he represents the monopoly capitalists. We must let him come because only Nixon, not the leftists or the centrists, can solve the problems we are now facing.


He wrote to our friends and said that he had wished to send his representative to us a long time ago. We did not publicize the fact and kept it secret. Nixon was not interested in the Sino-American ambassadorial talks in Warsaw, Poland, but wished to come and talk to us directly. So that is why I said that if Nixon wished to come, I was willing to talk to him. It does not matter whether the talks go smoothly or not; he could come either as a tourist or as the president. Although I have to criticize him, I do not think our talks will not go well. Also, we have to criticize ourselves, that is to say, to reflect on our mistakes and faults or weaknesses, as well. For example, our productivity is lower than that of the United States.


You have said that China has made great strides in progress. I do not think so. We have made a little bit of progress. I am glad that the American revolution has made some progress. I am still not satisfied with China's development. Although it has progressed compared to thirty-five years ago. It took thirty-five years![4]


We were very backward and only had 8,000 soldiers thirty-five years ago. At that time, the [Chinese Red Army's] Second Front Army and Fourth Front Army had not been unified. After they joined together, we were able to eventually recruit 25,000 soldiers in Shaanxi and Gansu [provinces] We walked almost 25,000 !is, and only 25,000 soldiers were left. However, it was still better than the situation of 300,000 soldiers and several base areas before the Long March, because the Party's policies changed and Wang Ming's Line was criticized.[5]


Snow: I would like to have your opinions on a couple of issues. First, about Nixon's visit to China. Should we think that while right now this may not be practical, it is ideal for Nixon to visit China?


Second, about American people's visit to China. I am so glad that I was considered as an exception.


Mao: But you do not represent the United States because you are not a monopoly capitalist.


Snow: Exactly. I just want to say so.


Mao: We have documents to prove that Nixon said he had wished to send his representatives to China for negotiations, and he also wished that secret negotiations could be held in Beijing or Washington. However, he tried to keep it confidential from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and your Department of State. Why does he always want to keep it secret and not open? When is his next election year coming up?


Snow: 1972.


Mao: 1972 is America's election year. I think that Nixon might send his representatives here in the first half of the year instead of coming himself. If he wishes to talk with us, the first half of 1972 might be the time. However, he is not willing to give up Taiwan yet, and Jiang Jieshi [Chiang Kai-shek] is still alive. Why is he so concerned about Taiwan? The situation became so because of Truman and [Secretary of State Dean] Acheson. And the president after them [Dwight D. Eisenhower] had made some contribution [to making Taiwan like this]. And then there was [John F.] Kennedy. Nixon was once the Vice President, and, during his term, and he visited Taiwan. He said that Taiwan had a population of over ten million. And I say that there are over one billion people in Asia, and there are three hundred million people in Africa, and they are all making rebellions.


What do you think about this world?


Snow: I agree with what you have said. There is the question concerning control, and there is the question concerning how America will maintain its power. The total population of India, Pakistan and China, put together, has reached 1.5 billion. With the people of Indonesia, Japan and other countries, the population of Asia might be considered to be more than half of the population of the whole world. Japan is rapidly developing into a leading industrial country, and it is already the third industrial power in the world. With such a large population, if China's industrial productivity could catch up with Japan, the total productivity of China and Japan would be much higher than that of the U.S and Europe.


Mao: It depends on our strategies. More than 190 years ago, you had only three million people when Washington led the American Revolution and defeated Britain—the number one industrial power of the world with almost 30 million people. What you had were poor weapons and only some state militias. Washington was a planter. He became angry and decided to start a guerilla war. The Englishmen could not find any Americans, because the Americans hid themselves here and there in the comer. In 1776, one year after the beginning of the war in 1775, did the Congress of the thirteen states eventually meet and elect Washington as the Commander-in-chief. They had few troops and, with big financial difficulty, little money, and they had to issue war bonds. But still they defeated the English.


What about us? You saw what we had [thirty-five years ago]. We lost all our base areas in the south, and only had fewer than 30,000 troops and one base area with 1.5 million people. No, less than that because we even did not have Yanan[6] at the time. Jiang Jieshi was a redoubtable opponent. Later, during the Truman's time, he obtained help from [George] Marshall.[7]


At that time, we only had over 20,000 troops, with Baoan as our base area. There were only 200 families at that time. No one believed that we could eventually take the whole mainland.


Snow: But you thought of it.


Mao: Yes, I thought of it, but I was not very sure that whether we would succeed or not. We only knew that on the day we succeeded. And then, the Japanese came. That is why I say that Nixon is good. Those Japanese were really very good, because our revolution would not have succeeded without the help of the Japanese. I used to say this to a Japanese capitalist named Saburo Nango. He always apologized: "I am so sorry for our invasion of China." I said to him: "No, you, the Japanese militarists and the Japanese emperor helped us a lot. The Chinese people united and fought together against you because you had conquered more than half of China. Also we were able to recruit one million troops and occupy areas with 100 million people. Aren't this all due your help?"


There is an American journalist named Kano [spelling and identification uncertain; possibly Stanley Karnow] who had been to Hong Kong, and he is now in the Soviet Union. He quoted this statement. He said that the Americans were stupid because they had instigated people all over the world to awake.


Snow: I reported your words before and many people have quoted you.


Mao: You have to report that we would not have succeeded without Jiang Jieshi, the Japanese invaders, and without America's help for Jiang Jieshi.


Snow: When I met Prince Sihanouk[8] a few days ago, he said that Nixon was a good deputy for Mao Zedong.


Mao: I like such kind of persons. I like the most reactionary people in the world. I do not like the Social Democratic Party; I do not like Revisionism. Revisionism has its fraudulent side, so does the current West German government.


Snow: The more Nixon intervenes in South Asia, the more he instigates South Asian people to fight against him.


Mao: Good! Nixon is good! I think we could have a wonderful discussion. I will not have a quarrel with him.


Snow: I do not know him, but if I do meet him, could I say ....


Mao: You need only to say: "You are a good person. The best person in the world." [Leonid] Brezhnev is not good, and [Willy] Brandt is not so good either.


Snow: I remember you said, "The question concerning national struggle is in essence one concerning class struggle."


Mao: That is right. What is "nation"? It includes two groups of people. One group is the people who belong to the higher, exploiting class. They are the minority. They can speak out, and they organize the government, but they cannot fight in a war, or work in the fields, or work in the factories. More than ninety percent are workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie. Without them a nation cannot be formed.


Snow: I would like to tell you my experience briefly. As background information, perhaps you would be interested in it. ... [9]


My experience is very typical for people of my generation. I studied and worked at the same time.


Mao: But your worldview remains capitalistic, not proletarian. My worldview was a capitalist one for a long time. I believed in Confucius first, and Kant's Idealism after that. I knew nothing about Marx. I believed in Washington and Napoleon. Jiang Jieshi helped me eventually because he killed people in 1927.[10] Of course, seventy intellectuals organized the Chinese Connnunist Party as early as in 1921. There were only twelve of them elected as representatives when the CCP was first established. Of the twelve representatives, only two are still surviving, not counting people who died in the revolution, simply died, quit, or became reactionary. One is Dong Biwu,[11] and the other is myself, Mao Zedong.


Snow: I think it very important that you emphasize combining education with labor.


Mao: We did not have our own professors, or high school and elementary school teachers. We had to use those left over by the Guomindang. And that is why during the Cultural Revolution we made them the first targets of attack, but we only discarded no more than three percent of them. We let the rest of them stay. And when they become old and cannot work, we will feed them. They may maintain other things, but they have to combine [their life] with labor. This should be June gradually, and should not be in a hurry. We should not force them, and we should not impose things upon them.


I do not like their way of teaching in the classroom. You have written the lecture notes, why don't you simply give them to the students to read? If the students could not understand, then they could bring their questions to class to ask the teadters. However, the students were often quite cunning. The teachers could at best answer only fifty questions out of one hundred. How about the remaining fifty questions? The teacher should say: "Like you, I do not know the answers myself either." Then the teachers and the students could study together. Then, the class should be over. Don't you think it is so wonderful? I teach like this, and I do not let students take notes. If they want to sleep in class, I let them sleep; if they want to skip a class, I let them skip. It is really good to let them sleep. If they only sit there in a serious manner without any interest in the lecture, it is better for them to conserve their energy.


Mao: Not exactly are you a good journalist! Why did you choose to become a journalist? Why did you write books and try to become famous? Your book Red Star has made you famous. There is a book, which is as good as yours, written by a sailor. He had been ashore in Guangzhou and seen the Japanese invasion. His name might be Belden[12] and might have not been to the areas we had liberated.


Snow: I know him, he is still alive.


Mao: How about [Owen] Lattimore?


Snow: He is still alive, too. He used to teach at Johns Hopkins University, but was persecuted during the McCarthy era and afterwards. He is in Britain currently.


I met some China experts when I came to the Far East a couple of years ago. I always asked if one of them had written review essays about "On 'Hai Rei Was Dismissed from Office'"[13] and pointed out the article's double meaning. I did not find any of them had noticed the profound meaning of this article, and therefore they were unable to predict and understand the Cultural Revolution ...


Mao: As "On 'Hai Rei Was Dismissed from the Office'" was a great blow to our enemies, nobody would write anything about it in Beijing. They said that Wu Han[14] was a historian, so they could not attack him. We asked someone to write a review, he did not dare to write; we asked a second one, he did not dare to write, either; and nor the third one. Then, a writing group was organized in Shanghai led by Yao Wenyuan.[15] Although they wrote a critical review, they were not allowed to publish it in Beijing. I was in Shanghai at that time and told them to "publish it in the form of a pamphlet, and see what the people in Beijing would do." Only the Liberation Army Daily published it in Beijing. People's Daily and Beijing Daily did not publish it. Afterwards, it was reprinted all over the country except for in one province-Hunan, which is my home province.


Snow: Was that because Liu Shaoqi[16] stopped the papers in Hunan from publishing it?


Mao: No. The Propaganda Department chief of the Hunan Province Committee was a rightist. The Propaganda Department, Personnel Department, and the Provincial Party Committee were all crushed [during the Cultural Revolution]. However, we came to think that all of Hunan Province is like that because of this one issue, we also have several prominent figures from Hunan Province. One is the current First Secretary of the Hunan Province Committee, Hua Guofeng.[17] He is a veteran. Another is the current number one person of the Revolution Committee in Shaanxi Province, Li Ruishan. He was also a former secretary of Hunan province. A third is the second in command in Gansu Province, Hu Jizong.


Snow: Do you think it possible for China and the United States to establish diplomatic relations?


Mao: China and the United States will establish diplomatic relations sooner or later. Could China and the United States ignore each other for 100 years? After all we did not occupy your Long Island.


Snow: I would like to ask a question. When did you perceive that you must purge Liu Shaoqi from the political stage?


Mao: A long time ago. In January 1965, we issued the "Twenty-three Protocols."[18] The first of the Twenty-three Protocols was that "the purpose of the 'four clean-ups' is to clean up those in power within the party who were taking the capitalist road." Liu Shaoqi was against it at once. He had published his book On Accomplishment before that and did not mention anything about imperialism, feudalism and Guomindang.


Snow: Are you talking about the new edition?


Mao: No, the old edition. He said that we, the Communist Party, should not take power. As communists what are we going to do if we do not take the power?


Snow: Did you believe that you must have a revolution at that time?


Mao: Yes. We began critiquing "Hai Rui Was Dismissed from the Office" in October 1965, and had decided to start the Cultural Revolution at the Politburo's Enlarged Meeting on May 16, 1966. We held the Eleventh Plenum in August 1966 and passed the Sixteen Protocols.


Snow: Did Liu Shaoqi also oppose the Sixteen Provisions?


Mao: His attitude was not clear at that time, but he took it very seriously later when I issued the big-character poster. In fact, he became resolutely in opposition to the Sixteen Protocols.


Snow: Was that the big-character poster titled "Bombard the Headquarters"?


Mao: Yes.


Snow: So he knew that he was the "Headquarters"?


Mao: At that time, the power of the Party, propaganda power, the power of the Party in various provinces, and the power at local levels, such as in Beijing, were out of my control, and even I could not do anything with them. That is why I said that some type of personality cult was necessary at the time.


It is different now; the personality cult has gone too far. For example, people have used the "Four Greats" to describe me: "Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Supreme Commander, and Great Helmsman."[19] Nonsense! I hope one day every title could be eliminated except for "Great Teacher," because I have been and always will remain a teacher. Everything else should be eliminated.


Snow: Was all of this necessary before?


Mao: While the personality cult was necessary for the past a few years, it is not necessary now. We should cool our enthusiasm about the personality cult.


Snow: Sometimes I do not know if those people who admire someone excessively are genuine or not.


Mao: There are three kinds of people. One kind are the people who admire in all sincerity. Another kind are those who drift with the tide. "Because you all shout 'long live,' so do I." A third kind are the people who pretend to admire you. But you should never trust them.


Snow: I heard that at the Central Plenum held on the eve of your entry into Beijing, a provision forbidding using party leaders' names to name cities, streets or villages was passed.


Mao: Things like that are not allowed even now. Nobody can use personal names to name streets, cities or places, but there are other ways to admire leaders such as using slogans, portraits and plaster statues. The Red Guards started those things a few years ago. If someone dared to oppose that, they would say that you were anti-Mao.


President Nixon likes law and order,[20] doesn't he? He likes that law, and he likes that order. We should have a provision allowing strikes in our current constitution. We should add the freedom to strike besides the "Four Freedoms'', so that we could punish the bureaucrats. We need this provision to punish the bureaucrats.


Snow: Do you mean to add striking to the new constitution?


Mao: It should be added to the new constitution.


That is why I said that China was still underdeveloped. There are two contradictory factors here, one is advanced and the other is backwards, then: am struggles.


Snow: I think that the people's cult of Mao Zedong means that it was necessary to personify a nation's power with a single person. During the Cultural Revolution, it was necessary to use Mao Zedong and his teachings as symbols of everything good until the end of the revolution.


Mao: It was for the purpose of opposing Liu Shaoqi. We had to do it to oppose Jiang Jieshi before and Liu Shaoqi afterwards. We had to set an example for our side because they had set up Jiang Jieshi. We established Chen Duxiou, but he was not good enough; then we set up Qu Qiubai, he was still not good enough; then Li Lisan and Wang Ming were not good, either. What should we do? We had to set up someone to shadow Wang Ming. The Chinese Revolution would not succeed if we could not overthrow Wang Ming.[21] Our party had a run of bad luck.


Snow: How is the Party now?


Mao: Not good.


Snow: Is it better than before?


Mao: It is better than before and I will agree with you if you say that it is becoming a little bit better, but I cannot agree that China is much better. There are two factors fighting with each other right now. One is progressive and the other is conservative.


I do not favor two of the tendencies that prevailed during the Cultural Revolution. One was not telling the truth. Although they said, "Fight with words and not by force," they in fact used coercion all the time. If they were asked, "Why did you use force?" then they would just deny that they had done so. They never told the truth. When the fighting escalated to conflict, they began using weapons. That is the reason foreigners described China as being in chaos at the time. It was true. We did have violence at the time.


The second tendency I do not favor is the maltreatment of captives. The Red Army and the People's Liberation Army never maltreated captives; they treated them well. They did not use force or search the captives' pockets. Our armies gave the captives money for going home and they never shot the captives, even the officers such as the generals. The captives should not be maltreated because they, whether soldiers or officers, low-ranking officers or high-ranking officers, were deprived of their weapons. We always had this rule, and that is why many captives converted and decided to join our armies after only a week.


When you go back to the U.S., I hope that you could do some social research. Study the workers, peasants, students, intellectuals, capitalists and all the different classes. Observe their lives and their mood. Is one week enough to research a factory, say, an average factory with about a thousand people?


Snow: Yes.


Mao: Then it will only take two weeks even if you survey two factories. Will one week be enough to do research on a farm?


Snow: Yes.


Mao: So that will be two weeks for researching two farms. The total are four weeks, only a month, isn't it? Then survey two schools, a junior high school and a college; that will take half a month. However, it is difficult to discover the truth through one survey. First, they might not tell you the truth; second, you might not fully understand the information you get. That is my experience of researching for the last several decades. As an intellectual, you will find that it is a different experience to talk to workers and peasants. Why would they talk to you'! They are afraid of you investigating their secrets. It is very difficult to become friends with workers and peasants. People like you would find it easier to become friends with intellectuals, petty bureaucrats, and petty bourgeoisie, but not as easy to be friends with workers and peasants. If you do not believe me, go ahead and try.


You should look around the U.S., Europe and China. Then you could live one third of the year in the U.S., another third of a year in Europe and the rest in China. Make the whole world your home.


Snow: But I have my job to do.


Mao: In my opinion, doing research in the U.S., Europe and China could be your job.


Snow: I will try, but I cannot promise what the outcome will be. What happens in China has a great influence on the U.S. Due to the social and political instability caused by the Vietnam War, the United States is in an even bigger upheaval currently. The administration has lost the confidence of the majority of the American people, because the young generation received a better education than their parents and the science of the country has been developing, so that the people have increasingly noticed the differences between the administration's policies and what they actually have done.


Mao: [The administration] did not tell the truth. One cannot ask people to trust him without telling the truth. Why would they trust you? It happens among friends, too. For example, we have not changed significantly since we have first met each other thirty-five years ago. We have always treated the other as friends. I am a little bit bureaucratic, but I criticize myself.


Snow: Do you wish to solve the problems between China and the Soviet Union?


Mao: We have to solve the problems between the Soviet Union and us. We have to solve all the problems between all the countries in the world.


Snow: You are right.


Mao: We have to wait until both sides agree to solve the problems; we could not do anything if only one side wishes to act.


Snow: What exactly will the Soviet Union do?


Mao: I do not know.


Snow: Is the Soviet Union afraid of China?


Mao: Why should they fear China?! China's atomic bomb is only this big (Mao shows his little finger), the Soviet Union's atomic bomb is about this big (Mao shows his thumb), and America's atomic bomb is this big (Mao shows another thumb). Look, two of them will be like this (Mao puts his two thumbs together).


Snow: Will they fear China in the long run?


Mao: I heard that they were a little bit afraid of China. One does fear the mice in his room eating his snacks. And he would not sleep well because the mice were playing around in his room. The Soviet Union was just a little bit panicked. For example, they were afraid of our digging air-raid shelters. Why should they fear? We were just digging the shelters to protect us from the Soviets, not [because we were] going to invade them. Then they were afraid again when we criticized their revisionism. We would like to ask them who had criticized whom first, and who had started the Sino-Soviet conflict. They called us dogmatic; we called them revisionist. We did not fear being called dogmatic. We published the articles in which they criticized us for being dogmatic in our newspapers, but they did not dare to publish our articles in their newspapers. If they call us dogmatic, they should have a reason for doing so. Dogmatism is something against Marxism-Leninism; we have to criticize everything against Marxism-Leninism. However, they did not do so. Then they asked the Cuban delegation to come to make peace, and request us to stop the open debate. They also asked Romania to do the same thing. I said no and that we would continue debating for ten thousand years. Afterwards, Kosygin came to Beijing [in 1965] to meet me. I said: "We do not mind you  calling us dogmatic, but then why did you overthrow Khrushchev-the person who started using this term? In the resolution you indicated that 'Comrade Khrushchev creatively .developed Marxism-Leninism.' Why did you give up the person who developed Marxism- Leninism? I do not understand. If you do not need him, could we invite him here? We would like to invite him to lecture at Beijing University and teach the 'developed Marxism-Leninism."' However, he would not allow me to do so. Then I said: "But you are the premier ... the premier of the Soviet Union. Although our debate will continue for ten thousand years, I will make a concession because of you. I will concede a thousand years for you." Afterwards, he told me that it was a wonderful discussion.


The Soviets despised the Chinese and the people in many countries. They thought that we would all listen to their orders, but they did not know that there were people who would not obey. I was one of them.


Snow: I would like to give you my opinions on the Cultural Revolution briefly in order to make myself clear ...[22]


Mao: The problem of the conflict between the people living in the city and in the countryside that you just mentioned is not so serious. Tt is basically a problem between revisionism and anti-revisionism. If we choose revisionism, we have to compromise with the Soviet Union.


About the issue of the capitalist factor developed in urban and rural China, my opinion is that it would be developed, and it is in fact still developing. We have a large number of poor peasants in China; they are about 60 to 70 percent among all the peasants. Also, we have to unite the middle-class peasants, too. However, the rich middle-class peasants are developing capitalism every minute. This is what Lenin had said, not us. China is like a sea of petty bourgeoisie; there are too many peasants here. There are not many workers in this country and the working class is still young. It is also to the advantage of the working class. In Western countries, it is different to create a revolution because the capitalists monopolize the markets strictly and have many propaganda machines working for them. However, China is different. For example the religions, we have few people who genuinely believe in. We have only approximately eight to nine hundred thousand Christians, two to three million Catholics and about ten million Muslims within several hundred million people. Others believe in the Dragon King when they are ill or do not have any children; but they do not pray to him when they get better or have children.


Snow: Have you answered all the questions about the Cultural Revolution?


Mao: I only answered a part of your questions about the Cultural Revolution. If you wish, please come again next year.


Snow: Have you solved the food problem basically?


Mao: In the past, we used to shift the surplus food from the south to the north; now the provinces and cities are gradually trying to solve the problems by themselves. The other problem is to shift the surplus fuel such as coal from the north to the south. Due to the lack of fuel in Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang and the south of Jiangsu, we had to transport fuel to them from northern China. Fortunately, they do not currently have a fuel problem. Two initiatives - the initiative of the central government and the initiative of local governments - are important. The central government will not take charge of doing everything for the local governments any more, and will let the local governments to look for what they need by themselves. Eventually, the local governments will succeed in obtaining everything they need by their own efforts. That is why we should not centralize the power; I could not be in charge of everything. We have to learn that from you, move the power to the fifty states.


Snow: This time I noticed that there have been great changes in China.


Mao: That is all about the two initiatives I mentioned earlier - the initiative of the central government and the initiative of the local governments. I have been indicating that for over ten years, they do always not listen to me. Now they listen to me. Things happen in this world just like this; people do not always go straight but make detours.


Snow: Sometimes people also go around in a circle, and then try to break through the circle and have a new start.


Mao: In short, what I always try to tell you is, our relationship has not changed since thirty-five years ago. I tell you the truth; I think you tell me the truth, too.


[1] The so called "capitalist roaders" referred to the people in power within the party who, allegedly, supported the capitalism.

[2] This incident happened on August 22, 1967, when the Red Guards in Beijing, in protesting Britain's suppression of "revolutionary rebels" in Hong Kong, set fire to the office of British Charge d'affaires in Beijing.

[3] The existence of the "May 16tl' Movement," however, was never proven during the Cultural

Revolution and, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese leadership acknowledged that the accusations against the "May 16th Movement" were completely groundless. In fact, the "Movement" never existed.

[4] Mao first met Edgar Snow in 1935, thirty-five years before this meeting.

[5] Wang Ming, also known as Chen Shaoyu, was the head of the "international section" within the Chinese Communist Party leadership.

[6] Yanan, located in northern Shaanxi province in China's Northwest, was the Chinese Communist Party's "Red Capital" from 1937 to 1947.

[7] In December 1945, President Harry S. Truman decided to dispatch General George C. Marshall to come to China to help mediate the conflict between the Chinese Communist and Nationalist parties. The scholarly consensus today, even among scholars in China, was that Marshall's mediation efforts, though did not succeed, were genuine and impartial.

[8] Prince Sihanouk was king of Cambodia 1941-1955, Prime Minister 1955-1960, and chief of state 1960-1970, when he was deposed in a coup led by General Lon Nol. He was then leading a government in exile in Beijing.

[9] The omission here is in the original documents.

[10] Mao here pointed to Jiang Jieshi's anti-Communist coup in April 1927.

[11] Dong Biwu was then a CCP Politburo member and Acting Chairman of the People's Republic of China.

[12] Mao here refers to lark Belden, author of China Shakes the World.

[13] "Hai Rei Was Dismissed from Office," first published in a Shanghai-based newspaper in October 1965, was one of the most important articles leading to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

[14]  Wu Han, a historian and in the 1960s the vice-mayor of Beijing, was the author of the drama "Hai Rui Was Dismissed from Office" and the main target of criticism during the early stage of the Cultural Revolution. He committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution.

[15] Yao Wenyuan was a Cultural Revolution star, one of its "Gang of Four."

[16] Liu Shaoqi was the CCP's second-in-command for a many years and a main target of the Cultural Revolution.

[17] Hua Guofeng would become the CCP Central Committee chairman and China's premier after Mao's death in 1976. He stepped down from these positions in 1980.

[18] The "Twenty-Three Protocols" was an imp01iant CCP Central Committee document reflecting some of Mao's basic ideas about how to promote China's "continuous revolution."

[19] Mao said "Great Teacher, Great Leader, Great Supreme Commander, Great Helmsman" in English.

[20] Mao said these two words, "law" and "order," in English.

[21] Chen Duxiu, Qu Qiubai, Li Lisan, and Wang Ming were also prominent CCP leaders before Mao Zedong rose to the top of the Party's leadership.

[22] The omission here is in the original document.

Mao Zedong talks to American journalist, Edgar Snow, about the Cultural Revolution and his thoughts about the Nixon administration. Mao expressed discontent towards China's pace of development compared to the United States. Mao emphasized the secretive nature on part of Nixon in setting up talks between the US and China. Mao and Edgar also discussed the US's intentions in the Asia-Pacific region. Mao consistently claims that he likes Nixon because Nixon's "reactionary" approach to foreign policy is an advantage to China. Mao admits to Edward Snow that the personality cult around Mao Zedong during that Cultural Revolution was necessary to oppose Liu Shaoqi. Mai discusses his increasingly suspicious view towards the Soviet Union.

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Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi, ed., Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao (Mao Zedong’s Manuscripts since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China), vol. 13 (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1998), 163-187. Translated by Gao Bei. Originally included in Chen Jian, ed., “Chinese Materials on the Sino-American Rapprochement (1969-1972)” (unpublished collection, February 2002)


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