Comrade Himmelfarb, Call Your Office


The de-Maoification of China continues:

When high school students in Shanghai crack their history textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise. The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization.

Socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese Communism before the economic reform that began in 1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao only once—in a chapter on etiquette.

Presumably it cites his views on dinner parties.

I'm always glad to see signs that China is retreating from its Maoist past, and I'm impressed that the new text—limited so far to Shanghai schools—was inspired by the work of the great Fernand Braudel. And no, the authorities aren't pretending that socialism never happened: China's communist years are still taught in junior high.

Best of all, the local teachers have been debating the changes online, a reaction that couldn't have happened in the Shanghai of 1973, and not just because Mao hadn't invented the Internet yet. Such freedom, alas, has its limits:

"The junior high textbook castrates history, while the senior high school textbook eliminates it entirely," one Shanghai history teacher wrote in an online discussion. The teacher asked to remain anonymous because he was criticizing the education authorities.