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Mao Zedong Wouldn’t Like Chinese Society Today, Rittenberg Says

Mao Zedong Wouldn’t Like Chinese Society Today
Pedestrians are reflected in a window near a portrait of Mao Zedong, former leader of China, right, and Zhou Enlai, former premier of China, in Beijing. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

China has become a place Mao Zedong would not like “because it has lost its soul,” said Sidney Rittenberg Sr., who worked as a translator for the former leader of the world’s most-populous nation.

Mao “would like that China’s a great power, but he would definitely not like the kind of society -- they’ve kind of lost their soul,” Rittenberg said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in Beijing. “The old spirit of helping one another, thinking of the general good” has diminished, Rittenberg said.

China’s Communist Party gathered today in Beijing to choose its fifth generation of leaders since taking power in 1949, a decision that will shape the nation’s policies for the next decade. The new leadership team will favor market-driven change because without that the nation’s economic growth may falter, Rittenberg said.

The economy’s “at the place where the growth model must be changed or the machine is not going to work,” he said. “Their biggest threat is not to reform, is to be so frightened by the image of the Cultural Revolution, of great turbulence and chaos. If they don’t reform and people decide to get out and reform for them, that could be a critical threat.”

The most likely outcome is that China’s new leaders will introduce changes to promote private enterprise and funnel more credit to small- and medium-sized enterprises, helping unleash new growth engines, Rittenberg said.

Rittenberg was the only American to join Mao Zedong’s Communist Party of China. He is the author of the book “The Man Who Stayed Behind.”

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