Woman under a portrait of Mao in Yuncheng, China
Cyrille Pluyette

BEIJING — In Xi Jinping's China, it is again a risky proposition to openly criticize Mao Zedong. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) thought it had resolved the discussion in 1981 when it decreed that the reign of Mao, the founder of the People's Republic of China, had been 70% good and 30% bad. But since Xi Jinping's rise to power more than four years ago, he has been feeding the cult of The Great Helmsman and clamping down on any criticism of Mao's legacy.

More than 40 years after Mao's death, the "red emperor," whose face still appears on banknotes, remains a guardian figure for the CCP. What position people take on Mao usually indicates their political shade: the regime's left-wing, embarrassed by the boom of capitalism, worships him; the country's reformist fringe calls for more pluralism by pointing to Mao's errors and bloody legacy. As Xi Jinping expands his control of the Party and society, the clampdown against those with dissenting opinions has intensified.

The renowned economist Mao Yushi, a fierce critic of monopolistic state-owned companies, was one such dissenter who fell victim to this clampdown. On Jan. 20, authorities closed down the website of the think tank founded by the 88-year-old intellectual.

In early January, Deng Xiaochao, 62, a Chinese academic, was sacked from his job for "tarnishing" Mao's image on the commemoration of the leader's birthday. Deng suggested on the microblog platform Weibo that Mao was responsible for the deaths of millions. Deng also posted a message that said "the one good thing Mao did in his life was to die." In retaliation, he was banned from teaching and dismissed from his prestigious post in a provincial government. His action also provoked the furor of scores of neo-Maoists who began to demonstrate outside Shandong Jianzhu University, where Deng taught, attacking students who supported the professor.

President Xi in Beijing on Jan. 26 — Photo: Ju Peng/Xinhua/ZUMA

The director of the the Shijiazhuang bureau of culture and media, in northeastern China, was also fired in January after he called Mao Zedong a "devil."

These attacks are a new side to Beijing, which tries its best to downplay the dark side of the communist party's history. Last year, Yang Jisheng, a famous chronicler of the Mao era, was reportedly pressured not to publish a book on the Cultural Revolution on the 50th anniversary of this bloody episode of Chinese history. Instead, his work was discreetly released in Hong Kong, where freedom is much greater despite Beijing's tightening grip.

China's growing censorship comes ahead of the CCP's 19th National Congress later this year, during which Xi Jinping is expected to be given a second five-year term. The president, who wants to be in a position of strength this autumn, intends to seize the occasion to reinforce "discipline."

By relentlessly praising Mao, Xi Jinping seeks to smooth the rough edges of the revolutionary period and the era of reforms that followed. "There's fear at the top that historical criticism of the Maoist legacy might lead to a questioning of the Party's legitimacy," says Éric Florence, director of the Hong Kong-based French Centre for Research on Contemporary China.

By assuming a neo-Maoist position, the Chinese president can "pull the rug out from under the party's left-wing, which he wants to keep under his thumb," says Jean-Pierre Cabestan of the Hong Kong Baptist University, adding that it's also a warning to pro-reform intellectuals.

Still, Beijing will no doubt be wary of pushing the cult of Mao too far. "There's a risk that social movements will seize Communist ideology and Mao's figure to express their resentment," says Florence. "That's something the regime wants to avoid at all cost."

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]


• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."


With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.



An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.


In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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