From: Wired.com Photo credit: Leander Kahney
I’m making a critical but common Western mistake by grouping all Asians together with a post about China in a Japanese culture blog, but I always jump at the chance to relate recent news to what I can remember from history class. Wired.com, a frequent online stop for me, featured a very interesting article today about Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates being the most popular leader in China since Chairman Mao.
Some excerpts from the article:
“Chairman Mao was the great symbol of revolutionary China, but Bill Gates has become the new idol of youths across China,” said a researcher with China’s ministry of propaganda. “Gates has become more popular in China than any government leader.”
“I read about Bill Gates before I had ever even seen a computer,” said Dong Ruidong, who abandoned his rural village for the bright lights and cybercafes of the Chinese capital. “Even in the remotest villages of China, Gates is one of the most popular figures alive.”
The Chinese edition of Gates’ The Road Ahead “was one of the most successful books in our history,” said Wang Mingzhou, who edited the Chinese edition. It is “among the most important works published since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.”
“Bill Gates deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the Chinese propaganda officer. “He gives people across the globe not only material help, but also inspiration that if they work very, very hard, they might one day become more important than a president.”
It’s funny how the researcher from the ministry of propaganda describes Chairman Mao as “the great symbol of revolutionary China,” the same Mao who closed all the schools to let youth gangs run the streets and betray their friends and family; who purged anyone who opposed him or his ideas of revolution; who ordered the destruction of priceless Chinese artifacts and caused national mayhem and confusion for years. Now Gates is being pumped as some kind of digital messiah. I guess some things never change. The Little Red Book is now replaced by The Road Ahead (exaggeration).
To be fair, Gates is sharing the wealth by providing computers to rural China and donating 1/50th of the proceeds from student Microsoft package sales to governments buying computers for kids K-12. He wants to bridge the digital divide and while he is at it beat competitors in an untapped market that just happens to consist of 1.3 billion citizens, nine tenths of which don’t have personal computers. Gates is a genius.
Kudos to Kevin Holden for an all in all creative and informative article.
Here is the Congressional testimony on “The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?” given by Microsoft’s Jack Krumholtz
Check out Son of the Revolution by Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro (it’s a really good book!) for more information on China’s Great Cultural Revolution (I sound like PBS)