Mao and Zhou in 1972
The September 13 Incident was agreat blow to Mao. Lin Biao's succession had been written into the party constitution, but his rebellion against Mao affirmed the failure of the Cultural Revolution, for which Mao was greatly embarrassed. Additionally, the incident led tothe elevation of Zhou Enlai's position to that of Number 2, second only toMao. Mao knew that at the bottom of his heart, Zhou had not agreed with theCultural Revolution. For this reason, Mao could not choose Zhou as his successor.
At first Mao seemed to trust Zhou very much and all the heavy burdens of party work and government administration were placed on Zhou's shoulders. That in and of itself should have been enough to crush any man. Mao even commissioned Zhou to supervise the People's Daily. During that time, Lu Ying, the man in charge of the People's Daily was a follower of the Gang of Four, and he was a good for nothing. Hence, some carelessly written editorials with grammatical errors were sent directly to Zhou. Zhou signed them, but while correcting the errors, he added:"Will youplease not make me take on the work of a primary school teacher?"
In 1972 there was a certain amount of hesitation about how to criticize Lin Biao in the media: in fact, there were very few articles criticizing him. The criticism of Liu Shaoqi had been fierce and wild, while the criticism of Lin Biao was cool and half-hearted. This difference puzzled even the staff of the People's Daily.
In August 1972, Zhou gave the People'sDaily instructions about how to criticize Lin Biao's ultra-leftism, saying that thecriticism of ultra-leftism up to that time had been insufficient. Zhou had already persuaded Maoto correct some of the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution. We at the People's Daily figuredthat this new criticism would be the beginning of further steps to mitigatethe disaster of the Cultural Revolution.
I never thought that Mao was concerned that this would result in a negation of the Cultural Revolution or that the criticism of LinBiao would hurt Mao's prestige.
A week later, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan instructed the People's Daily to take care in not going too farin criticizing ultra-leftism. The difference was conspicuous: Zhou had said"insufficient," while Zhang and Yao said, "do not go too far." Whose instructionshould we obey? The entire editorial staff felt confused. It was under suchcircumstances that I wrote a letter to Mao, expressing my support for Zhouand my disagreement with Zhang and Yao. Mao's response to my letter surprisedme: "Wang Ruoshui says we should criticize ultra-leftism. I think he is unwise,"Mao said.
Afterwards, the winds shifted to criticize Lin Biao's rightism, not his ultra-leftism, and these was a fierce campaign within the People's Daily to criticize me. But I had quoted Zhouin my letter to Mao, hence by criticizing me, Mao was indirectly also criticizingZhou. In fact, Zhang and Yao's instruction had come from Mao, so in criticizingZhang and Yao I was accidently also irritating Mao.
At this time, Mao once talked with Yao about the situation at the People's Daily. Mao recalled his talk to theboard of the People's Daily in 1957. He said that he had told the board a historicalstory about Prince Liu Shi of the Han dynasty.
Prince Liu Shi was known as a mild and merciful man, with an interest in Confucianism. Liu Shi sadly observed that his father, Emperor Xuan, had an inclination toward the Legalist School and was so harsh that he killed some officials who had offered him advice. Once at dinner,the prince said to his father:"Your majesty has been too severe in his punishment.Why don't you appoint some Confucian scholars to help you?" The Emperor lookeddispleased, and said: "The Han dynasty has its own institution, which alternatelyadopts a benevolent method and an overbearing method. What's the use of applyingthe simple rule of virtue?" Then the Emperor criticized the Confucian scholars for being bookworms,who were likely to criticize according to dogma and the classics. Therefore, they were not qualified for political activities. Finally, the Emperor sighed:" It is myown son who is going to bring down our dynasty!"
This was the story that Mao told Yao.After he finished the story, Mao remarked: "Maybe the people at the People'sDaily did not accept, or even did not grasp, the meaning of my story."
Yao told the People's Daily aboutMao's talk and instructed the People's Daily to give him a copy of Mao's talkin 1957. In the audience in 1957, there were four survivors from that time, including myself. We gathered together and triedto recall what Mao had said in 1957. None of us could remember that Mao had told that story; it seemed that Mao's memory was mistaken. However, we did remember that Mao had pointed out the similarity between Deng Tuo and PrinceLiu Shi. "If you were to become an emperor," Mao had said to Deng Tuo, "the empirewould certainly perish!" That is almost exactly what Emperor Xuan says to Prince Liu Shi in the story.
The important and interesting thing is: Why did Mao tell this story? What was Mao's meaning?
The differences between EmperorXuan and Prince Liu Shi represented the differences between the Legalist School and Confucianism. Confucianists believed in the goodness of human nature, thereforethey advocated governing by education and morality. The Legalists recognizedthe evil nature of human beings, and hence they advocated governing by law andforce. Mao was in favor of the Legalist School, not because it stressed law,but because of its emphasis on dictatorship. So Mao agreed with Emperor Xuanthat one should use a benevolent method and an overbearing method alternately. But he preferredthe latter. He disliked those who offered him advice, like the Confucian intellectualsin the past. Mao also hated those who showed mildness and mercy in the so-called"life-and-death class struggle." Therefore, it was natural that Mao did notlike Zhou.
Mao did not mention the last part of the story, that is, after this talk, Emperor Xuan was so disappointed withLiu Shi that for a time he even considered renouncing the prince's status as successor to the throne and appointing his second son as successor.
So the message of this story was obvious: In Mao's mind, Zhou Enlai was somewhat like Prince Liu Shi. If Zhou were to succeed Mao as the top leader, he would rule mildly and then the absolutedictatorship of the party would be destroyed.
But there were also some other reasons why Mao did not like Zhou.
After President Nixon's first visit to China, the diplomatic front was very active and busy. Foreign leadersand journalists, one after another, came to China, and they were honored tobe received by Premier Zhou Enlai. Zhou's name and image appearedin the mass media repeatedly, both within the country and abroad. Many visitorspublished their impressions of Zhou, admiring his talent and elegantdemeanor. I remember reading an article written by Edgar Snow in the ReferenceNews. In this article Snow had written that there were two great men in Chinaat the time, Mao and Zhou, and they were indispensable to eachother. When I read this article, I felt uneasy. Snow was well-intentioned,but Mao certainly would have been displeased by this.
One day--I forget which month--in 1973, Yao Wenyuan gave the People's Daily an instruction which ran as follows:
"Recently there have been too many photographs in the paper. The Chairman also has mentioned this. From now on,there should be no more photos published. If there must be photos, it is mandatory that you ask the permission of the Premier and myself. Please strictly obey this.For the formalities, you should draw up a plan and submit it to the Central Committee."
But after the plan was submitted, there was no answer from the Central Committee. It seemed that this issue was not as simple as Yao had thought. If a foreign leader visited China and wasphotographed with Premier Zhou, and the next morning he found that therewas no photo published in the newspaper, or there was only a photograph ofhimself alone without the premier, what would the distinguished guest say and what would be the response of the mass media of the entire world?
It was from this time that Mao,inspite of his illness and his dislike for diplomatic formalities, began toreceive foreign guests himself. All his guests were accompanied by Zhou Enlai to Zhongnanhai, where Wang Hongwen would be waiting at Mao's door.
I remember that one foreign guest published his reflections after returning home. He wrote: "Before seeing ChairmanMao, I thought Zhou Enlai was the greatest man I had ever met; but after I wasbrought into Mao's presence, Zhou appeared to me to be far less great than Mao." Thatis, I think, exactly the effect that Mao had intended.