Changzhou Revolutionary Song Troupe leader Dai Cheng has visited the birthplace of Mao Zedong in Hunan province numerous times. The museum at Shaoshan is a traditional focal point for celebrating Mao’s birthday on Dec. 26, and Dai often takes his choir there to sing revolutionary songs and hold an all-night vigil for his political hero. In a recent interview with Radio Free Asia, Dai said the festive atmosphere in Shaoshan is incredibly moving, and the vigil they held for Chairman Mao was a unique and unforgettable experience. As China marks the 130th anniversary of Mao’s birth, Mao is once again gaining political popularity, especially among his large fan base. Hu Ping, a U.S.-based political commentator, stated that there are various reasons why people idolize Mao, such as dissatisfaction with today’s capitalist society and reverence for the fairness and security that the Mao era represented.
Dai’s father was born into a poor family and joined the revolution at a young age, and something that Dai inherited from his family was a communist culture, which laid the foundation for his thinking. He became an active Red Guard at the age of 13, but switched sides and feels guilty about it to this day. According to Hu Ping, during the 1980s there was criticism and denial of Mao’s legacy, but with the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and the ideological crackdown that followed, the negation of Mao’s legacy was also suppressed. Moreover, Mao’s image has been used for political agendas by several government officials, including current Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
The government is wary of any opposition that uses Mao’s image, and has cracked down on Maoist websites and young leftists campaigning for workers’ rights. However, for Dai’s revolutionary song choir, their singing isn’t just for fun; they are dedicated followers of Mao and their singing of revolutionary songs is a form of political activism.