From poor peasant to PhD professor: Mobo Gao’s revolutionary upbringing during China’s Mao Era




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Most Westerners take for granted the privileged, middle class upbringing they have had. Pretty cushy for starters, compared to the 30,000 children who, to this day, die every 24-hour news cycle, due to a lack of clean water, shelter, medical care and adequate nutrition, often caused by Eurangloland’s incessant wars and imperial domination of Planet Earth. For the more than three billion fellow humans who live on less than $2.50 per day, including 1.5 million households and 3 million children in the United States, we all represent their one-percent class.

Mobo Gao had clean water, shelter, medical care and adequate nutrition, growing up in revolutionary China, during the 1950s-1970s. But he still lived through an upbringing that few Westerners can imagine, because he was dirt poor and isolated in a rural Chinese village, far from urban comfort. He never starved, but was eternally hungry.

Ninety-nine percent of the books Westerners read about the Mao Era are written by “Scar Literature” authors. There is big money in penning books that portray New China in the worst possible light. Facts and credible research often don’t matter, but here’s a cool million if you’ll write us a sordid, sensational screed about how awful and depraved the communist revolution was, 1949-1978. “We need a rewrite. Your script is is not terrifying, bloody and shocking enough”!

Mobo Gao grew up and lived during the heyday of New China’s rapid development and social change, including the much sensationalized Great Leap Forward, 1959-1961 and the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976. Unlike the money grubbing scar literature writers, Mobo’s two books are cool, calm, collected and fact-filled, backed up with tons of statistics and real life experiences in rural, communist China – the good and the bad.

Join China Rising Radio Sinoland host Jeff J. Brown, as he spends a wonderful interview with a man who really lived Mao’s Era, from the ground up – Mobo Gao.

Here are Mobo Gao’s two books, which Jeff read and thoroughly enjoyed:

Mobo’s interview makes for a wonderful bookend with another guest Jeff had on his show recently. Dongping Han also grew up during revolutionary China and has some fascinating stories to tell, as well. Their two interviews are quite different, so both make for valuable and informative listening.

Son of the Revolution – Dongping Han on growing up during China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. China Rising Radio Sinoland 161110

Postscript: readers wrote asking me what happened to Gao Village, since Mobo’s book was written. He was kind enough to reply, as an addendum to the interview:

The Gao Village book leaves off in 1997 actually (the book appeared in 1999) and I have written a sequel and MS is under review by the publisher.

There are too many things to talk about in a paragraph. I will just list a few points:

  • There had been a real estate boom in the village since then and there are now huge and beautiful looking houses in the village.
  • The real estate boom has been financed by the saving of migrant workers, who consist of more than a quarter of the village population.
  • Migrant workers still leave their children at home to be cared by grandparents and when they are too old migrant workers go back to the village to farm and their children leave homes to become migrant workers.
  • It is not clear whether this pattern is sustainable.
  • In terms of material provision like food and daily necessities, Gao villagers have never had it so good. But the society is fragmented.
  • The two important issues i.e., ownership of land and urbanization, are still ambiguous. Will village land be privatised so that land will be concentrated in the hands of a few and will most of the villagers become urban residents in the process?



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“44 Days Backpacking in China- The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass” by Jeff J. Brown @ on Ganxy

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