YPT is known to be fond of a bit of political ideology, from North Korea to Cuba and beyond. On many of our tours, politics is right at the forefront, or it provides a historical backdrop to the cities we visit. Often a history that is still within touching distance.
With this in mind, here is our introduction to the communist ideologies of East Asia! If you want to find out more, well we have a good number of options for you!
Mao Zedong Thought
The pre-eminent ideology of communism transposed onto the fields of Asia. Chairman Mao fought the pro-Soviet, pro-working class insurrection lines in the Chinese Communist Party before eventually ‘sinicising’ communism into a Chinese setting. He said revolution wouldn’t happen in the cities because the proletariat is too small in China, instead the vast peasantry should be the backbone of the revolution. From this, the countryside should surround the cities and the Communist Party cadres should move amongst the masses like fish in water.
After his death, the CCP under Deng Xiaoping concluded Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong, with the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution stains on Mao’s achievements that proved that all out politics could not provide an answer to good old economic development. Mao Zedong Thought is still enshrined in the constitution though and remembered by political leaders in speeches as an appeal to the common people throughout the country. And as the current General Secretary, Xi Jinping, has consolidated his power base in the CCP, some people see it as making a comeback…
Forsake the skyscrapers of Shanghai and the panda sanctuary in Chengdu and join YPT for a full exploration of the enduring influence of recent history on our Chairman Mao Revolutionary Tour which also visits the last remaining People’s Commune in China!
So what’s the difference between Mao Zedong Thought and Maoism, or MLM? Well, the Chinese would tell you Mao’s ideas were only applicable to China, which means they are simply a body of ‘Thought’, whereas various Maoist groups, most prominently the Shining Path in Peru and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) would disagree, and insist that it is an ‘ism’, or in other words applicable to all Third World countries.
Still following? For the Nepalese anyway, it was the theoretical backdrop to their ten year People’s War, from 1996-2006 which, like in China before, ‘liberated’ the vast majority of the countryside from the King’s control, and ended in a mass movement that eventually led to the abolition of the monarchy, the first country to do that since Iran! Since 2006 the Maoists in Nepal have been taking part in elections, winning at first and then following the Monty Python route of splits, splits and splits, but their influence and legacy is still huge.
Get involved in the Civil War legacy of post-war Nepal on our Maoist People’s War Tour this autumn!
In their wars against the French and then the Americans, the Vietnamese under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh played the USSR and China together, but eventually sided with the USSR during their ideological split with Mao’s China. Uncle Ho was more of a nationalist than a full-blooded communist, so socialist was probably a fair description.
Ho never lived to see the unification of Vietnam in 1975, under the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and who knows if he would have approved of Vietnam’s China style opening up to the world in the 1980s that makes Vietnam today a new entity entirely. Possibly the most socialist thing about Vietnam is the continued dominance of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
Explore Vietnam on our Ultimate Leaders Tour, or join us on the whole route and see the mausoleums of Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and the original communist, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin all in one go!
The Kingdom of Cambodia today is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and its communist history is still incredibly recent. The Khmer Rouge is often talked about as a branch of Maoism, but it is more complicated than that.
The Khmer Rouge basically combined a romanticised image of the Angkor Empire with an existential threat from Vietnam, led by Pol Pot who saw the agrarian part of Maoism as the most suitable for Cambodia. So what did he decide to do? Just get rid of the cities. They were knocked out of power by the Vietnamese in 1979, but continued to control parts of the country until the mid-1990s, leaving the infamous Killing Fields as their legacy.
Journey through Red Cambodia’s past on our Cambodia Killing Fields Tour every summer!
And then, of course, we come to the DPRK. Similar to Cambodia, a strong sense of ethnic feeling has permeated the DPRK’s communism, so much so that it moved away from any reference to Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao and officially became a socialist state guided by the Juche idea.
To understand the core idea behind Juche, our guide Mr Kim once described to me: “Korea is historically a small country with Japan, China and Russia as neighbors, and so we have a strong sense of the importance of self-preservation. During the Japanese occupation, many Koreans simply thought we should wait for the Chinese or the Russians to save us. But President Kim Il Sung said no, we cannot wait for anyone, we must liberate ourselves.”
The key to Juche is, therefore, self-reliance, and the power of each individual person over their own destiny, and the mastery of humanity over nature.