Last son of Mao Zedong stayed away from public life


Mao Anqing:The last of Mao Zedong's sons, Mao Anqing, died in Beijing last Friday week after a life lived quietly as a translator tormented by mental illness during the most tumultuous period in China's history.

The shadow cast by the "Great Helmsman" over modern Chinese politics is so huge that it is hardly surprising that none of Mao Zedong's children followed his path into public life.

Born on November 2nd, 1923, in central China's Hunan province, Mao Anqing was Mao's second son by Yang Kaihui, his first wife, according to the official version. Yang Kaihui was executed by the nationalists in 1930 to punish Mao, who was then leading a guerrilla band of communists laying siege to the city of Changsha where the family lived.

For the rest of his life, the four-times-married Mao would say Kaihui was the true love of his life.

The young Anqing was smuggled to Shanghai by the communists with his older brother Mao Anying, but the two boys were forced to live the life of street urchins, stealing from rubbish bins and eating scraps. In 1930, he was beaten up by a policeman, an incident which was often blamed for the mental illness which plagued him throughout his life.

In 1936, Mao Anqing and Mao Anying were sent to Paris, then the Russian ruler Josef Stalin had them brought to Moscow, where they lived until 1947, two years before their father led the communists to victory over Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist KMT in the 1949 civil war.

The boys were brought to Russia ostensibly to ensure they had a decent upbringing, but as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday point out in their recent biography of Mao, Mao: The Unknown Story, Stalin was also aware that they would function as hostages too, a fact which would help the Russian leader keep his unruly, independent-minded ally in check.

Mao Anying was later killed in a US bombing raid during the Korean War, an event which many believe contributed to his brother's worsening mental state. Mao Zedong had planned to name his eldest son as his successor before he died in Korea, but any hopes of a dynasty were dashed by Mao Anqing's mental problems. He was believed to have suffered from schizophrenia and spent much of his adult life in mental hospitals.

He also worked at the Academy of Military Sciences as a researcher, which gave him military rank and ensured his status and livelihood.

As a legacy of spending his formative years studying in the Soviet Union, Mao Anqing was more comfortable reading Russian than Chinese and he worked in the publicity department of the Central Party Committee translating Marxist-Leninist texts and books on political science.

Mao Anying had two half-sisters, Li Na and Li Min. He is survived by his wife Shao Hua and his son Mao Xinyu, who was born in 1970 at the height of the Cultural Revolution which Mao Zedong unleashed on China to cement his grip on power.

After they married, the couple spent a further 11 years living in the Soviet Union after 1970, cementing his language skills.

Shao Hua has a much higher profile than her husband. She was made a major-general in the People's Liberation Army in 1995 and is a committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

No cause of death was given but he had been in a military hospital being treated for kidney problems.

Mao Anqing, born November 2nd, 1923; died March 23rd, 2007