Spandrell is back with an excellent history post about the mechanics of Mao’s cult of personality.
This is going to be a long post.
The idea of Chinese people worshipping wax mangoes because some Pakistani minister didn’t have time to have a proper gift made for his visit to China is indeed quite startling. Of course some people will instantly run into the old stereotype of those perfid Orientals slaves, who have been forever worshipping their tyrants as Gods on Earth. But that’s bullshit. The Chinese have always been a fairly unruly bunch, and the Emperor was never worshipped as a God, unlike the Roman Emperors of our humanistic West.
And the Chinese aren’t stupid either, they’ve always been one of the major civilizations on Earth, often world leader in wealth, scholarship and technology. They have the longest unbroken literary tradition; not having undergone a dark age, it’s amazing how many ancient books are still extant in China.
So why did this intelligent, civilized people fall so low as to worship a rotten Pakistani mango? Politics, that’s why. They are humans and so are vulnerable to politics. And modern politics can get very ugly.
Go ahead and take the time to read it.