Hua Guo-Feng: The man who wasn't there
This poster celebrates Mao Ze-Dong's successor. But, while the Great Helmsman always had the place of honor, Hua Guo-Feng's presence is simply suggested by a contrechamp. Of course, the debonair face of Hua Guo-Feng appears on many propaganda posters. But for sure, the era of the personality cult has ended.
When I want to test the political culture of my young chinese friends, I ask what they know about Hua Guo-Feng. Most of them vaguely remember he stood in during the interim between Mao Ze-Dong and Deng Xiao-Ping. The others probably skipped the only history class where he was mentioned. However, it's hard to blame their ignorance. The media are very discreet regarding Hua. A while ago, a Shenzhen newspaper interviewed me about Maopost. As I explained to the journalist that I was particularly interested in Hua Guo-Feng's personality, he immediately interrupted me: I won't write anything concerning Hua, he is a very sensitive topic. Auto-censorship in action.
Like Chairman Mao, Hua Guo-Feng is a native of Hunan province. This is one of the explanations, along with his unstinting endorsement of Mao, for the dazzling ascension of this mediocre politician. A friend of mine who has not insignificant political responsibilities, has communicated me this opinion shared by most of the Party cadres: Hua was an imbecile, too weak to govern China. There is certainly some truth in it. Just notice how easily Deng Xiao-Ping ousted Hua Guo-Feng from power.
Why has official history assigned such a miserable place to Hua Guo-Feng? After all, he was Chairman Mao's most faithful among the faithful, even his heir apparent. Just before his death, Mao is said to have scrawled the following words: "With you in charge I am at ease." Moreover, the first action of President Hua was to arrest the infamous Gang of Four, which should have earned him the eternal gratitude of the Party. But the communist leadership decided otherwise. Probably to protect Mao's image, they erased mention of this disciple, too compromised by aberrations of the Cultural Revolution.
Hua Guo-Feng is reportedly still alive, kept in confinement somewhere in China. Or perhaps the news of his death has yet to reach us. When the time comes to publicize it, it will be interesting to observe the reaction of the Chinese media. This may give us a hint as to how Mao's official status will evolve in the future.