The 120th anniversary of the birth of former Communist leader Mao Zedong has been celebrated in China. President Xi Jinping has, however, conceded the founding father of the People’s Republic of China made "mistakes."
Xi and other top leaders paid tribute to Mao with a visit to the mausoleum in Beijing's Tiananmen Square where his embalmed body lies in state. The officials "made three bows to comrade Mao Zedong's statue," reported the Communist party's official newspaper, the People Daily.
Mao led China for 27 years until his death in 1976, and is credited with building the nation into a world power. But he is regarded by many in the west as a dictator, with campaigns such as "The Great Leap Forward" and the Cultural Revolution contributing to the deaths of tens of millions of people and a climate of persecution.
China's current government - part of the one-party system inherited from Mao - is seeking to introduced market reforms that to bolster China's flagging economy. The move would fly in the face of Mao's legacy, meaning celebrations of his anniversary are somewhat respectfully reserved.
The 12-decade anniversary has special meaning in China, where time is traditionally measured in 60-year cycles. But the anniversary had no mention on the front of The People's Daily, while Xi ordered party leaders in Mao's home province of Hunan to keep celebrations "solemn, simple and pragmatic."
'Leaders are not gods'
In his speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi qualified his praise of Mao.
"Mao is a great figure who changed the face of the nation and led the Chinese people to a new destiny," Xi said, according to the official news agency Xinhua.
"Revolutionary leaders are not gods, but human beings. [We] cannot worship them like gods or refuse to allow people to point out and correct their errors just because they are great. Neither can we totally repudiate them and erase their historical feats just because they made mistakes."
He added: "Comrade Mao Zedong's mistakes in his later years have their subjective factors ... but because of complicated social and historical reasons both at home and abroad they should be viewed and analyzed comprehensively [and] historically."
ph/rc (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)