Mao Zedong, Genghis Khan, and the Power of Propaganda:
Genghis Khan as Chinese Communist Hero
By Chris Harry
A colossal fact of history regarding China’s defeat at the hands of what they considered lowly, uncivilised Mongolian invaders in the 13th century, whereby it’s people were raped, pillaged, and brutally subjugated, has undergone a stupefying revision in communist party history textbooks.
According to party dogma, Genghis Khan was, in fact, Chinese, while the government misleadingly refers to the largest contiguous empire in world history, an empire which straddled Europe and Asia as simply the Yuan dynasty, thereby reducing it to just another Chinese dynasty ruled by a Chinese emperor. This, of course, contradicts the generally accepted version of history in the rest of the world; that China was but one territory in a much larger Mongolian empire, a colony, albeit a fairly large one.
From a historical perspective, this gigantic distortion seems particularly odd given that during this period of history, Song China was a relatively weak entity in a region where other powers, apart from the Mongols, also threatened its existence as an independent state.
Yet what is most astounding is that whenever this creative adaptation of history is cast in doubt, if it is suggested that Genghis Khan was actually Mongolian, and that China at the time was a conquered territory under Mongolian rule, many if not most Chinese, even the highly-educated, will become angry or express utter dismissal, disbelief, or shock at the very idea that Genghis Khan was not Chinese and that Mongolia was not always a part of China.
According to party propaganda, Genghis Khan was born in what is now present-day Inner Mongolia, and therefore a part of China; ergo Genghis was Chinese. However, whether or not Genghis Khan was actually born in what is currently Inner Mongolia, a fact that is still in question, is irrelevant. Over seven centuries ago, Inner Mongolia was not under Song China rule, nor was it considered a part of China. The fact that Mongolia eventually came under the control of the Qing dynasty hundreds of years later also does not erase the fact that the Mongolians had first conquered China as an independent, non-Chinese entity commonly known as the Mongol empire. In stubborn defiance of reality, an astounding historical juggling act of Chinese communist propaganda which synthetically splices together two temporally non-contiguous empires in history of entirely different geographical scope, which is to say the annexation of the Mongols by the Qing dynasty noticeably later in history, becomes further proof that Genghis Khan and his fellow Mongolians were actually Chinese since time immemorial, even though the Mongols were actually independent of Chinese control for most of recorded history. In this way, segments of history before, during, and after the period of history commonly known in the rest of the world as the Mongolian empire are conveniently and readily remodelled, then artificially strung together, to construct a fanciful Chinese-made Mongolian empire, an empire wherein its conquerors miraculously and instantly abandoned their own ethnic identity and language in favour of becoming Chinese, and who referred to themselves as the Yuan dynasty.
Nominally speaking there was a so-called Yuan dynasty, but it was a branch of a much larger Mongol empire under the control of Kublai Khan, the great grandson of Genghis Khan. In yet another anachronistic twist of historical acrobatics, most Chinese people mistakenly believe it was Genghis Khan himself that founded this fictional 'Chinese' dynasty. More accurately, this political entity which was referred to by its Mongolian rulers as Dai On Ulus, was one of four Khanates under a much larger Mongol empire.
Such an erroneous communist revision of historical doctrine is put into even starker contrast by the simple fact that what we refer to as the territory generally known as China, a geographic area ruled by ethnic Chinese or Han people, had been either overrun or threatened by foreign invaders from Central Asia and Northeast Asia for many centuries in history, areas which were not part of the Chinese empire at the time; including the very last dynasty on Chinese soil which was ruled by the Manchurians – once again foreigner conquerors who invaded China from North of the Great Wall.
In the end, it is a fanciful narrative that flies in the face of Chinese history, let alone widely accepted historical interpretation on the period. A brief perusal of Chinese records at the time illustrates how many Chinese intellectuals and scholars woefully lamented the cruel reality that they had been subjugated by foreign conquerors and treated as second-class citizens, thus casting great shame on their own proud heritage. The Ming dynasty rulers who defeated the Mongols and restored Chinese rule also rejected the notion that the Yuan dynasty was even a legitimate Chinese dynasty and considered that period of history as one of foreign domination.
Of course, every country has its own version of history which tends to be biased in its own favour and refashioned to suit the whims of the ruling class. Nevertheless, reducing the Mongol empire into a brief chapter of purely Chinese history far exceeds the bounds of reasonable historical debate. Song China was forcibly integrated and became a part of an international empire under Mongol dominance that stretched from Vietnam through China, India, Central Asia, Iran, Russia and even threatened to overrun parts of Central Europe. Clearly this chapter of history was much bigger in significance than the confines of Song China, a territory much smaller in size than even current-day China, much less most of Eurasia, an area twice the size of the Roman empire at its height.
In practical terms, what is most significant about this historical prevarication is how such gross manipulation of historical fact has been so successfully stamped into the brains of generations of Chinese. They vigorously defend the Chinese identity of a brutal foreign invader without question.
It is a frightful example of how common sense and logic can succumb to primitive brainwashing techniques, and it reveals a terrifying potential for harm, not to mention the negative effects of a propaganda-based society and education system.
It is likely no accident that Genghis Khan is held up by the communists as a Chinese hero, a great warrior king, because Mao Zedong himself extolled the virtues of Genghis Khan in poetry and most probably saw himself as a modern-day version of this ruthless, invincible conqueror. Then again, Chairman Mao also once thanked the Japanese for invading China and allowing the communists to wrest power from the nationalists. From this perspective, it may even be argued that Mao considered taking power more important than the untold suffering and havoc unleashed on the people of China at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Such rare candour from Communist China’s great kahn and founding emperor neatly sums up the motivation behind the regime’s unflagging and unabashed propaganda efforts even today: the preservation of power at all costs and at the expense of honesty and principles. Even today, ancient history is forced to bow down in service to the exalted and almighty Communist Party of China.