Waving a Little Red App


Funny how history seems to repeat itself – often in the most unexpected way.

Way back in January 1964 the first copies of a book called ‘The Quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’ were published. The book became known as ‘The Little Red Book’ because:                                                                                                                                                   1. It was small – the right size to fit in a jacket pocket.                                                                  2. It had a red cover which was embellished with a portrait of the man himself as well as the title.

Mao's LRB

It was originally produced for the edification of the senior cadres of the Chinese Communist Party.  The book went viral (as we would say these days), and people began clamouring for their own copies.  Over the next 12 years the book was ‘improved’, expanded, and translated into many languages.

Eventually every schoolchild, student, farmer, member of the armed forces, factory worker, doctor, dentist – in fact every Chinese citizen-  had a copy even though it was not officially compulsory to have one.

Mao's LRB with school kids Who hasn’t seen the pictures of vast crowds of Chinese all waving their Little Red Books in the air during the dark days of the Cultural Revolution – such pictures seemed to encapsulate the essence of communism under Mao’s leadership.

It became the most widely published book ever at the time, and it is estimated that some 1,055,498,000 copies were printed. Given the number of bootlegged copies it was probably more – whatever the final number, over 1 billion copies is a helluva lot. The Bible is its only competitor in the numbers game.

Production of the book stopped in 1976 when Mao died.   Even today antique market stalls do a good trade in selling copies to western tourists. I suppose it is a more original memento of a trip to China than a T-shirt saying ‘I climbed the Great Wall’!

Fast forward 39 years to April 2015; the Chinese Communist Party School’s techie department has produced an app entitled Xuexi Zhongguo   学习中国 .                             Purportedly  an online learning app, the name means ‘Study China’, but it can also be translated as ‘Study Xi’s China’ – and it has a very didactic subtitle:“Study and implement General Secretary Xi Jinping’s series of important speeches”  Needless to say it was almost immediately dubbed ‘Xi  Jinping’s Little Red App’

XJPs litle red app 2

The app has 12 sections and these include the texts of speeches  given by XJP, extracts from his two books ‘On Poverty Eradication‘ and ‘ The Governance of China‘, up-to-date news reports about him, and a map which shows all his travels.

XJP LRAppNone of his quotes are likely to set the world on fire, but they are interesting none-the-less:

“If you can contribute to ease air pollution and solve the problem of smog, you will be given honour and be a hero.”

“There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us … First, China doesn’t export Revolution; second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?”

“Happiness does not fall out of the blue and dreams will not come true by themselves. We need to be down-to-earth and work hard. We should uphold the idea that working hard is the most honorable, noblest, greatest and most beautiful virtue.”

With the arrival of this app history has repeated itself, but with a modern twist .  However, if anything proves the superiority of a book – any book – when compared to a cyberspace publication, it is this app.  No one will ever be seen waving it,  and in the future dodgy ‘antique’ dealers won’t be selling it!

About herschelian

Recently moved to Beijing from London - its all new to me! Trying to learn Chinese, and what makes this city tick.
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One Response to Waving a Little Red App

  1. Chris says:

    I love it! “The Little Red App”. Who knows what will come of it?
    As I understand it, one positive thing Mao’s book did do – or more accurately his order to simplify the Mandarin language for the purpose of publishing his book – was to make the Mandarin language more accessible to more people. Also to make English books more easily translated into Mandarin. Don’t think the app will have any collateral benefits like this.

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