Did they come to view the father of modern China, or one of history's most dogmatic and murderous tyrants? It may be possible to hold both views simultaneously of Mao, who died 20 years ago yesterday. Millions of Chinese - even those whose families suffered under his rule - still refer to him respectfully as "Chairman".
Others recall their sense of utter desolation when he died, akin to that felt by many Soviet citizens at the news of Stalin's death in 1953.
When Mao died, it opened the way for the current paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, to re-emerge and set loose the forces of economic reform which have reversed many of the values Mao held dearest and transformed China into an economic powerhouse.
Short on virtue, page 9
Photograph: Tom PilstonReuse content