Meet 'Mini Mao', the 12-year-old star of Chinese communism

Richard Hall
Thursday 12 May 2011 00:00 BST

Eyebrows were no doubt raised in Washington when a rising star in the Chinese political scene said recently that he wished "to revive the Chinese nation and resume the heyday of the Han and Tang dynasties". But Pentagon officials needn't worry just yet, for the political heavyweight in question is still in primary school.

Twelve-year-old Huang Yibo has already achieved high office in the Young Pioneers of China (a primary school branch of the Communist Youth League), and his blog – named Qiankun Ruxiu, Chinese for "the breadth of mind is as wide as heaven and earth" – has received a reported 1.2 million visitors in the past few days.

His progress has been the subject of a great deal of attention in the Chinese press. Newspapers have reported that the boy eschewed cartoons at the age of two in favour of the China Central Television's evening news, and at seven years old he began reading the People's Daily newspaper.

According to the local Wuhan Evening News, Huang was named as one of "The Country's 100 Outstanding Juveniles" and "10 Filial Piety Stars of Wuhan".

There are a number of subtle indicators that distinguish Huang from his classmates. The five stripes displayed on his arm denote a high rank in Young Pioneers – to have three is rare.

Photographs recently released by the Pioneers are not dissimilar to publicity shots for a politician showing a smartly dressed child signing autographs, giving speeches to fellow classmates, and shuffling through reams of documents. In one picture, Huang bends down to hold the hand of an elderly lady in a hospital bed.

Comments from Chinese readers on Huan's blog give a mixed reaction. "I've never heard of five stripes before," wrote one reader from Sichuan province in comments translated by the blog chinaSMACK. "I only know that having stripes all over your body is the outfit of mental patients!" Another commenter labelled him "Mini Mao".

It remains unclear whether the precocious politician is a creation of propaganda, or simply of pushy parents. "If this had happened 15 years ago, I would say it was probably entirely the creation of the party," said Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. "It is now conceivable that the parents have played a significant role in making him prominent."

Huang's father told a local newspaper that his son was "just doing what he likes".

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