Say it ain’t so!
Mao Xinyu no longer holds the distinction of being Mao Zedong’s only surviving grandson, if unconfirmed and iffy reports are to be believed.
Last week, a tour bus crashed in North Korea, killing 32 Chinese tourists and four locals. The names of those killed in the crash have not yet been released. However, according to a recent report from the Chinese version of Radio France Internationale, among those dead was none other than the 48-year-old grandson of China’s Great Helmsman.
The report, which cites a Chinese source, claims that Mao was in North Korea as part of a group of tourists who were children of Chinese soldiers who had fought in the Korean war. They were on their way back from visiting a Chinese martyrs’ cemetery in Hoechang county when their bus fell off a bridge on a highway in North Hwanghae province, located just south Pyongyang, on the night of April 22nd.
Mao Xinyu’s dad, Mao Anqing, did not fight in the Korean War, however, his uncle, Mao Anying, was famously killed by an air strike in North Korea while serving in the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army during the war. He was later buried at the cemetery in Hoechang county and his tomb has been visited from time to time by Chinese leaders on their trips to the Hermit Kingdom.
Following last week’s horrific accident, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paid a visit to two Chinese survivors of the crash who are receiving treatment at a North Korean hospital.
In a rare bit of negative news, the country’s official KCNA news agency reported that Kim said the “unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart,” adding that he “couldn’t control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives.”
Kim also made a trip to the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang, where he expressed his “deep sympathy” regarding the tragedy to Chinese ambassador Li Jinjun.
Reports of Mao Xinyu’s death remain unconfirmed and some believe that they are almost certainly false. According to Adam Cathcart, the editor of Sino-NK.com, Duowei, an influential overseas Chinese language news site, argues, for instance, that since Mao is a People’s Liberation Army Major General, he is unlikely to have visited North Korea as part of a tour group — though he has paid his respects at his uncle’s grave at least once before.
Meanwhile, Tom Hancock of the Financial Times tweeted that a friend of the manager of the tour company told him that it was “impossible” that Mao Xinyu was on that ill-fated tour bus.
But, if Mao Xinyu does turn out to have perished in North Korea like his uncle, it will certainly come as a major disappointment to Chinee netizens, who love nothing more than poking fun at the portly descendant of the PRC founder.
A shining example of how far nepotism can get you in China, Mao became the PLA’s youngest major general in 2009, despite his apparent lack of any qualifications or accolades for the honor. He also holds a number of impressive degrees from prestigious Chinese universities, despite reports that he suffers from a learning disability.
In the PLA, Mao has been tasked with what else but researching Mao Zedong Thought. Back in 2011, he even began teaching courses on the subject at the Guangzhou University Songtian College.
Each year, Mao draws widespread attention and ridicule when he appears in Beijing for the annual Two Sessions political meetings. A few years ago, a photo of the rotund army officer in his somehow still over-sized military uniform went viral on Chinese social media with the caption:
“My mom told me since I was little that a military uniform looks good on everyone. When she saw this picture, she finally admitted defeat.”
Over the years, Mao has also become famous for his bumbling interviews, like this train wreck:
Or that time that he recited a Mao Zedong poem on a TV talkshow… and then proceeded to pick his nose as the cameras continued to roll: