The original, a collection of quotations from Chairman Mao, from 1966, is by some estimates the second most published book of all time, after the Bible.
Plans for a new volume, to coincide with the 120th anniversary of the Communist leader’s birth, “signals a slightly more ominous development: Chinese leader Xi Jingping’s embrace of Maoist philosophy”, writes Husna Haq in the Christian Science Monitor.
The “Little Red Book republication saga” – and the mixed messages over its status – “is all about political control”, according to a thunderous commentary by Chang Ping for the South China Morning Post.
Since he came to power, Xi Jinping’s words and deeds have caused concern that a second Cultural Revolution is on its way: his affirmation of the validity of the 30 years before economic reforms; his push for a mass line campaign; the organised attack on constitutional rule; the crackdown on internet “rumours”; and the lack of any attempt to discredit the Chongqing model during Bo Xilai’s trial.
The Guardian quotes political scientist Zhang Ming: “Xi believes in Maoism. He wants to completely revive Mao’s policy and he has already started it.”
The editor of the new collection of Mao quotations, military historian Chen Yu, repudiates the claim that the volume is symbolic, however.
He tells the South China Morning Post: “Linking the publication of this book with the Cultural Revolution is totally wrong. It is merely a publication of scientific research, not a re-publishing of the previous Quotations from Chairman Mao.
And, a little disappointingly, adds the SCMP, “it would neither be little nor red”, but published on expensive A4 rice paper, at a price equal to “three months’ income for the average rural resident”.