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It might seem faintly ridiculous to compare Britain's coalition government to the brutal regime of former Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong. But that is precisely what one of its leading members, Vince Cable, has done. When questioned about Mr Cable's comments, David Cameron confessed he was not an expert on Maoism but unlike the former Chinese leader was not "going to insist on being called The Great Helmsman". So what could the business secretary possibly mean?
1. LOCALISM? - Mao wanted to smash the elites that ran pre-communist China, believing they had become corrupted by power. He wanted the peasants to rise up and effectively take charge of services in their own communities. Sound familiar? With its plans for elected police chiefs and local council tax referendums - not to mention its war on the highly-paid elites who run Town Halls and its call for an army of "armchair auditors" to hold civil servants to account for the money they spend - the coalition has, arguably, attempted to unleash its own cultural revolution in Britain's public services.
2. INFORMERS? - You had to be very careful what you said - and who you said it to - in Mao's China. Informers were everywhere - and citizens were forever being exposed for expressing "counter revolutionary" views. Vince Cable must know how they feel. He was having a private conversation with constituents when he described the coalition as "Maoist", and revealed dark thoughts about overthrowing the regime, only to find his words splashed across the pages of a national newspaper. For the analogy to work, of course, The Daily Telegraph would have to be seen as a party newspaper which, despite being affectionately known as The Torygraph, would be stretching it.
3. CHAOS? - Mao's cultural revolution unleashed chaos in Chinese society. Nothing was sacred. At the weekend, Tory MP Nick Boles, one of the coalition's leading thinkers, described the "chaos" that will follow the ripping up of central government planning as a "good thing". Political pundits have marvelled at the speed and ruthlessness of coalition ministers as they set about reforming monolithic institutions such as the NHS and the benefit system. One senior minister, commenting on the devolution of power from Whitehall, has reportedly used one of Mao's favourite slogans: "Let a thousand flowers bloom."
4. PERMANENT REVOLUTION? - Mao was a firm believer in the theory of permanent revolution, which he believed should be in the hearts of all Chinese Communists. The coalition is also partial to ideological purity (Before they adopted Mao as their role model, Tory high command urged activists to take a leaf out of Gandhi's book and "be the change"). Like Mao, the coalition is working to a strict Stalin-esque five year timetable. David Cameron's chief strategy adviser, Steve Hilton, described by Observer columnist Andrew Rawnsley as "the most Maoist person in the government", has reportedly been heard to tell colleagues: "Everything must have changed by 2015. Everything."
5. GANG OF FOUR? - The later stages of the cultural revolution were guided by an inner circle of powerful Communist party officials known as the Gang of Four. The coalition is, similarly, guided by what insiders call the "quad" - David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, Nothing important happens without their say so apparently. They will be hoping to avoid the fate of their Chinese counterparts, who included Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, who were eventually tried for treason.
6. BRUTALITY? - The violence unleashed by Mao's cultural revolution, with students in the forefront, was responsible for many deaths. There may have been injuries and criminal damage caused in London during the recent student protests but even the most ardent opponents of the coalition would not claim it was going down a similar route to China in 1966.
7. DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY? - Chairman Mao's China built up an impressive military might with a legacy of having the largest army in the world. The People's Republic also sought to avoid dependence on, and economic ties with, Western Europe and the capitalist world. By contrast Cameron's coalition has been slashing spending on defence and despite Eurosceptics urging the government to cut ties with the European Union, there are few signs of it happening.
8. IDEOLOGY? - Mao was driven by a belief in violent class struggle. As a devout Marxist, he would have had little time for the wealthy, public school educated plutocrats at the top of the coalition government. Everyone would be equal in theory in the communist state. He set the rules for all political, cultural, economic and intellectual activity. In other words, it was the exact opposite of the "small state" philosophy espoused by coalition ministers. Most Conservatives in the coalition government grew up in the Thatcher years, sharing a belief that there should be equality of opportunity for all, whatever the circumstances of their birth. As they put it in their 2010 slogan: "We're all in this together".
9. PROPAGANDA? - Their parties may have been keen on pasting giant posters or paintings of them in prominent city centre locations, but Mr Cameron has yet to come up with his own version of Mao's Little Red Book - a handy pocket book collection of quotations from his speeches Chinese citizens were encouraged to carry with them. The Conservative Party manifesto - a hardback entitled "an invitation to join the government of Great Britain" - in deepest Tory blue - may have become its nearest equivalent, if it had not been rendered obsolete by the coalition agreement.
10. RE-EDUCATION? - If Vince Cable had lived in Mao's China he would probably be packing his suitcase for a trip to a re-education camp by now. This was where "troublemakers" were sent to be persuaded of the error of their ways and to experience and reconnect with the life of the humble peasant. In London in 2010 Mr Cable may well be facing some tricky meetings with colleagues and strategists, but it's unlikely he's going to be sent off for a spot of farming.
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