Mao Zedong's only living grandson has suggested that the ideas of China's Great Helmsman were being misused by groups such as the Maoists in India, who were invoking his image to wage violence against the state.

The greater relevance of Mao's philosophy in today's world was “to help maintain peace, stability and development” and create a more equitable global order, he said, suggesting that the former Chairman's ideas of “people's war” and violent struggle were less applicable in the post-colonial world.

Mao Xinyu, who is a Major General in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), is known in China as a scholar on Mao Zedong Thought. His father, Mao Anqing, was the second son from Mao's marriage to Yang Kaihui.

He has written several books on Mao's philosophy, and bears more than a passing resemblance to the former Chairman. The pudgy major general has a passion for military strategy, and, like his grandfather, professes a love for swimming.

The younger Mao said he did not see a connection between India's Maoists and his grandfather's teachings, replying to a question from The Hindu in a meeting with a small group of journalists along the sidelines of the annual session of China's top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), on whose national committee he serves.

He was, however, aware of the Maoist movement in Nepal, but believed that the “people's war” ideas that Mao made famous were particularly applicable in the fight against colonialism, suggesting they were not so relevant in today's world.

“We need to understand Mao Zedong Thought before applying it,” he said. “Learning his ideas can help human development, peace and build a new world order.”

“The application of Mao Zedong Thought,” he added, “should help maintain stability and development,” when asked about violent struggles still being waged in Mao's name.

Mao's ideas had been of great relevance to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, who were waging anti-colonial struggles, he said.

But he suggested that a more recent and relevant legacy was his support, along with former Premier Zhou Enlai, of the “five principles of peaceful co-existence,” which he pointed out still governed the diplomacy of many countries, including India and China.

Mao Xinyu was appointed as the PLA's youngest ever major general — a move that was criticised by some Chinese commentators as a reflection of widely prevalent nepotism in political appointments. His rather unmilitary-like appearance was also the subject of ridicule for many Chinese bloggers.

Even as Chinese politics has moved beyond the days of Mao in the three decades since Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening up, Mao Xinyu has written extensively on the relevance of his grandfather's ideas. He has, unsurprisingly, glossed over Mao's failings in the disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, which claimed tens of millions of lives.

His message has been echoed by an increasingly influential New Left that has called for reviving Mao's populism to grapple with rising inequalities. Most notable among this section is the Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, who has introduced campaigns to sing “Red songs” and emphasised more equitable economic growth. Mao Xinyu had words of praise for Mr. Bo, saying that singing red songs was “promoting China's good traditions.”

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