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In a First, Pakistani Mangoes Being Shipped To China Via CPEC, And A Poignant Reminder Of “40 Mangoes” Mao Gifted to His Workers

Historians have tended to regard the mango craze in China during Mao era as a bizarre fad, but it is one of the few occasions when culture was created spontaneously, thanks to the 40 Pakistani mangoes the Chairman had received from Pakistan.

IRSHAD SALIM (May 18, 2018) — Fifty years ago, China was plunged into the most chaotic and traumatic decade of its recent history – the Cultural Revolution. During this period, the nation was gripped by a peculiar hysteria: a mania for mangoes — the fruit became an object of deep veneration, and a vehicle for the promotion of Chairman Mao’s successes.

The text on this poster from 1968 reads: “Our Great Leader Chairman Mao forever joins his heart with the hearts of the people”.

In 1966 Mao had called on the student Red Guards to rebel against “reactionary” authorities. His aim was to reshape society by purging it of bourgeois elements and traditional ways of thinking. But by the summer of 1968 the country had become engulfed in fighting, as Red Guard factions competed for power.

To quell the forces, Mao sent 30,000 workers to Qinghua University in Beijing. The students surrendered. Mao thanked the workers with a gift of approximately 40 mangoes, which he had been given the previous day by Pakistan’s foreign minister.

They had a huge impact.

“No-one in northern China at that point knew what mangoes were. So the workers stayed up all night looking at them, smelling them, caressing them, wondering what this magical fruit was,” says art historian Freda Murck. Now mangoes are a common fruit in Beijing.

With the humongous China Pakistan Economic Corridor hopes are building up that Pakistani mangoes will get a boost thanks to the growing relationship between the two “iron brothers”.

The export of mango from Pakistan would commence from May 20 and the CPEC route would be utilized for the fist time to export mango to China, the Patron-in-Chief of PFVA & Vice President -FPCCI, Mr. Waheed Ahmed said.

Around 500- 2000 tons of mango is anticipated to be exported to China this year — not a whole lot but a new beginning is being made for the “mango route”.

China can emerge as a big market for Pakistani mango, once it’s fully developed where 20,000 tons mango could be conveniently exported, said Ahmed, and with public diplomacy, the country’s mango export number to China could become sky-high, said one expert.

The Pakistani mango this month would be part of an essential menu item for millions of Muslims fasting globally, including China, therefore, its export during the holy month of Ramadan would be an added advantage for exporters, Ahmed said.

“Devaluation of Pakistani currency coupled with the export of mango during the fasting month would further enhance export revenue, Ahmed added.

A 1969 poster showing Mao and detail of a worker with a plate of mangoes.

China also has a huge Muslim population. The Gulf countries, United Arab Emirates, Saudia Arabia and European countries are major buyers of Pakistani mangoes though, however, queries in abundance from Chinese buyers are pouring in, expressing keen interest for import of Pakistani mangoes — and CPEC is the shortest and the best route, experts say.

Therefore, ango promotions are being held in China, Maldives, and the European countries this year to further enhance the export of King of Fruits. Iran is also an important buyer, however, due to unprecedented devaluation of Iranian currency, the exporters are not expecting to get good return value for their export.

Historians have tended to regard the mango craze in China during Mao era as a bizarre fad, but it is one of the few occasions when culture was created spontaneously, thanks to the 40 Pakistani mangoes the Chairman had received from Pakistan.

The worker-peasant team in Qinghua cheers the gift of 40 Pakistani mangoes from Chairman Mao – the ribbon reads: “Respectfully wishing Chairman Mao eternal life”

During that period, mangoes represented for people an emblem of peace and generosity. They wanted to believe the promise written on the enamel trays: “With each mango, profound kindness.”

The mango fever fizzled out after 18 months. It may return though, courtesy CPEC and Chinese, Pakistanis regard for each other then and now.

Years later, Pakistan under Bhutto’s era, served as bridge for US and China handshake.

(The writer, a business consultant and analyst, is Group Editor of PKonweb.com and DesPardes.com – His articles also appear in Jeddah-based Al-Bilad English Daily and UAE-based Caravan Daily)

(Based on BBC and Daily Times reports)






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