Argentine President Alberto Fernández laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Saturday, China’s state-run Global Times reported Monday.
The Global Times cited an original report on the “floral offering” by the Casa Rosada, or the office of the Argentine presidency. The office described Fernández as having “laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1945 until his death in 1976,” while visiting Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on February 5.
Mao Zedong led the fight to turn China communist from 1945 to 1949. Mao established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949 and ruled the PRC as a totalitarian dictator from its founding through 1959. He also served as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his death in 1976. Tiananmen Square is infamous as the site of a Chinese Communist Party massacre of students and pro-democracy allies from about April 15 to June 4, 1989. The 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre saw China’s People’s Liberation Army send troops and tanks to the square, where they killed thousands of people.
Some historians argue that Mao was the deadliest dictator on record. Accounts from China place the death toll of his Great Leap Forward initiative at 45 million people. Millions more died in the Cultural Revolution, a witch hunt campaign to eradicate anti-communists, and in subsequent campaigns to repress political dissidents, religious people, ethnic minorities, and all suspected opponents of the regime.
President Fernández visited Beijing from February 3 to February 6 to support Argentina’s bilateral relations with China. During his three-day trip, Fernandez attended the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on February 4 and met in person with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping on February 6. Xi and Fernandez agreed to a number of political and economic deals between Beijing and Buenos Aires during their meeting, including Argentina’s decision to formally join China’s infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Chinese and Argentine government officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on February 6 to solidify the BRI agreement shortly after the meeting between Xi and Fernandez. According to the MoU, “Chinese financing will be available to Argentina in two tranches of US$14 billion and US$9.7 billion,” the Buenos Aires Times reported February 6.
Fernandez leads Argentina’s ruling socialist Justicialista Party, which traces its roots back to Juan Perón. The group has “very important historical ties” to the Chinese Communist Party, Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja told the Global Times on January 28.
“Former Argentine president Juan Perón even maintained friendship and correspondence with Chairman Mao,” he told the newspaper.
Perón founded the Justicialista Party in 1946. He ruled Argentina as president for three terms between 1946 and 1955 and again from 1973 until his death in 1974.
“Perón reportedly had exchanged several letters with Chairman Mao, in which he referred to Mao as ‘my dear chairman and friend,’” according to the Global Times.
Mao gifted Perón’s wife, Eva Perón, an “ornately detailed” wooden dressing screen “as a gesture of solidarity” between China and Argentina, Reuters recalled in 2014. Evita Peron received the present “some time between 1946 and 1952.”