Moreover, there is scant introspective attention paid to perhaps the most interesting psychological legacy of the Cultural Revolution: the way in which the great majority of victims and persecutors have had to co-exist quietly with each other since the regime turned its back on class struggle after Mao and his revolution came to an end in The former — the most authoritative, comprehensive single-volume account of the Cultural Revolution in English — does not in any sense shy away from the physical horror of these events, mind; it is littered with appalling spectacle.
Red Guards beat class enemies to death without understanding their alleged counter-revolutionary crimes. Cities up and down the country were — as Yu Hua describes in microcosm — spattered with blood: some 15, were killed or wounded in Wuhan alone.
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MacFarquhar and Schoenhals describe how factions of students murdered each other with sugar sickles intended for Cuba; funeral processions in which Red Guards held aloft the severed body parts of the fallen; how some victims were not only killed but also eaten; how one man with a bad class background bled to death in front of his family after having his ear cut off. But MacFarquhar and Schoenhals are constantly at pains to explain not only what happened, but also how it could have happened. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals paint a picture in which blame was far more troublingly widespread.
Both Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping were deeply implicated in the culture of political violence that made the extremism of the Cultural Revolution possible; both mocked early victims of the movement before it turned on them. Technically, the book is a tour-de-force, a heteroglossic survey of Cultural Revolutionaries at every level of Chinese society, that makes use of both conventional archival material and sources from below: interviews, memoirs, pamphlets, posters, diaries and denunciations, and other flea-market finds.
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Even traditional archival sources on the Cultural Revolution, it should be remembered, are far from straightforward to access in China today. Much evidence from these years is routinely shut off to foreign researchers without special connections and permits. Although in the eye of the storm, British diplomats stationed in China during the Cultural Revolution still kept their upper lips almost miraculously stiff. We gain a powerful sense of a tragedy unfolding: of a fundamental failure by Mao and his subordinates to predict the consequences of their actions; of the hypocrisy of a revolutionary elite who — themselves enveloped in privilege and learning — wished to deny these things to their countrymen.
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The ethical and political questions raised by such actions are relevant beyond East Asia. Perhaps equally enlightening is a discussion of the ways such dynamics work in the United States. What did McCarthyism share with the Cultural Revolution?
How did it differ? This unit is derived from work done in a class on Chinese Politics. It could also be used in the following courses:. This unit could also fit well with theoretical discussions about political theory, capitalism, totalitarianism and democracy. Dreyer, June Teufel.
The Cultural Revolution: all you need to know about China's political convulsion
New York: Paragon House, This is one of many good textbooks on Chinese politics under Mao. Instructors could read as much or as little of the chapters about China from to as they wished, but the section on the Cultural Revolution is quite short and is noted below as an essential reading for students. On one level the Revolution was a way for Mao to regain control over decision-making in China. After the failures of the Great Leap Forward a massive effort in the late s to develop industry and agriculture that resulted in famine and starvation , Mao had more or less stepped aside and Liu Shaoqi was making more of the political and economic decisions.
In supporting and instigating the Cultural Revolution Mao was able to reassert his primacy, and he quickly moved to arrest certain of his political rivals, including Liu.
The masses were empowered as a check on official power. Mao distrusted the urban, educated elite, and these were among the people who suffered the most during the Cultural Revolution. Any one of the following books can be used. The student activities below were originally written for Son of the Revolution , but they work for the other books as well. As a newspaper reporter an intellectual his father was a frequent target of criticism and his mother chose to divorce his father rather than be associated with such a suspect person.watch
Stanford: Stanford University Press, Gao experienced the Cultural Revolution as a student in a Red Guard unit. His father was a low level political official and fell in and out of favor during the chaos. Gao describes the exhilaration and anguish of students caught up in the tide of revolution: Gao felt powerful and gleeful when his faction was on top, and sullen, angry, and tormented physically and emotionally when his faction was persecuted.
The rest of the family was made to suffer as social outcasts and objects of criticism and persecution.
What Was China's Cultural Revolution?
Chen fell in with a group of outcasts who become a surrogate family and community for him. He also took English lessons on the sly from an elderly Chinese Baptist woman on the edge of his village. Ultimately, Chen triumphed when the Cultural Revolution wound down and politics receded from the forefront of every aspect of life.
This reading is very helpful both for students with little or no knowledge of Chinese history or those seeking to learn the broader context of a particular person or event in Chinese history. Spence gives a useful description and explanation of events in China from the end of the Ming Dynasty in the s through the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Students should use this book as either a starting point for their inquiry into areas of interest about China, or as a reference tool to look up particular events, ideas, and people in Chinese history.
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