It’s time to re-think the Cultural Revolution
Truth and daring in retelling Mao’s ChinaYang Jisheng’s formidable investigation of the Cultural Revolution is a work of breathtaking courage.
The Cultural Revolution was one of the greatest disasters to hit modern China, but it was also an event shaped by random personal connections. A woman named Liu Suyuan, who served in the marvellously named “Air Force Political Department Song and Dance Troupe” had developed a close relationship with Mao over a decade. Financial Times
The Cultural Revolution was one of the greatest disasters to hit modern China? Worse than horrific famines every 10 years?
Don’t be silly.
Far from being a disaster, the CR was a triumph: 400,000,000 peasants learned to read and write and vote and raise healthy children and send them to school probably for the first time in 3,000 years.
Yes, it sucked for the 1% to which Yang Jisheng belonged, but that’s the nature of revolutions, innit? But at worst, they were only temporarily inconvenienced.
Nor did this ‘disaster’ kill or injure anyone (Xi’s sister committed suicide, but she was an outlier).
The worst that happened was that families were split up and a dozen Very Senior Officials learned how to change tractor tires, but they all bounced back ten years later none the worse for wear. No guillotines, no firing squads, no big deal.
The Cultural Revolution was the only successful popular revolution of the ’60s but, since it benefited peasants, it was very unpopular with elites worldwide, who desire the status quo and kill to maintain it.
Who can blame them?
But, whatever they say, the Cultural Revolution was a massive triumph.
It was the first time in 3,000 years that their underclass got more attention that urban elites.
It’s why more people visit Mao’s birthplace each year than visit all the shrines of all the world’s leaders who have ever lived. They’ll never forget.
Oh, and btw, for the entire 10 years, the economy grew at its accustomed 6%-8%. Not bad for a disaster.
Further reading on re-thinking the Cultural Revolution: