(K. Brent Tomer),
The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History 1962-1976. By Frank Dikötter. Bloomsbury; 382 pages; $32 and £25.
The Cowshed. By Ji Xianlin. Introduction by Zha Jianying. New York Review of Books; 188 pages; $24.95 and £14.99.
FIFTY years ago the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as it was officially known, plunged China into Maoist madness. It left well over 1m people dead and wrecked the lives of many millions of others. It was Mao Zedong, then 72, who launched the “red terror”, as young participants proudly called it, partly to purge the party of officials who were sceptical about his radical policies. He feared that such waverers might expose him to the kind of posthumous condemnation that was heaped upon Josef Stalin after the Soviet leader’s death. Another of Mao’s motives was a Utopian one. He appeared to believe that people power, no matter how bloody, could turn China into a socialist paradise.
The Communist Party does not like to dwell on what happened. In 1981 it issued a formal pronouncement on the late chairman’s rule. It called him a “great” and…Continue reading