Sociology Chinese Cultural Revolution
by
Fei Yan
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0172

Introduction

The Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) marks a watershed in the study of Chinese politics. Arguably the most extreme period in modern Chinese history, the Cultural Revolution involved internecine mass conflict and left deep scars on Chinese society. What began as a struggle between Mao Zedong and other top party leaders for dominance of the Chinese Communist Party eventually went on to affect the entire country. In mid-late 1966, when Mao personally called on students to rebel against local authorities, there was a sudden relaxation of the state’s political control as individuals were encouraged to participate in the political process. Tens of millions of people were killed, injured, or imprisoned as insurgent groups split into rival factions that clashed violently in schools, factories, and neighborhoods, spreading anarchy through large parts of China until late 1968. This decade of political turbulence changed the entire political, economic, and cultural landscape of contemporary China. The national madness and the absurdity of the official doctrines compelled post–Cultural Revolution leaders to adopt reform policies and open China both politically and economically.

General Overviews

A number of works have examined the unfolding of the decade-long Cultural Revolution and analyzed its ideological and political origins. One group of works, such as Barnouin and Yu 1993, MacFarquhar and Schoenhals 2006, Walder 2015, and Yan and Gao 1996, focuses on elite power struggles, particularly those between Mao and the bureaucracy prior to and during the Cultural Revolution. These studies frame the Cultural Revolution as a series of persecutions by Mao and his followers. As the principal instigator of this political movement, Mao’s political style was crucial in determining the subsequent form of the revolution. Another group of works, for example Esherick, et al. 2006; Bu 2008; and Wu 2014, focuses on the origins and forms of political participation of the masses, emphasizing the rebel Red Guards’ personal and group grievances and their ideals of pursuing a more egalitarian society.

  • Barnouin, Barbara, and Changgen Yu. 1993. Ten years of turbulence: The Chinese Cultural Revolution. London: Routledge.

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    This study examines the unfolding of the Cultural Revolution over a period of ten years, focusing on Mao’s ideology and political role. Barnouin and Yu argue that Mao was the principal instigator of this political movement, as Mao perceived a constant danger of capitalist restoration and used the Cultural Revolution as a means to eliminate those he considered to be his political adversaries.

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    • Bu, Weihua. 2008. Zalan jiu shijie: Wenhua da geming de dongluan yu haojie. Hong Kong: Chinese Univ. Press.

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      Based on publicly available materials, Bu provides a panoramic overview of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1968, with a detailed survey of factional conflicts and bureaucratic interplays across twenty-seven provinces. Bu also provides detailed statistical reports of mass violence during several key political events, revealing the cruelty and tragedy of political struggles during the period of Mao’s leadership.

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      • Esherick, Joseph, Paul Pickowicz, and Andrew Walder, eds. 2006. The Chinese Cultural Revolution as history. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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        This edited volume deliberately avoids central elite politics, but focuses instead on the ways in which ordinary people and rural locales became engulfed in the Cultural Revolution. The articles in this collection show that the revolution was not just a decade of chaos and random violence, but also a product of the agency and collective choices of mass participants, sometimes in agreement with, sometimes in resistance to the broader movement.

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        • Joseph, William A., Christine Wong, and David Zweig, eds. 1991. New perspectives on the Cultural Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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          In this edited volume, thirteen scholars present “new perspectives” on political, economic, and cultural aspects of the Cultural Revolution. In particular, they focus on the mass violence, policy coercion, central-provincial relations, and the gap between the ideology of the revolution and the harsh and contradictory reality that was its outcome.

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          • MacFarquhar, Roderick, and Michael Schoenhals. 2006. Mao’s last revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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            MacFarquhar and Schoenhals provide an exhaustively documented portrait of Mao’s manipulation and near destruction of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. The authors draw a complex and nuanced picture of Mao’s motivations in launching the Cultural Revolution and his obsession with the continued revolution, ultimately concluding that “officials counted for more than institutions in China” (p. 452).

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            • Teiwes, Frederick C., and Warren Sun. 2007. The end of the Maoist era: Chinese politics during the twilight of the Cultural Revolution, 1972–1976. New York: M. E. Sharpe.

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              This book documents political developments during the last four years of the Cultural Revolution. Teiwes and Sun demonstrate Mao’s continued dominance in local politics, even as his ability to control events ebbed away. They also question the orthodox view that the so-called radicals under the leadership of the Gang of Four were the sole sinners, arguing instead that the veteran revolutionaries were also responsible for the historical tragedy.

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              • Walder, Andrew. 2015. China under Mao: A revolution derailed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

                DOI: 10.4159/9780674286689Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Walder’s latest work narrates the rise and fall of the Maoist revolutionary state from 1949 to 1976. With the focus on Mao, Walder details the development of the Cultural Revolution and addresses the questions of “what Mao wanted to accomplish, how he hoped to do so, and what ideas and commitments motivated his actions” (p. 6). Walder concludes that the political doctrines and bureaucratic organization Mao built post-1949 generated the violent destruction and stagnation of the Cultural Revolution.

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                • Wu, Yiching. 2014. The Cultural Revolution at the margins: Chinese socialism in crisis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                  Wu contends that the Cultural Revolution was not merely a decade of Mao’s campaign to smash his enemies, but also a period in which millions of young people “at the margins” responded to Mao’s call for continuous revolution. According to Wu, a series of political crises that emerged during the Cultural Revolution led rebellious youth to develop their own thoughts and eventually led, in turn, to the momentous changes in Chinese politics and society a decade later.

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                  • Yan, Jiaqi, and Gao Gao. 1996. Turbulent decade: A history of the Cultural Revolution. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai‘i Press.

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                    Yan and Gao adopt an elitist focus in this book, emphasizing a history of elite initiatives, elite political struggle, and elite manipulation of the masses during the Cultural Revolution. According to the authors, the causes of the Cultural Revolution were economic centralization and political dictatorship, political schisms between Mao and Liu Shaoqi, habitual inner-party struggles, and a lack of democratic mechanisms to ameliorate the relations between people and government.

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                    Methods and Sources

                    Due to the strict research restrictions that Communist China imposed upon scholars before 1980, previous students of the Cultural Revolution could only rely on a small collection of local newspapers from the 1960s, sometimes supplementing these with interviews with ex-cadres and refugees conducted in Hong Kong (Lee 1975)—interviews that are less than reliable given their emotional and ideological bias against the regime. China has gradually loosened such research restrictions since 1979, enabling the next generation of Cultural Revolution scholarship to collect data and conduct substantive first-hand field work inside China. Ordinary people are often willing to discuss social and political issues more openly than ever before, and many once-scarce unofficial documents and data have become increasingly available for researchers either in the form of collected volumes (Song 2001, Song 2005, Zhou 1999) or via digital databases (Song 2002).

                    • Guo, Jian, Yongyi Song, and Yuan Zhou. 2009. The A to Z of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.

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                      This book begins with a brief narrative introduction to the antecedents, historical course, and legacy of the Cultural Revolution. The authors then provide a historical dictionary with cross-referenced, alphabetical entries on key persons, organizations, institutions, concepts, and political events from the era. The book also provides a chronology, a glossary, and a thematic bibliography.

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                      • Lee, Hong Yung. 1975. Utility and limitation of the Red Guard publications as source publications: A bibliographical survey. Journal of Asian Studies 3:779–793.

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                        This early study discusses the contents and usage of 2,100 Red Guard publications available to the first generation scholars of the Cultural Revolution as source materials. Lee points out a major problem in using Red Guard publications for research, that is, the ambiguity of information and the scarcity of “hard” materials that are critical to understand the twists and turns of this dramatic political episode.

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                        • Schoenhals, Michael. 2015. China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966–1969: Not a dinner party. New York: Routledge.

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                          This book presents a selection of key primary documents dealing with the Cultural Revolution’s massive and bloody assault on China’s political and social systems. The scope of the topics includes leadership pronouncements, official policy guidelines, character posters by Red Guard activists, public statements of the movement, and selected memoirs of ordinary people.

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                          • Song, Yongyi. 2001. A new collection of Red Guard publications: Part II; Special compilation of newspapers from the Beijing area. Oakton, VA: Center for Chinese Research Materials.

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                            This collection comprises a forty-volume set of reprinted Red Guard tabloids and newspapers published during the Cultural Revolution from the Beijing area.

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                            • Song, Yongyi. 2002. The Chinese Cultural Revolution database. Hong Kong: Universities Service Centre for China Studies.

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                              This database contains a near-comprehensive compilation of over ten thousand primary documents totaling nearly thirty million words, including central party documents, central leaders’ speeches, official newspaper articles, and a selection of some key Red Guard texts. All materials are arranged in chronological order and the user can search automatically by names, dates, titles, subjects, and keywords. Also available in CD ROM.

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                              • Song, Yongyi. 2005. A new collection of Red Guard publications: Part III; A comprehensive compilation of Red Guard tabloids from the provinces. Oakton, VA: Center for Chinese Research Materials.

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                                This collection comprises a fifty-two-volume compilation of Red Guard tabloids and newspapers from 34 provinces.

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                                • Zhou, Yuan. 1999. A new collection of Red Guard publications. Oakton, VA: Center for Chinese Research Materials.

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                                  This collection comprises a twenty-volume set of reprinted Red Guard newspapers published during the Cultural Revolution. Red Guard newspapers are often more informative about local politics than citations solely from official press and publications, as different camps used their own publications to express their positions and refute those of their rivals.

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                                  Mobilization

                                  What were the origins of the Cultural Revolution? Why were so many ordinary people apparently moved by fanatic political enthusiasm to join the movement? Was it an exceptional rupture in the rule of the otherwise monolithic party or the result of a more fundamental rift that had been brewing for decades? Early inquiries addressing these questions approached the Cultural Revolution as a power struggle among political elites. With newly surfaced and previously inaccessible documents, however, this focus on conflict among elites and political factions was abandoned as scholars shifted their attention to the structural reasons for mobilization. Studies increasingly began to explore questions such as: How did the “charismatic mobilization” (Andreas 2007) of the Cultural Revolution or the “Mao cult” (Leese 2011) provide an unprecedented political opportunity for ordinary people to join a snowballing movement? Or how did the class-status system affect the launch of the Cultural Revolution (Wu 2013)?

                                  • Andreas, Joel. 2007. The structure of charismatic mobilization: A case study of rebellion during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. American Sociological Review 72.3: 434–458.

                                    DOI: 10.1177/000312240707200306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Andreas highlights the distinct capacities of charismatic mobilization by studying the social movement, particularly its awesome rule-breaking power. He argues that the case of the Cultural Revolution amply exhibited the typical maladies of charismatic mobilization, as Mao issued his call for rebellion from the very pinnacle of the state apparatus.

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                                    • Dittmer, Lowell. 1977. “Line struggle” in theory and practice: The origins of the Cultural Revolution reconsidered. China Quarterly 72:675–712.

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                                      Dittmer portrays the Cultural Revolution as involving a “line struggle” between the “proletarian revolutionary headquarters/line/road” led by Mao and the “bourgeois reactionary line” led by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Dittmer describes how this elite struggle along two “lines” allowed the manipulation and mobilization of the masses, and empowered leaders to determine which new policies to follow.

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                                      • Leese, Daniel. 2011. Mao cult: Rhetoric and ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511984754Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Leese builds a compelling account of the life cycle of the Mao cult, which is then carefully tied to the ebb and flow of communist elite politics. Leese shows that the party’s original intention was to develop a prominent brand symbol, but that Mao himself manipulated this symbolic power to mobilize Chinese youth to rebel against the party bureaucracy.

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                                        • MacFarquhar, Roderick. 1997. The origins of the Cultural Revolution. Vol. 3, The coming of the cataclysm, 1961–1966. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192149978.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          This is the final volume in a trilogy that examines the origins of the Cultural Revolution. Seeking to answer the question, “Why did Chairman Mao launch the Cultural Revolution?” MacFarquhar traces elite strife and economic crisis since 1961 and shows that Mao, as both a revolutionary dictator and a utopian true believer, had numerous motives to launch the Cultural Revolution and to mobilize people to take part in this unprecedented upheaval.

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                                          • Schapiro, Leonard, and John Lewis. 1969. The roles of the monolithic party under the totalitarian leader. China Quarterly 40:39–64.

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                                            This early analysis romanticizes the Cultural Revolution as Mao’s effort to pursue socialist idealism. It was Mao who asserted the absoluteness and infallibility of his leadership and provided the opportunity for, and sanctioned the attacks on, authority. Thus, the nature of the chairman’s intervention and his political style were crucial in determining the form the revolution assumed.

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                                            • Unger, Jonathan. 1998. Cultural Revolution conflict in the villages. China Quarterly 153:82–106.

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                                              Unger explores the political mobilization of the Cultural Revolution in the countryside. Drawing upon interviews with thirty-one former rural residents, Unger reveals a far more divergent and complex scenario than previously understood: in some regions, local residents were deeply involved in political processes, while in other villages, no disturbances occurred.

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                                              • Walder, Andrew. 1994. Collective behavior revisited: Ideology and politics in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Rationality and Society 6.3: 400–421.

                                                DOI: 10.1177/1043463194006003007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Walder examines the logic of collective actors in joining the Cultural Revolution movement. He argues that adherents joined the movement not because they aimed to produce a clearly defined collective good, but simply because the costs of not participating outweighed any benefits of refusing to participate in collective action.

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                                                • Walder, Andrew. 2016. Rebellion of the cadres: The 1967 implosion of the Chinese party-state. China Journal 75:102–120.

                                                  DOI: 10.1086/683125Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Drawing on a detailed set of internal investigation reports commissioned by the Party Committee of Guangxi Province, Walder examines the mobilization of cadres during the national power seizures in early 1967. Walder argues that cadre rebellions were not simply an exogenous factor that affected the success of popular mobilization; rather, the actions of officials themselves constituted its own puzzle in need of explanation in the destruction of the political institutions.

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                                                  • Wu, Yiching. 2013. How state enumeration spoiled Mao’s last revolution. Journal of Modern Chinese History 7.2: 200–217.

                                                    DOI: 10.1080/17535654.2013.850867Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Wu attempts to explain the origins of the Cultural Revolution from the class angle. By examining the contradictions and ambiguities of the Maoist discourse of class in post-1949 China, Wu argues that the discourse of the state-imposed class-status system was radically transformed into social antagonisms that profoundly affected the launch of the Cultural Revolution.

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                                                    Mass Factionalism

                                                    The politics of the Red Guard have long been examined from the perspective of the social roots of the participants, from work tracing the origins of Red Guard factionalism to studies examining how predispositions were shaped by social background. Exemplified by a pioneering study of factional conflict in Guangzhou (see Lee 1975 and Lee 1978, both cited under Social Interpretation), such “social” analyses have tended to attribute students’ political actions to their orientations toward the pre–Cultural Revolution sociopolitical status quo. Red Guard factional conflict, in this view, was based on identities and interests formed by status differences: those with vested interests in preserving and protecting their privileges and positions lined up against those who sought to change the status quo (see Chan, et al. 1980; Rosen 1982; and Yin 1996, all cited under Social Interpretation). More recently, Walder 2002 and Walder 2006a (both cited under Political Interpretation) have questioned the reigning interest group thesis and problematized what exactly “political” means in these interpretations. According to Walder, characterizing factional choices as “radical” and “conservative” is misleading as these political labels did not mean the same thing in 1966 and 1967. When the political scene changed in the course of the Cultural Revolution, political meanings also underwent change and came to reflect new political realities. The makeup and dynamics of factional alliances, therefore, were much less clear-cut than hindsight would suggest.

                                                    Social Interpretation

                                                    Existing scholarship such as Lee 1975; Lee 1978; Rosen 1982; Chan, et al. 1980; and Andreas 2002 identifies the factional cleavages of this period as defined by a prototypical radical-conservative split, pitting opposing “interest groups” against one another. Analysts have highlighted various dimensions of radical-conservative factional difference, but all portray the political boundaries of the rebel groups as clear-cut and fixed. According to Yin 1996, “radical” groups sought to change existing political arrangements; “conservative” groups sought to preserve them. Radicals were marginalized and treated as “backward” by the regime, while conservatives had political power and access. And whereas radicals were more violent and aggressive, conservatives were more disciplined and ordered. The two factions thus had divergent factional behaviors, different bases of support, attacked different levels of power structure, and employed different political strategies.

                                                    • Andreas, Joel. 2002. Battling over political and cultural power during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Theory and Society 31.4: 463–519.

                                                      DOI: 10.1023/A:1020949030112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Employing Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of political and cultural capital, Andreas examines factional politics in the Tsinghua University and Tsinghua Attached Middle School. According to Andreas, both political capital (“association with the ruling party” that provides access to advantageous class position) and cultural capital (“knowledge that provides such access”) were axes of contention during the Cultural Revolution.

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                                                      • Chan, Anita, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger. 1980. Students and class warfare: The social roots of the Red Guard conflict in Guangzhou (Canton). China Quarterly 83:397–446.

                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S030574100001290XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Based on more than four hundred interviews with former activists in Hong Kong, the authors argue that factional conflicts in Guangzhou were expressions of preexisting social or class interests. Students from “red” class backgrounds, such as members of revolutionary cadres and the revolutionary military, reportedly aligned themselves with East Wind at very high rates, while students from other backgrounds, such as the intellectual middle class, temporary workers, and rich peasants, appeared to be strongly inclined toward Red Flag.

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                                                        • Lee, Hong Yung. 1975. The radical students in Kwangtung during the Cultural Revolution. China Quarterly 64:645–683.

                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0305741000007554Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          This pioneering work was the first to study Guangzhou factional conflict. Lee argues that the alliances known as Red Flag and East Wind were interest groups with different orientations toward the status quo. With this interpretation of the factions’ political orientations, Lee further claims that the two factions were composed of different social groups that differed according to their stake in the status quo ante.

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                                                          • Lee, Hong Yung. 1978. The politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: A case study. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                            In this highly influential book, Lee identifies a “bi-polar” radical-conservative conflict structure between the factions of the Red Flag and the East Wind in Guangzhou, contrasting their respective political identities vis-à-vis the nature of the power seizure and the role of the armed forces. The boundaries of these two political alliances, according to Lee, were consistent and unbreakable until the great alliance was imposed by central authorities in late 1968.

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                                                            • Rosen, Stanley. 1982. Red Guard factionalism and the Cultural Revolution in Guangzhou (Canton). Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                                              Rosen provides a survey of former high school students from Guangzhou and argues that factional struggles pitted a “conservative” East Wind faction supportive of local authority against a “radical” Red Flag faction that sought to overthrow them—a pattern of political alignment that grew directly out of the contradictions and conflicts that had already divided the students before the Cultural Revolution.

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                                                              • Rosen, Stanley, and Hong Yung Lee. 1977. Comments: The radical students in Kwangtung during the Cultural Revolution. China Quarterly 70:390–406.

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                                                                In his polemics with Hong Yung Lee, Rosen makes a number of arguments that destabilize the rebel-conservative distinction. While generally accepting Lee’s “bi-polar” conflict structure, Rosen also argues that Lee’s radical-conservative pattern was much less clear among college students, which raises the question of why this was so.

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                                                                • Walder, Andrew. 1996. The Chinese Cultural Revolution in the factories: Party-state structures and patterns of conflict. In Putting class in its place: Worker identities in East Asia. Edited by Elizabeth Perry, 167–198. Berkeley: Univ. of California.

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                                                                  In this early work, Walder argues that mass conflicts had been fought between those who benefited from the party networks and those who were excluded from them, and that successive efforts to defend and attack the networks led to escalating cycles of violence. Factional divisions, in this sense, were rooted in people’s divergent degrees of connection to local bureaucrats of higher status and power in the state hierarchy.

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                                                                  • Yin, Hongbiao. 1996. Ideological and political tendencies of factions in the Red Guard movement. Journal of Contemporary China 5.13: 269–281.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/10670569608724255Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Yin examines the ideological and political tendencies of the Red Guard movement during the first three years of the Cultural Revolution. He identifies and differentiates four Red Guard factions in terms of their distinct political standpoints: the “old Red Guards,” “conservative Red Guards,” “rebel Red Guards,” and “ultra-left Red Guards.”

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                                                                    Political Interpretation

                                                                    Political interpretations, proposed in Walder 2002 and Walder 2006a, dispute that factional divisions can be wholly explained either by family background or by affiliation with party organizations. The ostensibly deep-rooted foundations for factional conflict were, in reality, quite loose. During the tumultuous period of the Cultural Revolution, the basic elements of the movement itself changed many times: each phase of the rebel movement distinguished itself by means of different actors, agendas, targets, and so on. The study of Nanjing in Dong and Walder 2010 and Dong and Walder 2011, the study of Changsha in Wu 2014, and the study of Guangzhou in Yan 2015 find that the “sides” formed during this tumultuous period were not interest groups representing fundamentally opposed political orientations or ideologies. Instead, factional formations developed through ongoing interactions among local rebels, military forces, and elite political figures in Beijing.

                                                                    • Dong, Guoqiang, and Andrew Walder. 2010. Nanjing’s failed “January Revolution” of 1967: The inner politics of a provincial power seizure. China Quarterly 203:675–692.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0305741010000652Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      In Nanjing, Dong and Walder find that local rebels split into two factions over the issue of power seizure in January 1967, but that this political division only intensified into factional struggles due to a series of political negotiations over the status of Jiangsu first party secretary. This political deadlock eventually forced the intervention of the military forces, which were, in turn, then drawn into factional struggles.

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                                                                      • Dong, Guoqiang, and Andrew Walder. 2011. Local politics in the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Nanjing under military control. Journal of Asian Studies 70.2: 425–447.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0021911811000039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Regarding the military intervention against the rebel movement in Nanjing in spring 1967, Dong and Walder find that the two contending factions there did not have different orientations toward the status quo. Rather, the positions the factions adopted were tactical in nature, designed to earn support from the central leadership and the local military, and to discredit those who supported the other side.

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                                                                        • Forster, Keith. 1986. Repudiation of the Cultural Revolution in China: The case of Zhejiang. Pacific Affairs 59.1: 5–27.

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                                                                          Forster argues that the key point dividing two mass factional organizations in Zhejiang in 1966–1967 was the ambivalence among central leaders toward the revolutionary status of provincial First Party Secretary Jiang Hua. Both factions claimed that they were upholding Mao’s revolutionary line, on the basis of either defending or attacking Jiang. It was only when Mao abandoned Jiang Hua in October 1968 that the “pro” faction was finally disbanded.

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                                                                          • Walder, Andrew. 2002. Beijing Red Guard factionalism: Social interpretations reconsidered. Journal of Asian Studies 61.2: 437–471.

                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/2700297Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            This is Walder’s first article challenging the traditional social interpretation of the social roots of mass factionalism. By studying conflicts among Beijing Red Guards, Walder argues that factional divisions can only be understood by tracing the sequence of events through time. In this sense, Red Guard factions were emergent from political interactions in the early phase of the conflict, not rooted in the group interests of different social divisions.

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                                                                            • Walder, Andrew. 2006a. Ambiguity and choice in political movements: The origins of Beijing Red Guard factionalism. American Journal of Sociology 112.3: 710–750.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1086/507854Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Walder theorizes a sociological framework and argues that the traditional interest group thesis is based on the assumption that political choices were clear and static over time. However, in the Cultural Revolution’s rapidly changing political environment, movement participants were forced to make consequential choices that generated, in turn, new divisions, interests, and identities that subsequently solidified into opposing sides of an antagonistic conflict.

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                                                                              • Walder, Andrew. 2006b. Factional conflict at Beijing University, 1966–1968. China Quarterly 188:1023–1047.

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                                                                                Walder illustrates that factional conflict at Beijing University, the epicenter of the Cultural Revolution, only expressed competition between rival rebels and the old party leadership—a rivalry that originated within the party apparatus itself. In the context of Beijing University, neither faction could be identified as “radical” or “conservative” in a meaningful sense.

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                                                                                • Wu, Yiching. 2014. The great retreat and its discontents: Reexamining the Shengwulian episode in the Cultural Revolution. China Journal 72:1–28.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/677049Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  In Changsha, Wu argues that the divisions between two contending factions were driven largely by “the contingent consequence of conjunctural yet separately determined events and process” (p. 17), rather than being rooted in preexisting social antagonisms. Far from intensifying existing political cleavages, factional struggles frequently redrew alliances as the political environment underwent a chaotic period of change.

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                                                                                  • Yan, Fei. 2015. Rival rebels: The political origins of Guangzhou’s mass factions in 1967. Modern China 41.2: 168–196.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/0097700414533633Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Yan advances an alternative explanation to the traditional “radical” versus “conservative” focus on the characterization of the political orientation of the two factions in the Guangzhou context. Yan argues that Guangzhou’s famous factions were rival rebel groups that had, in fact, been close allies with initially identical political orientations in late 1966, but became entangled in elite division and dramatic political changes in Beijing in 1967, raising the stakes of their rivalry and intensifying conflict between them.

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                                                                                    Institutions

                                                                                    Institutions are important to understand the fundamental tenets of the Cultural Revolution. The political institution most commonly analyzed in the Cultural Revolution is the Revolutionary Committee, a new form of power apparatus that combined military officers, rebel leaders, and veteran cadres after civil government completely collapsed in early 1967. Dong and Walder 2012 and Goodman 1981 argue that the establishment of revolutionary committees in every province made the process of restabilization easier, and above all, reaffirmed the control of the top leadership. The primary military institution of this period was the force of the military regions. According to Bennett 1973, Domes 1970, and Nelsen 1972, the intervention of military forces in the spring of 1967 only served to complicate and confuse local politics. Armed forces inadvertently became entangled in local factional rivalries, exacerbating cleavages among the already divided rebel factions. The education system (studied in Han 2008 and Unger 1982) and political religion (studied in Zou 1991) were also seen as institutions that profoundly changed the behavioral patterns of movement participants.

                                                                                    • Bennett, Gordon. 1973. Military regions and provincial party secretaries: One outcome of China’s Cultural Revolution. China Quarterly 54:294–307.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0305741000015502Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      By examining the profiles of 158 provincial party secretaries and deputy secretaries from all twenty-nine province-level units between 4 December 1970 and 24 August 1971, Bennett finds that many of the new secretaries were recruited from outside the relevant province and that this pattern was more significant among military officers than among civilians. This implies that military institutions had greater influence in Chinese politics during this phase of the Cultural Revolution.

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                                                                                      • Domes, Jurgen. 1970. The role of the military in the formation of revolutionary committees 1967–68. China Quarterly 44:112–145.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0305741000042843Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Domes categorizes the formation of revolution committees into two major waves and examines the differences in military participation and the ways and means of formation between these two waves. He also emphasizes the obvious rise of the army in the formation of revolution committees and the demobilization of mass organizations.

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                                                                                        • Dong, Guoqiang, and Andrew Walder. 2012. From truce to dictatorship: Creating a revolutionary committee in Jiangsu. China Journal 68:1–31.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/666578Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Dong and Walder explain the reason for the delayed establishment of a revolutionary committee in Jiangsu. They argue that Jiangsu’s revolutionary committee was established through a tumultuous and protracted set of negotiations between central authorities and local political actors. This process reveals the fundamental nature of local political conflict in 1968.

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                                                                                          • Goodman, David. 1981. The provincial revolutionary committee in the People’s Republic of China, 1967–1979: An obituary. China Quarterly 85:49–79.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0305741000028022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            While some have seen the revolutionary committee as the agent of central control, others have argued that it reflected decentralized political power. Goodman categorizes the political function of the revolutionary committee into four developmental stages from January 1967 to December 1979.

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                                                                                            • Han, Dongping. 2008. The unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and change in a Chinese village. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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                                                                                              In this book, Han rejects typical views of the Cultural Revolution as a complete disaster. Drawing on extensive local interviews and records in rural Jimo County, Shandong Province, he argues that rural institutions still functioned and fostered dramatic economic development in rural regions. For example, education and public services were expanded to the elderly. Such improvements in living conditions reveal another side of the Cultural Revolution.

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                                                                                              • Nelsen, Harvey. 1972. Military forces in the Cultural Revolution. China Quarterly 51:444–474.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0305741000052243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Nelsen examines the role of military institutions in the Cultural Revolution. After discussing the relationship between regional military commanders and the central authorities in Beijing, Nelsen concludes that the organizational structures of the army and the missions assigned to them heavily influenced the political behavior of military leaders in the provinces.

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                                                                                                • Unger, Jonathan. 1982. Education under Mao: Class and competition in Canton schools, 1960–1980. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                  By conceptualizing education as an important political institution to train communism successors, Unger analyzes the implications of changing educational policies from 1960 to 1980 in terms of official ideology, employment opportunities, and individual career prospects. Unger points out that children from revolutionary cadres benefited most from the communist educational system and that this system created the social tensions that ultimately erupted into the violent factional struggles of the late 1960s.

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                                                                                                  • Zou, Jiping. 1991. Political religion: The case of the Cultural Revolution in China. Sociological Analysis 52.1: 99–110.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/3710718Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Zou proposes the concept of “political religion” in which Mao was seen as a distant god and widely worshipped by the people during the Cultural Revolution. He explores the similarities and differences between Chinese traditional religion and the “political religion.” In Zou’s view, the advancement of political religion was a ritual tool the Communist Party adopted to enhance its own power.

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                                                                                                    Violence

                                                                                                    The Cultural Revolution is first of all a historical tragedy. This so-called revolution claimed the lives of millions of innocent Chinese and caused immense suffering for hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese and their families. Sutton 1995, Walder and Su 2002, and Zheng 1996 find that even in peripheral rural areas where the reach of the state was limited, village residents became deeply involved in local mass conflicts and many people were killed or wrongly persecuted in factional warfare. Violence was mainly concentrated in three main phases: the attack of Red Guards against teachers in the summer of 1966 (Wang 2001), the pitched battles of heavily armed factions in 1967, and the deliberate killings of the so-called counterrevolutionaries sanctioned by the local state in 1968 (Song 2011, Su 2011). According to Walder 2014, the latest estimates based on official sources suggest that up to 1.6 million people died in these violent conflicts and related repression, and 22 to 30 million suffered arrest, imprisonment, lengthy interrogation, and often torture during 1966–1971.

                                                                                                    • Song, Yongyi. 2011. Chronology of mass killings during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). In Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence. Paris: Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques.

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                                                                                                      Song divides the waves of mass killings during the Cultural Revolution into four time periods: (1) “The Red Terror” (August–December 1966). (2) “All-round Civil War” in China (January–December 1967), (3) “Killing for the New Organs of Power” (1968–1971), and (4) “Endless Killing” (1972–1977). Song also points out that the majority of massacres were state-sponsored killings.

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                                                                                                      • Su, Yang. 2011. Mass killings in rural China during the Cultural Revolution. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511762574Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Su provides a wealth of empirical detail regarding rural collective violence during the Cultural Revolution. Su argues that violence was not just an urban phenomenon but also deeply penetrated into the rural regions, especially in villages in Guangdong and Guangxi. The killers, according to Su, were “ordinary men” in the local community who enacted mass killings in the absence of any direct orders and without coercion, motivated instead by an anxious desire to demonstrate their fealty to Mao.

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                                                                                                        • Sutton, Donald S. 1995. Consuming counterrevolution: The ritual and culture of cannibalism in Wuxuan, Guangxi, China, May to July 1968. Comparative Studies in Society and History 37.1: 136–172.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500019575Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          In Wuxuan County in Guangxi, the tragedy of cannibalism took place at the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1968 as part of a national campaign to maintain the power of the party-state and to punish counterrevolutionaries. Sutton argues that this extreme form of local violence was not an isolated act of spontaneous vengeance but a custom that briefly flourished and had its own political and cultural logic.

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                                                                                                          • Walder, Andrew. 2014. Rebellion and repression in China, 1966–1971. Social Science History 38:513–539.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/ssh.2015.23Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Employing a national data set compiled with 2,213 county and city annals, Walder analyzes the temporal and geographic spread of a nationwide mass insurgency. According to statistical estimates, a total of 1.1 to 1.6 million people were killed and 22 to 30 million people were persecuted through various forms of political struggle during 1966–1971. Walder points out that the vast majority of casualties and victims resulted from state repression rather than the actions of insurgents.

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                                                                                                            • Walder, Andrew, and Yang Su. 2002. The Cultural Revolution in the countryside: Scope, timing, and human impact. China Quarterly 173:82–107.

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                                                                                                              Using a national data set compiled from 1,520 county annals, Walder and Su examine the timing and impact of the Cultural Revolution in rural China. They arrive at an estimated death toll of between 750,000 and 1.5 million and 36 million victims who suffered political persecution. The authors also discuss the limitations of using local county annals to study a political event of this magnitude.

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                                                                                                              • Wang, Youqin. 2001. Student attacks against teachers: The revolution of 1966. Issues and Studies 37.1: 29–79.

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                                                                                                                Based on interviews with more than 300 former high school students and teachers from twelve provinces and municipalities, Wang meticulously reconstructs students’ violent attacks against teachers in the summer of 1966, a period when the Red Guard movement spread across the whole country. Wang analyzes the causes of campus violence and the political consequences of the attacks against teachers.

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                                                                                                                • White, Lynn T. 1989. Policies of chaos: The organizational causes of violence in China’s Cultural Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                  White argues that the main characteristic of the Cultural Revolution was its violence and chaos “by and against millions of people” (p. 7). Using a “behavioral” approach that systematically surveys the different economic and cultural actors, including workers, managers, students, and residents in Shanghai, White traces the causes of the violence that occurred from 1966 to 1968 to the administrative policies the party employed to consolidate its rule before the movement began.

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                                                                                                                  • Zheng, Yi. 1996. Scarlet memorial: Tales of cannibalism in modern China. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                                                                                                    Based on extensive interviews with a large number of victims and their family members and on-the-spot investigations, Zheng discloses the horrors of mass killings and cannibalism in Guangxi. The majority of the victims were ordinary local residents who were labeled as class enemies and counterrevolutionaries under China’s Communism. Zheng also delves into the causes of cannibalism from various angles and concludes that the root causes lie in a combination of political, cultural, ideological, and personality factors.

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                                                                                                                    Leading Actors

                                                                                                                    Apart from Mao, the initial instigator of the Cultural Revolution, there were many other influential political actors who significantly swayed the movement’s trajectory. Dittmer 1974 and Russo 2013 find that Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and other “revisionists” became chief targets for purging, given their conflict with Mao’s pure communist idealism. Jin 1999 records that Lin Biao, the designated successor to Mao, gained paramount power only next to Mao but died unexpectedly in a mysterious plane crash in Mongolia. Following his death, Lin was officially condemned as a traitor by the Communist Party. Meanwhile, Zhou Enlai, the last “perfect” revolutionary (as termed in Gao 2008), adopted a protean, even at times contradictory stance toward Mao’s policy. This reflected his inability to predict and control events as he expected. In contrast to Zhou’s practical approach, Dittmer 1978 finds that the so-called Gang of Four advanced a radical line of struggle that attempted to take advantage of uncontrolled chaos in order to broaden their own power base. Besides studies on elite actors at the top, Forster 1992 and Walder 2004 are focused case studies on some leading rebel leaders who were involved in some key political activities.

                                                                                                                    • Dittmer, Lowell. 1974. Liu Shao-ch’i and the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The politics of mass criticism. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                      Dittmer investigates how the instrument of mass criticism and self-criticism served as a decision-making process for political elites. This work relies heavily on ideological debates and informal bases of power as explanations for the evolution of policies and power politics during the Cultural Revolution. Dittmer’s conclusion is that mass criticism—for example, against Liu Shaoqi’s actions as obstructing China’s development—served as a way for different levels of China’s political hierarchy to communicate policies and create consensus between the levels.

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                                                                                                                      • Dittmer, Lowell. 1978. Bases of power in Chinese politics: A theory and an analysis of the fall of the Gang of Four. World Politics 31.1: 26–55.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2009966Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Dittmer attempts to explain the sources of power in Chinese politics by analyzing the Gang of Four. The Gang of Four ultimately fell, he argues, because of the patron-client relationship that precluded them from a broad and deep bureaucratic base of support. According to Dittmer, ideology is not the sole driving force of factional politics; rather, Chinese politics is based on factions and informal relationships.

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                                                                                                                        • Forster, Keith. 1992. Spontaneous and institutional rebellion in the Cultural Revolution: The extraordinary case of Weng Senhe. Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 27:39–75.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2950026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Weng Senhe was a leading worker rebel leader from Hangzhou. By tracing Weng’s eventful political career from mid-1966 to 1974, especially his two major rebellions of 1966 and 1973, Forster identifies two types of rebellion and argues that Weng’s first rebellion was a spontaneous expression of outrage without any organizational characteristics, while his second rebellion to take over the provincial leadership was institutionalized and supported from above.

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                                                                                                                          • Gao, Wenqian. 2008. Zhou Enlai: The last perfect revolutionary. New York: Public Affairs.

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                                                                                                                            Gao examines the ambivalent and sometimes clearly conflicting roles of Zhou Enlai during the Cultural Revolution. He argues that Zhou’s protean stance resulted from his efforts to negotiate two contradictory positions: the need to revolutionize the ruling power structure of the state apparatus while maintaining a certain continuity of political institutions, and upholding ideological principles while seeking moderate and practical means to implement those principles.

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                                                                                                                            • Jin, Qiu. 1999. The culture of power: The Lin Biao incident in the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                              Jin is the daughter of the former commander in chief of the Chinese air force who served under Lin Biao. Drawing upon her father’s unpublished memoirs and interviews with former top government officials, Jin challenges the official account that Lin Biao was plotting against Mao. Instead, Jin describes a passive Lin who was unprepared to fight back. The Lin Biao Incident was a consequence of the poisonous interplay of elite politics in Beijing.

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                                                                                                                              • Robinson, Thomas. 1970. Chou En-lai’s political style: Comparisons with Mao Tse-Tung and Lin Piao. Asian Survey 10.12: 1101–1106.

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                                                                                                                                Robinson writes of Zhou Enlai’s political style: “while moving quickly with the political tide, Chou at times tries to swim against it if he thinks he can. [While] plan[ning] avenues of retreat, Chou always fights a series of delaying action” (p. 1112). In Robinson’s view, the premier also adopts a “mass supervision and cadre work” formula, encouraging government and party cadres to stay on the job after takeovers in order to avoid the breakdown of regular services.

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                                                                                                                                • Russo, Alessandro. 2013. How did the Cultural Revolution end? The last dispute between Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, 1975. Modern China 39.3: 239–279.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0097700412454528Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  The years 1975–1976 were a decisive biennium for the immediate success of Deng Xiaoping and his allies over the Maoists. Russo reviews the principal theoretical questions at stake during Deng’s fierce political dispute with Mao, showing that Deng’s success was based on a succession of moves, each of which was made as a direct response to the political questions raised by Mao in December 1974.

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                                                                                                                                  • Terrill, Ross. 1999. Madame Mao: The white-boned demon. Rev. ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                    Terrill documents the career of Jiang Qing (Mao’s wife) using original interview materials, including interviews with Jiang’s second husband and other key figures who were close to Jiang. Terrill offers a psychopolitical history of Jiang Qing and argues that she viewed her “vindication as a woman” as requiring “the gathering into her hands of supreme power within the Communist Party of China” (p. 323).

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                                                                                                                                    • Walder, Andrew. 2004. Tan Lifu: A “reactionary” Red Guard in historical perspective. China Quarterly 180:965–988.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0305741004000700Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Tan Lifu was a famous Red Guard leader at Beijing Industrial University who has long been viewed as a conservative in defense of the party’s class line. After examining the complete transcript of the original speech of Tan, Walder shows that Tan, in fact, espoused a version of the party’s class line that did not differ from the one advocated by those who denounced him.

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                                                                                                                                      Red Guards

                                                                                                                                      The Red Guards were born of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. They were mobilized to fight against those who were “taking the capitalist road”; to smash the “Four Olds”—old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits; and to purge one faction after another and fight with one another. How was this rapid mobilization possible? What decisions did Red Guards make and what were their reasons? What were their underlying motives and how did these motives impel their acts of violence? Analyses of this episode of mass psychosis, such as Lin 1991, Raddock 1977, and Yang 2000, demonstrate that the Red Guards could use only their fanatical and violent behaviors to demonstrate their revolutionary ardor and their loyalty to Mao. Xu 1999 also finds that different groups competed to show that they were the most “Red.” According to Bernstein 1977, the fate of Red Guards eventually faded away as millions of youth were sent to work in the countryside to “reeducate” them through labor among the peasants.

                                                                                                                                      • Andreas, Joel. 2009. Rise of the Red engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the origins of China’s new class. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                        Through a case study of Red Guards at Tsinghua University, Andreas argues that the Cultural Revolution was a turning point in which Mao and the Communist Party took radical measures to attack both an old educated elite and new revolutionary elite. As a result of Mao’s attempt to eliminate class distinctions, both groups of elites were ultimately brought together and later coalesced to form the post-Mao technocratic class.

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                                                                                                                                        • Bernstein, Thomas. 1977. Up to the mountains and down to the villages: The transfer of youth from urban to rural China. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                          This book is the first major study of the sent-down youth. Bernstein estimates that about 5.4 million youths were sent down to the countryside during 1968–1970, and this number coincides closely with 6 million urban graduates without jobs during the same period. Using data from the Chinese media, visitors’ reports, and interviews with refugees in Hong Kong, Bernstein illustrates how life in the countryside transformed the children of Mao from innocent and ignorant believers in communism into independent adults.

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                                                                                                                                          • Lin, Jing. 1991. The Red Guards’ path to violence: Political, educational, and psychological factors. New York: Praeger.

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                                                                                                                                            Lin examines the destructive behavior of the Red Guards in the early phase of the Cultural Revolution and shows how teenagers justified violence in the name of class struggle. She also contrasts “Red Guards thinking” with “democratic thinking” and indicates that only with the establishment of the latter will it be possible to avoid a repetition of youth violence.

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                                                                                                                                            • Raddock, David M. 1977. Political behavior of adolescents in China: The Cultural Revolution in Kwangchow. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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                                                                                                                                              On the basis of quasipsychoanalytic interviews with thirty-seven adolescent refugees from Guangdong, Raddock assesses the psychological predispositions of Red Guard members. He argues that the personality of Red Guards and their violent activities during the Cultural Revolution were influenced by their family socialization process, especially the father-son relationship in the case of males.

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                                                                                                                                              • Rosen, Stanley. 1981. The role of sent-down youth in the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The case of Guangzhou. Berkeley, Univ. of California.

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                                                                                                                                                Rosen examines the internal political and social fragmentation among rusticated youth who were sent to the countryside after the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960) but moved back to the cities during 1966–1968. According to Rosen, Guangzhou rusticated youths split into five different cohort groups. The lack of unity among rusticated youths prevented them from becoming a powerful alliance group and led to the failure of their political activities.

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                                                                                                                                                • Xu, Youyu. 1999. Xingxing sese de zaofan: Hongweibing jingshen sushi de xingcheng ji yanbian. Hong Kong: Chinese Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                  Xu presents a wealth of empirical materials to analyze the mobilization, formation, and evolution of the Red Guard movement. In particular, Xu examines the divisions and alliances between rebel groups, arguing that the dynamics of factional alliances were much less clear-cut than hindsight would suggest. The Red Guard movement, Xu points out, was essentially defensive at each stage of its development, focused less on winning than simply not losing.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Yang, Guobing. 2000. The liminal effects of social movements: Red Guards and the transformation of identity. Sociological Forum 15.3: 379–406.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1023/A:1007563225473Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Yang studies the impact of the chuanlian or Great Link-Up movement on the transformation of Red Guard identity. Employing the concept of “liminality,” Yang illustrates that Cultural Revolution movements were liminal phenomena characterized by varying degrees of freedom, egalitarianism, communion, and creativity. The identity transformation experience of Red Guards became a dividing line in their personal histories that had a long-term influence.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Yin, Hongbiao. 2009. Shizongzhe de zuji: Wenhua dageming qijian de qingnian sichao. Hong Kong: Chinese Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                      Yin traces the development of new thinking in the Red Guard generation over two periods: Red Guard movements from 1966 to 1968 and the Down to the Countryside Movement from 1968 to 1978. In particular, Yin discusses dissident thought, including the writings and ideas of influential “ultra-leftists.” Yin further explores how the attitudes, behavior, and thinking of the Red Guard generation consolidated into particular schools of thought in the post–Cultural Revolution period.

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                                                                                                                                                      Cultural Revolution in the Provinces

                                                                                                                                                      The Cultural Revolution movement spread across the provinces like grass fire. Beijing was the political storm center and original source of the Cultural Revolution (Walder 2009); Guangzhou is at the forefront of the early studies of the Cultural Revolution and Chinese politics; Shanghai is the first city in which the planned seizure of power took place (Perry and Li 1997, Li 2015); and the Wuhan Incident on 20 July 1967 sparked a radical turning point in the Cultural Revolution (Wang 1995). Some scholars also expand their research to ethnic minority regions such as Inner Mongolia (Brown 2006) and Tibet (Goldstein, et al. 2009) in order to examine the diffusion and penetration of the Cultural Revolution. However, one cannot extrapolate that the political processes in one place were typical of the struggles in other localities. Variations in the local social and political structure may have led to different patterns of conflict. The grand narrative of the Cultural Revolution is thus due for a thoroughly contextualized reexamination in regions with variant degrees of local conflict.

                                                                                                                                                      • Brown, Kerry. 2006. The purge of the Inner Mongolian People’s Party in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1967–69. Kent, UK: Global Oriental.

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                                                                                                                                                        Brown uses Inner Mongolia as a case to argue that Mao’s Cultural Revolution ranks in world history alongside Stalin’s “great purges” in the 1930s and Hitler’s propaganda. By analyzing published and unofficially circulated materials and archives, Brown examines how certain highly coercive political systems exercised control over public expression.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Forster, Keith. 1990. Rebellion and factionalism in a Chinese province: Zhejiang, 1966–1976. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

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                                                                                                                                                          While Forster also applies the terms “radical” and “conservative” to political conflicts in Zhejiang, he nonetheless views these labels as arbitrary. In Forster’s account, the formation of two mass factional organizations in 1966–1967 was not merely the product of social cleavages that had emerged in the 1950s and early 1960s, but was more importantly a political response to the collapse of the provincial party and government leadership from later 1966 to early 1967.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Goldstein, Melvyn C., Ben Jiao, and Tanzen Lhundrup. 2009. On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                            Employing previously unavailable sources, in particular a collection of internal Communist Party investigations and numerous interviews conducted as part of Goldstein’s Tibet Oral History Archive, the authors reexamine the so-called Nyemo Incident in 1969. This is the most detailed examination of the Cultural Revolution in an ethnic minority region to date.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Li, Xun. 2015. Geming zaofan niandai: Shanghai wenge yundong shigao. Hong Kong: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              Drawing upon a wealth of primary sources including Red Guard tabloids, handbills, and local gazettes as well as published and unpublished personal memoirs of key eyewitnesses and participants, Li paints a vivid picture of mass movements in Shanghai during the decade of the Cultural Revolution. Instead of focusing on “two-line struggles” among central elites, Li examines those at the bottom rungs of the social structure, with an emphasis on grassroots mobilization.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Perry, Elizabeth J., and Xun Li. 1997. Proletarian power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                                                                                                                                                This book studies Chinese worker activism during the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai. Using an impressive amount of new sources from the Public Security Bureau, the Shanghai Municipal Archives, internal references, transcripts of telephone conversation, and more, Perry and Li explore the practice of worker politics: the leaders, their personalities, the organizational structure, and their rivalries and alliances. They conclude that the worker rebels in Shanghai were a “remarkably diverse” group of people bound together by their “unusually forceful personalities” (p. 43).

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                                                                                                                                                                • Shinichi, Tanigawa. 2007. Dynamics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the countryside, Shaanxi 1966–1971. PhD diss., Stanford University.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Using a provincial data set comprised of ninety-three county annals from Shaanxi Province, this study identifies four mechanisms involved in the escalation of political conflict between 1966 and 1971: diffusion through the brokerage of traveling Red Guards, polarization through power struggle, escalation of factional armed battles, and escalation of repressive violence under local governments.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Vogel, Ezra F. 1971. The Cultural Revolution in the provinces. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                    This book collects four case studies, focusing on political developments in the first three years of the Cultural Revolution in Heilongjiang, Shanghai, Sichuan, and Wuhan. The authors provide detailed documentation of various political conflicts in each locality.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Walder, Andrew. 2009. Fractured rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard movement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Walder questions the reigning interest group interpretation and provides empirical evidence of political dynamism in factional formation. He observes that factional divisions among college students in Beijing emerged through repeated political choices at various political crossroads. Focusing on rebel students’ individual choices in ambiguous contexts, Walder concludes that student activists were mobilized to defend their earlier choices, binding them to antagonistic factions.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Wang, Shaoguang. 1995. Failure of charisma: The Cultural Revolution in Wuhan. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                        This book provides an in-depth analysis of micropolitics in Wuhan from 1966 to 1976. Wang portrays the same bipolar radical/conservative divisions, asserting that actors’ prior positions were the most crucial factor determining which side one took in the Cultural Revolution. According to Wang, this stark political division existed not only in schools but also in factories, and not only in Wuhan but also in other parts of China.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Memoirs

                                                                                                                                                                        The Cultural Revolution brought forth a vast outpouring of memoirs, including some by leading radical figures, former rebel leaders, and provincial party leaders. This section includes some of the best examples, demonstrating both the entangled complexity of the events and the precarious state of historical testimony. At the “top” level, Chen 2005, Wang 1993, Wu 2006, and Zhang 2015 provide valuable windows into the inner game of elite politics in Beijing; while, at the grassroots level, Kuai 2013 and Nie 2005 offer detailed testimony of how ordinary movement participants became Mao’s loyalty rebel leaders. The retrospective memoirs Gao 1987 and Yang 1997 also affirm the Red Guards’ revolutionary zest during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

                                                                                                                                                                        • Chen, Xiaonong. 2005. Chen Boda zuihou koushu huiyi. Hong Kong: Yangguang Huanqiu Chuban Youxian Gongsi.

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                                                                                                                                                                          This memoir is an attempt by Chen Boda’s son to defend Chen’s reputation after he was condemned as a counterrevolutionary for his radical role in the Cultural Revolution. The official account portrays Chen as a key radical when he headed the Central Cultural Revolution Group. In contrast, this work shifts the blame to Jiang Qing, claiming that it was she, in fact, who assumed the leading role while Chen attempted to moderate her actions.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Gao, Yuan. 1987. Born Red: A chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                            This book is an autobiography of Gao Yuan and records his recollection of the years 1966–1969. Gao was a young teenager at middle school and caught up in very dramatic political events. His experiences reveal the Cultural Revolution as a consciousness-raising, idealism-inspiring movement.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Kuai, Dafu. 2013. Qinghua wenge wushi tian. Hong Kong: Zhongguo Wenhua Chuanbo Chubanshe.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Kuai Dafu was a key rebel leader of one of the student factions at Tsinghua University. The first section of this book records Kuai’s rapid rise as a national political superstar in the early period of the Cultural Revolution. The second section collects thirty-seven big-character posters written by Kuai, thus providing first-hand materials that expressed his political thoughts.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Nie, Yuanzi. 2005. Nie Yuanzi huiyilu. Hong Kong: Shidaiguoji Chuban Youxian Gongsi.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Nie Yuanzi, the Communist Party secretary of Peking University’s Philosophy Department, is widely credited with helping to start the Cultural Revolution with her famous wall poster in May 1966. In this memoir, Nie traces and reflects upon her role in the political drama that ensued. Nie confesses her wrongdoings in the movement, but also defends her actions as a political scapegoat who was merely following Mao and Jiang Qing’s instructions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Wang, Li. 1993. Xianchang lishi: Wenhua dageming jishi. Hong Kong: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Wang Li, one of the most fervent radicals at the launch of the Cultural Revolution, was purged in 1967 after the Wuhan Incident for supporting one revolutionary group over another. In this memoir, Wang recollects his role in several key events in Mao’s political movements. He denies ever taking part in or directly inciting violence, and argues that he was made into a scapegoat for the whole party.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Wu, Faxian. 2006. Suiyue jiannan: Wu Faxian huiyi lu. Hong Kong: Beixing Chubanshe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    This two-volume memoir by General Wu Faxian, former commander in chief of China’s air force, documents the rise and fall of General Wu’s political career as a communist functionary. The second volume, covering the long period from the Lushan Conference in 1959 to Wu’s arrest in 1971 and then his life in jail until 1981, provides valuable historical details that help unpack the mystery of the Lin Biao Incident and inner-elite politics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Yang, Rae. 1997. Spider eaters: A memoir. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Yang records her adolescent experience as a Red Guard at an elite middle school in Beijing and later as a laborer on a pig farm in the remote northern wilderness during the decade of the Cultural Revolution. Her personal account shows how an ordinary teenager struggled to make sense of political turbulence and eventually became disillusioned with the Maoist revolution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Zhang, Chunqiao. 2015. Zhang Chunqiao yuzhong jiashu. Hong Kong: Chinese Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Zhang Chunqiao, a radical Maoist who rose to political prominence during the Cultural Revolution, was convicted in 1981 as a member of the infamous Gang of Four. This book collects a total of fifty-eight letters Zhang wrote to his family between 1985 and 2003. The letters show Zhang as “a student of Chairman Mao,” trying to strike a balance between his radical Maoism and a more pragmatic tone.

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