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China: don’t mistake Xi Jinping’s crackdowns for a second Cultural Revolution

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20.09.2021

Mao Zedong, when he was close to death in the mid-1970s, told those around him that he regarded his two greatest achievements as establishing a unified country in 1949, and launching the Cultural Revolution in 1966. This huge movement continued till Mao’s death in 1976. His desire, he said, was that every few years it would recur.

Others did not share his positive assessment of this event. Over the past four decades, the Cultural Revolution has figured like a nightmarish bogeyman, lurking in the collective Chinese unconsciousness. In the era of Jiang Zemin in the late 1990s, people worried in China about what they saw as increasing signs of egotism and personality cult and the instability this might lead to.

And, when the 50th anniversary of the formal launch of the Cultural Revolution happened in May 2016, the official newspaper, the People’s Daily, issued curt editorials condemning the period as one of chaos and extremism.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has seldom referred publicly to the era – and never positively. This is not surprising. He was caught up in the political turmoil of the time, being classified as being part of a “bad class”, one of the loathed urban elite who needed to be sent to the countryside from 1969 to give him real revolutionary experience.

This is reinforced by the very dim views of the Cultural Revolution expressed in the most recent official articulation, the Brief History of the........

© The Conversation


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