Week 12

This week, we discussed the Cultural Revolution and the beginnings of China’s reconnection with the Western world. Mao’s government started the Cultural Revolution to increase support for the Chinese Communist Party after the Great Leap Forward failed and caused a famine (Moise 168). He argued that the Revolution from 1949 was incomplete and Chinese people needed to remove traditional and bourgeois parts of society. For our class on the Cultural Revolution, I read the first few chapters of Born Red by Gao Yuan. Gao wrote about his time as a student in China during the Cultural Revolution. There was a lot of violence and disruption of the social order at Gao’s school. One student shot the Youth League secretary for rejecting his membership application several times (Gao 21). Some of Gao’s classmates were very passionate about serving their country even to the point of hurting others so they could join the military. I was surprised to learn that students so young could be so violent.

Gao described his political schooling as well, and he said that, “In politics class, Teacher Guo instructed us to search our hearts for inner contradictions. Family origin was important: those of us from good backgrounds had to be certain not to stray from the path, and those from bad backgrounds had to struggle against their inferior inheritance” (Gao 25). The students’ education was very political, and they were basically training students to be good Communist revolutionaries. There was a lot of pressure on them to follow the correct political ideology and question their own beliefs. I found it interesting that there was a focus on the students’ “good” or “bad” backgrounds. On the surface, the school was encouraging children to dismantle the social hierarchy, and Communist ideology is about economic equality. However, Gao’s teachers pointed out differences in the students’ social classes and judged them as “good” or “bad” so they could target them and get them all on the same page of supporting Communism. There was still a privilege system in place.

Group of Chinese Red Guard and youth soldiers marching. The person in the front has a large flag with Chinese characters,

The photo above is of Red Guards and Chinese revolutionary youth marching to Beijing in 1966.

Gao, Yuan. Born Red : A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987

Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008






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