Monday, 16 May 2016

The Cultural Revolution: 50 Years of Pain Continues

"Chairman Mao is with us forever" reads the propaganda poster
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. And as expected China refuses to acknowledge it.

I remember my mom telling me about the Cultural Revolution when I was a child and I didn't understand what she meant by it. I just remember her just saying how terrible it was, and how people were ruined by it.

Many academics, artists were denounced
It wasn't until many years later that I started doing my own research on it, reading articles and books about it (Red China Blues, Life and Death in Shanghai), that I began to realize the depth of the catastrophe -- a man made political disaster that ruined China for at least 10 years.

To survive, people did the most horrific things to each other -- to what end? Many committed suicide, unable to deal with the upheaval, others were left for dead.

And what came of it? Those who were the youth during that time are now in power. It's so strange how things turn out.

Several years ago when then Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai started reviving revolutionary red songs, it was a frightening prospect that someone who was previously thought as liberal was actually very "red", or was it a ploy to try to get a wider base of support from party elders?

In any event, his corruption scandal brought him and his family down, but that may have inspired the current leader Xi Jinping to get people onto the revolutionary bandwagon by encouraging them to be more nationalistic, meanwhile tightening the internet to make it harder for them to access information abroad.

A recent show in Beijing seemed to glorify Mao 50 years ago
A few weeks ago there was a performance in the Great Hall of the People that was very revolutionary in nature, that seemed to hark back to the Cultural Revolution with young girls singing Maoist songs as well as projecting images of Mao that were reminiscent of propaganda posters.

Afterwards when people began criticizing the show that anyone involved in it denied being the instigator and claimed the group that put on the show was fake. It was too close to the 50th anniversary and reminded people of that time.

It is sad to know that only once a year the graveyard in Chongqing for those who died during the Cultural Revolution is open to the public; otherwise it is locked.

This inability to confront what happened 50 years ago and its lingering effects has paralyzed China from moving forward, righting wrongs and making sure something like this does not happen again.

Mao's lingering effects continue to impact people's lives
In some ways their going through the Cultural Revolution explains why mainlanders act the way they do -- aggressive in buying goods, having very little empathy for others, thinking of ways to cheat others without any sense of morality.

And like the Tiananmen Square massacre, many young people have no idea what the Cultural Revolution is and how it affected their families. It's a deep dark secret that many either choose to be ignorant of, or their parents refuse to tell them.

The pain is still there.

Until the Communist Party decides to make peace with the past, history will not be resolved properly. This event that stretched over 10 years will continue to dog the party, much like June 4, 1989, an itch that refuses to go away.


  1. It would truly be tragic if Chinese leader Xi even considered trying to follow any of Mao's moronic policies which led up to the Cultural Revolution - a decade of social and political torture for the people of China - a trauma which many of them have STILL not recovered from. And probably never will. China is always banging on about the need for Japan to face up to its evil policies from 1936 till 1945, and admit their sins. As they should. So, likewise, can the CCP do anything less when it comes to how they treated their own people in the 1960s?

    Xi should be ashamed of himself if he intends to use the shadow of the Cultural Revolution for his own political sake.

    1. HI Lantau Lad! Thanks for reading! Xi doesn't want another Cultural Revolution -- he and his family suffered through that too. But it's interesting how he's been compared to creating a cult of personality similar to Mao's...