Making sense of the `great disorder’ of the Cultural Revolution – Michael Kenney

A new book, Mao’s Last Revolution, by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, is reviewed by Michael Kenney in the Boston Globe:

There is a play on words popular among Beijing intellectuals that transposes the characters for “” — “wenhua da geming” — to create a satiric expression, “da ge wenhua ming,” which translates loosely as “the revolution that destroyed the life of culture.”

As a campaign against the “Four Olds” — “old ideas, old culture, old customs , and old habits” — the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 turned Chinese society against itself. But as Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals suggest in “Mao’s Last Revolution” “the Cultural Revolution was so great a disaster” in economic and social terms “that it provoked an even more profound cultural revolution.” That revolution has created a world economic power in the three decades since the Cultural Revolution ended with the death of , in 1976.

“To understand the `why’ of China today,” they write, “one has to understand the `what’ of the Cultural Revolution.” [Full text]

See additional reviews of the book from The Economist, The New Republic, and an abstract of a review by Jonathan Spence in the New York Review of Books.

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