The fiftieth anniversary of the start of Cultural Revolution is being remembered, but not in China. There are no official events planned by the authorities to remember the 50-year milestone.
How to handle the 10 year period when Communist leader Mao Zedong headed a campaign to eliminate his rivals and called on Chinese youth to “purge” society has remained a challenge to the country’s rulers.
It was a chaotic and murderous period.
The official party line on the issue was decided in the 80s, after the trial of the “Gang of Four”, mistakes were made and the revolution was a tragedy. End of debate. Neither the legitimacy of Mao, around whom a personality cult developed or the party were challenged.
From the start of the Cultural Revolution Mao’s little red book of quotations became the bible of young people. He gave licence to them to destroy the so-called four “olds” or perceived enemies of Chinese culture: customs, habits, culture and thinking.
Schools and temples were destroyed. Children turned on their parents, students on their teachers, two generations of intellectuals were sacrificed. Thirty six million people were persecuted. Thousands were beaten to death or driven to suicide.
The young fanatics were between 14 and 30 years old. They became Red Guards employed by the regime. Zhao Shunli was one of them. He was 13 when the revolution started. He never questioned it and remains nostalgic of the era.
“The 30 years after the reforms show that his was totally wrong. The reforms did not bring any benefit to our country, to our lives, they did not bring any development to our economy and our industry,” he said.
For those who are Mao admirers, the ideology of the cultural revolution, proletarian, was fundamental and it was just.
“The people who feel nostalgic about the Cultural Revolution are usually old, retired workers, and officials from Mao’s era. There is a Chinese saying: “You still trust the one who already has cheated on you”. This situation still remains, because the current society is very unstable. The unequal distribution of wealth makes people unhappy and this drives people to long for Mao Zedong,” explained Zhang Lifan a writer and historian.
In the south of the country there is a museum dedicated to the bloody decade. It is the only place which confronts this period history. The young people who come here, relatively ignorant of what happened during the 10 years do not imagine that it could happen again.
“Such a kind of wrong revolution will never happen again. I believe our Party, our country and our leadership will not formulate such incorrect guidelines again,” said one student who visited the museum.
It’s reported that not one of the five major Chinese newspapers on Monday mentioned the Cultural Revolution.
The conclusion on this collective amnesia by the party is that it is better to move forward beyond that decade of leftist ideals. Besides to condemn Mao would be to undermine the legitimacy of the party which is unthinkable.