May-16-1966: China Descends into Chaos

Fifty years ago today, a Communist party document fired the opening salvo of the catastrophic mobilization warning that counter-revolutionary schemers were conspiring to replace the party with a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”.  What followed was an unprecedented was a decade-long period of upheaval, bloodshed and economic stagnation that only ended with Mao’s death, in September 1976.  It was only in 1981 — five years after Mao’s death — that China’s government officially pronounced the Cultural Revolution “a catastrophe.”

To encourage the personality cult that sprang up around Mao Zedong during the first phase of the Cultural Revolution, Defense Minister Lin Biao saw that the now-famous “Little Red Book” of Mao’s quotations was printed and distributed by the millions throughout China.

It is estimated that 1.5 million people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, and millions of others suffered imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.

The excesses of the Cultural Revolution are on display in this video below of a son who denounced his mother leading to her execution or marching victims throughout the city as depicted in The Last Emperor.


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