Chinese President Xi Jinping is cracking down on several sectors of Chinese society, including technology and entertainment. This has some Beijing watchers worried a new version of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution is underway. Here’s everything you need to know.
What was the Cultural Revolution?
It was a brutal 10-year period between 1966-76 (with most of the violence occurring in the first five years) that led to hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of civilian and military deaths in China. The era began when Chairman Mao Zedong, whose pre-eminent position in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had weakened, launched his plan to “purge all potential opposition to his leadership” before mobilizing the masses throughout the country to further strengthen his grasp on power. He legitimized a student protest movement called the Red Guard, which morphed into a revolutionary paramilitary group and set out on a “class cleansing” campaign, first in urban areas and eventually the countryside. Their targets were vaguely-defined “rightist” and “reactionary” threats, including Red Guard members’ own educational system, and the movement ultimately led to “indiscriminate destruction of all things and people deemed non-Leftist.” Anything having to do with religion and the West was considered fair game, so in addition to the human atrocities, artifacts, historical records, and foreign embassies were destroyed.