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The Cultural Revolution on Trial
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Book description

The trial of Cultural Revolution leaders, including Mao's widow and her Gang of Four, was the signal event in China's post-Mao transition. In its wake, Chinese socialism emerged from the rubble of the Cultural Revolution to create the China that we know today. This spectacular show trial was a curious example of transitional justice, marking a break from the trauma of the past, a shift to the present era of reform, and a blueprint for building a better future. In this groundbreaking reconstruction of the most famous trial in Chinese history, Alex Cook shows how the event laid the cornerstone for a new model of socialist justice; at the same time, a comparison of official political and legal sources with works of popular literature reveals the conflicted cultural dimensions of this justice. The result, Cook argues, saved Chinese socialism as ruling ideology, but at the cost of its revolutionary soul.


'This book is an excellent exploration of the cultural politics of post-Mao China as well as an important contribution to the study of the global unfolding of legal modernity. Drawing on an exceptionally wide-ranging archive, Cook analyzes the contradictions between legality and humanity at a critical point in China’s transition.'

Teemu Ruskola - Emory University, Atlanta

'Alexander C. Cook’s new book, The Cultural Revolution on Trial, is a significant contribution to the study of the historical trial of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing’s counterrevolutionary cliques … Cook should be complimented for such a unique approach to studying the trial. He demonstrates his broad knowledge not only of the trial and the legal documents, but also of the literature of political trials in general, as well as of contemporary Chinese literature. The entire book is an intensive reading and Cook’s discoveries are profound.'

Qiu Jin Source: The American Historical Review

‘Alternating courtroom-based chapters on the trial with knowledgeable snapshots of the culture of the post-Maoist transformation, Cook conjures a realistic image of a conflicted society undergoing far-reaching change … he carefully unpacks the ‘linguistic and symbolic freight’ of the Gang of Four trial narratives and reveals their ‘hidden contents’. By so doing, Cook enables readers to see the most important trial in Chinese history from different angles.’

Jens Meierhenrich Source: The English Historical Review

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