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“Why Don't We Arm the Left?” Mao's Culpability for the Cultural Revolution's “Great Chaos” of 1967

  • Michael Schoenhals
Abstract

This article sets out to describe and explain the events that led, in the summer of 1967, to near civil war in many parts of China. It links the violence on the ground to statements and policies formulated at the highest levels of the CCP, and sets out to show how and why Mao Zedong himself must bear direct personal responsibility for what stands out as one of the darkest chapters in the history of the PRC. Common assumptions about the involvement of senior CCP figures other than Mao, including Lin Biao and Zhou Enlai, are reassessed. Misimpressions that have influenced non-Chinese scholarship on the period are corrected, and evasions and obfuscations on the part of establishment historians in China today are pinpointed.

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Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council. A first version was presented at the conference “Mao Re-evaluated” at the John K. Fairbank Center, Harvard University, in December 2003.Aspecial thanks to Yin Hongbiao for his help with interviews and to Andrew G. Walder for his invaluable comments.
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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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