- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Monthly Review Press (December 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1583671803
- ISBN-13: 978-1583671801
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village Paperback – December 1, 2008
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About the Author
Dongping Han teaches history and political science at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Han comes from a rural background in China.
12 customer reviews
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Dongping Han quantitatively shows how education, political responsibility, and basic industry developed in his home region by bottom-up, grass roots mobilization, which removed corrupt officials, empowered ordinary citizens to speak their minds through "big character posters," brought technical education to country youth, and provided basic social service support. Rather than create a "global village," the Cultural Revolution sought to make a full life accessible to real village people. The author does not excuse the extremes of the period, as some allege. But he encourages us to see beyond the stereotype, and reminds us that discrediting the Cultural Revolution was a political "struggle" in its own right by self-interested parties, seeking to restore and retrench lost privileges by attacking the very idea of social equity and collective action.
I will challenge him on a couple points which stop my hand from giving the book five stars. He writes of a "culture of submission" in rural China which reinforced the class domination of the village. While the author certainly knows rural China better than I do, the idea sounds as fishy as a "culture of poverty," and is belied by the very evidence he presents. The submission of ordinary people is largely role-playing, as we see every day in our own jobs and official interaction. Once freed from imposed constraints we also see these deference patterns are not deeply ingrained at all. Such "culture" is, then, a construct contingent on continued external enforcement, not exactly a repressive psychological force in its own right. Similarly, the popular elan of "one for all" during the GPCR, while genuine, was also enforced by heavy social pressure. Participants who spoke a hard line, volunteering extra work and time, did so - as they later admitted - for status reasons, to deflect criticism, or just bent with the east wind to avoid the harsh punishment inflicted on the deviant.
But this did not detract from genuine development for the poor and neglected majority. The preceding Great Leap Forward, following Soviet-style collectivization, was a disaster that has ever after served Western critics as "proof" of socialist inhumanity. The Chinese Party itself learned its lesson. Reformers like Deng Xiaoping decided they must take the "capitalist road" or China would sink like a stone. Mao himself was too much the revolutionary to think inside the cold war's intellectual boxes. He opted for a third way, which offered (on its own terms) a form of democracy and development for China. Despite the official condemnation of resurgent restorationists, the Maoist era now looks idealistic and even naïve. Certainly the mindless urban speculation, massive unemployment and dislocation, pervasive corruption, and environmental degradation of "Reformed China" are no improvement over howling hordes of Red Guards. It was these same Maoist youth that evolved into modern dissidents; while residues of the period are still evident outside China, in the growth of paramedics or affirmative action programs. Those in the West denouncing China's current lack of democracy, while praising its market reforms and the class that promoted them, demonstrate that round-eyed obtuseness is still the prevailing condition among many China-watchers.