The 50th anniversary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Fifty years ago, Mao Zedong unleashed the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long upheaval that had dramatic and often violent effects accross China.

The movement was based on an elite politics, as Mao tried to reassert control by setting radical youth against the Communist Party Hierarchy. But there was consequences at all levels of the society. Young people were engaged as Red Guards to target Mao's ennemies, before being send later to work on farms in the countryside. More than 16 million young people were sent there, including Xi Jinping, China's current preisdent. Intellectuals, people with ties to the West or the former Nationalist government were persecuted, and many officials were purged. Others were killed, committed suicide or were left permanently scarred. This period traumatised China, and according to expert, this trauma encourages Chinese people, decades later, to embrace market-oriented reforms to spur growth and ease deprivation.

The exact number of dead during this period remains a mystery, nut a figure of one million or more is most commonly citer. Estimations go from 500 000 to eight million dead, and the number of people persecuted is usually estimated in the tens of millions.

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