SPOTLIGHT: CHINA'S SILENT ANNIVERSARY
It was 50 years ago today that the Chinese Communist Party and its leader Mao Zedong released a circular that was bound to unleash a decade of violence that would kill more than 1.5 million people. It would come to be known as the Cultural Revolution, and the history books consider it one of the most brutal chapters of the 20th century. But it wasn't until 1981 that Chinese Communist officials recognized the crimes of the fanaticized Student Red Guards, who tortured and killed their own teachers, and of the mobs who would go as far as beating up parents in front of their children. This, it finally acknowledged, had been a "catastrophic decade."
But on its 50th Anniversary, China's lack of any official commemoration of the Cultural Revolution and the apparent shunning of all references to it in the media show that a relatively more open, and less bloody, leadership in Beijing still has serious problems with the darkest parts of its past.
Writing in the Singapore-based Straits Times, Goh Sui Noi delves into the "ghosts of the Cultural Revolution" still haunting its victims and China as a whole. "There has not been any meaningful catharsis," she writes. "At the end of the Cultural Revolution, criticism was allowed for a short period of time because there was a need to repudiate it, observers say. But since then, the government has largely suppressed debate on the period for fear that this undermines its legitimacy." Worse, Goh Sui Noi notes, because there's never been a "full public accounting" of the crimes, "to this day, some of the perpetrators do not believe they did anything wrong."
Given this conspiracy of silence, it should perhaps be no surprise that Maoists are once again on the rise in parts of China among the many who haven't benefited from the country's turn towards market capitalism. Reporting from the ancient city of Luoyang, AP journalist Gerry Shih writes that "nearly every day retired or unemployed workers sing odes to Mao under a billowing Communist Party flag at Zhouwangcheng Plaza. People swarm around a clothesline and squint at dozens of pinned essays condemning the past 30 years of liberalization or positively reappraising the Cultural Revolution." As much as the world wonders about China's future, today is a reminder that its history is never far behind.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- A 10-day UN conference on Climate Change begins in Bonn, Germany, to discuss implementing the deal reached in Paris last November.
- An international meeting in Vienna is set to discuss the threat of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya.
- The inaugural winners of the new Man Booker International Prize will be named