Released: December 2008
The Unknown Cultural Revolution challenges the established narrative of China’s Cultural Revolution, which assumes that this period of great social upheaval led to economic disaster, the persecution of intellectuals, and senseless violence. Dongping Han offers a powerful account of the dramatic improvements in the living conditions, infrastructure, and agricultural practices of China’s rural population that emerged in this period. Drawing on extensive local interviews and records in rural Jimo County, in Shandong Province, Han shows that the Cultural Revolution helped overthrow local hierarchies, establish participatory democracy and economic planning in the communes, and expand education and public services, especially for the elderly. Han lucidly illustrates how these changes fostered dramatic economic development in rural China.
The Unknown Cultural Revolution documents a neglected side of China’s Cultural Revolution, demonstrating the potential of mass education and empowerment for radical political and economic transformation. It is a bold and provocative work, which demands the attention not only of students of contemporary Chinese history but of all who are concerned with poverty and inequality in the world today.