Yang Jisheng is a Chinese historian who has been through a lot and he has seen even more. He lived through the Cultural Revolution AND the Great Leap Forward. While he was once a Communist Party member, he soon started to work for a state news service. Once he got a closer glimpse at what the party was all about back in 1989, he knew that he needed to make a change in his life.
Those who remember how the student protesters in Tiananmen Square were treated are nodding grimly at the moment. From there, he decided to use his status as a Communist Party member to put together a book about the famines that took place during China’s Great Leap Forward. The resulting book was titled Tombstone.
In 2008, it was published and within four years, it was translated into English. Yang Jisheng decided to publish a follow-up book in 2016. He discussed Mao’s Cultural Revolution and was titled The World Turned Upside Down. It is slated for publishing next month. In the meantime, the Atlantic has published a profile on the man and they are offering up their takes on the book.
“The Cultural Revolution was Mao’s last attempt at creating the utopian socialist society he’d long envisioned, although he may have been motivated less by ideology than by political survival. Mao faced internal criticism for the catastrophe that was the Great Leap Forward. He was unnerved by what had happened in the Soviet Union when Nikita Khrushchev began denouncing Joseph Stalin’s brutality after his death in 1953. China’s aging despot (Mao turned 73 the year the revolution began) couldn’t help but wonder which of his designated successors would similarly betray his legacy,” reads the Atlantic’s description of the new tome.
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Once the piece addresses the atrocities that Mao was involved in, things take a much darker turn. “To purge suspected traitors from the upper echelons, Mao bypassed the Communist Party bureaucracy. He deputized as his warriors students as young as 14 years old, the Red Guards, with caps and baggy uniforms cinched around their skinny waists. In the summer of 1966, they were unleashed to root out counterrevolutionaries and reactionaries (“Sweep away the monsters and demons,” the People’s Daily exhorted), a mandate that amounted to a green light to torment real and imagined enemies. The Red Guards persecuted their teachers.”
Meanwhile, the liberal media will do everything in their power to convince people that the Chinese know what they are doing. “They smashed antiques, burned books, and ransacked private homes. (Pianos and nylon stockings, Yang notes, were among the bourgeois items targeted.) Trying to rein in the overzealous youth, Mao ended up sending some 16 million teenagers and young adults out into rural areas to do hard labor. He also dispatched military units to defuse the expanding violence, but the Cultural Revolution had taken on a life of its own,” the piece continues.
By the time the carnage was complete, 1.5 million Chinese were dead. The Great Leap Forward’s death toll was even higher, causing some to minimize these casualties. As for Yang, the publication of the English translation of this new book has him quite nervous. China is always ready to clamp down on any form of critique when it comes to the Communist Party, even when the criticism is based on historical fact.
We all know what happens when China does not like what is being said. Yang is probably right to be worried about what happens next. The independent journalists who were responsible for covering the COVID-19 outbreak can corroborate that, for sure. The Chinese Communist Party may not be as violent as they once were but that does not mean that Yang is out of the woods.
If you are anything like us, you are going to be buying this book this Christmas. We have already added multiple copies to our list so that we can hand out copies to all of the filthy liberals in the family. It is time for the rest of the country to realize what is really going on over there.