ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE: The Ordeal of the Intellectuals in China's Great Cultural Revolution by Anne F. Thurston

ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE: The Ordeal of the Intellectuals in China's Great Cultural Revolution

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A new account of Mao Zedong's ""Cultural"" Revolution and, particularly, of its victims. Thurston, who has written and taught extensively on Chinese politics, gives a brutal, tortuous picture of this dark hour in modern Chinese history. She presents the revolution on two levels--first, as a brutality against humanity (""surpassed only by the Nazi Holocaust, the Stalinist Purges, and the recent genocide in Cambodia""); second, as a political revolutionary upheaval (""rivaled only by the French and Russian revolutions and by China's own revolution of 1949""). Although the actual Cultural Revolution officially lasted only three years, the author states that the wake of its ""ideological extremism, routinized oppression, gross mismanagement, and egregious misrule"" dragged on for fully a decade, until Mao's death in 1976. ""It left in its wake a wounded, crippled society. The world's most populous nation lay in shambles."" Above all, Thurston's is a personal account of individual ordeals suffered during those years, in the words of the victims themselves. They describe humiliating tortures, such as that of You Xiaoli. Accused of being a spy and a counterrevolutionary, she was forced to stand balanced on a stool, which in turn was balanced on a wooden chair, itself balanced on a wooden desk. The torture is called ""doing the airplane."" Her arms were tied behind her back and she was forced to wear a blackboard hung from a chain around her neck, on which were written her myriad ""crimes."" After several hours of accepting taunts and jibes, the chair under her stool was suddenly kicked out from under her, sending her tumbling into unconsciousness. Often these sessions were repeated daily. Similar stories give this volume an eerie quality and makes us grateful that, at least for the time being, China appears to be embarked on an enlightened era. A good job of cutting through the inscrutable Chinese at their nadir.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf