Yang Shuping’s University of Maryland commencement address and its attendant furor is nothing new, as Pamela Kyle Crossley points out. In 1999, my classmates and I—in the Yale college courtyard from which Yifu Dong just graduated—woke up to find the entryways plastered with posters condemning the American attack on the Belgrade embassy.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a decade-long period of political turmoil that included attacks on alleged class enemies, the toppling of Party officials high and low, and the reinstatement of political control via revolutionary committees supported by the military.
The Cultural Revolution was a period of violent passions and deep traumas. Violence was committed in the name of the noblest ideals or out of the darkest human motivations.
In the past, Cultural Revolution culture has been easy to dismiss. Despite Western fascination will objects that we might call “Mao kitsch”—buttons, statues, and posters—and Chinese nostalgia for Cultural Revolution music or plays, we have written off these cultural products as “just propaganda,” or not really culture at all.
When we teach the Cultural Revolution here in the United States, our textbook version is that Chairman Mao, fearing “revisionism” within his own Communist Party, launched an attack on perceived internal enemies. Our students tend to be most fascinated with the Red Guards, young people who Mao called on to “make revolution” by joining him in an attack on the old world.
On January 14, the trial of Sir Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s former chief executive who served from 2005 to 2012, was set for January 3 of 2017. This past December, Tsang pleaded not guilty to two counts of misconduct in public office, charges on which he was indicted in October.
That Johannes Chan—Hong Kong University’s dean of the law school—was barred from being appointed a pro-vice-chancellor, has been called the end of academic freedom by lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, and “a visible litmus test” by Jerome Cohen and Alvin Cheung in the pages of the South China Morning Post.