China A History, Volume 2 From the Great Qing Empire through The-pages-230-238,263-265.pdf

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be the beginning of a series of events that would send one of the most pop-ulous countries on earth into ten years of turmoil.The Red Guard Generation:From Revolution to DisillusionThe middle school, high school, and college students of 1966 had grown upin the “New China.” They had been taught that revolution was good, that thepeople, the motherland, and the party and, above all, Chairman Mao (whoembodied those wonderful things) commanded their most fervent love andcomplete loyalty.But how was one to express that love and loyalty? What was it to be rev-olutionary? Was it a matter of being “born red,” the child of parents who wereworkers or poor peasants or, even better, who had joined the party before1949 and fought in the Revolution? Or was being “revolutionary” a matterof one’s beliefs and behavior? In other words, could you become revolu-tionary by serving the country, loving the people and the party, being loyalto Chairman Mao and the party, and studying diligently in order to be ofservice to party, people, and motherland? If so, then even children of “bad”class background could become part of the revolutionary masses by firmlyrejecting their exploiting-class heritage.In effect, there were two contradictory criteria for determining whetheror not an individual was “revolutionary”: class label, assigned by the party-state; and beliefs as demonstrated in public behavior. This contradiction wasone of the many sources of tension in the lives of Chinese students. Othersources of tension included competition for grades, conflicts between stu-dents and teachers, conflicts between students and administrators, and con-flicts between students from “good”-class high-ranking party cadre familiesand “bad”-class bourgeois intellectual families. Mao himself had criticized theelitist, high-stakes education system:At present, there is too much studying going on, and this is ex-ceedingly harmful. There are too many subjects at present, and theburden is too heavy, it puts middle-school and university studentsin a constant state of tension.50When Mao used students as the shock troops in his Cultural Revolution,the tension-filled world of the schools and colleges exploded in an orgy ofThe Red Guard Generation: From Revolution to Disillusion217
violence and destruction. This was exactly what he wanted. According toMao, only an explosive mass movement could break through and destroy theCommunist Party bureaucracy, which he believed was taking the country inthe wrong direction. And only by arranging for the students to temper them-selves in the fires of revolutionary action could he create a generation of suc-cessors who would carry out his policies and pursue his dreams even afterhis death.

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