A tragedy pushed to the shadows: the truth about China’s Cultural Revolution

It is impossible to understand China without understanding this decade of horror, and the ways in which it scarred the entire nation. So why do some of that era’s children still look back on it with fondness?

From a distance, you might have mistaken them for teenagers, though they were in late middle age. It wasn’t just the miniskirts and heels on their slim frames, or the ponytails and flaming lipstick, but the girlish way the women held hands, stroked arms, massaged shoulders, smoothed sleeves and straightened bag straps, giddy with affection. Their makeup was heavy, with boldly pencilled brows, and their long hair tinted black or dyed brassy blond – recreating a youth that had never been theirs to enjoy.

Auntie Huang was wistful as we watched a couple of students stroll past in the grounds of Chongqing University, green with palms and willows and great thickets of bamboo. We had made ourselves at home in a little pavilion set upon the lake.

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The most powerful man in China since Mao: Xi Jinping is on the brink of total power

The Communist party will this week confirm Xi as China’s most powerful leader since Mao. What will his extended term of office mean for the country and for its neighbour Taiwan?

This week in Beijing, Xi Jinping will preside over one of his country’s great shows of political theatre and seal a long-planned political triumph, consolidating his power and extending his rule.

The Chinese Communist party is poised to formally hand Xi another five years as party boss, and therefore leader of the country, at a summit that will also move his allies into key roles and elevate the status of his writings on power and government.

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China’s censorship reaches far beyond its own borders | Letter

We should never take free speech for granted, especially if it concerns art, writes John Finlay

I read with interest your editorial (The Guardian view on China’s censors: the sense of an (acceptable) ending, 24 August). In 2016, I was about to publish a book on pop art, which had a short section on artists responding to political and social turmoil in the 1960s, and which included an illustration of Jim Dine’s Drag – Johnson and Mao (1967). The etching depicts Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China and the US president Lyndon B Johnson, who sent troops to counter Chinese communist support in the Vietnam war.

Dine’s coloured etching applies cosmetic touches to the lips, cheeks and eyelids of these two supposed (and opposed) “freedom” fighters (and a black heart painted on the chin of Mao), essentially to caricature political propaganda and masculine conviction. The capitalist and communist leaders appear as drag actors whose posturing affects a global audience. The printers of my book – a Chinese company – forced the London publisher to remove the offending illustration and text. In our cosy western world, we should never take free speech for granted, especially if it concerns art.
John Finlay

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How Beethoven inspired 50 years of cultural exchange between the US and China

A new book tells how classical music, played to the Chinese by the Philadelphia Orchestra, ushered in decades of valuable interchanges now under threat

It was a big year for Tan Dun, the Oscar-winning Chinese musician who would go on to compose the soundtrack for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In the autumn of 1973, Tan, then a teenager, was sent to a rural commune in Hunan province to plant rice. China was at the height of the Cultural Revolution. One day, Tan heard a sound from a loudspeaker in the field.

“Do you want to hear some interesting music? This is called ‘symphony’. The Philadelphia Orchestra is in China,” a friend said to Tan. It was the first time he had heard about a “symphony orchestra”, and it was striking. “I think it was something by Beethoven – the Sixth or the Fifth symphony.”

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Fifty years on, ‘Nixon in China’ loses its sparkle in Beijing and Washington

The trip was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough at the time but now critics in the US question its wisdom

On a brisk winter day in February 1972, the 34-year-old American diplomat, Winston Lord, arrived in Beijing with his boss, Henry Kissinger, and president Richard Nixon. Barely an hour after they checked in to their guest house, a message came: “Chairman Mao wants to see president Nixon.”

The urgency from Mao resonated with the excitement from the American delegation. The establishment of bilateral relations offered great opportunities for both sides in facing a common enemy: the Soviet Union. For more than two decades since the Chinese communists took over the mainland, Beijing and Washington had had no official contact on this scale.

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Chinese Communist party elevates Xi’s status in ‘historical resolution’

Analysts say move is designed to put president on same level as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping

Xi Jinping’s grip on power has received a big boost after the ruling Communist party (CCP) passed a rare “historical resolution” praising the president’s “decisive significance” in the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

It is only the third resolution of its kind in the party’s 100-year history. The two previous resolutions were passed under Mao Zedong, who led the Communists to power in 1949, and Deng Xiaoping, whose reforms in the 1980s turned China into an economic powerhouse.

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The Chinese Communist party: 100 years that shook the world

As China marks the centenary of its ruling party, we examine key episodes in its tempestuous history, including the Long March, Mao’s purges and Xi Jinping’s rise to the top of an emerging superpower

Anyone visiting First Meeting Hall in Shanghai, the museum recreating the site of the first conclave of the Chinese Communist party (CCP) in 1921, will also find themselves in one of the city’s fanciest districts.

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Mao Zedong orders communist armies to prepare to cross Yangtze – archive, 22 April 1949

22 April 1949: The Chinese communist revolutionary called for the ‘anti-democratic Kuomintang forces on Chinese territory’ to be wiped out

Nanking, April 21
The Communist Peking radio said to-night that Mao Tse-tung, the Communist leader, had issued orders to the Communist armies to prepare for a general crossing of the Yangtze. His manifesto said:

I. Strike forward bravely with determination and completely wipe out all anti-democratic, reactionary Kuomintang forces on Chinese territory.

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Stolen Mao scroll worth £230m was cut in two by £50 buyer, police say

Hong Kong police say person who bought scroll thought it was a fake and too long to display

A calligraphy scroll by China’s former leader Mao Zedong, estimated to be worth millions, was cut in half after it was stolen last month in Hong Kong, police have said.

The scroll was found damaged when police arrested a 49-year-old man in late September on suspicion of handling stolen property. The South China Morning Post, quoting an unidentified police source, reported that the scroll was cut in two by a buyer who had purchased it for 500 Hong Kong dollars (about £50) and believed the scroll to be counterfeit.

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Britain recognises communist government of China – archive, 7 January 1950

7 January 1950: Unconditional recognition of Mao Zedong’s regime as the legitimate government of all China sees the withdrawal of support from Nationalists

London, Friday
Britain’s recognition of the Communist Central People’s Government as the legitimate Government of all China was expressed in a Note handed to-day to Mr Chou En-lai, the Foreign Minister, by the British Consul General in Peking. Last night Mr Hector McNeil, the Minister of State, informed the Chinese Ambassador in London, Dr Chung Tien-hsi, that the British Government had decided to take this step and was therefore withdrawing recognition from the Nationalists.

Related: Mao Zedong proclaims the establishment of the People's Republic of China - archive, October 1949

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Su Shaozhi obituary
Chinese political scientist who was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre

The political scientist Su Shaozhi, who has died aged 96, was a campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party in the post-Mao years, until he was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Su was eventually allowed to return to China, but the news of his death has been ignored except on unofficial websites.

In his earlier career, Su would admit, he had “put obedience to the [Communist] party in first place”, churning out what was required to “elaborate the thoughts of Chairman Mao”. He made up for this in the 1980s by denouncing the party’s “feudalism and Stalinism” and proposing democratic reforms that are still unachieved. Privately he was even more outspoken, telling me in 1985 that “we need to make a clean sweep of the leadership”, which still insisted on rigid control.

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