Well, well. China has decided to note the passing of the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution after all, with a couple of editorials in state newspapers today that didn’t quite make the front page.
A day after Monday’s anniversary of the launch of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a brief editorial on the fourth page of the party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily, urged readers to consign that tumultuous period to the history books and look ahead to a brighter future by “unswervingly taking the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics” behind Chinese President Xi Jinping.
People's Daily commentary on the Cultural Revolution appears on page 4 of the Tuesday edition. Top right corner. pic.twitter.com/iznmlgJo3Z
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) May 17, 2016
After 30 years of reform and opening up, our nation has become stronger, people’s livelihood has continually improved, and the socialist democratic legal system has been strengthened
Our path is getting wider, and the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution will not be allowed again.
In a separate editorial, the Global Times, a tabloid under People’s Daily, said that the Cultural Revolution “caused severe damage, leaving permanent pain for many Chinese,” but noted that “it is not possible for such a revolution to be repeated.”
“We have bid farewell to the Cultural Revolution,” the editorial concludes. “We can say it once again today that the Cultural Revolution cannot and will not come back. There is no place for it in today’s China.”
However, that is not to say that the outcomes of the Cultural Revolution were all bad, the Global Times editorial also notes at least one benefit to having your country torn apart by turmoil for a decade:
“Over the past few years, many developing countries have experienced civil strife, but not China. A significant reason is that the lessons the Cultural Revolution taught us has given the nation a certain immunity. Nobody fears turmoil, and desires stability more than us.”
Both state media editorials fail to shine any new light on the chaotic period, simply reaffirming the “unshakeably scientific and authoritative” correctness of a 1981 Communist party resolution on the Cultural Revolution, issued just five years after its end, by leaders who felt its worst affects, calling the period from 1966 to 1976 a “decade-long catastrophe” that resulted in “the heaviest losses” since the Communist revolution. However, the resolution stopped short of explicitly blaming Mao Zedong for unleashing his Red Guards on his political enemies and plunging China into a decade of upheaval and bloodshed that cost millions of lives.
The People’s Daily editorial repeated this position and warned those who might try to question it:
History has spoken that the Cultural Revolution was wrongfully started by the leadership and used by counter-revolutionary clans. It was a serious catastrophe to the party, the country and people.
We must firmly remember the historic lessons from the revolution, insist on the party’s verdict and resist interference from the left and the right over the topic.
Ever since that 1981 decision, Party leaders have chosen to remain mostly silent on the movement that greatly shaped their own lives and thinking. Experts believe that this attempt at historical amnesia is merely allowing Maoist revivals to gain in strength and number across the country.
There were no official ceremonies to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moment on May 16, 1966 when Mao issued a notification that officially launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Instead, some Maoists were forced to travel to Hong Kong to hold a rally, calling for a return to collectivism, socialism and Maoism.