China’s most prestigious university just canceled a history class on the Cultural Revolution, according to the professor who would have taught it.
Tang Shaojie, a professor in the philosophy department, has taught the course in previous years at Tsinghua University in Beijing and had plans to teach it again during the fall semester. However, the university canceled the class just a matter of weeks before the semester is set to begin.
“I was informed on July 1st that the course would be canceled, and then the news was released on July 3rd,” Tang told the Global Times.
The course first appeared in 1995, titled “The History of the Cultural Revolution,” but when Tang asked to teach it in 2006, his application was ignored. He could only bring the course to Tsinghua after changing its name to “Chinese Cultural History of 1966-76” — leaving out the “revolution” part.
Now, he says that he can’t teach about this tumultuous era in Chinese history at all.
The Global Times also spoke to computer science student Niu Xingzhi, who took Tang’s class in 2015. Niu said that Tang took an inclusive approach to teaching — combining video clips, songs from the era, personal stories and even showing the film version of George Orwell’s 1984 as part of the course.
According to him, Tang painted an accurate picture of life in China more than 40 years ago, which could explain why he’s no longer allowed to do so.
Last year, on Mao Zedong’s 123rd birthday, Shandong University professor Deng Xiangchao posted an online commentary blaming the Chairman for the millions of deaths caused by the Cultural Revolution. The piece immediately triggered a wave of backlash and protests from present-day Maoists, causing the university’s Party Committee to fire 62-year-old Deng on the grounds that his comments had “led to bad public effect.” A week later, a Hebei professor was sacked for calling Mao a “devil” on social media.
Many in China continue to sanctify the Great Helmsman, insisting that acknowledging the bad could take away from the good that he did. Following Mao’s death, the Communist Party adopted the position that he had been “70% right and 30% wrong.”
Meanwhile, China has been reluctant to discuss his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, finally breaking its silence on its 50th anniversary last year with a People’s Daily editorial which assured the public that something like it would never happen again.
“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.” the editorial read.
Apparently, there isn’t a place to teach about it in today’s China, either.
By Caroline Roy
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