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Overview

In a masterly book, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals explain why Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, and show his Machiavellian role in masterminding it (which Chinese publications conceal). In often horrifying detail, they document the Hobbesian state that ensued. The movement veered out of control, and terror paralyzed the country. Power struggles raged among Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Qing-Mao's wife and leader of the Gang of Four-while Mao often played one against the other.

About the Author:
Roderick Macfarquhar is Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, and Professor of Government, Harvard University

About the Author:
Michael Schoenhals is Professor in Modern Chinese Society at Lund University, Sweden

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Editorial Reviews

Judith Shapiro
…the book is an important first effort to establish the facts. MacFarquhar, a Harvard historian and former British M.P., and Michael Schoenhals, a Swedish scholar legendary in Sinological circles for his mastery of Cultural Revolution rhetoric and arcana, have teamed up to use newly available documents and memoirs in an effort to address some of the great questions of the era…Mao's Last Revolution provides a detailed account of the salvos, currents, countercurrents, conspiracies, waves, cleansings and purges for which the era is known.
—The New York Times
Orville Schell
It has been enthralling to read Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals's exhaustively researched new book on China's Cultural Revolution -- a sensation akin to returning to a Chinese painting in which a mist-shrouded landscape has miraculously cleared to reveal what was obscured beyond.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Given the hostile biographies and debunking histories that have recently appeared, it's safe to say that Mao's overlong honeymoon is over. In this exhaustive critique of the terrifying Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, when Mao unleashed the Red Guards on his people, MacFarquhar (director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard) and Schoenhals (lecturer on modern Chinese society at Sweden's Lund University) deliver the divorce papers. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals cover the unceasing, pointless intrigues between Mao and his chief henchmen as the violence and denunciations, the staged humiliations and mass executions raged out of control, and the country lurched into turmoil. Even today, no one knows the final death count of the Mao reign of terror. In rural China alone, according to a conservative estimate, 36 million people were persecuted, of whom between 750,000 and 1.5 million were murdered, with roughly the same number permanently injured. In the end, the authors, ironically, take comfort from one of the chairman's favorite sayings: "Out of bad things can come good things." For out of that dreadful decade, the authors conclude, "has emerged a saner, more prosperous, and perhaps one day a democratic China." 57 b&w photos. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Harper's

Supple prose, impeccable scholarship, and a Great Wall of bibliography...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals confirm our suspicions that without the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, China would not have been so eager to motor down the 'capitalist road,' and that Mao himself, purging comrades with 'deliberate opaqueness,' called every bloody shot.
— John Leonard

The Atlantic

An exhaustive history of China's Cultural Revolution.
— Benjamin Healy and Benjamin Schwarz

Irish Times

[A] detailed, important book...For anyone interested in the period it contains real insights into the Cultural Revolution, when hundreds of thousands were killed, many dying without knowing what they had done wrong. The book communicates an amazing sense of escalation as Mao's 'Red Terror' spread through the campuses and schools of Beijing and then into factories, the countryside and people's homes. Intent on preserving power, Mao constructed elaborate intrigues around himself and the book captures the hysteria of the era in its descriptions of Red Guards, leftist students and schoolchildren roaming the streets attacking intellectuals, screaming denunciations of 'rightists' and 'revisionists,' forcing their elders to wear dunce hats, beating them up and exiling them to the country...Mao's Last Revolution leaves the reader in no doubt that Mao was a monster, but its dispassionate tone points a way towards understanding the genesis of that evil. Showing how Mao conceived and carried out the Cultural Revolution is crucial to building a broader understanding of that tumultuous period in Chinese history and also what China's future means for the world. This book brings that understanding closer.
— Clifford Coonan

Boston Globe

[MacFarquhar and Schoenhal's] account is authoritative, and presented with powerful narrative sweep.
— Michael Kenney

History News Network

I expect this will be the definitive study in English for some time to come.
— Scott McLemee

South China Morning Post

[Mao's Last Revolution], gracefully, and with a necessary forensic flair, weaves a web of fact from disparate sources. The result is a detailed mosaic of this baffling era. The two political scientists build a picture that shocks with its cool detail.
— Didi Kirsten Tatlow

Christian Science Monitor

What emerges from the exhaustive research in this book is an understanding of the Cultural Revolution less as a coherent ideological movement and more as divide-and-rule political tactics...Mao's Last Revolution is a fascinating study of Mao's colossal, yet cunning, misadventure.
— Ben Arnoldy

New York Review of Books

[A] sweeping panorama of the Cultural Revolution...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals are both leading authorities on Chinese Communist Party history...The story they do tell is absorbing.
— Jonathan Spence

The Economist
Marshalling an impressive range of source materials, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals have gone a long way in their impressive new study...With their scholarly credentials, their assiduous selection and use of sources and their even-handed approach, Messrs MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have produced a work that will hold up...The heart of the book is a detailed chronicle of how Mao cynically twisted ideology and manipulated those around him, setting off hysterical and murderous attacks on everything from Confucian morals and bourgeois culture to intellectuals, 'capitalist roaders' and 'class enemies.' Using sources that range from official party and government documents to letters, diaries and interviews with surviving participants and victims, the authors document the orders that went out, the mayhem that resulted and the fear it all struck in the hearts of people across the country. And it is chilling stuff.
Sunday Times

Today, the Red Guards lie buried in the Chinese psyche like the clay warriors of Xian. Their ecstatic ranks flicker in black-and-white newsreels, and their misdeeds have been distorted to make history suit the victors of a dynastic power struggle. But truth will out, and, in the hands of the authors of Mao's Last Revolution, the drama needs no exaggeration. Mao's calculated decision to purge his rivals and purify the Chinese revolution in the late 1960s brought the country to the brink of ruin...The history that the authors have unearthed is remarkable. For a controlled society, Mao's China was a riot of periodicals, pamphlets, manifestos, poems, plays, songs and essays; all of which the two scholars handle with utter mastery.
— Michael Sheridan

New Yorker
MacFarquhar and Schoenhals successfully synthesize the many plotlines of the Cultural Revolution in a narrative that shuttles from the endless micromaneuvers of the Party élite to the marauding teens of the Red Guard; and from the Revolution's macro-economic fallout to such bizarre manifestations as the cannibalizing of counter-revolutionaries in Guangxi. Carefully orchestrating the pandemonium and fuelling it with his 'deliberate opaqueness' is the figure of Mao Zedong.
The Statesman

Mao's Last Revolution...is an eloquent but damning description of the destruction wrought by the Cultural Revolution.
— Clifford Coonan

New York Times Book Review

Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhal's book, Mao's Last Revolution, the first major history of the elite politics of the period, may generate a wave of Cultural Revolution scholarship within China and encourage healthy debate over state manipulation of historical memory.
— Judith Shapiro

Times Literary Supplement

A comprehensive study of perhaps the worst decade in China's history...Harvard's Roderick MacFarquhar, the leading Western authority on the period, and Michael Schoenhals, of the University of Lund, whose reputation is also considerable, are both authors of numerous path-breaking studies on the Cultural Revolution. Here, they sum up everything they have learned.
— Jonathan Mirsky

Washington Post Book World

It has been enthralling to read Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals's exhaustively researched new book on China's Cultural Revolution—a sensation akin to returning to a Chinese painting in which a mist-shrouded landscape has miraculously cleared to reveal what was obscured beyond...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have provided the most definitive roadmap to date of China's odyssey through those tumultuous times...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have drawn from a truly impressive array of materials, including documents, wall posters, autobiographies, journalistic reports, interviews, speeches, academic studies and personal reminiscences. But here a cautionary word is in order. The field is awash with "wild" (rather than "official") histories and sources, which include autobiographies, memoirs, reminiscences and reflections filled with recovered memories and reconstructed dialogue of questionable provenance and accuracy. But the sources for this impressive book are more solid and varied than for any previous effort. One can only lament that Mao's Last Revolution will not be available in China, where the party's aversion to probing into such sensitive topics makes it unlikely that a similar historical research project will be forthcoming anytime soon.
— Orville Schell

Toronto Star

Mao's goals in the Cultural Revolution were threefold: to restore his position as unrivalled leader, to cut down his rivals and to ensure a 'revolutionary successor generation' that would keep China on a Marxist path. To achieve those goals, he was willing to wreck the state and party apparatus, and to tolerate murder and vandalism on a vast scale. Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor of history and political science at Harvard, and Michael Schoenhals, a lecturer on modern China at Sweden's Lund University, describe the unfolding catastrophe in meticulous detail.
— Fred Edwards

The Nation

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the start of China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution...Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals have performed a great service in providing a masterful history of this important—and puzzling—event...They have created an unforgettable account of exceedingly traumatic events...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals bring to life the self-righteous anger of the Red Guards and the worker rebels, the suffering of their victims, the daily rituals of the Mao cult, the efforts of ordinary people to make sense out of what was happening and to bend their minds to believe in it...Hard as it is to believe after reading this masterful and sickening book, large parts of Mao's vision still live.
— Andrew J. Nathan

New Republic

At home, people are not allowed to commemorate Mao's horrors, because the current leaders sustain their regime through the same internal secrecy and arbitrary repression that made the Cultural Revolution possible. Abroad, people think that China has changed so much that its old tragedies are no longer relevant...And so Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals have performed a great service in providing a masterful history of this important—and puzzling—event...Together they are exquisitely alive to the signals sent by nuances of timing, the editing of photographs, invitations to and exclusions from meetings, and small changes in formulaic utterances. They have created an unforgettable account of exceedingly traumatic events...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals bring to life the self-righteous anger of the Red Guards and the worker rebels, the suffering of their victims, the daily rituals of the Mao cult, he efforts of ordinary people to make sense out of what was happening and to bend their minds to believe in it...Such stories rescue us from regarding the Cultural Revolution as something past and canned. They portray real people in real time who did not know what was going to happen next.
— Andrew J. Nathan

Commonweal

This book is not simply for China specialists, but for anyone interested in the ways regimes led by men such as Stalin, Hitler, or Mao not only kept themselves in power but also sought to draw their people into the terrifying dystopias of their visions.
— Nicholas Clifford

Journal of Cold War Studies

The most comprehensive and authoritative account of the Cultural Revolution yet to appear, Mao’s Last Revolution, was recently published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The two authors of the book, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, are among the world’s foremost experts on Chinese politics underMao. Their book is so meticulous and draws on such a wealth of sources that it is likely to remain the definitive work for many years to come.
— Lynn White and Steven I. Levine

Reviews in History (Inst. of Historical Research)

MacFarquhar and Schoenhals’s work, studded by astounding access to documents handed over in secret, or ferreted out through diligent trawls through flea markets in Beijing, is likely to remain the standard account of the Cultural Revolution for a generation or more, at least until voices within China can tell their own story freely. As such, the book serves as an immensely important record for the Chinese who can gain access to a copy (one assumes a Hong Kong translation will be swiftly smuggled into China), as well as for western readers who will find it meticulous, balanced and fair...The nearly 500 pages take the reader through a maze of intrigue, ideology and unending violence, but they are leavened throughout by a black, coruscating wit. Lu Xun, generally considered China’s greatest 20th-century author, was noted for his dark, despairing humour about his countrymen’s failings. Although Mao’s Last Revolution is meticulously researched history, not fiction, the wry voices of its authors make it a worthy successor to the writings of Lu Xun, Gogol, or any other author who sees irony in the darker side of human nature.
— Rana Mitter

Jonathan Spence
[A] sweeping panorama of the Cultural Revolution...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals are both leading authorities on Chinese Communist Party history...The story they do tell is absorbing.
Harper's - John Leonard
Supple prose, impeccable scholarship, and a Great Wall of bibliography...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals confirm our suspicions that without the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, China would not have been so eager to motor down the 'capitalist road,' and that Mao himself, purging comrades with 'deliberate opaqueness,' called every bloody shot.
The Atlantic - Benjamin Healy And Benjamin Schwarz
An exhaustive history of China's Cultural Revolution.
Irish Times - Clifford Coonan
Mao's Last Revolution...is an eloquent but damning description of the destruction wrought by the Cultural Revolution.
Boston Globe - Michael Kenney
[MacFarquhar and Schoenhal's] account is authoritative, and presented with powerful narrative sweep.
History News Network - Scott McLemee
I expect this will be the definitive study in English for some time to come.
South China Morning Post - Didi Kirsten Tatlow
[Mao's Last Revolution], gracefully, and with a necessary forensic flair, weaves a web of fact from disparate sources. The result is a detailed mosaic of this baffling era. The two political scientists build a picture that shocks with its cool detail.
Christian Science Monitor - Ben Arnoldy
What emerges from the exhaustive research in this book is an understanding of the Cultural Revolution less as a coherent ideological movement and more as divide-and-rule political tactics...Mao's Last Revolution is a fascinating study of Mao's colossal, yet cunning, misadventure.
Sunday Times - Michael Sheridan
Today, the Red Guards lie buried in the Chinese psyche like the clay warriors of Xian. Their ecstatic ranks flicker in black-and-white newsreels, and their misdeeds have been distorted to make history suit the victors of a dynastic power struggle. But truth will out, and, in the hands of the authors of Mao's Last Revolution, the drama needs no exaggeration. Mao's calculated decision to purge his rivals and purify the Chinese revolution in the late 1960s brought the country to the brink of ruin...The history that the authors have unearthed is remarkable. For a controlled society, Mao's China was a riot of periodicals, pamphlets, manifestos, poems, plays, songs and essays; all of which the two scholars handle with utter mastery.
New York Times Book Review - Judith Shapiro
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhal's book, Mao's Last Revolution, the first major history of the elite politics of the period, may generate a wave of Cultural Revolution scholarship within China and encourage healthy debate over state manipulation of historical memory.
Times Literary Supplement - Jonathan Mirsky
A comprehensive study of perhaps the worst decade in China's history...Harvard's Roderick MacFarquhar, the leading Western authority on the period, and Michael Schoenhals, of the University of Lund, whose reputation is also considerable, are both authors of numerous path-breaking studies on the Cultural Revolution. Here, they sum up everything they have learned.
Washington Post Book World - Orville Schell
It has been enthralling to read Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals's exhaustively researched new book on China's Cultural Revolution--a sensation akin to returning to a Chinese painting in which a mist-shrouded landscape has miraculously cleared to reveal what was obscured beyond...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have provided the most definitive roadmap to date of China's odyssey through those tumultuous times...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have drawn from a truly impressive array of materials, including documents, wall posters, autobiographies, journalistic reports, interviews, speeches, academic studies and personal reminiscences. But here a cautionary word is in order. The field is awash with "wild" (rather than "official") histories and sources, which include autobiographies, memoirs, reminiscences and reflections filled with recovered memories and reconstructed dialogue of questionable provenance and accuracy. But the sources for this impressive book are more solid and varied than for any previous effort. One can only lament that Mao's Last Revolution will not be available in China, where the party's aversion to probing into such sensitive topics makes it unlikely that a similar historical research project will be forthcoming anytime soon.
Toronto Star - Fred Edwards
Mao's goals in the Cultural Revolution were threefold: to restore his position as unrivalled leader, to cut down his rivals and to ensure a 'revolutionary successor generation' that would keep China on a Marxist path. To achieve those goals, he was willing to wreck the state and party apparatus, and to tolerate murder and vandalism on a vast scale. Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor of history and political science at Harvard, and Michael Schoenhals, a lecturer on modern China at Sweden's Lund
University, describe the unfolding catastrophe in meticulous detail.
The Nation - Andrew J. Nathan
At home, people are not allowed to commemorate Mao's horrors, because the current leaders sustain their regime through the same internal secrecy and arbitrary repression that made the Cultural Revolution possible. Abroad, people think that China has changed so much that its old tragedies are no longer relevant...And so Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals have performed a great service in providing a masterful history of this important--and puzzling--event...Together they are exquisitely alive to the signals sent by nuances of timing, the editing of photographs, invitations to and exclusions from meetings, and small changes in formulaic utterances. They have created an unforgettable account of exceedingly traumatic events...MacFarquhar and Schoenhals bring to life the self-righteous anger of the Red Guards and the worker rebels, the suffering of their victims, the daily rituals of the Mao cult, he efforts of ordinary people to make sense out of what was happening and to bend their minds to believe in it...Such stories rescue us from regarding the Cultural Revolution as something past and canned. They portray real people in real time who did not know what was going to happen next.
Commonweal - Nicholas Clifford
This book is not simply for China specialists, but for anyone interested in the ways regimes led by men such as Stalin, Hitler, or Mao not only kept themselves in power but also sought to draw their people into the terrifying dystopias of their visions.
Journal of Cold War Studies - Lynn White And Steven I. Levine
The most comprehensive and authoritative account of the Cultural Revolution yet to appear, Mao’s Last Revolution, was recently published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The two authors of the book, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, are among the world’s foremost experts on Chinese politics underMao. Their book is so meticulous and draws on such a wealth of sources that it is likely to remain the deªnitive work for many years to come.
Reviews in History (Inst. of Historical Research) - Rana Mitter
MacFarquhar and Schoenhals’s work, studded by astounding access to documents handed over in secret, or ferreted out through diligent trawls through flea markets in Beijing, is likely to remain the standard account of the Cultural Revolution for a generation or more, at least until voices within China can tell their own story freely. As such, the book serves as an immensely important record for the Chinese who can gain access to a copy (one assumes a Hong Kong translation will be swiftly smuggled into China), as well as for western readers who will find it meticulous, balanced and fair...The nearly 500 pages take the reader through a maze of intrigue, ideology and unending violence, but they are leavened throughout by a black, coruscating wit. Lu Xun, generally considered China’s greatest 20th-century author, was noted for his dark, despairing humour about his countrymen’s failings. Although Mao’s Last Revolution is meticulously researched history, not fiction, the wry voices of its authors make it a worthy successor to the writings of Lu Xun, Gogol, or any other author who sees irony in the darker side of human nature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674023321
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 752

Meet the Author

Roderick MacFarquhar is Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, and Professor of Government, Harvard University.

Michael Schoenhals is Professor of Chinese at Chinese Lund University, Sweden.

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Table of Contents

Preface     ix
Abbreviations     xiii
Introduction     1
The First Salvos     14
The Siege of Beijing     32
Confusion on Campuses     52
The Fifty Days     66
Mao's New Successor     86
The Red Guards     102
Red Terror     117
Confusion Nationwide     132
Shanghai's "January Storm"     155
Seizing Power     170
The Last Stand of the Old Guard     184
The Wuhan Incident     199
The May 16 Conspiracy     221
The End of the Red Guards     239
Cleansing the Class Ranks     253
Dispatching Liu Shaoqi     273
The Congress of Victors     285
War Scares     308
The Defection and Death of Lin Biao     324
Mao Becalmed     337
Zhou under Pressure     358
Deng Xiaoping Takes Over     379
The Gang of Four Emerges     396
The Tiananmen Incident of 1976     413
The Last Days of Chairman Mao     431
Conclusion     450
Glossary of Names and Identities     465
A Note on Sources     479
Notes     483
Bibliography     611
Illustration Credits     659
Index     661
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book, by two distinguished scholars of modern Chinese politics, is a comprehensive history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, an event initiated by the 'Great Helmsman', Chairman Mao Zedong. It ran for about a decade, spanning the years 1966-1976. The book features an introductory chapter which very succinctly outlines the motive for the upheaval, but the remainder of the book is an exhaustive catalogue of the defining events. Each and every political figure of even the most tangential importance to the Cultural Revolution is given abundant ink. While this is of great importance to serious students of modern China, the wealth of detail is daunting for the general reader searching for an explanatory but non-superficial history. The arcana of Chinese Communist Party internecine warfare are catalogued in excruciating detail, replete with all the bloated slogans and cant typical of that era in modern Marxism. The vast damage to the Chinese economy, the armed forces, the educational system and the Chinese social structure is highlighted. The dubious role played by Zho Enlai is also discussed in detail, as is the tumultuous career in CCP politics of Deng Xiaoping. The unplanned ascendency of the Peoples Liberation Army as a result of GCR policies eventually required the removal of Mao's planned successor, Lin Biao and his supporters in the PLA general's ranks. The authors note that, along with the tumult engendered by Mao's 'Great Leap Forward', the GCR was equally cataclysmic for China. Presumably, as a result of these two upheavals, the stage was set for a more pragmatic form of statecraft by Deng and his successors. Finally, the authors note that, along with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, Mao will be remembered as one of the great tyrants and murderers of the 20th Century. In summary, this is a highly detailed work which is not for the casual reader.

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