When Mao Zedong called for the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in China in 1966, the giant empire plunged into a decade of terror.
In the name of communist ideology, China’s fanatical youth formed “Red Guards” and established a despotic rule in which children arrested their parents, neighbours denounced each other and unleashed mobs beat “class enemies” to death.
Its initiator Mao Zedong, who rose from a farmer’s son in the provinces to become the “Great Chairman” of the Chinese Communist Party, had united the Middle Kingdom after decades of civil wars – and proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949. And thus transformed modern China into a new power factor in the Cold War of the great powers. When Mao met US President Richard Nixon shortly before his death, the disintegrating former Chinese empire had become a global economic power. The revolutionary accepted the death of millions of people through the Red Terror as well as the destruction of civil society – a trauma from which China still suffers today.
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