Graham Hutchings

Apocalypse Mao

The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976

By Frank Dikötter

Bloomsbury 396pp £25 order from our bookshop

China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to give it its full title, was one of the most extraordinary and perhaps least understood political, social and economic convulsions of a century scarred by too many of them. One reason for this is that it was so protracted. The upheaval began in the summer of 1966, when Mao incited people to re-radicalise the revolution he had himself largely created and overthrow those he had, for the most part, placed in power. It ended only with his death in September 1976, and even then not completely.

No less remarkable was its complexity. Throughout this ten-year period, there were constantly shifting factional struggles at every level of national life, from elite politics in Beijing to factories and farms in distant provinces. The ‘ideological line’ was rarely consistent, save for mandatory adulation of Mao and the nurturing of his personality cult, which often reached fantastical lengths. 

Subscribe to read the full article

Donmar Warehouse


Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A mad earl, a rapacious lawyer, Lord Byron and some bizarre things in bed: Miranda Seymour on a Georgian scandal ,
    • Gideon Rachman charts the migration of power from West to East. How, asks Michael Burleigh, will the USA respond? ,
    • ‘Not everyone knows what it is to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose’. Ian McEwan in a Nutshell ,
    • RT : I've got approx. 100 copies of from early 1990s-2000s to give away (most w/ covers).… ,
    • 'I Contain Multitudes is popular science writing at its best.' Wendy Moore is fascinated by a study on microbes ,
    • 'Costume of the life force? Words fail.' Germaine Greer on an ode to the condom ,
    • It's Write on Kew for the next four days. There are free copies of Literary Review about; why not dip your toe into the magazine?,