Accessory after the fact: pendants featuring Mao and Xi, September 2016 
THOMAS PETER / REUTERS

The Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s “permanent revolution” destroyed tens of millions of lives. From the communist victory in 1949 in the Chinese Civil War, through the upheaval, famine, and bloodletting of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, until Mao’s death in 1976, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set segments of Chinese society against one another in successive spasms of violent class warfare. As wave after wave of savagery swept China, millions were killed and millions more sent off to “reform through labor” and ruination. 

Mao had expected this level of brutality. As he once declared: “A revolution is neither a dinner party, nor writing an essay, painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely, gentle, temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” 

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  • ORVILLE SCHELL is Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society.
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