This is an original and penetrating work of scholarship that explores the origins of China's Cultural Revolution and, in the process, casts a good deal of light on the organization of Chinese politics and society since 1949. The tumult of the Cultural Revolution is often blamed on Mao Zedong and a few leaders in Beijing, or on long-term egalitarian ideas, or communist or Chinese political culture. White shows that the chaos resulted mainly from reactions by small groups to three specific party policies. First, official good and bad labels-such as "proletarians," "rightists" or "capitalists"-made people acquire concrete interests in seeing these labels used in their favor; the labels created "status groups." Second, official support for designated bosses and monitors created individual dependence on particular leaders and forced people into clientage. Third, official campaigns reduced administrative costs for an understaffed party needing support for revolutionary social programs, but they also legitimated violence and set the stage for the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966.