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Ending Political Violence: Making and Unmaking Perpetrators of the Cultural Revolution in Post-Mao China
Man Zhang 张满, Universität Leipzig

Following the arrest of the Gang of Four on October 6, 1976, local authorities across the country immediately arrested a large number of former rebels, accused them of being followers of the Gang of Four, and designated them perpetrators of the Cultural Revolution. Drawing on in-depth analysis of Jiangsu Province, the location of early measures designed to address Cultural Revolutionary violence and injustices, and mainly based on first-hand archives and oral history interviews, this study examines the processes of designating, defining, and punishing perpetrators of the Cultural Revolution.

In the early 1980s, faced with local challenges and the complex issue of responsibility, the central leadership redressed a large number of its previous designations of perpetrators and focused on eliminating the legacy of the Cultural Revolution within the Party leadership, thereby securing its future rule.

However, despite the CCP’s concerted effort to close the book on the Cultural Revolution, it lives on today, both as a symbol of historical injustice and, perhaps unexpectedly, as an object of nostalgia. The Cultural Revolution continues to resonate in the present. The question of who was accountable for the Cultural Revolution and whether designated perpetrators should be punished remains a controversial topic in contemporary Chinese society. Various groups compete to narrate their own past and reveal an unsettling past.

MAN ZHANG is a research fellow at the Research Centre for Global Dynamics (ReCentGlobe). She received her Ph.D. in Chinese Studies/Chinese Modern History from the University of Freiburg in 2020. Man Zhang’s main research area is the political and legal history of China.
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