China marked the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution with little to no pageantry Monday.
None of China's five major newspapers mentioned the event on its front pages. The Global Times of China, run by the Communist Party, focused on the controversy with the U.S. in the South China Sea. The Beijing Morning Post reported on Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.
The "Cultural Revolution" was a movement within the People's Republic of China beginning on May 16, 1966, and lasting – some argue – until Mao Zedong's death in 1976. The modern PRC has a difficult relationship with its more hardline past. China changed course after Mao, embracing the market economy in a state-managed capacity, and de-emphasizing absolutist adherence to dogma. Still, the country very much remains officially Communist, so the government avoids occasions for contradiction to be brought to light.
Within the Marxist-Maoist framework, the Revolution officially aimed to re-establish the primacy of the working class over the bourgeoisie, or professional class. A consensus of critics alleges, however, that the goal was chaotically and violently pursued, and in the end, subjugated to a more sinister purpose: reasserting the authority of Mao within the world's most populous country.
By some estimates, 1.5 million died during the Cultural Revolution. Students and the country's young were actively encouraged by the state to overthrow and even kill their superiors. Students took to the streets in violent demonstration, and stories of the young murdering their teachers and even their parents litter the historical record. These actions were a manifest rejection of the country's millennia-old Confucian traditions. Confucianism, first dominant in China hundreds years before the birth of Christ, emphasizes tradition and respect for elders and parents.
"Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the Party, the government, the army, and various spheres of culture are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists. Once conditions are ripe, they will seize political power and turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie," Mao said during the campaign.
International observers postulate Chinese leader Xi Jinping may have a two-fold incentive for de-emphasizing the memory of the events from 50 years ago. First, China's Communist Party that has accepted some market realities since the 1980's. But Second, Xi Jinping himself is a strongman, and denigrating Mao's legacy would hurt his ability to sell the prudence of his governing style to his people.
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report