As in 1950s, China aims to erase malicious ideas of democracy and constitutionalism

On a wintry day in February 1952, two victims, their hands tied behind their backs, were marched off to the execution grounds of Baoding, the provincial capital of Hebei, just south of Beijing. They were shot in the heart rather than in the head,”writes Frank Dikotter, the author of Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution:

Both victims were central actors in the local party hierarchy. It was the defining moment of a campaign against corruption Mao Zedong had unleashed against the party itself. There were mere “flies” who needed to be swatted, the chairman explained, and there were “tigers”. Everywhere tiger-hunting teams tried to outdo each other, encouraged from above by Mao. Read the rest of this entry »

China at the liberation: A new history lays bare the violent heart of Mao’s revolution

The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945-57. By Frank Dikotter. Bloomsbury; 400 pages; $30 and £25. Buy from

The first years of the People’s Republic under Mao Zedong were a golden age, according to Chinese Communists and many in the West. After all, “liberation” in 1949 brought to an end a period encompassing two brutal and overlapping wars: Japan’s invasion and occupation of China and the Chinese civil war with the Nationalists. A decade later, China was charging into the Mao-made Utopian catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward, in which tens of millions were worked or starved to death, and the horrors of the Cultural Revolution were still to come. According to this view, the years from the republic’s founding to, roughly, the so-called Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1956 were constructive, even benign in a paternalistic way. The party took a chaotic state in hand, and out of a shattered citizenry forged a “New China”. Read the rest of this entry »