The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China. Columbia University Press, 2016.

Raised to be "flowers of the nation," the first generation born after the founding of the People's Republic of China was united in its political outlook and at first embraced the Cultural Revolution of 1966, but then split into warring factions. Investigating the causes of this fracture, Guobin Yang argues that Chinese youth engaged in an imaginary revolution from 1966 to 1968, enacting a political mythology that encouraged violence as a way to prove one's revolutionary credentials. This same competitive dynamic would later turn the Red Guard against the communist government.

Throughout the 1970s, the majority of Red Guard youth were sent to work in rural villages, where they developed an appreciation for the values of ordinary life. From this experience, an underground cultural movement was born. Rejecting idolatry, these relocated revolutionaries developed a new form of resistance that signaled a new era of enlightenment, culminating in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s and the Tiananmen protest of 1989. Yang's final chapter on the politics of history and memory argues that contemporary memories of the Cultural Revolution are factionalized along these lines of political division, formed fifty years before.

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Reviews & Features

September 22, 2016

Cultural Revolution, Propaganda Art, and Historical Memories: Exhibition, Film Screening, and Lecture. Event at Columbia University.

September 21, 2016
The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China.” Department of Sociology colloquium, University of Pennsylvania

June 30, 2016

“Guobin Yang’s The Red Guard Generation” (The Page 99 Test)

June 18, 2016
“The Red Guard Generation Review” by Silvia Calamandrei. English translation of an Italian book review.

June 15, 2016
“How the Cultural Revolution Sowed the Seeds of Dissent in China.” The New York Times Q & A with Chris Buckley.

June 10, 2016
Radicalism and Factionalism of the Red Guards.” Book review by Yang Zhang in Mobilizing Ideas.

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