Memory and Reconciliation in Post-Mao China, 1976–1982

Authored by: Bin Xu

Routledge Handbook of Memory and Reconciliation in East Asia

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415835138
eBook ISBN: 9780203740323
Adobe ISBN: 9781135009212


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The history of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1976 was a history of one tragedy after another. Millions of people died and suffered from political persecution, forced migration, encampment, public humiliation, and policy failure. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Cultural Revolution ended and the economic reform began, China had to come to terms with the legacies of the Mao years. While the term “reconciliation” elsewhere is closely related to transitional justice (e.g., Quinn, 2009), the Communist regime neither collapsed nor democratized itself after Mao’s death in 1976. Instead, it renewed itself without changing its core political system or ruling ideology. Mao Zedong, the late charismatic leader, was not officially condemned but “reevaluated” as a great leader who made some serious “mistakes.” Many victims of state atrocities were rehabilitated to their previous positions and provided with compensations, but even more received neither acknowledgement nor compensations. Moreover, the state tried to address some historical issues but remained silent on others.

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