A people's history of the Cultural Revolution in China, drawing for the first time on hundreds of previously classified party documents, from secret police reports to unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches.
What emerges most strongly from the book is a deepened sense of the elite politics of the period, as the higher reaches of the Communist Party, senior military commanders and even provincial leaders were kept guessing about their obscurantist leader’s ever-changing whims, which Mao expressed with abstruse aphorisms and pseudo-Marxist gibberish ... Mr. Dikötter’s greatest contribution with The Cultural Revolution, which is the third in a trilogy on China during the Mao era, is his undermining of the conventional view of the period following Mao’s death in 1976.
Frank Dikotter’s gripping, horrific and at times sensationalistic The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, the third volume of his work on the Mao years, challenges the Chinese people to address those missing years. Drawn from hundreds of English-language and Chinese eyewitness accounts, newly available archival records, online Cultural Revolution documentary projects and foreign and Chinese scholarship, the book paints such a damning portrait of Mao and Communist Party governance that if it were widely circulated in China, it could undermine the legitimacy of the current regime ... At times Dikotter’s account focuses on the sensational rather than the nuanced. Some discussion of just how reliable his disparate sources are would have been welcome.
Mr. Dikötter skillfully makes his story intimate with details of such personal disasters. An occasionally repetitious use of more impersonal statistics reinforces the towering scale of the tragedy. His account is also well-seasoned with the bizarre ... For those who have swallowed the poisonous claim that the Communist Party deserves some credit for China’s current patchy prosperity, Mr. Dikötter provides the antidote. The Party’s own documents show how it repeatedly drove the country into poverty.