Latest Issue

China: at war with its history

The Chinese leadership refused to commemorate this year’s centenary of the overthrow of the last imperial dynasty. Obsessed with survival, will it allow challenges to its version of the past? Plus, a former Red Guard writes of new fears

By Isabel Hilton   October 2011

A propaganda poster showing Mao Zedong with peasants during the Cultural Revolution. Discussion of his role in history is still banned

I was having dinner recently in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou when the conversation took a dark turn. A Chinese think tank director was talking about his doctoral thesis, written in the early 1980s, on the Cultural Revolution. The party archives still hold many documents that remain “sensitive,” in the official euphemism. The extent of cannibalism in the Cultural Revolution is something he had discovered during his research.

The documents included, the director claimed, a manual on how…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect