What Truth Did Ji-Li and Others Learn About the Cultural Revolution?

What Truth Did Ji-Li and Others Learn About the Cultural Revolution?

Ji-Li Jiang, the author of “Red Scarf Girl,” along with many others, learned some harsh truths about the Cultural Revolution in China during the 1960s. The Cultural Revolution, initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong, aimed to cleanse Chinese society of remnants of its capitalist past and reinforce communist ideology. However, it quickly spiraled into a period of chaos, violence, and persecution.

One of the truths that Ji-Li and others learned about the Cultural Revolution was the extent to which propaganda and manipulation were used to control the population. They discovered that they were being fed a distorted version of reality through textbooks, newspapers, and public speeches. Mao’s image was glorified, and any criticism or questioning of his policies was strictly forbidden. This realization shattered their trust in the government and the Communist Party.

Another truth that Ji-Li and others discovered was the ruthless nature of the Red Guards, the paramilitary youth groups that were mobilized during the Cultural Revolution. Initially, the Red Guards were encouraged to rebel against the old order and root out “counter-revolutionaries.” However, they quickly became a tool for settling personal vendettas and inflicting violence on those deemed enemies of the revolution. Ji-Li witnessed friends and family members being publicly humiliated, tortured, and even killed by the Red Guards.

Additionally, Ji-Li and others learned the devastating impact of the Cultural Revolution on education and intellectual freedom. Schools were shut down, and students were encouraged to become Red Guards instead of pursuing their studies. Teachers and intellectuals were targeted as “bourgeois” and subjected to vicious attacks. This suppression of education and knowledge left a generation of Chinese youth ill-prepared for their future and deprived them of opportunities for personal growth.

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Furthermore, Ji-Li and others discovered the deep divisions that the Cultural Revolution created within families and communities. People were forced to choose between loyalty to their loved ones and loyalty to the revolution. Relationships were strained, and trust was shattered as individuals were pressured to denounce and betray each other. This revelation of the dark side of human nature and the destruction of social bonds was a painful truth for Ji-Li and others to confront.


Q: Why was propaganda so effective during the Cultural Revolution?
A: Propaganda was effective because it was the primary source of information for the population. There were limited alternative sources of news, and questioning or criticizing the government was strictly punished. Additionally, the cult of personality around Mao created a sense of devotion and loyalty among the people, making them more susceptible to propaganda.

Q: How did the Red Guards justify their violent actions?
A: The Red Guards believed that they were defending the revolution and Chairman Mao’s ideology. They saw themselves as the vanguard of the revolution, responsible for purging China of its “enemies.” They were encouraged to denounce and physically attack anyone they deemed a threat to the revolution, even if it meant turning against their own friends and family members.

Q: Did the Cultural Revolution achieve its goals?
A: The Cultural Revolution did not achieve its intended goals. Instead of eradicating capitalist elements and reinforcing communist ideology, it led to widespread chaos, economic decline, and social upheaval. It left a deep scar on Chinese society and is now widely regarded as a period of great suffering and tragedy.

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Q: How did the Cultural Revolution impact Ji-Li and others personally?
A: The Cultural Revolution had a profound impact on Ji-Li and others personally. They witnessed the destruction of their families, the loss of education and opportunities, and the erosion of trust in their government. It forced them to confront the realities of power, propaganda, and the dark side of human nature. The scars left by this period of history lasted long after the Cultural Revolution ended.