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Popular Memories of the Mao EraFrom Critical Debate to Reassessing History$
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Sebastian Veg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390762

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390762.001.0001

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The Second Society

The Second Society

(p.183) 9 The Second Society
Popular Memories of the Mao Era
Frank Dikötter, Sebastian Veg
Hong Kong University Press

This chapter uses a variety of primary sources, from party archives to published memoirs, to undermine the picture of mass obedience that is sometimes thought to have characterised the Mao era. The Cultural Revolution aimed to transform every aspect of an individual's life, including their innermost thoughts and personal feelings, but in many cases it only managed to create the appearance of conformity. People fought deception with deception, lies with lies and empty rhetoric with empty slogans. Many were great actors, pretending to go along, knowing precisely what to say when required. They often managed to keep a diversity of cultural traditions alive, reading forbidden books, listening to clandestine radio or opening house churches, sometimes even performing traditional opera with the connivance of local cadres. But paradoxically, the very existence of this 'second society' also allowed the regime to indefinitely postpone meaningful political reforms.

Keywords:   Second society, culture, Cultural Revolution, Mao

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