Mao Zedong’s brutal campaign to purify Communist China, which began in the early 1960s, resulted in a decade of chaos that has left an indelible stain on the nation’s politics.
In August 1963, Chairman Mao received a group of African guerrilla fighters. One of the young visitors, a tall, square-shouldered man from Southern Rhodesia, had a question. He believed that the red star shining over the Kremlin had slipped away. The Soviets, who used to help the revolutionaries, now sold weapons to their enemies. ‘What I worry about is this’, he said. ‘Will the red star over Tiananmen Square in China go out? Will you abandon us and sell arms to our oppressors as well?’ Mao became pensive, puffing on his cigarette. ‘I understand your question’, he observed. ‘It is that the USSR has turned revisionist and has betrayed the revolution. Can I guarantee to you that China won’t betray the revolution? Right now I can’t give you that guarantee. We are searching very hard to find the way to keep China from becoming corrupt, bureaucratic and revisionist.’