Shuxi Yin (Hefei): Forgetting the Bitterness of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

China boasts a long history as a civilization. However, Chinese people tend to have very a short memory. Millions of people had been subject to violence during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Chairman Mao’s last disaster and one of the most serious calamities in human history. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, collective memories of the Cultural Revolution became a means of power struggle and a target of political control. In the 1990s, memories of the Cultural Revolution proliferated. However, they often do not show the bitterness of the campaign. Some recollections even portray the campaign as a liberating movement promising a lot of opportunities, especially for the youth. Interestingly, such recollections are popular at online social media, which is not highly controlled by the Chinese authority. In today’s much neglected narratives and recollections of the Cultural Revolution, we observe victimhood, but we do not see the perpetrators. As a matter of fact, the victimhood during the Cultural Revolution is both mysterious and complex, as many victims during the political campaign were perpetrators before or at the initial stage of the movement and therefore have dual identity. Moreover, the perpetrators often became the ultimate victims. For instance, young Red Guards, who lost the opportunity for education, very often have had a hard time at the job market during their whole lifetime. This paper strives to fill in these research gaps. It explores why the bitterness is missing in the recollections of the Cultural Revolution, a typical case of the ongoing contestation between forgetting, remembering, and representation in China today. Is it because of the market, the public institutions, or the narrators? I argue that the combination of market force and narrators plays a major role. Moreover, I explore the complex issue of missing perpetrators.