Twenty years ago, as a 13-year-old student revolutionary, Xueliang Ding proclaimed the tenets of Mao Tsetung to youth rallies in China. Now, as a section leader, he will relate the events of China's Cultural Revolution to Harvard students.
Xueliang, who joined the Red Guard in 1966, is a teaching fellow for two Core courses--Foreign Cultures 26, "Industrial East Asia," this fall and Foreign Cultures 48, "The Cultural Revolution," this spring.
In the Red Guard, the youth corps of Mao's mid-1960s purge against revisionism in the Communist Party, Xueliang led a cadre of Communist youth in marches and rallies around China and worked his way up the ranks of the group's propaganda wing until its decline in 1969.
After being sent to a farm and a factory as part of the government's attempts to induct youth into mainstream Chinese life, Xueliang began his studies in philosophy and sociology in China and in 1984 came to study at Harvard.
Xueliang entered the Red Guard after two years of junior high school in 1966. "I had no experience with political activities; but at that time we were convinced by Communist party propaganda that the Cultural Revolution would determine the fate of the party, the nation, the people, and everything we respected and valued," he explained.
In his home region in southeast China, Xueliang organized a team of 13 students to walk throughout remote areas of the mainland to convey the slogans and politics of Mao. During the winter, the group trudged through deep snow and refused rides offered by passing military truck to show sacrifice for their cause, Xueliang said.
Xueliang took part in a three-day demonstration attended by nearly 30,000 students to force the provincial governor of Hofei to confess corruption.
As the movement's younger radicals gained greater control, such actions grew more common, often pitting the Maoist urban students againstpeasants, who remained unswayed by assertions oflocal officials' wrongdoings, he said.
Along with 6000 Red Guard members, Xuelianglater helped to wrest the city of Ching Yang fromthe control of almost 100,000 peasants. TheGuard's three-day fast in that cold March promptedthe central government to force local authoritiesto appease the students and expel peasants fromthe city.
Armed violence increased among Guard members asthe Cultural Revolution progressed, and the youthstole weapons from the state army, Xueliang said,adding that when he was caught taking threehandguns from an army unit, the soldiers gave himone gun "for encouragement."
When the conflict escalated, Mao ordered thearmy to restore control, effectively ending theRed Guard's revolutionary effort in 1969, Xueliangsaid. By the movement's end, he said he hadattended four massive demonstrations during whichhe witnessed 20 murders.
Xueliang and other leaders of the Red Guardwere then forced to attend "study groups," aeuphemism for police interrogation sessions.
"I came to realize that lofty aspirations areone thing, but political processes are another,"Xueliang said. "The fundamental lesson of theCultural Revolution, found by myself and too manyothers, was that corruption, bureaucracy,lawlessness, and injustice didn't disappear fromChinese life; instead, they became stronger. Thepurpose of the Cultural Revolution stood oppositeto its consequences.