A striking first-person account of the Cultural Revolution in Inner Mongolia, embedded in a close examination of the historical evidence on China’s minority nationality policies to the present.
During the Great Leap Forward, as hundreds of thousands of Chinese famine refugees headed to Inner Mongolia, Cheng Tiejun arrived in 1959 as a middle school student. In 1966, when the PRC plunged into the Cultural Revolution, he joined the Red Guards just as Inner Mongolia’s longtime leader, Ulanhu, was purged. With the military in control, and with deepening conflict with the Soviet Union and its ally Mongolia on the border, Mongols were accused of being nationalists and traitors. A pogrom followed, taking more than 16,000 Mongol lives, the heaviest toll anywhere in China.
At the heart of this book are Cheng’s first-person recollections of his experiences as a rebel. These are complemented by a close examination of the documentary record of the era from the three coauthors. The final chapter offers a theoretical framework for Inner Mongolia’s repression. The repression’s goal, the authors show, was not to destroy the Mongols as a people or as a culture—it was not a genocide. It was, however, a “politicide,” an attempt to break the will of a nationality to exercise leadership of their autonomous region. This unusual narrative provides urgently needed primary source material to understand the events of the Cultural Revolution, while also offering a novel explanation of contemporary Chinese minority politics involving the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongols.
List of Maps and Figures
1 A North China Country Boy Travels beyond the Great Wall
2 Rumblings: Prelude to the Cultural Revolution
3 The Hour of Rebellion: The Cultural Revolution Comes to Inner Mongolia
4 Red Guards on the March
5 The First PLA Murder of a Red Guard
6 Rebel Victory and the Military Takeover of Inner Mongolia
7 The Wasu Movement and My Career as a Journalist
8 Wasu and the Rebels
9 “Inner Mongolia Has Gone Too Far”
10 Inner Mongolia under Martial Law
11 The Lin Biao Incident and My Farewell to Inner Mongolia
Coda: Settler Colonialism, Minority Nationalities, and Politicide—Reassessing the Cultural Revolution from the Borderlands