Managed Spontaneity in Rural Political Violence in China

  • Arthur Waldron


Millions perished under Communism in China, but the way they perished was in many cases rather different from corresponding events in other Communist states.1 In the Soviet Union and in regimes closely allied with it, death, as a rule, was administered by the state, proceeding through arrests, show trials, shootings, the camps of the Gulag, and so forth. In China most of those methods were also used, but differences emerged and became more pronounced as the regime evolved. In China, unlike the Soviet Union, violence—including lethal violence—often appeared to be spontaneous. This violence was usually perceived, both in China and in the West, as an expression of the release of class grievances, especially in the countryside. Indeed, the apparent authenticity of revolutionary violence in China came to be seen as distinguishing it from the state-imposed violence of the USSR, particularly in the wake of the “Secret Speech” of Khrushchev delivered in 1956, which left no doubt about the character of this state-imposed violence under Stalin.


Communist Party Chinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Political Violence Land Reform 
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© Paul Hollander 2008

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  • Arthur Waldron

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