Appeal and Discontent: The Yin and Yang of China’s Rise to Power

  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
  • Lida V. Nedilsky


On Chicago’s northwest side, in a neighborhood that has for decades served as the site of first settlement for refugees, a museum founded by survivors houses a rare exhibit and genocide memorial. With slogans and photographs, artifacts and maps, it documents the fervor of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and the devastation of millions in Cambodia from 1975 to 1978. “Intelligence is of no value; manual labor is priceless,” one banner announces like something out of a parallel, twisted universe. Cambodia’s socialist experiment was inspired first by Maoism, and later, by Pol Pot’s belief in cultural purification. Yet, like the Maoist inspiration, it cannot be relegated to some distant place and time. From the 1930s to the 1970s, Maoism attracted admiring followers in tens of millions from around the world. In China, Cambodia, and elsewhere, people mobilized themselves in work and recreation, in recitation and song, in self-criticism and public protest, as well as in open warfare. Apart from a handful of remote places and cases, Maoism today appears to be an abandoned, archaic philosophy that was interred with the man. But look again. In their new home of Chicago, those who fled the country renamed Kampuchea—whether they fled as soldiers or laborers, artists or shopkeepers, Buddhists or Muslims, victims or perpetrators—relive, as they rework the violent experiences and memories that they brought with them.


Communist Party Chinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Class Struggle Chinese State 
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© Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, Lida V. Nedilsky, and Siu-Keung Cheung 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Tse-Hei Lee
  • Lida V. Nedilsky

There are no affiliations available

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