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Collective Killings in Rural China During the Cultural Revolution: Evidence From Guangxi and Guangdong

UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese studies presents a talk by Yang Su on the historical case of collective killings during China's Cultural Revolution.

April 24, 2009 4:00pm to 6:00pm

The presentation first establishes the historical case of collective killings, based on data collected from county gazetteers, internal documents, and interviews. In 1967-1968, thousands of former landlords, rich peasants and other “class enemies” were executed, often along with their family members.  The killings took place in the plain sight of public view. The perpetrators were village militias led by local cadres. Second, it reports some statistical analysis on a sample of 120 counties. The collective killings were a) particularly severe in Guangdong and Guangxi; b) mainly an rural phenomenon; c) more likely in backward and mountainous areas; d) more likely in communities populated by a the Hakka sub-ethnic group than other communities; and e) affected by situational factors related to the on-going Cultural Revolution movement. Finally, the presentation discusses these findings in a new sociological framework, the community model, as a critique of existing scholarship on mass killing and genocide. 

Yang Su ( 苏阳) obtained his Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in 2003 and is now Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine. He is author of Mao's Willing Communities: Collective Killings in Rural China during the Cultural Revolution, forthcoming at Cambridge University Press. He has also published as at American Sociological Review, China Quarterly and Journal for Asian Studies.  His recent projects examine state response to social protest in post-Mao China.