Distinguished Speaker Series

Andrew Walder, Stanford University

A Puzzling Upheaval: China’s Factional Warfare of 1967–1968

Nov. 10 7:30–8:30 pm (EST) via Zoom Webinar

Register here


Lecture Abstract

Some 50 years after its conclusion, many aspects of China’s Cultural Revolution remain obscure, despite the fact that it ranked among the largest political upheavals of the 20th century. Perhaps the most puzzling is the two years of armed warfare between rebel factions that spread across China after a wave of rebel power seizures overthrew local governments in early 1967. Official sources indicate that some 250,000 people died in battles between civilian factions during this period, and another 1.3 million died in political campaigns and military operations to suppress the fighting and restore order. This talk provides an evidence-based overview of these conflicts, based on information extracted from 2,246 local histories published in China since the late 1980s. It addresses two puzzling features of this poorly understood period of recent Chinese history: why did antagonistic factions form, and why did violence break out and prove so difficult to suppress?

About the Speaker

Andrew G. Walder is the Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University. A political sociologist, he has long specialized on the study of contemporary Chinese society and political economy. He has previously taught at Columbia, Harvard, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His books related to the current topic include Fractured Rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard Movement (2009) and China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (2015). His coauthored book with Prof. Dong Guoqiang of Fudan University, A Decade of Upheaval: The Cultural Revolution in Rural China, will be published in February 2021 by Princeton University Press. This talk is based on his most recent book, Agents of Disorder: Inside China’s Cultural Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2019).