Cultural Revolution in the Countryside, The: Scope, Timing and Human Impact

Information extracted from 1,520 county annals published after 1987 is used to estimate the timing and impact of the Cultural Revolution in rural China. Outside observers initially concluded that the movement had little impact on remote rural regions, while early post-Mao revelations suggested that the opposite was the case. Adjusting for the tendency of shorter accounts to report fewer casualties, and with additional assumptions about under-reporting in the longer and more detailed accounts, the authors derive an estimated death toll of between 750,000 and 1.5 million, a similar number of people permanently injured, and 36 million who suffered some form of political persecution. The vast majority of these casualties occurred from 1968 to 1971, after the end of the period of popular rebellion and factional conflict and the establishment of provisional organs of local state power.