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Fractured Rebellion: The Beijing Red Guard Movement

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Harvard University Press, page(s): 416

October 2009

Walder Beijing cover 2009

Fractured Rebellion is the first full-length account of the evolution of China's Red Guard Movement in Beijing, the nation's capital, from its beginnings in 1966 to its forcible suppression in 1968. Andrew Walder combines historical narrative with sociological analysis as he explores the radical student movement's crippling factionalism, devastating social impact, and ultimate failure.

Most accounts of the movement have portrayed a struggle among Red Guards as a social conflict that pitted privileged "conservative" students against socially marginalized "radicals" who sought to change an oppressive social and political system. Walder employs newly available documentary evidence and the recent memoirs of former Red Guard leaders and members to demonstrate that on both sides of the bitter conflict were students from comparable socioeconomic backgrounds, who shared similar-largely defensive-motivations. The intensity of the conflict and the depth of the divisions were an expression of authoritarian political structures that continued to exert an irresistible pull on student motives and actions, even in the midst of their rebellion.

Walder's nuanced account challenges the main themes of an entire generation of scholarship about the social conflicts of China's Cultural Revolution, shedding light on the most tragic and poorly understood period of recent Chinese history.

Praise for Fractured Rebellion

An impressive and important work of scholarship which will join a small set of major books on the Cultural Revolution.
- Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

An analysis that will alter the view of one of the seminal events in the history of the People's Republic of China.
- Frederick C. Teiwes, the University of Sydney

A truly extraordinary scholarly achievement. Never has the immensely important puzzle of the Red Guard Movement ever been rendered in such rich, clarifying empirical detail as Walder gives us here.
- Doug McAdam, Stanford University

Better than anything else I have read, Andrew Walder's Fractured Rebellion explains how and why the Beijing students in the first two years of the Cultural Revolution became so sharply, bitterly, and fatally divided. An absorbing work of research and synthesis.
-Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for a Modern China

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