Tania Branigan: Mao and the Cultural Revolution (1966)

In this episode the Guardian journalist Tania Branigan takes us back to the opening phases of the ‘Cultural Revolution’, Mao Zedong’s attempt to purge Chinese society of its impurities. Over the course of a few fraught months in the summer of 1966, the transformational movement that would last for an anguished decade, began. *** In Britain 1966 is remembered as a glittering time. It was the year of the World Cup, of Pet Sounds, Revolver and Andy Warhol. But as Western culture flowered, far away in China something very different was happening. All these years on, today’s guest, Tania Branigan points out, the Cultural Revolution remains a difficult event to properly comprehend. It moved through different stages. It was riven by contradictions. Its range was vast, touching people from all parts of society, from top to bottom, east to west. And yet at the heart of much of the action lay the figure of Mao Zedong. By the mid-1960s Mao was regarded as an aging figure. Despite his glorious revolutionary past, it was not certain just what his future would be. But during the spring and summer of 1966 it became increasingly clear that Mao’s political ambitions were not at an end. Tania Branigan is the author of Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution, which has recently been released by Faber. For more, as ever, visit our website: tttpodcast.com. Show notes Scene One: April 16-24. Politburo standing committee (ie China’s top political body) meets in Hangzhou. Scene Two: 16 July. Chairman Mao swims the Yangtze near Wuhan. Scene Three: 18 August. Song Binbin pins the red armband on Mao in Tiananmen Square. Memento: The first big character poster, painted in Beijing, that set off the Cultural Revolution. People/Social Presenter: Peter Moore Guest: Tania Branigan Production: Maria Nolan Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_ See where 1966 fits on our Timeline

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In each episode we ask a leading historian, novelist or public figure the tantalising question, "If you could travel back through time, which year would you visit?" Once they have made their choice, then they guide us through that year in three telling scenes. We have visited Pompeii in 79AD, Jerusalem in 1187, the Tower of London in 1483, Colonial America in 1776, 10 Downing Street in 1940 and the Moon in 1969. Chosen as one of the Evening Standard's Best History Podcasts of 2020. Presented weekly by Sunday Times bestselling writer Peter Moore, award-winning historian Violet Moller and Artemis Irvine.