This photo triggered China's Cultural Revolution

1 885 239
3.7%
Vox8.51M
Published on 14 Feb 2020, 13:00
Mao Zedong swimming in a river in 1966 was a big deal.

Become a Video Lab member! bit.ly/video-lab

In 1966, Mao Zedong, China’s communist leader and the founder of the People’s Republic of China, was rumored to be in failing health. The devastating policies of his Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) — which forced millions of peasants to work tirelessly on government farming communes and by manufacturing crude steel — resulted in the greatest famine known to human history, costing anywhere between 23 and 55 million lives.

Mao wanted to leave behind a powerful Communist legacy, like Marx and Lenin before him. And in order to do so, he needed to connect with the younger generation before he died. So after announcing his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, he swam across the Yangtze River. Mao had done the same swim 10 years earlier to prove his vitality, and he hoped it would work again.

His "Cultural Revolution" was a call to hunt down and eliminate his enemies, and reeducate China’s youth with the principles Maoism. Led by the fanatical Red Guards, the Cultural Revolution was a devastating 10-year period in Chinese history that didn’t end until Mao died in 1976.

Additional reading:
Embodying Maoism: The swimming craze, the Mao cult, and body politics in Communist China, 1950s–1970s, by Shuk-wah Poon
doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X17000...

Red-Color News Soldier, by Li Zhensheng
red-colornewssoldier.com

Darkroom is a history and photography series that anchors each episode around a single image. Analyzing what the photo shows (or doesn't show) provides context that helps unravel a wider story. Watch previous episodes here: youtube.com/watch?v=ddiOJLuu2m...

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out vox.com.

Watch our full video catalog: goo.gl/IZONyE

Follow Vox on Facebook: goo.gl/U2g06o

Or Twitter: goo.gl/XFrZ5H
newstechmusickids