May 16 is the anniversary of two significant events in history. One hundred years ago today, the Sykes-Picot Agreement was signed between France and Great Britain. The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret convention that partitioned the Ottoman Empire after World War I. It served as the foundation for the modern Middle East and much of the bad and good (if, in the case of the latter) that has happened since.
Speaking of bad, fifty years ago today, China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution started when Mao Zedong approved a secret document declaring war on “representatives of the bourgeoisie” who had “sneaked into the Communist Party, the government, the army,” etc. A year later, Mao explained to his wife, that his aim was to create “great disorder under heaven” in order to achieve “greater order under heaven.” Whether he believed that or not, who knows.
“Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a ‘barefoot doctor,’ a steelworker, and an electrician.”
We read the book before and while we were on our trip to China last fall. It is the story of the damage true believers can do when they are not subject to the rule of law. Our tour guide saw the book and said that it was true. When we were leaving, in order to lighten our luggage, we offered the book to our tour guide. She took it right away. While you can take it to China, it has not been published in China and is not sold there.