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State Sponsorship or State Failure? Mass Killings in Rural China, 1967-68


Drawing data from 189 volumes of county annals (xianzhi) of three provinces, the study substantiates previous claims that mass killings occurred during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Mass killings are found to be widespread in two of the three provinces; they occur in those months surrounding the founding of Revolutionary Committee; they tend to occur in the lower levels of rural jurisdiction (village and township); and they tend to concentrate in remote and poor counties but with more party members. Examining these patterns in the political context of the time, I attribute this Chinese case of mass killings to a paradox between state sponsorship and state failure: the state promoted hatred and repression to establish new political order but failed to contain extreme radicalism at the remote reaches of its rule.

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