* a review of a book (by a Chinese author who stumbled across the story) recently translated into English about one appalling (and little known) massacre during the Cultural Revolution:
For several weeks in August and September 1967, more than nine thousand people were murdered in this region. The epicenter of the killings was Dao County (Daoxian), which the Xiao River bisects on its way north. About half the victims were killed in this district of four hundred thousand people, some clubbed to death and thrown into limestone pits, others tossed into cellars full of sweet potatoes where they suffocated. Many were tied together in bundles around a charge of quarry explosives. These victims were called “homemade airplanes” because their body parts flew over the fields. But most victims were simply bludgeoned to death with agricultural tools—hoes, carrying poles, and rakes—and then tossed into the waterways that flow into the Xiao.* An interview with the author of the book indicates he has had his eyes open about the nature of the Chinese communism:
In the county seat of Daozhou, observers on the shoreline counted one hundred corpses flowing past per hour. Children danced along the banks competing to find the most bodies. Some were bound together with wire strung through their collarbones, their swollen carcasses swirling in daisy chains downstream, their eyes and lips already eaten away by fish. Eventually the cadavers’ progress was halted by the Shuangpai dam where they clogged the hydropower generators. It took half a year to clear the turbines and two years before locals would eat fish again.
For decades, these murders have been a little-known event in China. When mentioned at all, they tended to be explained away as individual actions that spun out of control during the heat of the Cultural Revolution—the decade-long campaign launched by Mao Zedong in 1966 to destroy enemies and achieve a utopia. Dao County was portrayed as remote, backward, and poor. The presence of the non-Chinese Yao minority there was also sometimes mentioned as a racist way of explaining what happened: those minorities, some Han Chinese say, are only half civilized anyway, and who knows what they might do when the authorities aren’t looking?
All of these explanations are wrong. Dao County is a center of Chinese civilization, the birthplace of great philosophers and calligraphers. The killers were almost all Chinese who murdered other Chinese. And the killings were not random: instead they were acts of genocide aimed at eliminating a class of people declared to be subhuman. That class consisted of make-believe landlords, nonexistent spies, and invented insurrectionists. Far from being the work of frenzied peasants, the killings were organized by committees of Communist Party cadres in the region’s towns, who ordered the murders to be carried out in remote areas. To make sure revenge would be difficult, officials ordered the slaughter of entire families, including infants.
To speak frankly, in the past I didn’t really understand the Communist Party and its peasant revolution. It was like a blockage in my thinking. But suddenly in a short period of time my thinking became clear.* Finally, a philosophy professor talks about Confucianism's rejection and its partial revival in China:
What triggered this understanding?
I’d kept asking one question: Had any one of the 9,000 people killed in the region been planning a counterrevolutionary event or said something unlawful? In the end the answer was: No.
Not one. There wasn’t one who was counter-revolutionary in thoughts or deeds. Not one said anything against the revolution. They found a lot of cases of “counterrevolutionaries” and they killed them all, but they were all fake. When I understood this, I was heartbroken. I began to realize that the Party had a history of violence. Already in 1928 it organized violent peasant revolts that killed masses of people. And land reform [shortly after the Party took power in 1949] was incredibly violent. It was one mass killing after another. All of a sudden it became clear. There was no justification for what happened. It was just terror.
So I felt that situation really needed me. I had to write it. All those people [survivors, family members, and reform-minded government officials] who gave me information, I had pledged to them that I wasn’t taking this for personal gain, but for our children and grandchildren’s descendants—so that a massacre wouldn’t happen again.
The killers were all young. You wrote that most were in their twenties. Were they brainwashed by the Maoist propaganda?
Yes. The young people kept talking about exploitation by the landlord class. But for all this talk, all the exploitation was by the same four landlords: Huang Shiren, Zhou Bapi, Liu Wencai, Nan Batian. [Four landlords whose alleged crimes were constantly repeated by Communist Party propaganda across the nation in movies, posters, and textbooks.] And it turned out that their crimes were all fake. But this is all they knew and they thought that anyone who owned any land in China was a horrible landlord who deserved to die. In fact, the people who owned land were mostly just the country’s middle class. Especially in Hunan, big landlords were very rare. But they were all classified as landlords. They were declared to be subhuman, and when the orders came down, people found it easy to kill them. They had been conditioned to think of them as not human.
But this is all half a century ago. Things have changed.
No. It is rooted in this soil. Around the time of the  Tiananmen Square massacre I raved about this at a meeting and put it like this: I said that according to my research the Communists were triumphant not because the Nationalists [their opponents in the civil war] were backward; it was because the Communists were even more backward. Their brutality and backwardness allowed them to succeed. The Nationalists still had a few enlightened ideas so they lost.
In China, Confucianism was devastated by the Cultural Revolution, which was very much anti-Confucian, even though now they try to restore some Confucian values. I don’t think xiao [filial piety] is included in socialist core values. But it is coming back in civil society in terms of parental relationships.
In your view then, it’s not a case of Orientalist thinking to attribute Chinese behavior to Confucianism?
If we look at the world in terms of value orientations, then not only China but also the rest of that region has been characterized as the Confucian world. Although in Japan, the idea of loyalty is much more pronounced than that of filial piety.
Precisely because China was obsessed with the idea of being overwhelmed by Japan aggressiveness, China wanted to become wealthy and powerful, and many believed that getting rid of Confucian tradition was a precondition for becoming powerful. The discourse was that Confucianism is incompatible with modern ideas of ethics or the dignity of individuals. And the revolutionary Red Guards attacked Confucianism time and time again, though it continued to be developed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Korea. But this has all changed now, and we’re entering a new era where many of the positive Confucian values can be underscored. Right now, there’s this new view that China is going through a kind of Confucian revival. A revival is a double-edged sword that can very easily be politicized by the government as a method of political control, but it also has much broader implications as well.
Why do some people think Confucianism is incompatible with progress?
That is a tradition that started in 1919, with the New Cultural Movement, and what I call all these Enlightenment values of the West, even though there’s a lot of debate about the abusive use of some of these values. We have Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Confucian values, and the argument was that religious forms are not compatible. But I think that phase is already over, and people today have more sophisticated ideas about human development, that it’s not just a matter of having a higher GDP. So right now in China, very few insist that the Confucian tradition is incompatible with progress. As properly understood and properly practiced, Confucian values become even more congenial to human development. Some narrow and nationalistic ideas have also surfaced based on this. My view is that Confucianism must adapt itself to human values, and that the abusive use of power by neoliberal economies could be corrected by a much broader vision of human flourishing. Issues of proper governance, moral order, and the financial regulatory system are all a part of the story. The role of government, for example, the role of leadership, all these are relevant issues.