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Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
The Impact on Chinese Thought, Culture, and Communication

Xing Lu

A startling look at revolutionary rhetoric and its effects

Now known to the Chinese as the "ten years of chaos," the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) brought death to thousands of Chinese and persecution to millions.

Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution identifies the rhetorical features and explores the persuasive effects of political language and symbolic practices during the period. Xing Lu examines how leaders of the Communist Party constructed and enacted a rhetoric in political contexts to legitimize power and violence and to dehumanize a group of people identified as class enemies.

Lu provides close readings of the movement's primary texts—political slogans, official propaganda, wall posters, and the lyrics of mass songs and model operas. She also scrutinizes such ritualistic practices as the loyalty dance, denunciation rallies, political study sessions, and criticism and self-criticism meetings. Lu enriches her rhetorical analyses of these texts with her own story and that of her family, as well as with interviews conducted in China and the United States with persons who experienced the Cultural Revolution during their teenage years.

Through rhetorical analyses Lu addresses the questions of why such a cultural holocaust happened in China, how speech became so cultic and politicized, and how the rhetoric of fanaticism induced terror and mass hysteria. Lu contends that the rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution has impacted Chinese thought, culture, and communication in ominous ways. In the name of defending Mao's revolutionary cause, the Cultural Revolution polarized Chinese thought through its deployment of moralistic terms, filled human relationships with hatred and mistrust, and replaced rich artistic expression with formulaic political jargon and tedious ideological clichés. To illustrate the severity of the revolution's aftereffects, Lu examines public discourse in contemporary China and compares the rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution with that of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany.

Xing Lu is a professor in the Department of Communications at DePaul University. The recipient of the National Communication Association's James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Award for Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric (University of South Carolina Press, 1998), Lu received her undergraduate degree in China, her M.A. in Australia, and her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and daughter in Wilmette, Illinois.

"Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution provides significant insights into previously neglected aspects of rhetorical theory. Its focus on contemporary Chinese rhetoric expands the perimeters of the rhetorical tradition beyond its Western boundaries. It also explores rhetorical practices that generate not noble outcomes but indoctrination and violence, thus providing an account of the full range of rhetorical practice in which human beings engage."—Sonja Foss, Department of Communication, University of Colorado, Denver

"Mao's China, in the words of the great journalist Liu Binyan, had to live with 'two kinds of truth'—one trumpeted from on high, and another that rose out of harsh daily life. One of these was false, but both were powerful. Xing Lu's fine book shows in detail how Chinese people were cruelly crushed between the two."—Perry Link, East Asian Studies, Princeton University, and author of The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System



book jacket for Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution


6 x 9
264 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-543-2
hardcover, $49.99s

ISBN 978-1-64336-147-5
Paperback, $29.99s
(August 2020)

ISBN 978-1-64336-148-2
Ebook, $29.99

Studies in Rhetoric/Communication

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