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"I think the Cultural Revolution exposed a lot of conflicts between idealism and realism.": Reflections from a Child of the '80s. 

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  • Interviewer: Could you tell me if you were born during the 1980s or 1990s?
  • [I was born at] the end of the 1980s.
  • Interviewer: I see. Could you tell me the first time you heard about the Cultural Revolution?
  • [I heard about the Cultural Revolution] when I was in the third grade.
  • I had a classmate who was very naughty, and my class monitor said his parents were typical "little red demons"
    [= Red Guards],
  • those who had not received a good education [during the Cultural Revolution].
  • Interviewer: [The class monitor used] a derogatory word, right? [Saying "little red demons" instead of the proper name, Red Guards.]
  • Yes, it was a derogatory word.
  • Only after that did I know there was something called the Cultural Revolution.
  • Interviewer: And after that?
  • Interviewer: Were there other ways you deepened your understanding of the Cultural Revolution?
  • When I was in high school, I had a classmate whose grandfather was a Rightist and was tortured during the Cultural Revolution.
  • You know, high school students were rebellious.
  • We talked a lot about the Cultural Revolution; I also went back home to read books.
  • I read many books on Chinese history, especially modern Chinese history, and finally understood what happened.
  • Interviewer: You had the motivation to know more about [the Cultural Revolution], right?
  • Yes.
  • Interviewer: Do you have many peers
    like you?
  • I think there are a lot.
  • Many [young] people are still interested in history, especially modern history.
  • [The Cultural Revolution] is unavoidable [when learning about modern history].
  • But they do not have many avenues or resources to understand history comprehensively.
  • Interviewer: From your point of view, what kind of event was the Cultural Revolution?
  • Interviewer: How much of a relationship does it have to your personal interests?
  • Interviewer: Some people think [the Cultural Revolution] has nothing to do with them,
  • Interviewer:...while some people are very interested and want to know more about it--which of these types of people are you?
  • My personal interest is in sociology.
  • To me, the significance of the Cultural Revolution lies in its attempt to take an idealized experiment in Communism and forcibly carry it out in human society.
  • I think the Cultural Revolution exposed a lot of conflicts between idealism and realism.
  • Even today, it is hard to clarify the motivation of the Cultural Revolution with one sentence.
  • It contained struggles between individuals' political aspirations and political factions,
  • as well as a nation trying to take a "great leap," with the dream of realizing Communism.
  • So I think that at least today,
    it is still difficult to define the event.
  • However, I feel that if
    exclude talking about the unlucky victims,
  • the Cultural Revolution is a very interesting
    social phenomenon.
  • Interviewer: Did your perception of the Cultural Revolution come from your family?
  • Interviewer: A little bit,
    or not at all?
  • A little bit, but not much.
  • My mother came from an ordinary family, so they did not feel much impact [of the Cultural Revolution].
  • During the Cultural Revolution,
     my paternal grandfather was a political activist
    was confined to jail f
    or not quite a year.
  • But my grandfather did not treat this matter as something good to talk about; I only heard about it from my father.
  • Interviewer: [You were born at] the end of the 1980s, right?
  • Yes, the end of the 1980s, the same year [Chinese poet] Haizi passed away [1989].
  • Interviewer: The year Haizi passed away. I see.
    You like poetry, then?
  • I think, if we talk about the Cultural Revolution, then we must talk about the turbulence of 1989.
  • I think these two incidents [the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests] are interrelated.
  • In studying modern history, you have to study a series of events systematically.
  • You can't just focus on an isolated incident.
  • Interviewer: What is your major?
  • I study information engineering
  • Interviewer: Oh, so it's not related to social sciences...
  • No, it's not.
  • Interviewer: ...[Social sciences] are just your personal interest.
  • Right, just my personal interest.
  • Interviewer: I am curious whether there are many people in your major who are also interested in social sciences, such as Chinese history?
  • Actually, there are many.
  • In my generation, many people have chosen to study science because they are outstanding [students].
  • From my mom's generation's point of view, it's equivalent to -- well, several general secretaries [of the Communist Party of China] studied engineering.
  • Actually, from the point of view of the nation, it is important for people to study the sciences and engineering to maintain the country's strength.
  • It's a viewpoint that sciences and engineering are more important than humanities.
  • So, in my generation, many knowledgeable people have chosen science or engineering [as their majors].
  • Also, these fields are better paid, with better chances to apply one's knowledge.
  • This is also in line with the viewpoint that science and engineering strengthen the nation.
  • Interviewer: Good.