The proposed research project breaks important new ground by analyzing and documenting how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dealt with the legacy of mass atrocities committed under Maoist rule. Most accounts of the period mention the trial against the “Gang of Four” and the accompanying resolution on party history from 1981, which held former party chairman Mao Zedong accountable for grave political errors but not for criminal deeds. However, as yet there has been no in-depth analysis of the roughly five million cases and the over ten million petitions handled by courts and party committees between 1978 and 1987 in order to right previous injustices. Despite its enormous scale and relevance to societal stability, this so-called “revision of unjust, wrong, and false verdicts” has been virtually left unattended to by scholarly research. The project aims at diminishing this gap by studying the CCP’s strategies and the societal consequences of this major policy change. It proposes to analyze the partial break from the Maoist legacy as an important, yet by and large overlooked example of transitional justice, albeit confined by the party dictatorship’s overarching aim to stay in power. By way of relying on a wide array of recently available official and non-official sources, the project analyzes and documents how the CCP selectively dealt with the towering injustices of the past. The project will significantly contribute to current research on China’s transformation process and the Maoist legacy in at least four different areas: First, it will detail the CCP’s standards, institutions, and processes of administrating historical justice; second, it will show the great regional variances in implementing these policies between center and periphery; third, it will offer new explanations for the persistence of CCP rule despite the horrors of Maoism; and fourth, it will document both the revisal of verdicts and past atrocities in an electronic database to ease future research.
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