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Agents of Disorder: Inside China’s Cultural Revolution, Andrew G. Walder

Reviewed by Joel Andreas

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With this book, Andrew G. Walder, one of the world’s leading scholars of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, has published his most comprehensive account of this tumultuous period. Agents of Disorder relies on a tremendous data set—thousands of official historical annals published by cities and rural counties throughout China. Through a prodigious effort, Walder drew from these annals very valuable local data about power seizures, military interventions, the formation of factional coalitions, conflicts, casualties, and repression. Many of his findings have been published in article form, but the book allows Walder to develop more comprehensive narratives and arguments.

Empirical chapters cover the turbulent months between mid-1966 and the end of 1969. Chapters 2 and 3 recount the development of mass organizations in the second half of 1966, when schools and workplaces split into contending “rebel” and “conservative” camps. Chapters 4 and 5 analyze the dramatic events that took place in early 1967 after Mao called on rebels to “seize power” from local authorities and then asked teams of military officers to arbitrate among the groups that took up his call, leading to a realignment of the protagonists into “pro-military” and “anti-military” coalitions. Chapters 6 and 7 examine the incre

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