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China: A Century of Revolution; Mao Years, The : It's Right to Rebel, 1960-1976

Part of Stories of East and South East Asia.

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China: A Century of Revolution
Mao Years, The : It's Right to Rebel, 1960-1976
Program Number


Series Description

In 1986 AMBRICA Productions began CHINA: A Century of Revolution, a series of three feature-length documentaries that explore the history of modern China.

The first film, CHINA IN REVOLUTION describes the epic upheaval that began in China with the fall of the last emperor in 1911. Over the next four decades, the Chinese people were caught up in struggles with warlords, foreign invasion and a bitter rivalry between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Party. The film highlights the two figures who came to shape events, Chang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. First they worked as allies to unite the country and then they fought a bloody civil war that was won by the Communists in 1949.

The trilogy continues with THE MAO YEARS, a look at the next period of modern China’s history: Mao Zedong’s rule, from 1949 to his death in 1976. The film begins with the celebrations marking the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, a moment of great hope for millions of Chinese. But the quarter-century of Mao’s rule was as turbulent as the decades which preceded it. Interludes of relative calm and increased prosperity were interrupted repeatedly by violent campaigns, purges, and a famine in which killed more than 30 million people. It culminated in Mao’s colossal and tragic experiment, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. When Mao died in 1976, people were exhausted by the turmoil and longed for stability.

What happened next could never have been anticipated and forms the story line for the final film of the trilogy; BORN UNDER THE RED FLAG examines China’s remarkable transformation after Mao’s death. In just 15 years, under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, China raced forward at an astonishing pace to become a never-before-seen hybrid of communism and capitalism. The world’s most populous nation has reinvented itself, changing from a relatively undeveloped and isolated nation into an economic giant and a major player on the world stage. For many Chinese, this transformation has brought unprecedented prosperity, but it has also raised troubling questions of national identity and social inequality.

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Program Description

This documentary about China during the tumultuous rule of Mao Zedong, from 1949 to 1976, continues the story begun in the award-winning "China in Revolution, 1911-1949." The program mixes archival footage and firsthand interviews to present an intimate portrait of a nation that, for much of the period, seemed closed and incomprehensible. Included are never-before-seen images of Mao, Deng Xiaoping, and other leaders working and relaxing; cataclysmic forward and the terrible famine it produced, the chaos of the cultural revolution, and the historic visit of President Nixon; and personal stories of hope and pride, terror and repression. Narrated by Will Lyman.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Politics and Government
Social Issues
Military Forces and Armaments
Williams, Sue (Writer)
Dietz, Kathryn (Producer)
Vecchione, Judith (Executive Producer)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “China: A Century of Revolution; Mao Years, The : It's Right to Rebel, 1960-1976,” GBH Archives, accessed July 23, 2024,
MLA: “China: A Century of Revolution; Mao Years, The : It's Right to Rebel, 1960-1976.” GBH Archives. Web. July 23, 2024. <>.
APA: China: A Century of Revolution; Mao Years, The : It's Right to Rebel, 1960-1976. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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