The event also produced a document announcing the start of the decade-long drive to pursue class warfare, enforce radical egalitarianism and enlist the population in mass political movements.
The start of the Cultural Revolution was not widely known or understood at the time, but soon took on a violent agenda, leading to the downfall of leading officials, factional battles, mass rallies and the exile of educated youths to the countryside.
In 1981 the Communist Party officially pronounced the Cultural Revolution a grave error that “led to domestic turmoil and brought catastrophe to the Party, the state and the whole people”.
It ascribed chief responsibility to Mao, avoiding the question of the party’s own culpability, and now it limits discussion of the period to prevent undermining the legitimacy of its rule.
“A lot has been learnt by the party. The party now realises that you can play with symbols of Mao era but to a very limited extent,” Kelly said.