Before long the government’s central planning approach caused economic difficulties and in the 1950s severe famine brought hardship to millions of Chinese people. This naturally caused people in the 1960s to criticise the government and look for alternative approaches. Recognising the danger to communist ideology, communist initiated a political movement called the Cultural Revolution. This movement lasted throughout the decade 1966-1976 and saw a crackdown on intellectuals, writers, artists, musicians, film makers and anyone perceived to dissent from an increasingly totalitarian regime. Censorship was extreme, and applied both to traditional and to contemporary works of art and literature, and also to materials from outside China which were thought to reflect a bourgeois and non-communist ideology. The Red Guard, a brutal army of younger fanatics, pursued any alleged crimes against the communist ideology and ordinary people were encouraged to betray their own neighbours. The Cultural Revolution ran its course and by 1976 its worst excesses were over. Between the late 1970s and the late 1990s China remained largely hidden from the Western world but arts and culture began to flourish again when repressive measures were reduced. China finally emerged from behind the “bamboo curtain” at the beginning of the new millennium, and when China joined the World Trade Organisation in November, 2001, it could be said that Chinese culture took its place once more on the world stage. There was great international interest in Chinese books and films and art, most of which bore testimony in some way or other to the social upheaval of that difficult decade of so-called Cultural Revolution. After such a long absence, the world welcomed Chinese culture back and awarded it many prizes.
China has a very long cultural tradition and its conservative writing system has facilitated communication over its very large territories from well before the time of Confucius