Cultural production under Mao, and how artists and thinkers found autonomy in a culture of conformity In the 1950s, a French journalist joked that the Chinese were "blue ants under the red flag," dressing identically and even marching in an identical fashion. When the Cultural Revolution officially began, this uniformity seemed to extend to the mind. From the outside, this was a monotonous world, full of repetitions and imitation, but a closer look reveals a range of cultural experiences, which also provided individuals with an obscure sense of freedom. In The Art of Cloning, Pang Laikwan examines this period in Chinese history when ordinary citizens read widely, travelled extensively through the country, and engaged in a range of cultural and artistic activities. The freedom they experienced, argues Pang, differs from the freedom, under Western capitalism, to express individuality through a range of consumer products. However, it was far from boring, and filled with its own kind of diversity. From the Trade Paperback edition.