Jeffrey Javed and his coauthor, Iza Ding, University of Pittsburgh, write, "We find, however, that this nostalgia goes beyond the hero mythology; many Chinese share a vision of the Maoist period as a bygone halcyon era."

They continue, "This nostalgia extends even to the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long period of political turmoil Mao initiated in 1966. One explanation is that being sent down to the countryside, for many older Chinese citizens, defined their youth, and their memories of that period took on a nostalgic glow (as memories of our formative years often do)."

And this phenomenon—this looking back longingly on a complicated past—is not limited to China. "In Russia, approval of Stalin is at a historic high. In the United States, President Trump’s campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again” rests on a rosy vision of bygone era when U.S. manufacturing was at its peak.

Perhaps more than ever, these findings suggest that collective memories of the past play an important role in understanding what’s going on in the present — in China, but also elsewhere in the world."

Read the full article in the Washington Post.