Chinese President Xi Jinping likes to play the Mao card.
At a state dinner at Buckingham Palace in 2015, he was striking in a black Mao suit.
He's since worn it many times when greeting world leaders or reviewing Chinese troops: standing patrician-like in the back of an open military vehicle, just as the Chairman himself once did while surveying his Red Guards.
Such political theatre is conflicted, not just because it contrasts sharply with the President's alter-ego as a modern figurehead — a champion of globalisation and open trade — but because he suffered great personal hardship under Mao.
Suppressed Mao memory
As a young boy in the 1960s, Xi's family spent seven years in internal exile.
His father, a senior party functionary, was purged. He lost a sister during the hardship and even Xi's mother was allegedly forced to denounce him.
So Xi's embrace of Mao isn't just about aligning his leadership with the most powerful figure in China's recent past, according to historian Frank Dikotter, it's also about containing Mao's memory, and suppressing any real remembrance of the madness he wrought on his own people.
"One thing Mr Xi made very clear in 2012 is that any attempt to look critically at any one episode of the history of the Communist Party of China is tantamount to 'historical nihilism'," he said.
Professor Dikotter's trilogy of books about ordinary life in "post-Liberation" China has led to a major reassessment about the time.
President Xi's desire to bury the political realities of the past is widely shared by the party elite and rank and file said professor Dikotter, who received the prestigious Samuel Johnson prize for his 2011 book Mao's Great Famine.
"I can assure you [the Party leadership] are all united in their condemnation of the Cultural Revolution."
"From the point of view of a party member, what happened in 1966–67 is that Mao allowed ordinary people to criticise members of the Communist Party of China — and you should never, ever repeat that mistake."
Waves of such criticism lasted for the better part of a decade, pitted faction against faction in internecine conflict, left the reputation of the Party in "tatters" and resulted in the ignominious deaths of leading figures — most notably President Liu Shaoqi and Vice Chairman Lin Biao.
It also left the Party with a residual anxiety, said Professor Dikotter, which underpinned the violent suppression of student protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
It also explains why Xi is now determined to excise true knowledge of the Cultural Revolution and the 1960s from the country's collective consciousness.
"Over the past five years it has become very, very difficult for professional historians to do anything on that decade," said Professor Dikotter.
"It is as if there is a narrowing of that very little space of freedom and memory that ordinary people had for decades after the death of Chairman Mao.
"There were one or two museums set up by wealthy entrepreneurs on the Cultural Revolution — these museums have closed down. There used to be websites where you could read the memoirs of victims of the Cultural Revolution — these websites have gone."
Professor Dikotter talks about meeting a young Chinese-Australian woman in Melbourne recently who told him that her parents and grandmother still refuse to speak about the political turmoil of that period, just in case they are overheard by their neighbours.
"Surely that's a very clear indication of trauma, if not fear."
Famine, cannibalism and quiet revolt
Fluent in Mandarin, Professor Dikotter's reputation as a leading scholar of Chinese political history is built on his extensive use of archival material.
For a short period at the turn of the century, he gained access to a vast trove of Communist Party records detailing the deprivations and abuses of the Mao years — from secret government statistics about mass famine to public security bureau accounts of cannibalism.
"In every archive I visited, there were always local historians — including students — beavering away and working on the entire history of the Maoist era. They were quite courageous."
Those archives, he said, are now out of bounds under Xi Jinping's increasingly centralised and authoritarian leadership.
"It's a one-party state that is obsessed with information on the one hand and secrecy on the other."
But it was in those archives that he discovered the overarching reason for the Communist Party's fear of its own historical record.
What the documents reveal, according to Professor Dikotter, is that the latter years of the Cultural Revolution were marked not just by oppression, but by resistance —with tens of millions of ordinary Chinese quietly working against the Communist Party and subverting its more extreme dictates.
"In this game of cat and mouse, ordinary villagers saw an opportunity to very quietly reclaim basic freedoms," he said.
"The land that belongs to the collectives is taken back. The tools are redistributed. The collective economy in many cases vanishes."
"Black markets are opened by farmers where they can sell the produce that they think will work best. In poor provinces farmers open underground factories, and these underground factories churn out products that are sold on the black market."
It was effectively a "silent revolution" — one that occurred surreptitiously and saw tens of millions of people in the cities and countryside lose their faith in Beijing's leadership, gradually turning back to the lives they had before the Communist victory of 1949.
"To some extent what we see here is quite extraordinary: one of the strongest, largest planned economies being literally undermined from below, by ordinary people, millions upon millions."
Even when faced with such growing dissent, the Communist Party was slow to abandon its ideology in favour of economic freedoms.
In 1979, three years after the death of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping — now famed as an economic reformer — was still demanding the tightening of collectivism in China's poverty-stricken rural areas.
According to Professor Dikotter, Deng Xiaoping only abandoned this hard-line economic policy around 1982, choosing instead to pursue market capitalism as a way of trying to boost the economy, unify the party under his leadership and eventually restore its legitimacy with the people.
"[The Cultural Revolution] shattered the very ranks of the party. In other words, village leaders were themselves fed up with decades of campaigns about re-education and corruption.
"Ordinary people really seized this opportunity to claim back these very fundamental economic freedoms."
'Take away his pension'
Then, in 1989, came the massacre in Tiananmen Square, where Deng's use of tanks to suppress a student uprising delivered a potent reminder that only economic, not political freedoms were to be tolerated in modern China.
"It sent a signal that pulsates to this very day. That message is: don't ever query the monopoly of the one-party state."
And so it continues. Professor Dikotter points to the example of a respected Chinese historian who was approached by the public security bureau and told not to publish anything on the Mao era, or they would take away his pension.
"Just to make sure that he understood, the agent of the public security bureau said, 'This is not just you, it's your entire family as well.' It somehow throws a whole chill on the business of investigating the past."
Needless to say, as comrades meet this week in Beijing's Great Hall of the People for the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the legacy and lessons of the Cultural Revolution will not be on the agenda.
But its spectre is still likely to haunt the room.