How was the Cultural Revolution's concept of equality different from that of the United States?
The concept of equality in the United States as defined in the Declaration of Independence is that "all men are created equal." The idea is that people, by virtue of their humanity, have certain rights, and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights. This idea was, and is, closely tied to individual property rights, and to a limited vision of the role of government in the lives of individuals.
Mao's vision of equality, as expressed in the Cultural Revolution, was that individual rights were in all cases subjected to the needs of the people, which is another way of saying that they did not exist at all, at least outside of the context of the collective. Mao encouraged millions of Chinese youth to rise in a revolution that would not only eliminate reactionary elements in Chinese society and government. Equality could come only through a thorough rearranging of society, and it could only come, it was argued, by following Mao.
The difference, in short, was that the brand of eighteenth century liberalism that found its expression in the Declaration of Independence argued that equality could be best achieved through the protection of individual liberties. Mao argued that equality could be best achieved through the repression of these same liberties.