Cultural Revolution


What were Mao's motives?

  • Ideologythe introduction of limited capitalism meant China was veering away from true communism and undermined collectivist principles; some party officials were 'corrupt' as they were not following hardline policies. Mao wanted to fulfil the revolution in its purest form.
  • Personal power: Mao disliked the popularity Deng and Liu after they'd fixed the GLF and the famine; he worried his personal authority was waning and wanted rid of all opposition
  • Struggle: Mao felt the current population had not struggled enough and needed reminding of hardship to ensure their loyalty 
  • Political Divisons within the Party: factional fighting between the hardline Maoists (Gang of Four, Lin Biao, Shanghai Forum) and the right of the party (Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi)
  • Economics: following failure of the GLF, how was China to develop its industry? Should there be a relaxation of control? Did methods need to be changed?
  • Soviet Anxieties:disliked criticisms of cult of personality and Khrushchev's reforms that encouraged detente/ revisionism. 
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Why were the youth so willing to fight?

  • Propaganda and Indoctrination: The Little Red Book created by Lin Biao in 1964 that amalgamated Mao's quotes and teachings
  • Born 'under the red flag' - communism was all they knew
  • During the GLF, the idea of families being broken up had already been established
  • Adolescents are impressionable, rebellious and looking for independence
  • His cult of personality
  • Conforming with their peers
  • Idea that they had a personal relationship with Mao
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Why were Deng and Liu attacked?

They were on the right of the party, and faced hardline, vicious Maoists who criticised them for abandoning the revolution. In autumn 1966 they were formally dismissed and named 'revisionists'.

In 1962 at the 7000 Cadres Conference, Liu said that the famine had been caused by 30% natural disaster and 70% human error (corruption and collusion) - he had spoken out against Mao's policies.

Along with Chen Yun, a leading economist, Liu and Deng reintroduced private farming and markets which undermined collectivist principles  and what Maoism stood for.

Their policies were annoyingly successful and by 1965, industry had experienced a growth of 20%. The deficit of 8 billion yuan in 1960 had become a surplus of 1 billion by 1962. 

Mao feared his personal power, and said they treated him like a 'dead man at his own funeral'.

The SEM was created in 1963 and sent officials to the countryside to discover why the GLF had failed. Liu and his wife lived among the peasants and found that it was corruption by local official that had led to the devastation, not lazy peasants. Mao was angered by Liu exposing this corruption and undermining party rule

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What methods did the Red Guards use?

  • Destruction of property
  • Public denunciation meetings
  • Remained stationed in Tiananmen Square
  • Loudspeakers used to hurl insults 
  • Cultural destruction of the 'four olds': destroyed 4922 out of Beijing's 6843 cultural/ historical locations
  • Disobedience of parental/ educational authority
  • Seized public transport
  • Took over radio and TV networks
  • Held 'struggle sessions'
  • Airplane position
  • Wall poster campaigns 
  • Creating makeshift prisons
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What role did the PLA play ?

  • Utterly loyal to Mao; unwilling to share the stage with the Red Guards. Mao knew he could use the PLA at any time to pull the RG back into line
  • They were not to stop Red Guards being violent and killing anyone from the five categories - Xie Fuzhi, minister for public security, said they should not try to halt the violence.
  • They travelled through the countryside on campaigns to show their loyalty
  • They aided the demobilisation of the RG and sent them up to the countryside, to stop the factional fighting going out of control but also to make privileged people understand the lives of peasants
  • 1968-71, 'cleansing the class ranks' campaign: extermination of anyone with a social background that suggested they were enemies of the state. Committees were established across China, and one official described it as a massive pogrom. In Inner Mongolia, 22,900 were killed; in Beijing, 3731 people were killed, with their deaths classified as suicide
  • The fall of Lin Biao was linked to the fear in 1971 that the PLA had too much power within the Politburo and may attempt to overthrow the political leadership.
  • Out of the 29 provincial revolutionary committees set up, 21 were led by PLA officers·         Wuhan, Summer 1967 fight between PLA and Red Guard – in the spring the PLA had arrested 500 Red Guards, which led to protests. PLA killed 1000 Red Guard protestors.
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Was the Lin Biao affair a turning point?

The plot: Lin became a conspirator with his son's assassination plan. However details were leaked to Zhou and Mao inevitably found out. As a result, Lin attempted to flee to the USSR, however his plane crashed in Outer Mongolia in September 1971, and he died.

Mao's part in the plance crash is questioned, however he did reject Zhou's suggestion of bringing down the plane.

Mao was depressed following the plot, as it was revealed to him how widespread opposition within the party had become; he was dismayed that he needed to be protected from his people.

News was withheld until 1972; Lin was criticised for hatching a conspiracy against Mao and the Chinese people in the 'Criticise Lin, Criticise Confucious' campaign.

Following this, many began to question the legitimacy of the announcements of the PRC. People questioned how the creator of the Cultural Revolution, wingman to Mao, could have been a traitor and betrayed the people - they did not believe it was credible.

Mao's omniscience was brought into question.

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How did Lin Biao's fall benefit Deng and Zhou?

Zhou had been key in uncovering the plot, and moreover was a popular man among the people and international powers. He dodged attempts to bring him down as he was such an effective bureaucrat and Mao needed him.

Deng was invited back by Zhou in 1973 for his political knowledge and close ties to the PLA. By 1975, Deng was party secretary again.

The return to power of these two meant the CR was less intense and violent from 1973, however the CCRG with Mao's support still dominated China and arrests and camps continued.

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How did the Gang of Four assert their authority?

They ordered that there be no public mourning for Zhou Enlai, who died in January 1976 from lung cancer. However people flocked in their masses to Heroes Monument anyway, and it became a large demonstration. Police were used force to curb the unrelenting protestors to leave Tiananmen Square - The Tiananmen Incident 

Deng was dismissed following this as he was blamed for organising the support for the moderate Zhou's death. He left and went to Guangdong.

In reality, they had no authority over the people without Mao's support.

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What did Mao understand by the term 'culture'?

  • Culture was central to a country and defined its character
  • Culture was the values presented by the ruling class 
  • Culture was how the ruling class exerted control
  • As China was proletarian, culture had to be proletarian and all traces of the bourgeois had to be eradicated.
  • Any creatives had to direct their efforts towards fighting the class war for the people and consolidating the revolution. 
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What impact did Jiang Qing have on culture?

Mao named her the 'cultural purifier of the nation' and she was put in charge of turning the destruction of the four olds into a definite programme. 

  • She imposed rigid censorship
  • Nothing was to be shown publically that did not conform with revolutionary purity
  • Anything Western was banned
  • Traditional Chinese Opera was replaced with commissioned opera-ballets that showcased the triumph of the proletariat 
  • She created an artistic wasteland 
  • Creatives who did not adhere were sent to reeducation camps
  • Musicians had to scratch the ground until they lost all sensitivity in their fingers
  • There was very little resistance as people feared repercussions
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How socially disruptive was the CR?

  • Children turning on their parents destroyed family units: the nuclear family was classed as one of the 'four olds'
  • Family affection was replaced by love for Mao and informing on relatives was encouraged
  • Similar to the GLF and the famine, the concept of the individual was rendered unimportant again
  • Private property and ownership was now crimes against communism
  • Collectivisation and pooling of resources broke the economic family link
  • The state became the provider/ helping hand during difficult times
  • Social welfare was delivered by the Party
  • Young described as 'China's lost generation'
  • Religion was utterly persecuted, which provoked international outcry.
  • There were original good intentions for healthcare, and in the 1950s many Chinese were treated by qualified doctors for the first time
  • Doctors were attacked as bourgeois and privileged, and to avoid persecution would sacrifice medical care to show solidarity with the workers
  • Painkillers were not used as believed to be bourgeois 
  • Long educational training was replaced by six months practical training: these barefoot doctors were sent to the countryside and did improve peasants' lives.
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How did the Cultural Revolution affect the economy

Social turmoil brought economy to a standstill/ set it back considerably.

Between 1966 and 1976:

  • industrial production fell by 13.8%
  • construction fell by 33%
  • deficit increased from 1 billion to 2.25 billion yuan
  • agricultural production fell by 2%

Government response was austerity: 'practice frugality while making revolution'

  • assests of state companies were frozen
  • borrowing/ lending banks restricted
  • travel permits required inter-province
  • permit required for purchasing cooking oil/ rice

The government lied about economic progress. Some historians believe that many peasants, left to their own devices, simply resorted to a form of capitalism without the direction of the officials.

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What, in theory, was the purpose of the laogai?

To ensure political conformity; anyone deemed opposition was imprisoned. 

They were showcased as places of re-education rather than punishment; everyone was happy under Mao, and those who weren't were simply misguided - thus the state should provide them with education to enlighten them.

In reality, the camps were horrific and dehumanising; they involved hard labour and systematic starvation. They were mostly built in the most inhospitable areas of the country. Prisoners had to make confessions, and those who professed innocence were beaten and deprived of sleep and food. 

over 25 million prisoners died during this period ; the average number of prisoners held in the camps each year during Mao's time was 10 million, across 5000 labour camps.

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What was the relevance of the Wuhan affair?

Following the failure of the SEM.

Wu Han had written a play called the Dismissal of Hai Rui from Office which was performed between 1961 and 1965. He belonged to a group of supposedly Mao-critical writers, thus his play was interpreted as criticising Mao's dismissal of Peng Dehuai.

It provided a pretext for Lin Biao to move against the anti-maoists in the CCP. 

He ended up killing himself after being attacked

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Who were the Gang of Four and what did they do?

Dominated the Shanghai Forum, a group of hardline Maoists who believed in permanent revolution and wished to punish those who were too 'soft'.

The Gang of Four was composed of Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen who were all notorious for their ferocity. 

Jiang wanted Deng and Liu gone and a complete clamp down on artists.

They were never a formally organised group, however their extremism brought them together.

They dominated the CCRG, established in May 1965, which was what Mao used to run the Cultural Revolution

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How did the Cultural Revolution begin?

It began officially in May 1966 when Mao announced a party purge to be run by the CCRG, however it came to public attention in August during a mass rally in Tiananmen Square with 1 million people waving Little Red Books. Lin was encourgaing students to partake in a wall poster campaign to criticse educational commitment to the revolution. 

July 1966, Mao returns in a mass swim across the Yangzi. The river was regarded as a life force, thus Mao was proving his vitality. It was broadcasted all over China. On returning to the political scene, he elevated Lin to second in command and downgraded Liu.

Mao encouraged the students: in August 1966 he presented a banner written by himself saying 'Bombard the Headquarters' to Qinghai University. He'd discussed involving the youth in a meeting in 1965 with the Gang of Four. 

Eight mass rallies were held between August and November - Mao did not attend them all, but Lin Biao and occasionnally Jiang Qing were there. Mao was presented as the great man 'remoulding the souls of the people'

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What were the political impacts?

  • In 1981, the CCP said that the CR was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses since the founding of the PRC
  • 90% of CCP members came under some form of attack throughout the CR
  • Revealed the deep divisions within the CCP
  • Undermined trust in party policies, as politicians could so easily go from revered to denunced 
  • Showed reliance on Mao of Gang of Four
  • Established in China that the crushing of political opposition in such a way was a legitimate method of government 
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What were the educational impacts?

  • Meaningful education simply stopped
  • Youths rejected raditional teaching and focused on what would aid the revolution
  • Between 1966 and 1970, 130 million stopped attending school/ uni
  • Importance placed on training loyal party members
  • Education in the form of being sent up to the hills
  • Only 35% of the population had received schooling before 12, according to a census in 1982
  • 7 May cadre schools taught the 'dignity of labour' - learning how the peasants lived, for 'soft' officials; organised by Lin Biao
  • 1000 schools established across 18 provinces, holding 100,000 higher rank cadres and intellectuals
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