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Leaving the country in grinding poverty would do no favours to the positive legacy of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao worked hard to protect. Deng's return set the scene for a protracted factional struggle between the radical Gang of Four and moderates led by Zhou and Deng. At the time, Jiang Qing and associates held effective control of mass media and the party's propaganda network, while Zhou and Deng held control of most government organs.

Rethinking Culture in the Cultural Revolution

On some decisions, Mao sought to mitigate the Gang's influence, but on others, he acquiesced to their demands. The Gang of Four's heavy hand in political and media control did not prevent Deng from reinstating his economic policies. Deng emphatically opposed Party factionalism, and his policies aimed to promote unity as the first step to restoring economic productivity. Much like the post-Great Leap restructuring led by Liu Shaoqi, Deng streamlined the railway system, steel production, and other key areas of the economy.

By late however, Mao saw that Deng's economic restructuring might negate the legacy of the Cultural Revolution, and launched a campaign to oppose "rehabilitating the case for the rightists", alluding to Deng as the country's foremost "rightist".

The Culture of Power: The Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution

Mao directed Deng to write self-criticisms in November , a move lauded by the Gang of Four. On January 8, , Zhou Enlai died of bladder cancer. On January 15 Deng Xiaoping delivered Zhou's official eulogy in a funeral attended by all of China's most senior leaders with the notable absence of Mao himself, who had grown increasingly critical of Zhou. The Gang of Four grew apprehensive that spontaneous, large-scale popular support for Zhou could turn the political tide against them. They acted through the media to impose a set of restrictions on overt public displays of mourning for Zhou.

Years of resentment over the Cultural Revolution, the public persecution of Deng Xiaoping seen as Zhou's ally , and the prohibition against public mourning led to a rise in popular discontent against Mao and the Gang of Four. Official attempts to enforce the mourning restrictions included removing public memorials and tearing down posters commemorating Zhou's achievements. On March 25, , Shanghai's Wen Hui Bao published an article calling Zhou "the capitalist roader inside the Party [who] wanted to help the unrepentant capitalist roader [Deng] regain his power".

These propaganda efforts at smearing Zhou's image, however, only strengthened public attachment to Zhou's memory. On April 4, , on the eve of China's annual Qingming Festival , a traditional day of mourning, thousands of people gathered around the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square to commemorate Zhou Enlai. The people of Beijing honored Zhou by laying wreaths, banners, poems, placards, and flowers at the foot of the Monument. A small number of slogans left at Tiananmen even attacked Mao himself, and his Cultural Revolution.

Up to two million people may have visited Tiananmen Square on April 4. Those who participated were motivated by a mixture of anger over the treatment of Zhou, revolt against the Cultural Revolution and apprehension for China's future. The event did not appear to have coordinated leadership but rather seemed to be a reflection of public sentiment.

The Central Committee, under the leadership of Jiang Qing, labelled the event 'counter-revolutionary', and cleared the square of memorial items shortly after midnight on April 6. Attempts to suppress the mourners led to a violent riot. Police cars were set on fire and a crowd of over , people forced its way into several government buildings surrounding the square. Similar incidents occurred in other major cities. Jiang Qing and her allies pinned Deng Xiaoping as the incident's 'mastermind', and issued reports on official media to that effect.

Deng was formally stripped of all positions "inside and outside the Party" on April 7. This marked Deng's second purge in ten years. On September 9, , Mao Zedong died.

The Cultural Revolution -- Bibliography

To Mao's supporters, his death symbolized the loss of the revolutionary foundation of Communist China. When his death was announced on the afternoon of September 9, in a press release entitled "A Notice from the Central Committee, the NPC, State Council, and the CMC to the whole Party, the whole Army and to the people of all nationalities throughout the country", [98] the nation descended into grief and mourning, with people weeping in the streets and public institutions closing for over a week.

Hua Guofeng chaired the Funeral Committee. Shortly before dying, Mao had allegedly written the message "With you in charge, I'm at ease", to Hua. Hua used this message to substantiate his position as successor. Hua had been widely considered to be lacking in political skill and ambitions, and seemingly posed no serious threat to the Gang of Four in the race for succession.

However, the Gang's radical ideas also clashed with influential elders and a large segment of party reformers.


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With army backing and the support of Marshal Ye Jianying , on October 6, the Special Unit had all members of the Gang of Four arrested in a bloodless coup. Although Hua Guofeng publicly denounced the Gang of Four in , he continued to invoke Mao's name to justify Mao-era policies. Hua spearheaded what became known as the Two Whatevers , [] namely, "Whatever policy originated from Chairman Mao, we must continue to support," and "Whatever directions were given to us from Chairman Mao, we must continue to follow.

It became increasingly clear to Hua that, without Deng Xiaoping, it was difficult to continue daily affairs of state. On October 10, Deng Xiaoping personally wrote a letter to Hua asking to be transferred back to state and party affairs; party elders also called for Deng's return. With increasing pressure from all sides, Hua named Deng Vice-Premier in July , and later promoted him to various other positions, effectively catapulting Deng to China's second-most powerful figure.

Hu published an article in the Guangming Daily , making clever use of Mao's quotations while lauding Deng's ideas. Following this article, Hua began to shift his tone in support of Deng. At the congress Deng called for "a liberation of thoughts" and urged the party to " seek truth from facts " and abandon ideological dogma.

The Plenum officially marked the beginning of the economic reform era. Hua Guofeng engaged in self-criticism and called his "Two Whatevers" a mistake.

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Wang Dongxing , a trusted ally of Mao, was also criticized. At the Plenum, the Party reversed its verdict on the Tiananmen Incident. Disgraced former leader Liu Shaoqi was allowed a belated state funeral. At the Fifth Plenum held in , Peng Zhen , He Long and other leaders who had been purged during the Cultural Revolution were politically rehabilitated. Hu Yaobang became head of the party as its General-Secretary. Deng remained the Chairman of the Central Military Commission , but formal power was transferred to a new generation of pragmatic reformers, who reversed Cultural Revolution policies almost in their entirety.

The effects of the Cultural Revolution directly or indirectly touched essentially all of China's population. During the Cultural Revolution, much economic activity was halted, with "revolution", regardless of interpretation, being the primary objective of the country. Mao Zedong Thought became the central operative guide to all things in China.

Change in the air

The authority of the Red Guards surpassed that of the army, local police authorities, and the law in general. Chinese traditional arts and ideas were ignored and publicly attacked, with praise for Mao being practiced in their place. People were encouraged to criticize cultural institutions and to question their parents and teachers, which had been strictly forbidden in traditional Chinese culture. The start of the Cultural Revolution brought huge numbers of Red Guards to Beijing, with all expenses paid by the government, and the railway system was in turmoil. The revolution aimed to destroy the " Four Olds " old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas and establish the corresponding "Four News", which could range from changing of names and cutting of hair, to the ransacking of homes, vandalizing cultural treasures, and desecrating temples.

The Culture of Power: The Lin Biao Incident in the Cultural Revolution

The status of traditional Chinese culture and institutions within China was also severely damaged as a result of the Cultural Revolution, and the practice of many traditional customs weakened. The revolution also aimed to "sweep away" all " cow demons and snake spirits ", that is, all the class enemies who promoted bourgeois ideas within the party, the government, the army, among the intellectuals, as well as those from an exploitative family background or who belonged to one of the Five Black Categories.


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  • Large numbers of people perceived to be "monsters and demons" regardless of guilt or innocence were publicly denounced, humiliated, and beaten. In their revolutionary fervor, students denounced their teachers, and children denounced their parents. In , youths were mobilized to go to the countryside in the Down to the Countryside Movement so they may learn from the peasantry, and the departure of millions from the cities helped end the most violent phase of the Cultural Revolution.

    Though the effect of the Cultural Revolution was disastrous for millions of people in China, there were positive outcomes for some sections of the population, such as those in the rural areas. For example, the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution and the hostility to the intellectual elite is widely accepted to have damaged the quality of education in China, especially at the upper end of education system. However, the radical policies also provided many in the rural communities with middle school education for the first time, which is thought to have facilitated the rural economic development in the 70s and 80s.

    Some farmers were given informal medical training, and health-care centers were established in rural communities. This process led to a marked improvement in the health and the life expectancy of the general population. After the most violent phase of the s ended, the attack on traditional culture continued in with the Anti-Lin Biao, Anti-Confucius Campaign as part of the struggle against the moderate elements in the party. The Cultural Revolution brought to the forefront numerous internal power struggles within the Communist party, many of which had little to do with the larger battles between Party leaders, but resulted instead from local factionalism and petty rivalries that were usually unrelated to the "revolution" itself.

    Because of the chaotic political environment, local governments lacked organization and stability, if they existed at all. Members of different factions often fought on the streets, and political assassinations, particularly in predominantly rural provinces, were common.

    The early period (1966–68)

    The masses spontaneously involved themselves in factions, and took part in open warfare against other factions. The ideology that drove these factions was vague and sometimes non-existent, with the struggle for local authority being the only motivation for mass involvement. The Cultural Revolution brought China's education system to a virtual halt for some time.

    In the early months of the Cultural Revolution, schools and universities were closed. Primary and middle schools later gradually reopened, but all colleges and universities were closed until , and most universities did not reopen until Values taught in traditional education were abandoned, [] while academics and intellectuals were persecuted and sent to rural labor camps.

    According to the documents for the prosecution of the Gang of Four, , cadres and teachers in the education circles were persecuted, and noted academics, scientists, and educators who died included Xiong Qinglai , Jian Bozan , Rao Yutai , Wu Dingliang and Zhao Jiuzhang. During the Cultural Revolution, basic education was emphasized and rapidly expanded.

    The educational opportunities for rural children expanded considerably, while those of the children of the urban elite became restricted by the anti-elitist policies. The impact of the Cultural Revolution on popular education varied among regions, and formal measurements of literacy did not resume until the s.

    The leaders of China at the time denied that there were any illiteracy problems from the start. This effect was amplified by the elimination of qualified teachers—many districts were forced to rely on selected students to educate the next generation. In , the Communist Party instituted the Down to the Countryside Movement , in which "Educated Youths" zhishi qingnian or simply zhiqing in urban areas were sent to live and work in agrarian areas to be re-educated by the peasantry and to better understand the role of manual agrarian labor in Chinese society.

    In the initial stages, most of the youth who took part volunteered, although later on the government resorted to forcing many of them to move.


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