GREAT LEAP FORWARD
- In 1958, after China’s first Five-Year Plan, Mao called for “grassroots socialism” in order to accelerate his plans for turning China into a modern industrialized state.
- In this spirit, Mao launched the Great Leap Forward, established People’s Communes in the countryside, and began the mass mobilization of the people into collectives.
- Many communities were assigned production of a single commodity—steel. Mao vowed to increase agricultural production to twice 1957 levelsThe Great Leap was an economic failure.
- In the meantime, chaos in the collectives, bad weather, and exports of food necessary to secure hard currency resulted in the Great Chinese Famine.
- Food was in desperate shortage, and production fell dramatically. The famine caused the deaths of millions of people, particularly in poorer inland regions.
- The Great Leap’s failure reduced Mao’s prestige within the Party. Forced to take major responsibility, in 1959, Mao resigned as the President of the People’s Republic of China, China’s de jure head of state, and was succeeded by Liu Shaoqi.
- Mao set the scene for the Cultural Revolution by “cleansing” powerful officials of questionable loyalty who were based in Beijing.
- Mao thus ultimately adopted four goals for the Cultural Revolution: to replace his designated successors with leaders more faithful to his current thinking; to rectify the Chinese Communist Party; to provide China’s youths with a revolutionary experience; and to achieve some specific policy changes so as to make the educational, health care, and cultural systems less elitist.
- While the party leadership was relatively united in approving the general direction of Mao’s agenda, many Politburo members were not especially enthusiastic, or simply confused about the direction of the movement
- He initially pursued these goals through a massive mobilization of the country’s urban youths. They were organized into groups called the Red Guards, and Mao ordered the party and the army not to suppress the movement.
- Defense Minister Lin Biao made certain that the military remained Maoist. . Premier Zhou Enlai played an essential role in keeping the country running, even during periods of extraordinary chaos.
- During this early phase of the Cultural Revolution (1966-68), President Liu Shaoqi and other Communist leaders were removed from power. (Beaten and imprisoned, Liu died in prison in 1969.)
- On August 18, 1966, over a million Red Guards from all over the country gathered in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing for a personal audience with the Chairman.
- At the Red Guard rallies, Lin Biao also called for the destruction of the “Four Olds”; namely, old customs, culture, habits, and ideas.
- Revolutionary fever swept the country by storm, with Red Guards acting as its most prominent warriors
- With different factions of the Red Guard movement battling for dominance, many Chinese cities reached the brink of anarchy by September 1967, when Mao had Lin send army troops in to restore order.
- The army soon forced many urban members of the Red Guards into rural areas, where the movement declined.
- It elevated what was previously a student movement to a nationwide mass campaign that would galvanize workers, farmers, soldiers and lower-level party functionaries to rise up, challenge authority, and re-shape the “superstructure” of society.
- Libraries full of historical and foreign texts were destroyed; books were burned. Temples, churches, mosques, monasteries, and cemeteries were closed down and sometimes converted to other uses, looted, and destroyed.
- Marxist propaganda depicted Buddhism as superstition, Clergy were arrested and sent to camps; many Tibetan Buddhists were forced to participate in the destruction of their monasteries at gunpoint.
- The most violent aspects of the campaign included incidents of torture, murder, and public humiliation. Many people who were indicted as counter-revolutionaries died by suicide. In August and September 1966, there were 1,772 people murdered in Beijing alone. In Shanghai there were 704 suicides and 534 deaths related to the Cultural Revolution in September.
- In January 1967 the movement began to produce the actual overthrow of provincial party committees and the first attempts to construct new political bodies to replace them.
- In February 1967 many remaining top party leaders called for a halt to the Cultural Revolution, but Mao and his more radical partisans prevailed, and the movement escalated yet again.
- During 1967 Mao called on the army under Lin Biao to step in on behalf of the Red Guards. Instead of producing unified support for the radical youths, this political-military action resulted in more divisions within the military.
- In the spring of 1968, a massive campaign began, aimed at enhancing Mao’s reputation. On July 27, 1968, the Red Guards’ power over the Army was officially ended, and the establishment government sent in units to besiege areas that remained untouched by the Guards.
- In early October, Mao began a campaign to purge ruling officials. Many were sent to the countryside to work in reeducation camps.
RISE OF LIN BIAO (1969-71)
- When the Ninth Party Congress convened in April 1969, Defense Minister Lin Biao was officially designated as Mao’s successor, and the military tightened its grip on the entire society.
- Both the Party Central Committee and the revamped Communist Party were dominated by military men. Lin took advantage of Sino-Soviet border clashes in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law and further used his position to rid himself of some potential rivals to the succession.
RISE OF LIN BIAO (1969-71)
- He soon used the excuse of border clashes with Soviet troops to institute martial law. Disturbed by Lin’s premature power grab, Mao began to maneuver against him , splitting the ranks of power atop the Chinese government
- These strains first surfaced at a party plenum in the summer of 1970. Shortly thereafter Mao began a campaign to criticize Chen Boda as a warning to Lin.
- In September 1971, Lin died in an airplane crash in Mongolia, apparently while attempting to escape to the Soviet Union.
- Initially, Premier Zhou Enlai benefited the most from Lin’s death, and from late 1971 through mid-1973 Zhou tried to nudge China back toward stability.
- He encouraged a revival of the educational system and brought back into office a number of people who had been cast out. China began again to increase its trade and other links with the outside world, and the economy continued the forward momentum that had begun to build in 1969.
- Mao personally approved these general moves but remained wary lest they call into question the basic value of having launched the Cultural Revolution in the first place.
- During 1972, however, Mao suffered a serious stroke, and Zhou learned that he had a fatal malignancy.
- These events highlighted the continued uncertainty over the succession. In early 1973 Zhou and Mao brought back to power Deng Xiaoping.
- Zhou hoped to groom him to be Mao’s successor. Deng, however, had been the second most important purge victim at the hands of the radicals during the Cultural Revolution.
- From mid-1973 until Mao’s death in September 1976, Chinese politics shifted back and forth between Jiang Qing and those who supported , and the Zhou-Deng group.
- The former favoured ideology, political mobilization, class struggle, anti-intellectualism, egalitarianism while the latter promoted economic growth, stability, educational progress, and a pragmatic foreign policy.
- Mao tried unsuccessfully to maintain a balance between these two forces while he struggled to find a successor who would embody his preferred combination of each.
- 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.
- Deng emphatically opposed Party factionalism, and his policies aimed to promote unity as the first step to restoring economic productivity.
- By late 1975 however, Mao saw that Deng’s economic restructuring might negate the legacy of the Cultural Revolution.
- On January 8, 1976, Zhou Enlai died of bladder cancer. 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
- On September 9, 1976, Mao Zedong died.On October 6, the Special Unit had all members of the Gang of Four arrested in a bloodless coup
- It paved the way for Den Xiaoping
- Some 1.5 million people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, and millions of others suffered imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.
- The Cultural Revolution’s short-term effects may have been felt mainly in China’s cities, but its long-term effects would impact the entire country for decades to come.
- It had serious consequences for China as a whole. In the short run, of course, the political instability and the constant shifts in economic policy produced slower economic growth and a decline in the capacity of the government to deliver goods and services.
- The result was bureaucratic timidity. nearly three million party members and countless wrongfully purged citizens awaited reinstatement.
- Indeed, the fundamental damage to all aspects of the educational system itself took several decades to repair.
- Another serious problem was the corruption within the party and government. Both the fears engendered by the Cultural Revolution and the scarcity of goods that accompanied it forced people to fall back on traditional personal relationships and on bribery and other forms of persuasion to accomplish their goals.
- Perhaps never before in human history has a political leader unleashed such massive forces against the system that he created. The resulting damage to that system was profound, and the goals that Mao sought to achieve ultimately remained elusive.