Group members: Kaylee Green, Laura Martinez, Naylan Tew, Jamie Harris
Let's regain power over this impure government!
In the 1960’s, the Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong began to feel that the Soviet Union in China was leaning more towards an emphasis on expertise rather than on moral purity. After Mao’s failure of his “Great Leap Forward” from 1958 to 1960 and the economic crisis that followed it, his governmental position was already weakened greatly. In attempt to regain his authority and attack the current leaders of the party, Mao partnered with a group of radicals, featuring his wife, Jiang Qing, and the defense minister, Lin Biao.
In August 1966, Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution by shutting down the nation’s schools, and ordering for a giant youth mobilization to take the current leaders of the party to task because of their embrace of middle-class values and lack of revolutionary spirit. The movement quickly accelerated within the next few months as the youth formed unofficial military groups called the Red Guards and violently attacked and harassed members of China’s elderly and intellectual population. Soon, a personality cult formed around Mao, with different sections of the movement claiming the true interpretation of true Maoist thought.
In the early state of the Cultural Revolution, considered to be from 1966 to 1968, the President Liu Shaoqi and other Communist leaders were dethroned from power. (Liu died in 1969 from being beaten and imprisoned.) Different factions of the Red Guard movement were battling for dominance, which led many Chinese cities to reach anarchy by September 1967 after Mao ordered Lin to send army troops to restore order. The army sent by Mao soon forced many of the urban members of the Red Guards into rural areas, leading to the end of the movement. Adding on to the chaos, the Chinese economy decreased rapidly, as industrial production in 1968 dropped 12 percent below that of 1966.
When 1969 emerged, Lin was designated officially as Mao’s successor. He began to use the excuse of border clashed with Soviet troops to establish martial law. When Mao learned of Lin’s grab for power, he began to maneuver against him, alongside Zhou Enlai, China’s premier, and they split the ranks of power at the top of the Chinese government. In September of 1971, while attempting to escape the Soviet Union, Lin Biao died in an airplane crash located in Mongolia. This was when Zhou took the opportunity to establish even more control of the government. The Chinese citizens felt dissatisfied about Mao’s “revolution” due to Lin’s fatal ending, and the movement crumbled in favor of ordinary power struggles.
Zhou attempted to rehabilitate China by renewing the education system and bringing former officials back to power. In 1972, when Mao suffered a stroke and Zhou learned he had cancer, they handed over their power to Deng Xiaoping, which was a decision opposed by Jiang and her allies (a more radical group), known as the Gang of Four. Deng and the Gang went back and forth for several years before a military coalition pushed the Gang of Four out of power. In 1977, Deng regained power and remained in control of China for the next twenty years.
Throughout the Cultural Revolution, 1.5 million were killed, while millions of others suffered from imprisonment, seizure of property, and torture. The long-term effects of Mao’s attack on the governmental system led many Chinese citizens to lose faith in their overall government.
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