China and the Cultural Revolution

Subject: History
Pages: 9
Words: 2201
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: Bachelor


In China, the Cultural Revolution in the 20th century was an era of immense political and communal mayhem. Fundamentally, this was a domestic revolution staged by a political faction close to the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (Mao). This extorted control from the Chinese government by instituting an adversary power-base. The revolution was accomplished by heartening and influencing youthful Chinese intelligentsia into bringing down instituted authorities. During this revolution every part of Chinese life was impinge on in the development (the administration, economy and families). The turmoil also registered an immense personal toll on innumerable individuals. The revolution was chiefly due to failure in initiating proper reforms, overseas interventions, middle class individuals being discontented about an inefficient administration together with the escalation of revolutionary resistance against the government that had policies cushioning corrupt officials. Therefore, this paper will show that the 20th century Chinese revolution was an aggressive mass faction which resulted in communal, political and monetary turmoil.

Main body

The Chinese revolution was instigated by a chairman of the Communist-Party-of-China (Zedong Mao). He claimed that the liberal bourgeoisie constituents were infusing the party and the whole community at large. He also alleged that they wanted to reinstate capitalism. Mao persisted that, in agreement with his presumption of an undeviating revolution, the constituents should be eradicated. This was to be done via a revolutionary aggressive class struggle by rallying China’s youths who, reacting to his plea, created Red Guard factions around the entire country.

The motives and agenda of the faction gained momentum and in no time had considerable influence on the military, government employees and even the country’s leadership. As a result of this, Mao himself outlawed the revolution in 1969 but it continued operating until 1971, when Lin Biao passed on in a plane crash. After his passing on, the radicals within the party, led by Deng Xiaoping came to fame and gained political mileage. As a result, the administrative changes in politics, the economy and on education fostered in the spirit of the revolution were neglected. It was accorded negative publicity while the vision bearers of the Revolution were incarcerated. The party denied any wrong doing and squarely laid the blame on Zedong Mao and Lin Biao in a historic ruling relating to the Cultural Revolution in 1981.

In 1966 august, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China approved its “Decision Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (the 16 Points).This decision defined the GPCR as a great revolution that touches people to their very souls and constitutes a new stage in the development of the socialist revolution in the country” (Huang 2001, 53-61), a stronger and more widespread stage.

The pronouncement hence took the already present student factions and raised it to the stage of a countrywide movement, calling on the youth, employees, peasants, the army, revolutionary scholars and cadres to perform the mission of changing the superstructure by scripting big placards and holding grand debates. In the people’s republic of China, Mao considered a Cultural Revolution essential in putting socialism back on course.

People who were not Communist, were confronted and often accused of being for corrupt and then taken to prison. “Freedom was supplemented by the right to strike, although this right was severely attenuated by the army’s entrance onto the stage of civilian mass politics in February 1967” (Huang 2001, 53-61). Every one of these rights was removed from the governing structure following Deng’s government suppressing the democracy wall faction in 1979.

In 1966 August, the Red Guards coming from all over the nation assembled in the capital city to meet their Chairman. On top of this, the leaders of the Revolution (Mao and Biao) frequently come out to meet millions of their Red-Guard devotees receiving applauds every time they met them. They gave them praises for their operation to build up socialism and democracy. This in turn put more fire power in the revolution.

At the peak of the revolution, “many religious locations such as temples, churches, mosques, monasteries, and cemeteries were closed down and sometimes even looted and destroyed” (Lorenz 2007, 326-365). The most shocking part of the movement was when frequent occurrences of torment, murder, and suicides were ultimate alternatives of many who underwent beatings and humiliation. “In August and September 1966, there were 1,772 people murdered in Beijing alone. In Shanghai in September there were 704 suicides and 534 deaths related to the Cultural Revolution. In Wuhan during this time there were 62 suicides and 32 murders”. (Lorenz 2007, 326-365) Authorities were again disheartened from ending the hostility of the Red Guards. They were told it was not wrong to kill bad people and that their actions were not as brutal as those of Hitler. They were told that the more people they killed the more revolutionary they became.

The youth and Red Guards increased their operation while hastening their efforts of socialist restructuring. They started by giving out leaflets giving details on their actions to build up, make stronger socialism, and posting names of alleged counter-revolutionaries on notice boards. They gathered in large numbers, held grand debates, and inscribed enlightening plays. They also held meetings for the purposes of condemning and soliciting self-disapproval from alleged counter-revolutionaries.

The Red Guards continued to torture the so called anti-revolutionaries; those accused by the Red Guards were unlucky as they never returned. The Red Guards were praised for their efforts to the extent that Mao gave out an order stopping any police intervention in their activities. Police officers who defied these orders were branded anti-revolutionaries. “The Red Guards were again encouraged to go to Beijing were all transportation costs and accommodation was paid by the government” (Lorenz 2007, 326-365).

Within no time, divided political struggles started in the central government. Administrators and local party officials took the Revolution as a chance to indict rivals of counter-revolution as the obsession spread. This brought about “massive power struggles which took the form of purge after purge among local governments, many of which stopped functioning altogether. Involvement in some sort of “revolutionary” activity was the only way to avoid being purged, but it was no guarantee” (Chan 2005, 67).

Later Lin Biao and General Jiang Qing with consent from Mao persisted that the Revolution should be expanded to the army. Many army generals called this a mistake but were eventually purged. These actions further complicated the state of affairs and exacerbated more violence. It eventually led to the stoppage of all unhealthy activities in the Red Guard faction from Qing.

On 22nd July 1968, Qing instructed the Red Guards to substitute the Army if required, and thus made the available forces powerless. In no time they started to steal and burgle from the barracks. These activities continued for a long time and could not be stopped.

In 1968 spring a substantial movement was initiated, this was aimed at endorsing the already-respected Mao to god-like position. About the same time the Red Guards’ influence over the military was brought to an end. The governing body then dispatched units for the purpose of guarding the numerous regions that remained marked by the Red Guards. About 12 months after this, the Red Guard was dismantled completely. This was because, “Mao feared that the chaos they caused and could still cause could harm the very foundation of the Communist-Party of China. In any case, their purpose had been largely fulfilled, and Mao had largely consolidated his political power” (Schoenhals 2006, 107).

Later Mao started an operation to eliminate officials unfaithful to him. They were taken to labor camps to do forced labor. At the same time, Lin Biao was given the Party’s post of Vice-Chairmanship, and was nominated successor, his rank and prominence was second to that of Mao.

In December 1968, Mao began the Down to the Countryside Movement. During this movement, which lasted for the next decade, young intellectuals living in cities were ordered to go to the countryside. The term “intellectuals” was actually used in the broadest sense to refer to recently graduated middle school students. In the late 1970s, these “young intellectuals” were finally allowed to return to their home cities. This movement was in part a means of moving Red Guards from the cities to the countryside, where they would cause less social disruption (Schoenhals 2006, 107).

Effects of this Revolution influenced essentially every Chinese citizen in one way or another. Throughout the Revolution, a lot of economic activities were stopped, with “revolution”, in spite of interpretation, being the main objective of the nation. The beginning of the Revolution brought massive Red Guards members to the capital city. This was at the expense of the government, the railway system as a mode of transportation at that time was also in turmoil. The Red Guards were again responsible for the destruction of numerous prehistoric houses, relics, antiques, manuscripts and paintings.

In other parts, this 10 year revolt brought the learning system to a near halt. University admission examinations were terminated until 1979 under Xiaoping. As shown (Chien 2000, 176-190):

According to most western observers as well as followers of Deng Xiaoping, this led to almost an entire generation of inadequately educated individuals. However, this varies depending on the region, and the measurement of literacy did not resurface until the 1980s. Some counties in the Zhanjiang district, for example, had illiteracy rates as high as 41% some 20 years after the revolution. The leaders denied any illiteracy problems from the start. This effect was amplified by the elimination of qualified teachers; many of the districts were forced to rely upon chosen students to re-educate the next generation (Chien 2000, 176-190)

As the uprising grew Mao’s inspiration become the fundamental operative system in China’s administration. The power s possessed by the Red Guards exceeded that of the armed forces, the police, and even the law authorities. China’s cultural thoughts were disregarded, with praises for the revolutions leader being observed in their place. The citizens were persuaded to condemn intellectual establishments and to subject parents/teachers to questioning, all of which had been austerely prohibited before

Internationally this revolution brought about mixed reactions and was attached to political factions of the time. A noteworthy re-examination of these events transpired between the Western political left. This happened when the total extent of devastation became known, hence ruining China’s image. “In Hong Kong on the other hand, a pro-Communist strike was launched, known as the Hong Kong 1967 riots. Its excesses damaged the credibility of these activists for more than a generation in the eyes of Hong Kong residents” (Chan 2005, 79).

Again this Revolution brought about various domestic power struggles inside the Communist party. Although these struggles had nothing to do with the revolution they resulted in inner factionalism and insignificant enmity. Due to the disordered political environment, the local government was deficient in order and constancy. Additionally, associates of unlike factions frequently clashed on the streets, and assassinations mainly in rural regions, was common. “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 nonexistent, with the struggle for local authority being the only motivation for mass involvement” (Lorenz 2007, 326-365).

Currently, the Cultural-Revolution is extensively viewed in and out of China as an un-moderated adversity, and as an occurrence to be shunned in the future. Followers of the Chinese-democracy-movement view the Revolution as an instance of what comes about when democratic systems are absent. The party blames the Communist-Party of China for its occurrence. “On the other hand Human rights organizations and civil libertarians see it as an example of the hazards of people being statists. These analyses characterize its source to too much government and too little popular participation in state affairs” (Yan, 2002, 13-71).


“By contrast, the official view of the Communist Party of China is that the Cultural Revolution was the consequence of an extreme cult of personality, which manipulated the public to destroy existing institutions” (Yan, 2002, 13-71). In this analysis, the Revolution is an instance of excess admired involvement in state affairs. In this particular context, the mayhem of the revolution was more of a threat of anarchism rather than a matter of being a statist or not. Therefore, as shown in this paper, the significance of this subject is the harmony amid the Chinese administration, that this country must be ruled by a powerful party where resolutions are made communally. These decision making processes are not only supposed to be done according to the rule of law but the community should have a limited input in their implementation.

Reference list

Chan, Anita. 2005. Effects of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. London: Longman Publishers.

Chien, Ruoxi. 2000. The 20th Century Chinese Revolution. Journal on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 4 No 5: 176-190.

Huang, Shaorong. 2001. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The Great Proletarian Revolution, 5. No 1: 53-61.

Lorenz, Andres. 2007. The Chinese Cultural Revolution. Journal on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 2. No 8: 326-365.

Schoenhals, Michael. 2006. Mao’s revolution. London: Harvard University Press.

Yan, Jiaqi. 2002. A History of the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese Cultural Revolution, 12, no 1: 13-71.