Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Assess the reasons for and consequences of the Cultural Revolution in China

In order for China to exist as a pure Communist Republic, Mao Zedong felt it was necessary to rid China of all capitalist aspects. Between 1962 and 1966, Communist Party members argued over which path to follow, Mao’s extreme leftist path, or Liu Shaoqi’s center path. Shaoqi, leader of the moderates, believed that including elements of capitalism such as incentive schemes for the peasants would help China prosper. Mao condemned the moderates, and believed they were making people forget the original aims of the Communist Party. Mao wanted to set China back on the Communist path, and order to do so he decided to rid China of all things capitalist. Thus he launched a Socialist Education Movement, followed by the ‘four clean-ups campaign’, and finally the Cultural Revolution of 1966.

In 1965, every member of the PLA was given “The Little Red Book”, a newly published book that contained quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong. This book was used to get the support of the PLA members, because without the army’s support, Mao would not have a significant degree of power. After achieving this level of support, Mao was ready to launch a super campaign against capitalists and reactionaries known as “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” of 1966.

The Cultural Revolution started off among school children and students in Beijing. The students formed into military groups known as Red Guards, who became the major force of the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, schools were temporarily shut down because the curriculum was being re-written in order to promote communist ideals. The Red Guards had plenty of time to dedicate to the revolution and their first aim was to rid Chinese schools and colleges of capitalist and bourgeois influences. They also launched the four clean up campaigns in which they wanted to rid China of old culture, old customs, old ideas, and old habits. Their methods to achieve their aims began to become more violent, and finally ran wild as a result of the unconditional support of the PLA and police.

The Cultural Revolution finally ended in, but at a significant cost to China. The absolute freedom the Red Guards experienced led to the deaths of about 40,000 people. Thousands more were humiliated, tortured, imprisoned, and physically abused. In order to restore China, Mao reopened schools and colleges. Some Red Guards did not want to return and used violence in area, so the PLA stepped into disarm them. Mao encouraged many Red Guards to go down to the country in order to continue their education, but it was too late, the damage was done. Young people had missed so much of their education to the extent that it was estimated that by 1981, 120 million people below the age of 45 were illiterate. In addition, industrial output fell dramatically.

Even though order was restored in 1969, its social and economic costs can not be ignored. This marked the second ‘chaotic’ period under Mao’s rule. Nonetheless, Mao was able to successfully rid himself of the threat of competition, by eliminating the moderates from the party.
Samar Al Ansari 12 IB
Oct. 8, ‘05

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