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

By Jin Qiu | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

In the months before his death in 1976, the longtime leader of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, was prone to look back over his life sorting out his accomplishments and failures. "I did two things in my life," he told his designated successor, Hua Guofeng, on one nostalgic occasion. "The first was to fight against Jiang Jieshi [Chiang Kai-shek] for several decades and drive him to a few islands and send the Japanese back home after the eight-year war against Japan." The second accomplishment Mao pointed to was the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. Not surprisingly, Mao was confident of the success as well as the significance of the first of his accomplishments, but he seemed uncertain how history would judge the second. "Only a few people agree with me [and] quite a few people oppose me," he told Hua in an uncharacteristic moment of self-doubt. "Neither of these [two accomplishments] was finally [i.e., fully] accomplished and [the resulting problems] will be passed to the next generation."1 Mao was thus evidently concerned about his legacy, even in areas that he considered his most important accomplishments. Would his be a legacy of peace, he wondered, or of "a foul wind and a rain of blood." "Only heaven knows what you are going to do," Mao said with a sigh to Hua.2

The sigh seemed to confess Mao's disappointment with the outcome of the Cultural Revolution, a dramatic social upheaval to which he devoted all of his thought and energy during the last ten years of his life. When he started the Cultural Revolution, he had wanted to ensure a path of continuous revolution for at least the next several generations. He never expected the revolution to be the crowning disgrace of his life. Ten years later, at the end of his life, he regretfully admitted that time was running out on his effort to bequeath to his successor a China that was everything he intended it to be. He was not even sure whether China

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