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

By Jin Qiu | Go to book overview

4
Lin Biao and the Cultural Revolution

Disappointed in Liu Shaoqi as a successor, in 1966 Mao turned to Lin Biao, who was minister of defense. Although he had already had an accomplished political career, his name was little known in the outside world, partially because he kept a low public profile. Unlike other leaders such as Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi, Peng Zhen, and Luo Ruiqing, Lin seldom appeared in public. Despite his various party and governmental titles, he shared few responsibilities other than those for the armed forces. Why then did Mao choose him to replace Liu Shaoqi as his successor? Several considerations may account for Mao's decision. Mao understood from the very beginning that he would need the support of the PLA for a successful Cultural Revolution. Other high officials would likely accept Lin's leadership because of his contribution to the Chinese revolution as one of Mao's best generals and his lack of connection with any specific political power group due to his inactivity in public and governmental affairs. Above all, Lin was the person Mao trusted most. Apart from his record as an excellent military commander, Lin had been devoted to Mao throughout his career. One of Lin's biographers believes Lin was the only important figure who did not turn against Mao at one time or another in the years before 1949.1 Another suggests that Mao may have fulfilled Lin's psychological need for a father figure.2


The Historical Relationship Between Mao Zedong and Lin Biao

The close relationship between Mao and Lin went back to the Jinggang Mountain period, during which Lin's military and political career advanced rapidly.3 Lin participated in a series of battles that offered him op

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