THE BREAKDOWN IN LOCAL AUTHORITY, 1974-75
By the latter half of 1974 the anti-Lin anti-Confucius campaign had largely been brought under control. In an informal talk to overseas Chinese on the 25th anniversary of the People's Republic Deng Xiaoping, who had assumed much of the administrative responsibilities from the ailing Zhou Enlai, played down the significance of the campaign.1 Later in the month as preparations got underway to convene the long-awaited 4th NPC, the factional maneuvering between the Cultural Revolution radicals and the Zhou/Deng led group of veteran administrators reached a climax, with both sides striving to gain Mao's support. The issue which sparked off the crisis in October 1974 related to the purchase of ships from overseas to carry China's international trade. On 18 June Wang Hongwen had accused the advocates of the proposal as being "false foreign devils" () who "worshipped the foreign bourgeoisie" and described the policy as pursuing the "revisionist line".2
This issue smouldered until October 1974 when, at a Politburo meeting on the 17th of that month, Jiang Qing insisted that Deng Xiaoping declare his position on the issue.3 Deng reportedly answered that he would investigate the matter. The Cultural Revolution radicals were eager to place the wily veteran in an awkward position and compromise him on an issue that they thought might arouse Mao's sensibilities. Their timing was critical. On 4 October Mao had proposed in a telephone conversation with Wang Hongwen that Deng become first Vice- premier of the State Council at the forthcoming NPC, a step that would ensure his succession as Premier. A CCP CC notice of 11 October quoted Mao to the effect that the Cultural Revolution had already been going for eight years and that it was time for unity and stability within the party and army. Meanwhile, articles appeared in the press praising the Empress Lu and legalist politicians, a not very subtle allusion to Jiang Qing's aspirations for future leadership.
The tensions and factional rivalries which climaxed in late 1974 and early 1975 were exacerbated by an important factor -- Mao's prolonged absence from