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

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

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

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


On the night of September 12-13, 1971, Lin Biao, Mao Zedong's officially recognized closest comrade-in-arms and chosen successor, was killed in a mysterious plane crash in Mongolia. The Chinese government did not issue an announcement of Lin's death, and it became generally known only in the summer of 1972, when the official explanation stated that Lin had masterminded plans for a coup d'etat and the assassination of Mao, and died fleeing to the Soviet Union after both plans had failed. But no convincing proof was offered to substantiate these claims, and the Lin Biao incident has remained an unsolved mystery.

The author brings unique credentials to her reexamination of the incident. She is the daughter of the former commander-in-chief of the Chinese air force, who served under Lin and, along with thousands of others, was imprisoned as a result of the purges that followed Lin's death. For this book, she has drawn upon her father's unpublished memoirs, interviews with former high government officials and their families, and her own experience and acquaintances among the government's elite families, as well as an abundance of newly available documents. The book reexplores three key questions surrounding the Lin Biao incident: Why would Lin, the brilliant architect of pivotal victories in the Civil War who had been doggedly loyal to Mao for decades, suddenly attempt an ill-conceived coup? Why, when the alleged coup failed, would he defect to the Soviet Union? And why and how did Lin's plane crash?

Challenging the official account, this book puts forth a radically different interpretation of the incident, arguing that in a narrow sense it was a consequence of the poisonous interplay ofgovernmental politics and family politics during the Cultural Revolution. The roles of Lin's wife, Ye Qun, and son, Lin Liguo, in the events leading up to the fateful flight are fully discussed for the first time in any lang


Elizabeth J. Perry

The best works of social science, if we reflect on their origins, can usually be traced to some deeply felt engagement on the part of the author. But if outstanding scholarship is rarely disinterested, seldom can an author claim as interesting a perspective on the subject matter as Jin Qiu in her study of the Lin Biao affair. The daughter of one of the (alleged) principals in the mysterious incident, the author writes with a personal commitment--derived from an insider's position--that is virtually unique among Western analysts of contemporary Chinese politics.

The core argument of Jin Qiu's book, which highlights the significance of family pressures on elite decision making in China, assumes added credibility by virtue of the author's own experiences as a member of an elite Chinese family. But this account is not simply--or even primarily-- a personal narrative. It is, rather, the outcome of meticulous research conducted in a wealth of firsthand sources, including published and unpublished memoirs, party and government documents, and interviews with numerous participants. Jin Qiu's own background permits access to a variety of otherwise unavailable materials. Importantly, however, she complements this insider status with an outsider's standards of evidence and explanation. Dr. Jin's conclusions are shaped by insights from Western social science, drawn especially from the field of political psychology. Holding a U.S. doctoral degree, she combines personal engagement and insider information with advanced training in Western methodology and theory. The result is not only a new interpretation of the Lin Biao affair, but a fresh approach to elite-level Chinese politics in general.

For those accustomed to thinking of elite decision making as the product of highly rational individual calculations, Dr. Jin's account will come as something of a shock. Here we encounter few well-considered choices based on clearheaded calculations of the connection between means and ends.

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