Cultural Revolution

Cultural Revolution, 1966–76, mass mobilization of urban Chinese youth inaugurated by Mao Zedong in an attempt to prevent the development of a bureaucratized Soviet style of Communism. Mao closed schools and encouraged students to join Red Guard units, which denunciated and persecuted Chinese teachers and intellectuals, engaged in widespread book burnings, facilitated mass relocations, and enforced Mao's cult of personality. The movement for criticism of party officials, intellectuals, and "bourgeois values" turned violent, and the Red Guard split into factions. Torture became common, and it is estimated that a million died in the ensuing purges and related incidents. The Cultural Revolution also caused economic disruption; industrial production dropped by 12% from 1966 to 1968.

In 1967, Mao ordered the army to stem Red Guard factionalism but promote the Guard's radical goals. When the military itself threatened to factionalize, Mao dispersed the Red Guards, and began to rebuild the party. The Ninth Party Congress (1969), which named Marshal Lin Biao as Mao's successor, led to a struggle between the military and Premier Zhou Enlai. After Lin's mysterious death (1971), Mao expressed regrets for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. However, the Gang of Four, led by Jiang Qing, continued to restrict the arts and enforce ideology, even purging Deng Xiaoping a second time only months before Mao's death (Sept., 1976). The Gang of Four were imprisoned in Oct., 1976, bringing the movement to a close.

See R. MacFarquhar and M. Schoenhals, Mao's Last Revolution (2006).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Cultural Revolution: Selected full-text books and articles

China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969: Not a Dinner Party
Michael Schoenhals.
M. E. Sharpe, 1996
Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution
Yan Jiaqi; Gao Gao; D. W. Y. Kwok; D. W. Y. Kwok.
University of Hawaii Press, 1996
The East Wind Subsides: Chinese Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Cultural Revolution
Andrew Hall Wedeman.
Washington Institute Press, 1987
Chinese Politics and the Cultural Revolution: Dynamics of Policy Processes
Byung-Joon Ahn.
University of Washington Press, 1976
Children of the Cultural Revolution: Family Life and Political Behavior in Mao's China
Xiaowei Zang.
Westview Press, 2000
The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution
Chihua Wen; Bruce Jones.
Westview Press, 1995
Proletarian Power: Shanghai in the Cultural Revolution
Elizabeth J. Perry; Li Xun.
Westview Press, 1997
The Educational Reforms in the Cultural Revolution in China: A Postmodern Critique
Wan, Guofang.
Education, Vol. 122, No. 1, Fall 2001
Micropolitics in Contemporary China: A Technical Unit during and after the Cultural Revolution
Marc J. Blecher; Gordon White.
M.E. Sharpe, 1979
Chinese Fiction of the Cultural Revolution
Lan Yang.
Hong Kong University Press, 1998
China since the Cultural Revolution: From Totalitarianism to Authoritarianism
Jie Chen; Peng Deng.
Praeger Publishers, 1995
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