Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

18
CHINA SINCE THE DEATH OF MAO

The Re-emergence of Deng Xiaoping, 1976-1981

On the death of Mao, Hua Guofeng succeeded. His position as Party Chairman was publicly confirmed one month later. He claimed, and the Party leadership accepted, that Mao had nominated him as successor. This is probably so. Mao had always emphasized his belief that experience of government in the provinces was the best preparation for power at the centre. Hua had served virtually his entire career in Mao's own home province of Hunan, where he had conscientiously carried out Maoist policies. He had been brought to Beijing by Mao and appointed Minister of Public Security on 17 January 1975. He had been made acting Premier on 7 April 1976, the day on which Deng Xiaoping was dismissed from all his posts in the Party and the State.

It seemed as if the left wing had peacefully inherited power. Two days later, however, it became known that the remaining Cultural Revolution leaders, Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen, along with a score of others, had been arrested by the PLA unit which had served as Mao's bodyguard. The arrest was carried out by its commander, Wang Dongxing, but was credited to Hua Guofeng. We know little or nothing about the political background of this sudden event. The Jiang Qing faction, later referred to derisively as 'the Gang of Four', were accused of having prepared to seize power by a coup d'État, which was nipped in the bud by Hua Guofeng.

That the Gang of Four actually prepared to seize power by force is not proved, although the circumstantial evidence is impressive and there is ample information to show their desperate attempts to strengthen their political position as the death of Mao Zedong approached. Renewed ideological attack, with the issue of the historical role of Qin Shi Huang Di, the first emperor of a united China, as a means of esoteric communication with their followers; attacks on the reviving establishment in education, industrial management, and other walks of life; the creation of new and the revival of old mass organizations as potential rivals of the party; strikes and other disruptive activities in factories, docks, and railways; the renewed mobilization of the militia -- all this shows their concern that with Mao's death their power and their liberty, and perhaps their lives, would be at risk.

ever, the question of whether, after the death of Mao, they actually

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