China's English: A History of English in Chinese Education

By Bob Adamson | Go to book overview

5 The Cultural Revolution, 1966–76

The heyday of English in China's schools was brief. The two political lines (i.e., ideology-oriented and economics-oriented) which could be discerned in the CCP as early as the mid-1950s came into sharp conflict once more in the mid1960s, as Mao Zedong felt his political power base under threat from economic reformers. Mao responded to the reforms of the early 1960s by launching the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as the movement was euphemistically called, through an editorial published by the Liberation Army Daily on 18 April 1966 (Hsu, 1990). The agenda for the Cultural Revolution adopted at the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth CCP Central Committee on 8 August 1966 was summarized in sixteen points in the 'Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution'. The movement was designed to 'criticize-struggle-transform', in particular 'to struggle against and overthrow those persons in authority who are taking the capitalist road, to criticise and repudiate the reactionary bourgeois academic [authorities] and the ideology of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes and to transform education, literature and art and all other parts of the superstructure not in correspondence with the socialist economic base' (quoted in Li, 1995: 411).

The Cultural Revolution was the largest and longest lasting of the political movements that Mao launched in China. Mao's aims were to re-establish class struggle as the main thrust of policy and social action, to eradicate feudal customs, culture and ideas, and to place the country under his supreme leadership. These were to be achieved by politicizing the masses and mobilizing the youth as the vanguard of the movement (Hsu, 1990). One of the sixteen points was the formation of the hong weibing (Red Guards) as leaders of the revolutionary movement against capitalist tendencies and traditional aspects of Chinese society. This move confirmed earlier indications that education would be one of the focal points of the Cultural Revolution. In a letter to Defence Minister, Lin Biao, dated 7 May 1966, Mao Zedong wrote:

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China's English: A History of English in Chinese Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor's Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Note on Transliteration xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Barbarian as a Foreign Language 21
  • 3: The Soviet Influence, 1949–60 35
  • 4: Towards Quality in Education, 1961–66 79
  • 5: The Cultural Revolution, 1966–76 107
  • 6: Modernization under Deng Xiaoping, 1977–93 129
  • 7: Integrating with Globalization, 1993 Onwards 169
  • 8: China's English 195
  • Appendix 211
  • Notes 215
  • References 219
  • Index 227
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