Conclusion: The Tragedy of Lin Biao
One of the "best and the brightest" of his generation of CCP veterans, Lin Biao had the intelligence and courage to lead the million-man Fourth Field Army in triumph from the Northeast to South China. Perhaps none of his peers exceeded him at strategic planning or commanding troops on the battlefield. After 1949 he began a promising political career in which he rose to become defense minister in 1959. Only a dozen years later he died a mysterious death in the Mongolian desert at the age of 64, and he was posthumously the target of severe criticism and was even tried as a "counter-revolutionary" in 1980-81.
Lin's tragedy, however, was not just a personal matter. As a ranking member of the national leadership, he cannot escape all responsibility for the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, which ruined or ended the lives of millions of people. From the perspective of that leadership, the Cultural Revolution was largely the result of the personal and political problems of Mao and a few other members of his ruling clique, including Lin Biao.
But the profound movement that was the Cultural Revolution had deep roots. This study has emphasized extra-institutional factors in Chinese politics to help explain the origins of the Cultural Revolution, but other approaches may be equally helpful. Every study of the Cultural Revolution should take into consideration the dynamics of the interaction between leaders and circumstances.1 In fact, one way to fill in the gaps between two seemingly disparate levels of analysis, the institutional and the extra-institutional, is to study the interaction between the leaders and the led.
Mao was a frustrated man over the last decade of his life. In his later years, he was unable to see his personal limitations and could not have overcome them even if he had recognized them. Gradually, his personal preoccupations and senile paranoia created a predicament he finally es-