Rebellion and Factionalism in a Chinese Province: Zhejiang, 1966-1976

By Keith Forster | Go to book overview

Chapter One
THE OUTBREAK OF THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION, MAY 1966 - FEBRUARY 1967

When the Cultural Revolution commenced in 1966, the provincial leadership in Zhejiang, like its counterparts elsewhere in China, faced an unprecedented set of circumstances. Polemics on the literary front, initiated by Yao Wenyuan's broadside against Wu Han's play, Hai Rui Dismissed from Office, spread to the political sphere, engulfing Beijing's municipal leadership in the process. Student unrest on campuses in the national capital expanded in scope and militancy. Calls were made for the dismissal of school administrators for unspecified but sweeping crimes including the attempt to suppress the protest. When Mao Zedong added his voice to that of the rebels by demanding the overthrow of the "bourgeois headquarters" within the CCP, it was clear that the Cultural Revolution was to go beyond the bounds of previous mass movements and political campaigns, both in its scope and method of conduct.

With Mao's political victory at the CCP CC 11th Plenum in August 1966, a new social force known as the Red Guards burst upon the political scene to spearhead the campaign. Initially, these young zealots targeted academics in schools and colleges as well as seeking out and destroying examples (whether architectural, written or symbolic) of the feudalistic nature of China's culture. Next they turned their attention to party officials who had cynically manipulated the often genuine resentment that the young felt toward privilege and autocratic leadership and who had diverted it from the real power-holders -- that is, the cadres themselves.


The Zhejiang Political Scene

Since 1949 Zhejiang had been ruled by cadres drawn largely from the 3rd Field Army, which had marched into the province at the beginning of that year.1 Many of the civilian cadres who arrived in the wake of the PLA were natives of Shandong or northern Jiangsu provinces. Local communist activists who had

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