Yiqiao Huang, Grade 11
A certain event known as the “class struggle” occurred in recent Chinese history, from May 1966 to October 1976, and is known as the “Cultural Revolution” (Central Government Portal). Around the time after the formation of “The New China” in 1949, the fragile new society explored its path forward. To reemphasize the importance of the government in China and resolve the “many new contradictions in socialist construction”, Communist leader Mao Zedong called upon the younger generation to “reform” and “purify” the country through mass political movements to revive the “revolutionary spirit” (Cultural Revolution Video). Intended as a political campaign, it went down the wrong direction and left the country in turmoil (Editors). Chinese economy declined because students were away from school and workers were absent from work. Red Guards entered areas, “purifying” the society by criticizing scholars, the rich, etc. (Cultural Revolution Video) During that was also the elimination of the “four olds” – ideas, customs, habits, things (Durdin). The visual evidence of old things was destroyed, as well as carnivals burning old books and smashing old works of art.
The premier Zhou Enlai put forward the opinion to criticize the extreme left trend of thoughts, which was mistaken by Mao as “extreme right” and put himself on guard against Zhou (Tong et al.). He tried to control the “revolution” within a certain range and made every effort to protect production with less interference and loss so that the people’s life such as food, clothing, and use could be guaranteed, and production could develop slightly. He also sought to protect veteran cadres, and finally make the healthy forces within the party mainstream, defeat the two counter-revolutionary groups to adjust mistakes politically.
By the time Mao died, millions had been killed or committed suicide, and others were falsely labeled as “counter-revolutionaries”, suffering property damage, physical and mental torture and humiliation, and imprisonment (Editors). The rulers of the country admitted that this was a disaster, which only brought “serious chaos, destruction, and setbacks” (Phillips). There was a concentrated group of four which was perceived by the successive leader, Deng Xiaoping, who helped smash the “gang of four” and put an end to the cultural revolution (CPC Report).
China was in disarray after the destruction of the cultural revolution. Deng Xiaoping set forth to overturn false cases from the past (CPC Report). Economically, in special, China turned towards the international path. In hierarchical opinions, also, millions of victims of past political campaigns were released from “labor camps”, removing bad “class labels”, such as “social vermin”, from the people humiliated by them, which greatly improved the production quality (Phillips).
The adjustment of mistakes began with the perception of faults in the thoughts, the “extreme left” path undertaken by Mao, which paved way for the later economic boom. The success took place when the mistake was recognized and actions were taken, but it was incomplete. The lingering effects of the Cultural Revolution on the people’s mentality and the country’s economy would take more than the 10 years wasted to recover (Phillips). The “Cultural Revolution” is not and cannot be a revolution or social progress in any sense, and the millions of scholars, intellectuals, writers, teachers, and the lost years of youth in the children’s education cannot be recuperated. The murdered lives cannot relive, and painful legacies remain after this chaotic time in China.
Central Government Portal. “‘文化大革命’的十年 [Ten Years of the Cultural Revolution].” Yearbook of the People’s Republic of China, 24 June 2005, http://www.gov.cn/test/2005-06/24/content_9300.htm.
CPC Report. “Laying the Foundation for Ending the Cultural Revolution: After Deng Xiaoping Returned to the Central Committee in 1975.” Information_Phoenix Network, 4 Aug. 2007, https://news.ifeng.com/history/1/200708/0804_335_176437_2.shtml.
Durdin, Tillman. “China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds’.” The New York Times, 19 May 1971. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/1971/05/19/archives/china-transformed-by-elimination-of-four-olds.html.
Editors, History com. “Cultural Revolution.” HISTORY, https://www.history.com/topics/china/cultural-revolution. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.
Phillips, Tom. “The Cultural Revolution: All You Need to Know about China’s Political Convulsion.” The Guardian, 11 May 2016. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/11/the-cultural-revolution-50-years-on-all-you-need-to-know-about-chinas-political-convulsion.
Tong, Xiaopeng, et al. “周恩来在‘文化大革命’时期对党和国家的巨大贡献 [Zhou Enlai’s Great Contribution to the Party and the State during the ‘Cultural Revolution’].” Communist Party of China News--Communist Party of China News - People’s Daily Online, http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/69112/75843/75873/5167255.html. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.
[我们走在大路上] 文化大革命 [We Are on the Road] Cultural Revolution. Directed by Yan Wang, 2019, https://tv.cctv.com/2019/09/19/VIDEEe1MT0byZnRPivjlbvE4190919.shtml.
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