The Cultural Revolution

Cultural Revolution

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, better known simply as the (Chinese) Cultural Revolution(文革 - wéngé), was a massive social upheaval from 1966 through 1976 brought on by a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China, in which at least half a million people died and the People's Republic of China was brought to the brink of civil war.

Students and Tsinghua University attack the old Tsinghua Gate, which would later be rebuilt.

Students and Tsinghua University attack the old Tsinghua Gate, which would later be rebuilt.

The Cultural Revolution was initiated by Party Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966 to reassert his leadership after the disasters of the Great Leap Forward which led to a loss of power to reformist rivals such as Liu Shaoqi. Between 1966 and 1968, Mao's principal lieutenants, Defense Minister Lin Biao and Mao's wife Jiang Qing, organized a mass youth militia called the Red Guards to overthrow Mao's enemies and purge the state apparatus of "capitalist roaders". In the chaos and violence that ensued, much of China's artistic legacy was destroyed, millions were persecuted, some of whom lost their lives.

Although the Red Guards were disbanded in 1969, the Cultural Revolution continued during the period between 1969 and the arrest of the so-called Gang of Four in 1976. In the interim, Lin Biao mysteriously died in an airplane crash after being accused of attempting to overthrow Mao in a coup, many other officials were purged, the Chinese educational system was brought to a standstill as students were sent to rural communes, and technological advancement ground to a halt as ideology took precedence over expertise.

The official Chinese view separates Mao's "mistakes" during the Cultural Revolution from his earlier heroism and general theories on Marxism-Leninism. The Cultural Revolution thus remains a sensitive issue within the China today. Historical views which run counter to the official version – either by suggesting that the Cultural Revolution was a good thing or that Mao was either more or less culpable than the official history indicates – are routinely censored.

Source: New World Encyclopedia,
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