The Cultural Revolution

Conversely, the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) was Mao's attempt to purge China of anything deemed corruptive to the revolutionary cause. The government and local citizens suppressed anything considered western, American, or European, and anything that promoted capitalism or democracy. Homes were invaded, dissidents were imprisoned in reeducation camps, and prisoners were executed for their crimes against the state. This damaged China's economy and led to the persecution of tens of millions of people. Historians estimate up to 20 million people were killed.

Read this text on the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Make a timeline of these events. How does the Cultural Revolution compare with the Great Leap Forward?


Despite staving off the Gang of Four, Hua Guofeng continued to invoke Mao's name and cult of personality to justify his policies. He thus launched the so-called "Two Whatevers," saying "Whatever policy originated from Chairman Mao, we must continue to support," and "Whatever directions were given to us from Chairman Mao, we must continue to work on their basis". In economic policy, Hua intended to move the Chinese system toward the Soviet-style planning of the early 1950s.

Photo of Deng Xiaoping

Deng Xiaoping

Under pressure from other Party leaders, Hua also decided to bring Deng Xiaoping back into regular state affairs, naming him Vice-Premier of the State Council in July 1977 and later to various other positions. In August, the Party's Eleventh Congress was held in Beijing, officially naming (in ranking order) Hua Guofeng, Deng Xiaoping, Ye Jianying, Li Xiannian, and Wang Dongxing as members of the Politburo Standing Committee. Deng gradually consolidated his power base, and on July 1, 1978 he publicized Mao's self-criticism report of 1962 regarding the Great Leap Forward. On this foundation, in September 1978, he began to openly attack Hua Guofeng's "Two Whatevers".

On December 18, 1978, at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh CCP Congress, Deng stated that "a liberation of thoughts" was needed within the Party. Hua Guofeng was required to engage in self-criticism, stating that his doctrine of the "Two Whatevers" was wrong. The Tiananmen Square incident in support of Zhou Enlai was politically rehabilitated, and even Liu Shaoqi was allowed a belated state funeral.

In the Fifth Plenum of the Eleventh CCP Congress, held in 1980, many other Party members who had been purged during the Cultural Revolution were rehabilitated. Hu Yaobang was named General-Secretary and Zhao Ziyang, another of Deng's protégés, was named into the Central governing apparatus. In September, Hua Guofeng resigned, with Zhao Ziyang being named the new Premier. Deng added to his portfolio the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission. By this time, Deng was the foremost and paramount figure in Chinese politics, Mao's infallibility was officially rejected, and the Cultural Revolution firmly discredited.