Mao and Forum the Cultural Revolution in China
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China Commentaries on Mao’s Last Revolution and a Reply by the Authors
One of the most important and tragic events in the latter half of the twentieth century—an event that both inºuenced and was inºuenced by the Cold War—was the Greater Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, inspired by Mao Zedong. The Cultural Revolution, starting in 1966 and continuing until Mao’s death in 1976, reached its height from October 1966 through the ªrst few months of 1969, at the very time that a Sino-Soviet military confrontation was brewing. The Cultural Revolution was aimed at destroying much of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), an entity that Mao had periodically scaled back through ruthless purges, and was also targeted against anyone suspected of being an “intellectual.” In 1967 the so-called Cultural Revolution Authority (headed by Mao, Jiang Qing, and Lin Biao) set up a Revolutionary Committee in Shanghai, which launched a chaotic wave of terror across China. High-ranking ofªcials were subjected to public denunciations, ritual humiliation, and severe physical abuse, and the same practices were replicated at all levels of Chinese society, with a good deal of local initiative. An immense number of people were tortured and killed. Despite the closed nature of Chinese society, horriªc accounts of cruelty and violence made their way out of China, and ofªcial broadcasts of public denunciations were widely available. Hence, the broad contours of the mayhem and bloodshed that engulfed China during those years have long been known. What has not been known until recently, however, is the precise nature of Mao’s objectives, the balance between supervision from above and initiative from below, the interaction between central and local authorities, and the radicalizing impact of events in localities on the highest leaders, especially Mao. The proliferation of memoirs by those who lived through the Cultural Revolution (whether as victims, perpetrators, or observers) and the ofªcial publication of formerly secret CCP and government documents have enabled scholars in both China and the West to ªll in at least some of the many gaps in the historical record.
Journal of Cold War Studies Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring 2008, pp. 97–130 © 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The most comprehensive and authoritative account of the Cultural Revolution yet to appear, Mao’s Last Revolution, was recently published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. The two authors of the book, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, are among the world’s foremost experts on Chinese politics under Mao. Their book is so meticulous and draws on such a wealth of sources that it is likely to remain the deªnitive work for many years to come. Although Mao’s Last Revolution focuses primarily on internal events and deals only brieºy with foreign policy issues, an outpouring of recent scholarship by specialists on Chinese foreign relations has shown that events within China and Mao’s domestic political goals had a crucial impact on China’s external policies. Similarly, external developments could in turn be exploited by Mao and others for their domestic purposes. Thus, Mao’s Last Revolution will be essential reading for those who want to study and understand China’s role in the Cold War during these years. Because of the importance of the book, the Journal of Cold War Studies solicited commentaries on it from ªve distinguished scholars: Lynn White, Steven I. Levine, Yafeng Xia, Joseph W. Esherick, and David E. Apter. Their commentaries are published here, along with a reply by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals.
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. xiii 693 pp. $35.00.
Commentary by Lynn White, Princeton University
This book is at once a major academic contribution and a page-turner/ thriller. It shows Mao Zedong in his old age as the master manipulator of Chinese politics. The personalities of the story—Mao, Jiang Qing, Liu Shaoqi, Peng Zhen, Zhou Enlai, and others—are shown here more vividly and with better documentation than in any other publication on the Cultural Revolution (CR). The previous record in that respect was set by MacFarquhar in his 3-volume Origins of the Cultural Revolution, of which this book is in effect the fourth volume.1
1. Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. 1: Contradictions among the People, 1956–1957 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974); Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. 2: The Great Leap Forward, 1958–1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); and Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. 3: The Coming of the Cataclysm, 1961–1966 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
Mao is shown here to be a nearly perfect Machiavellian prince, hiding his intentions from those he chooses as enemies and lying to them until he can spring traps on them. Clearly he enjoyed such ªghts. Any semblance of moral principle in the effects of his actions was purely incidental. The book quotes a characterization of Mao’s police operative, Kang Sheng, as “a man with a heart of stone, who did not know how to cry.” The same could be said of Mao. The information base on which the authors drew for this book is spectacular. Contemporary reports from foreigners in China (Britons, Swedes, Americans, and others) are combined with a mass of Chinese documentation as well as interviews to provide an unprecedented scaffold of facts. The endnotes alone take 126 pages, and many refer to Chinese sources that have never been previously cited in any language. When Mao plotted against leaders as bright as Liu Shaoqi or Deng Xiaoping, why were they so slow to “get it”? MacFarquhar and Schoenhals acknowledge that the reason is “not that Mao had a strategy. Indeed, to have had a strategy for the mass movement and its ‘general offensive’ would have contradicted the basic premise . . . [that] the masses had to liberate themselves” (p. 161). Yet Mao’s concern for “masses,” excepting young women, was highly abstract. Ordinary citizens were separated from what went on behind the vermillion walls of the Zhongnanhai section of the imperial palace, where Communist Party leaders lived, plotted, and often imagined or waged vendettas against each other. It is unclear that Mao had as much foresight as the analysis here sometimes suggests. As the book says, the Chairman always played his cards close to his chest. For example, his text in the May 1966 “Notiªcation” mentioned “representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the Party. . . . Some of them we have already seen through; others we have not. Some are still trusted by us . . . persons like [Nikita] Khrushchev, for example, who are still nestling beside us” (p. 47). Because Zhang Chunqiao a year later admitted that he “did not fully anticipate that Liu Shaoqi” would be one of these “representatives of the bourgeoisie,” perhaps Mao had just been trawling for names. Whatever the case may be, the book makes clearer than any other how much Mao enjoyed catching people. Mao’s Last Revolution neither claims nor needs to claim to be deªnitive about the CR. But the book will, for a long time to come, be the best one available about the topic that its title speciªes. Very little happens in the book outside the Chairman’s broad purview. This trenchant court drama is somewhat difªcult to present alongside sociological explanations of the reasons that struggles for political power became so violent all over China, even in localities in which neither Mao nor his main
enemies or allies knew anyone well. The story of the book is vivid because its Beijing men and their wives are so crisply depicted, but nothing essential in it suggests why the rest of China was so markedly similar. The authors admit in passing (p. 54) that “the process by which Mao translated high-level political intrigue into mass mobilization remains one of the many obscure issues of the Cultural Revolution.” Maybe so, but this issue is important. Without it, the topic is just Mao’s last skullduggeries. The clearest example of a central action that made China’s political pot boil over was Lin Biao’s order to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): “Don’t strike back if hit; don’t talk back if abused” (p. 62), which was joined with similar orders to the police. These injunctions allowed resentment to fester in public, spurring many big-character posters. Yet the book says little about the reasons for such widespread anger at local Communist Party bosses. The form of analysis that has never been better pursued than in this book tells more about the CR’s timing than about its causes. Admittedly, fuel without a spark makes no ªre. Red Guards and news traveling from Beijing brought the CR gospel to other places, but why was it so avidly received? Enthusiasts, especially from secondary schools, mimicked the violence and then used it zealously. More sociological analysis is required to explain why the Red Guards inspired so many Chinese, scattered so widely, to behave so unusually. The “up to the mountains, down to the villages” campaign of 1968 is treated as just an extension of smaller xiafang campaigns in the early 1960s, without sufªcient attention to the social backgrounds of youths who were “sent down” at these times or their reactions to the experience (p. 252). The book’s lengthy bibliography mentions articles that probe into these issues, as well as books by authors such as Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger—but not their joint seminal article on the social origins of student Red Guards in Canton2 nor books by researchers such as Marc Blecher and Gordon White about functional units (not to mention psychologizers such as Richard Solomon or Robert Lifton). The CR is a capacious problem. Despite material in the book from non-Beijing locations that national leaders visited, this study evinces a strong concentration on a few leaders in the capital, almost as if China were a small country. Where local units such as schools or factories are discussed in the book, they are mostly in Beijing. The authors write on p. 157 that “Mao’s ideal government was a small one.” They usually seem to follow the Chinese habit of seeing provincial power as unimportant (which it is not). Ambiguities none2. Anita Chan, Stanley Rosen, and Jonathan Unger, “Students and Class Warfare: The Social Roots of the Red Guard Conºict in Canton,” China Quarterly, No. 83 (Autumn 1980), pp. 397–446.
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
theless arise, for example in the case of Tao Zhu, whose demise Mao viewed with insouciance: “By bringing Tao to the center,” the authors write, “Mao separated a dynamic leader with high-level connections in the capital from his power base” (p. 190), especially in Guangdong. An exception to the book’s Beijing-centrism is its coverage of early 1968, when politics became conspicuously turbulent in China’s large military regions. Mao’s Last Revolution depends on judgments about actors’ motives that are hard to document fully, even though MacFarquhar and Schoenhals do a much better job in this regard than anyone else has. Was Mao’s aim, in recalling Deng Xiaoping, in 1973 really “to restrain Zhou Enlai” (p. 358)? Perhaps, but the book gives more evidence that Zhou, who by then was suffering from serious bouts of angina and cancer, was totally faithful to Mao. Another question of motive has been debated by various scholars: How ambitious was Lin Biao? The assessment in Mao’s Last Revolution is somewhat different from that in a previous analysis by MacFarquhar, as the current book sensibly concedes (p. 335, n. 53). When a prince is as Machiavellian as Mao was, the courtiers become equally scheming. Was Zhou an exception to this rule? Lin’s demise gave more leeway to Zhou, who is depicted here as having been devoid of any moral principles that Mao’s least intimation did not trump. Zhou apparently acted to preserve governmental order (not justice) only when Mao also wanted it. Zhou could be as unsympathetic as his boss toward old comrades, unless Mao also wanted them saved. The discussion on p. 103 is among many passages showing that Mao “had no scruples about the taking of human life.” The level of detail that MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have unearthed about tense personal relations among the dozen or so most powerful leaders of the CR era is unprecedented. Textual and photographic evidence in the book highlights the extent to which Mao and his henchmen arranged the physical torture of their previous comrades, only some of whom succeeded in committing suicide. Schoenhals’s pathbreaking research on the Central Case Examination Group, chaired by Zhou, is reinforced by new information in this book to revise Zhou’s general image from mainly moderate to mainly lapdog. Torture regularly elicited false confessions. Whole movements, such as the “May 16 Conspiracy,” were conjured from such fantasies. Mao’s Last Revolution offers the best analysis anywhere of the political degradation wrought by the CR. Sex, and resentment stirred by sex, ªgure surprisingly often in this account. Wang Dongxing (Mao’s bodyguard and bouncer and the closest equivalent to an imperial eunuch that a people’s republic could muster) chose a harem of attractive and politically reliable young women for the Chairman’s service. Lin Biao’s wife, Ye Qun, is repeatedly described as having been “a
woman of easy virtue” in Yan’an days, and her resentment of this reputation apparently fueled her important role in the early ouster of Mao’s chief of staff, Luo Ruiqing, thus letting Mao more freely use the PLA to crush those within the Communist Party whom he deemed disloyal. Many wives (Lin’s, Liu’s, Deng’s, and of course Mao’s) ªgure more notably in this account of the CR than in any other. Speeches and notiªcations, often edited by Mao, were always important even when vague. The dominant power of words, especially directives “emitted from the Center” (Zhongfa), is an analytic premise here. To say that this premise can be documented is a truism; documents are words. The same premise underlies most discourse within China about political causation, but it perhaps excessively downplays factors that are less subject to control by intellectuals, such as unintended material situations (e.g., China’s size, or any other factor not subject to change as quick as thought). Mao’s Last Revolution is nicely dedicated to “all Chinese whose works and words have enlightened us, and to future generations of Chinese historians.” There is nothing deªnitive in this ªeld, and the authors are sensible to admit that. But this book is as close to deªnitive as we will have for a long time. The book will be translated and disseminated in China (no doubt on a restricted basis at ªrst). It will be readily appreciated there, and among scholars of China everywhere. Chinese like to read about clever stratagems, and here Mao is much like Cao Cao. But there is also a Chinese saying, “Lao budu Sanguo” (“Elders shouldn’t read the Three Kingdoms”) because interest in traps and deceit may well subvert respect and kindness for elders. Mao at the last was puerile. His compatriots should read this book and see his impulse to betrayal.
✣ ✣ ✣
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. xiii 693 pp. $35.00. Commentary by Steven I. Levine, University of Montana
If the Cultural Revolution were a video game, it might seem so detached from reality that even fantasy addicts would be hard-pressed to take it seriously. Unfortunately, the joystick that Mao Zedong manipulated was the lever of power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the results of the Cultural Revolution, his all-too-real fantasy game, were chaos, destruction, violent death, and cruelty on a scale fathomable only in the context of Chinese history. This epic chronicle of the Cultural Revolution by Roderick
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, based primarily on a multitude of Chinese published and unpublished sources and interviews, provides an unrivaled historical narrative of a decade-long tragedy that was in some measure the “watershed in the history of the People’s Republic of China” (p. 459). As such, the book is a ªtting sequel to MacFarquhar’s magisterial three-volume The Origins of the Cultural Revolution as well as to Schoenhals’s numerous and valuable earlier contributions to the subject. The authors are well-matched with respect to experience, angles of vision, and scholarly specialization, and the result is a book that combines the minute dissection of elite-level political maneuvering with a vivid sense of the terrible effects of the Cultural Revolution on ordinary Chinese who became the targets and the victims of Mao’s quixotic attempt to save “his” revolution from the supposedly baneful effects of Soviet-style revisionism. Like any good book, this one raises as many questions as it answers. Its contribution lies in its rich detail and the skill with which the authors unravel the tangled skein of Mao’s complex maneuvering and plot the cross-cutting actions of a large cast of mostly unsavory characters in the upper reaches of the CCP as well as in the Red Guard and other mass organizations spawned by the Cultural Revolution. Yet, the grand narrative does little to change our overall understanding of the contours of the “last revolution” and offers little in the way of interpretation except at the micro level. At the heart of the book is Mao Zedong himself. With the exception of Lee Feigon’s contrarian and unpersuasive attempt to redeem Mao’s reputation and Philip Short’s surprisingly uncritical biography that focuses on Mao’s path to the Forbidden City rather than how he exercised power, the Great Helmsman’s stock has not fared well recently.3 The present book can only further depreciate the value of that stock. The authors amply demonstrate the arbitrary, cynical, and wholly self-serving manner in which Mao exercised his power. If the traditional legitimacy of Chinese emperors came from the Mandate of Heaven (tian ming), one might conclude on the basis of Mao’s twenty-seven years in power that his was the Mandate of Hell (diyu ming). MacFarquhar and Schoenhals appear to take at face value Mao’s selfproclaimed motive for launching the Cultural Revolution, namely, to eradicate “revisionism” and restore the revolutionary purity that supposedly had been lost during seventeen years of bureaucratic socialism. They argue that “the Cultural Revolution had always been about the rearing of revolutionary successors” (p. 356) and cite Mao’s initial patronage of radical extremists like Nie Yuanzi and Kuai Dafu and Mao’s reliance on mediocrities like Wang
3. Lee Feigon, Mao: A Reinterpretation (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002); and Philip Short, Mao: A Life (New York: Henry Holt, 2000).
Hongwen and Hua Guofeng as examples of his persistent concern to nurture revolutionary successors. The authors do not probe beneath the surface of what Mao understood by “revisionism” and assume that his antipathy to Soviet-style socialism is self-explanatory. They depict Mao as a victim of his own self-delusion until 27 July 1968, when Tsinghua University students ªred on a work team Mao had ordered onto campus to put an end to factional warfare. “For Mao,” MacFarquhar and Schoenhals write, this event marked “the end of an illusion that if ‘revisionist’ party leaders could be swept aside and [Mao] could speak directly to the people, they would unfailingly follow him. The hearts and minds of his revolutionary successors . . . were not automatically synchronized with his own as he had hoped” (p. 250). Such a formulation tacitly accepts the notion that Mao in essence was an authentic populist whose attempt to liberate the revolutionary fervor and creativity of “the masses” had gone awry rather than seeing him as an utterly ruthless master manipulator of his comrades, his ministers, his generals, his intimates, and the Chinese people in the interest of maximizing his own untrammeled power. After all, what did Mao do with his power? Did he create a just, prosperous, and powerful state that beneªted “the masses” in whose name the revolution had been fought? Hardly. Over the course of decades, the early idealism of the youth from Shaoshan had transmogriªed into the insatiable power lust of a leader for whom revolution was an abstraction that had meaning only for himself, not for the lives of the hundreds of millions of Chinese for whom he cared not a ªg. As Robert J. Lifton suggested in 1968, the aging Mao was concerned about “revolutionary immortality,” but the deaths of millions of real people meant nothing to him compared to the abstract death of his abstract idea of revolution. Mao inverted reality, preferring symbols to real life because, apart from the squalid details of his personal life, revealed by one of his doctors, Li Zhisui,4 he dwelt in a symbolic universe in which people could be moved about like pieces on a board game. What really bothered Mao was not the rise of what Milovan Djilas termed a “new class” (of which Mao himself, of course, was the chief exemplar), a class consisting mostly of privileged Communist bureaucrats in the form of the nomenklatura, but the emergence of real or imagined threats to his own untrammeled authority from whatever point on the political compass such threats might come. Mao constantly pitted individual leaders and factions against one another and manipulated his comrades with the dexterity of a Chinese puppet master. He elevated Lin Biao and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to the top of the heap, only to dash them to the ground soon af4. Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician, trans. by Tai Hung-Chao (New York: Random House, 1994).
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
ter. (The treatment in Mao’s Last Revolution of the Lin Biao affair is rather sketchy, inconclusive, and less satisfactory than the masterful analysis of numerous other episodes.) After the Lin Biao affair, Mao recalled Deng Xiaoping in 1973 to avoid “a backlash among PLA generals” (p. 358) and restrain Zhou Enlai. But did Zhou really pose a threat to Mao? That hardly seems credible unless Mao completely misread the man whom Li Zhisui referred to accurately as “Mao’s slave.” Zhou’s reputation, at least in most Western historiography, is still as overvalued as Enron stock before its collapse. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals cast Zhou in his accustomed role of Mr. Moderate, who struggled to hold the party, the state apparatus, and the military together amid mounting chaos, and who did what he could to blunt the worst of Mao’s excesses. But the record shows that Zhou’s actual accomplishments amounted to very little. Moreover, during the latter half of the Cultural Revolution, he was busy managing the opening to the United States while dying of cancer. Instead of understanding Zhou as a lone voice of sanity in the lunatic asylum of China during the Cultural Revolution, we should, in the language of addiction, view him as an enabler or facilitator who made it possible for Mao to act out his murderous fantasies in the certainty that Zhou could be counted on to keep things from falling totally apart. Even so, Mao distrusted Zhou and sought to hold him in check. When a man cannot trust his dog, the depth of his paranoia is self-evident. Zhou had been slavishly loyal to Mao, following every twist and turn in the Chairman’s labyrinth, a one-man act holding China together. Rather than being like a boy with his ªnger in the dike, he was more like a hundred-armed Buddha. The Cultural Revolution undoubtedly went deeply against the grain of an urbane and cultured Communist aristocrat like Zhou, yet throughout this time he showed himself to be a supreme opportunist, perhaps the most pathetic of the coterie of sycophants who clung to Mao like remoras on a shark. Among the handful of top leaders, Zhou alone, the indispensable man with a reputation and authority second only to Mao’s, might conceivably have been able to dissuade Mao from his folly or at least might have been able to mobilize the party old guard and the marshals to strangle the Cultural Revolution in its cradle. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals only lightly touch on this possibility. The coup d’état that saw the arrest of the Gang of Four on 6 October 1976, nine months after Zhou’s death and four weeks after Mao’s, might have been attempted ten years earlier had Zhou been a man of sterner stuff. In that case, Mao and Jiang Qing might have suffered the fate of the Guangxu Emperor at the hands of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi following the aborted 1898 reforms and become prisoners of the palace or even of the dread Qincheng
Prison. Certainly, China would have been better off if a real military coup had been carried out in 1966 by the old marshals. Such a venture would have had to proceed without the support of Lin Biao, a consummate toady doubly twisted by illness and ambition. Instead, Zhou viciously attacked men who had been his closest associates including Ye Jianying, Chen Yi, and Zhu De. One wonders what Mao really thought of this man on whom he depended so heavily, a man who serviced the state with the suppleness and lubricity of the women who serviced Mao’s bed. If Zhou was not Mao’s slave, he was in effect his court eunuch. In the end, of course, it was Deng Xiaoping who turned out to be Mao’s posthumous nemesis, much as the Cultural Revolution radicals had indeed predicted. The Great Helmsman, who knew only how to steer onto the rocks, spared Deng the fate of Liu Shaoqi, who died an excruciating death unattended in Kaifeng. Mao needed Deng to hold things together while Zhou lay dying. Like Ishmael, the narrator of Moby Dick, Deng, too, was the survivor of a wreck. Unlike Ishmael, who merely lived to tell the tale, Deng rewrote the script of Chinese history just enough to liberate the Chinese people from the tyranny of Mao’s utopian Leninism but not enough to allow them to choose freely their path to the future. Unhappily, the authors’ verdict that the Cultural Revolution was “truly the last stand of Chinese conservatism,” a ªnal effort “to perpetuate a distinctly Chinese essence in the modern world,” seems premature at best, although we may all be fairly certain that there will never be another Mao. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals argue that the Cultural Revolution was a watershed in the history of the PRC, but was it also an aberration? I think not. The Cultural Revolution was the distilled essence of the politics of the Maoist era. Moreover, it lasted a full decade, more than one-third of the period of Mao’s rule. None of its features were new. Vicious intra-party purges of both high- and low-ranking cadres accompanied by intense psychological pressure and torture were part of the standard operating procedure of Mao and the CCP from at least the late 1920s. The same was true of the mobilization of the masses or, perhaps more accurately, the unleashing of the dregs of Chinese society in an atmosphere that not merely permitted but rewarded violence, cruelty, and attacks on culture that exceeded any of the crimes of the Taliban in Afghanistan. One wonders whether a more dysfunctional political system than that of China under the Great Helmsman has ever existed. The CCP Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee increasingly came to resemble an institution for aged criminals or the criminally insane. The authors’ struggle to delineate the logic of Mao’s contradictory behavior—for example, his simultaneous support of rival factions—founders on the supposition that rationality
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
underlay his actions. Why did Mao’s colleagues, not just the timorous Zhou Enlai, succumb so easily to his will? MacFarquhar and Schoenhals refer to “the fear and pusillanimity that gripped Mao’s colleagues, transªxed like rabbits in front of a cobra” (p. 458). But this misses the point. These men and women were not merely pusillanimous. They were also complicitous in his crimes. These were not rabbits, but sharks in a feeding frenzy, feeding on their wounded and bleeding comrades. One looks in vain for a hero in this story. Among the top leaders, only Peng Zhen, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and mayor of Beijing, who was an early victim of the Cultural Revolution, acted honorably and sought to protect his subordinates. These were not Greek heroes, good men and women with a single tragic ºaw; they are empowered gangsters, villains one and all, who mouth revolutionary slogans and feign devotion to the ideals of socialism. Meanwhile, in the lower depths, the Red Guards and other lumpen elements engaged in what was a politicized and at least partly condoned form of gang warfare not unlike that between the Bloods and the Crips on the streets of Los Angeles with the stakes not dissimilar as well; namely, turf, prestige, and the power of life and death. Contemporary Chinese who accuse Japan of historical amnesia and of failing to confront the historical sins of their grandfathers should look in the mirror and ponder the horrors that their own parents and grandparents inºicted on each other in the name of their blind loyalty to the Great Teacher and Great Helmsman. The terrible truth is that no foreign invader has inºicted greater damage on the Chinese people and Chinese culture than the Chinese have inºicted on themselves over the past 150 years. It is not something to take pride in. China would beneªt from the appointment of a Special Historian Prosecutor who would not merely chronicle but also judge the leaders responsible for the Cultural Revolution. Of course, this is really a task for a future democratic China as a whole. One hopes that someday Mao’s corpse, or whatever it is that lies on display in his mausoleum, will be removed from its position on the central axis of power in Beijing and reinterred in his native village of Shaoshan, where grandparents may frighten children into obedience with stories of his monstrosity. Then this ugly architectural monument to the megalomania, cruelty, vanity, addiction to violence, and destructiveness of an arbitrary and capricious leader whom too many Chinese and others mistook for a philosopher king might be transformed into a museum commemorating the countless victims of his unhappy reign.
✣ ✣ ✣
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. xiii 693 pages. $35.00. Commentary by Yafeng Xia, Long Island University, Brooklyn
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, the two leading experts in the West on China’s Cultural Revolution (CR) from 1966 to 1976, have done a great service in providing a masterly historical survey of the CR. MacFarquhar, a Harvard historian and former member of the British Parliament, and Schoenhals, a Swedish expert on China, offer a full-length narrative of the Cultural Revolution from its eve to the arrest of the Gang of Four (including Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, and her close radical Shanghai allies Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao, and Yao Wenyuan) in October 1976, a month after Mao’s death, marking the ofªcial end-date of the CR. Mao’s Last Revolution is the ªrst grand synthesis of the history of the CR. Academic study of the CR in China itself started in 1986 when Gao Gao and Yan Jiaqi, who went into foreign exile from China after 1989, published “Wenhua dageming” shinian shi, 1966–1976 (A History of the Ten-Year “Great Cultural Revolution,” 1966–1976). Relying mainly on ofªcial Chinese sources, Gao and Yan argued that the CR was “the brainchild and creature of the Gang of Four and the Lin Biao clique.” In 1988, another major work appeared, Da dongluande niandai (A Decade of Great Upheaval), by Wang Nianyi. Nonetheless, the study of the CR remained a sensitive topic in China, and all publications dealing with it were strictly censored. In 1996, with the approval of the Central Committee apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Xuan and Jin Chunming published “Wenhua dageming” jianshi (A Short History of the “Great Cultural Revolution”), a general yet important study of the CR. But a truly comprehensive and full-length narrative of the CR has yet to be published in Chinese. In English, the literature on the Cultural Revolution is immense. One of the best previous publications on this topic is Barbara Barnouin and Yu Changgen, Ten Years of Turbulence: The Chinese Cultural Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). In an earlier trilogy, titled The Origins of the Cultural Revolution (and published serially in 1974, 1983, and 1997 by Columbia University Press), MacFarquhar thoroughly explored Chinese high politics from 1956, when Mao started to cast doubt on the revolutionary potential of the Soviet model, to the eve of the CR in 1966 when the Chinese leader was busy removing “revisionists” from positions of power. Drawing on a large array of Chinese sources that have become available since the early 1980s, including ofªcial collections, selected writings of leaders, documentary anthologies, personal memoirs, chronologies, and biogra108
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
phies, plus many previously untapped documents such as handwritten diaries, privately published memoirs, Red Guard handbills, intra-party investigation reports, handwritten confessions, personal notes of meetings and speeches, and original mimeographs of party documents, this new book is likely to stand as close as we can get to a deªnitive narrative of the CR. The ªrst two-thirds of the book (chs. 2–17) recount the events from 1965 to 1969, the heyday of the CR. The 1965 campaign against the drama Hai Rui Dismissed from Ofªce, written by Wu Han, a renowned historian and vice mayor of Beijing, sparked the outbreak of the revolution. When Mao started his assault on the bureaucracy he had set up since 1949, his real target was Peng Zhen, a CCP Central Committee Politburo member and mayor of Beijing. In May 1966, not only Peng Zhen but also the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Luo Ruiqing; the head of the CCP Central Propaganda Department, Lu Dingyi; and the head of the CCP General Department, Yang Shangkun became the ªrst high-ranking victims of the CR. The purge of the “Peng-Luo-Lu-Yang” clique inaugurated the ofªcial launching of the CR (p. 39). The ouster and persecution of countless minor ofªcials followed. “Suicides became increasingly common” for those “who refused to accept such fates” (p. 43). Mao had won his ªrst major campaign. In phase two, Mao’s real target was the head of state, Liu Shaoqi, who was Mao’s heir apparent. But even members of Mao’s inner circle were unaware of his true intention in May 1966 when he denounced “persons like Khrushchev, for example, who are still nestling beside us” (p. 47). Mao was determined to create “great disorder under heaven” so that he could eventually achieve “great order under heaven.” He “would manipulate a mass movement at China’s educational institutions to unseat the head of state” (p. 52). With Mao’s ofªcial endorsement of China’s ªrst Marxist-Leninist Big-Character poster in early June 1966, chaos ensued throughout the PRC. The Red Guards beat their teachers and superiors and smashed “the four olds” (old ideas, old cultures, old customs, and old habits of the exploiting classes), and worker “rebels” seized power in factories. Mao had to mobilize the PLA to suppress factional ªghting. With the paralysis of the party apparatus and government bureaucracies, army-dominated “revolutionary committees” took over the running of the country. By July 1968 the glory days of the Red Guards were over. In the next few years, millions of Red Guards and urban youth were sent to the countryside (p. 251). At a CCP Central Committee plenum in October 1968, Liu Shaoqi was formally labeled a “traitor, renegade, and scab,” expelled from the CCP, and dismissed from all his other posts (p. 277). This phase culminated with the Ninth Party Congress in April 1969, when Lin Biao was designated Mao’s “best student, comrade-in-arms, and chosen successor” (p. 291). Although
Mao had intended the Ninth Party Congress to be “the watershed, between old and new, bad and good, pollution and purity, revisionism and revolution,” it did not work out that way. The Congress proved to be “a transitional rather than a terminating event in histories of the Cultural Revolution” (p. 285). The second part of the book (chs. 18–25) covers events from the end of the Ninth Party Congress to the ofªcial end of the CR. The focus of narration is more on high politics than events in society. Mao became even more paranoid during this period, and in August 1970, at the Second Plenum of the Ninth Party Congress, he turned against Lin Biao and his followers over the issue of who should succeed Liu Shaoqi as the President of the PRC. Lin, his wife, and his son soon died in a mysterious plane crash while ºeeing to the Soviet Union (p. 335). At this point, Mao apparently regarded his own wife, Jiang Qing, and her Shanghai henchmen as his true ideological heirs. But he knew that his radical supporters were not experienced in running the country. In the wake of the Lin Biao incident, Mao chose to rehabilitate Deng Xiaoping and other “capitalist roaders” whom he had previously discarded during the CR (p. 339). In foreign policy, Mao also reversed his longstanding anti-American orientation and achieved a rapprochement with the United States in 1972.5 Mao was tormented between maintaining his image as a world revolutionary leader and forming a tacit alliance with the United States, the “No. 1 imperialist power,” to offset the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. On the one hand, Mao supported Zhou Enlai’s effort to improve relations with the United States. On the other, he was ready to drop Zhou and make him a scapegoat. This explains why Mao instigated the torture of Zhou at a November 1973 meeting of the CCP Politburo and in the 1974 “Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius” campaign (in which Confucius served as a proxy for Zhou). Mao’s succession plan failed after his death. The radical leaders were too arrogant to tolerate the old guard, and Deng Xiaoping was unwilling to compromise and form an alliance with the Gang of Four. In April 1976, barely ªve months before the end of his life, Mao removed Deng once again and allowed the Gang of Four to launch a series of political campaigns against other leaders. Mao designated an ill-qualiªed new successor, Hua Guofeng. Less than a month after Mao’s death, Hua, with the support of some members of the old guard, arrested Mao’s wife and her radical colleagues. Hua himself was able to rule China for only about two years until Deng Xiaoping emerged as the paramount leader. In this phase of the CR, the aging Mao diluted military
5. On this shift, see Yafeng Xia, “China’s Elite Politics and Sino-American Rapprochement, January 1969–February 1972,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Fall 2006), pp. 3–28.
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
involvement in politics, got rid of Lin Biao, purged some military leaders, and reinstalled some old guards in power. As MacFarquhar and Schoenhals note, this phase marked “an ending [of the Cultural Revolution] so painfully drawn out, so tortuously slow, that it would last more than twice as long as the event it supposedly brought to a close” (p. 281). Writing in 1986, Lucian Pye highlighted three key questions about the Cultural Revolution.6 The ªrst of these was the causes and origins. Speciªcally, why did Mao decide to tear down what he had done so much to create, and why did Chinese society as a whole react in such extreme ways to the initiatives of a small group of leaders? The second question is how individuals experienced the CR. The third is the impact of the CR on the major institutions of Chinese society. In discussing the causes and origins of the CR, scholars in China have advanced more than a dozen explanations, but no consensus has been reached. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals offer two lines of interpretation. They claim, ªrst, that Mao was motivated by revolutionary ideals and was disappointed with the Soviet experiment, which he believed had created a privileged bureaucratic class that abandoned revolutionary ideals. He therefore set out to “smash the old culture,” “weed out capitalist roaders in the Party,” and create a “new socialist man.” This explanation, however, is no longer convincing in light of revelations over the past ten to ªfteen years about Mao’s extravagant lifestyle: multiple villas, private trains, and a string of mistresses. The second line of interpretation put forth by MacFarquhar and Schoenhals is that a power struggle was under way between Mao and Liu Shaoqi. But this argument, too, is unconvincing. If a real struggle had existed, Mao could simply have called a meeting to remove and arrest Liu Shaoqi, as he did with the ultra-loyal Lin Biao. A more plausible explanation for the origins of the CR pertains to Mao’s concern about his earlier disastrous policies. Over the decades, the highest CCP ofªcials such as Chen Duxiu and Wang Ming were held accountable for serious mistakes, and their careers ended tragically. Mao knew that his Great Leap Forward had inºicted catastrophic damage on the country. He thus retreated from the political frontline, leaving the main work to Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. By the early 1960s, Mao sensed that his prestige in the CCP was declining and that he was no longer revered by many of his colleagues, including Liu Shaoqi and Peng Zhen. Thus, Mao worried that he would be denounced by his colleagues after his death, much as Josif Stalin was attacked posthumously in 1956 by Nikita Khrushchev. Mao therefore set
6. Lucian W. Pye, “Reassessing the Cultural Revolution,” China Quarterly, No. 108 (December 1986), pp. 597–612.
out to take drastic measures that would preempt any such action by his colleagues. He never wholeheartedly trusted Lin Biao and used Lin and the army solely to defeat his civilian colleagues. Once that goal had been achieved, Mao turned against Lin and sought to have Jiang Qing and her radical colleagues installed along with his nephew Mao Yuanxin as his successors—an arrangement that he believed would be the only guarantee of his legacy. Fortunately for China, this plan was stillborn. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have done a ªrst-rate job of assessing the damage the CR did to all types of institutions: schools, universities, the CCP, government ministries and bureaus, factories, and agricultural communes. In reassessing the effects of the CR on individuals, the authors do a relatively good job of incorporating a large collection of personal stories, interviews, and memoirs of victims that have been published in the last 40 years. Disillusioned Red Guards and people with “bad class” backgrounds made their stories known in the West as far back as the early 1970s.7 Over the last 25 years, a plethora of memoirs from those who were involved in the CR have been published in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Many of these memoirs are not cited in Mao’s Last Revolution. To be sure, memoirs almost always are self-serving and in some cases contain factual errors and personal biases. Scholars must exercise caution, comparing and double-checking sources. But the memoirs, if used circumspectly, can be an invaluable source.8 The recent outpouring of memoirs can be grouped into the following categories:
(1) ofªcials who managed to stay in power and published their memoirs with speciªc chapters on the CR, including Marshal Nie Rongzhen; Marshal Xu Xiangqian9 (not cited in Mao’s Last Revolution); senior diplomats such as Wu Xiuquan10 (not cited) and Geng Biao11 (not cited); the senior economic ofªcial Xu Muqiao12 (not cited); and provincial leaders
7. For example, Ken Ling, Revenge of Heaven: From Schoolboy to “Little General” in Mao’s Army (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972). 8. On the memoirs of the CR, see Chung Yen-Lin, “A Study on the Memoirs of the Cultural Revolution: The Characteristics and Historical Value,” Dongya yanjiu [East Asian Studies], Vol. 37, No. 1 (January 2006), pp. 134–159. 9. Xu Xiangqian, Lishi de huigu [Reviewing History] (Beijing: Jiefangjun Chubanshe, 1987). 10. Wu Xiuquan was deputy head of the CCP International Liaison Department on the eve of the CR. See Wu Xiuquan, Wu Xiuquan jiangjun zishu [General Wu Xiuquan’s Personal Account] (Shenyang: Liaoning Renmin Chubanshe, 1998). 11. Geng Biao was Chinese ambassador to Burma on the eve of the CR. See Geng Biao, Geng Biao huiyilu: 1949–1992 [Memoirs of Geng Biao, 1949–1992] (Nanjing: Jiangsu Renmin Chubanshe, 1998). 12. Xu Muqiao was deputy director of the State Economy Commission. See Xu Muqiao, Xu Muqiao huiyilu [Memoirs of Xu Muqiao] (Tianjin: Tianjin Renmin Chubanshe, 1996).
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
such as Jiang Weiqing13 (not cited), Zeng Sheng14 (not cited), and Yang Yichen15 (not cited); (2) Mao’s radical followers, such as Chen Boda (his son Chen Xiaonong edited works on the father), Wang Li, Xu Jingxian, Nie Yuanzi, and other beneªciaries of the CR such as Wang Dongxing, Wu De16 (not cited), and Zhang Hanzhi (with books about her husband, Qiao Guanhua, who was vice foreign minister and then foreign minister during the CR); (3) prime victims, such as General Wan Yi17 (not cited), Liu Ying18 (not cited), Xu Zhucheng19 (not cited), Qian Jiaju20 (not cited), and Ji Xianlin21 (not cited); as well as relatives of important leaders or victims such as Zeng Zhi22 (not cited), Kang Keqing23 (not cited), Zhu Zhongli24 (not cited), Deng Rong (Deng Xiaoping’s daughter), Luo Diandian (Luo Ruiqing’s daughter), and Zhou Bingde25 (not cited);
13. Jiang Weiqing was ªrst party secretary of the Jiangsu provincial CCP committee. See Jiang Weiqing, Qishinian zhengcheng: Jiang Weiqing huiyilu [Seventy-year Journey: Memoirs of Jiang Weiqing] (Nanjing: Jiangsu Renmin Chubanshe, 1996). 14. Zeng Sheng was vice governor of Guangdong province. See Zeng Sheng, Zeng Sheng huiyilu [Memoirs of Zeng Sheng] (Beijing: Jiefangjun Chubanshe, 1991). 15. Yang Yichen was vice governor of Helongjiang province. See Yang Yichen, Yang Yichen huiyilu [Memoirs of Yang Yichen] (Beijing: Zhongyang Wenxian Chubanshe, 1996). 16. Wu De was a leader of Beijing from 1966 to 1976. See Zhu Yuanshi, Wu De koushu, shinian fengyu jishi—Wo zai Beijing gongzuo de yixie jingli [Oral Account of Wu De, A Record of Ten Years of Wind and Rain—My Work Experience in Beijing ] (Beijing: Dangdai Zhongguo Chubanshe, 2004). 17. Wan Yi was deputy director of the State Science and Technology Commission for National Defense in the 1950s and was purged after the Lushan Conference in 1959. See Wan Yi, Wan Yi huiyilu [Memoirs of Wan Yi] (Beijing: Zhonggong Dangshi Chubanshe, 1998). 18. Zhang Wentian was a top CCP leader in the 1930s and deputy foreign minister in the 1950s. He was purged together with Marshal Peng Dehuai at the Lushan Conference in 1959. Liu Ying was Zhang Wentian’s wife. See Liu Ying, Wo he Zhang Wentian mingyunyugong de licheng [Sharing the Same Fate—The Life Journey of Zhang Wentian and I] (Beijing: Zhonggong Dangshi Chubanshe, 1997). 19. Xu Zhucheng was the creator of Wenhui bao [Wenhui Daily]. see Xu Zhucheng, Xu Zhucheng huiyilu [Memoirs of Xu Zhucheng ] (Taibei: Shangwu Chubanshe, 1999). 20. Qian Jiaju was a noted economist. see Qian Jiaju, Cong zhuiqiu dao huanmie: Yige Zhongguo jingjixuejia de zizhuan [From Pursuing to Disillusion: An Autobiography of a Chinese Economist] (Taibei: Shidai Wenhua, 1993). 21. Ji Xianlin is a noted Beijing University professor. See Ji Xilin, Niupeng zayi [A Random Reºection on Life at the Cowshed] (Beijing: Zhonggong Zhongyang Dangxiao Chubanshe, 1998). 22. Zeng Zhi was Tao Zhu’s wife. See, Zeng Zhi, Yige geming de xingcunzhe: Zeng Zhi huiyilu [A Survivor of Revolution: Memoirs of Zheng Zhi] (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe, 1999). 23. Kang Keqing was Marshal Zhu De’s wife. See Kang Keqing, Kang Keqing huiyilu [Memoirs of Kang Keqing] (Beijing: Jiefangjun Chubanshe, 1993). 24. Zhu Zhongli was Wang Jiaxiang’s wife. See Zhu Zhongli, Mao Zedong, Wang Jiaxiang zai wode shenghuozhong [Mao Zedong and Wang Jiaxiang in My Life](Beijing: Zhonggong Zhongyang Dangxiao Chubanshe, 1995).Wang Jiaxiang was the ªrst head of the CCP International Liaison Department from 1951 to 1966. 25. Zhou Bingde is Zhou Enlai’s niece. See Zhou Bingde, Wo de bofu Zhou Enlai [My Uncle Zhou Enlai] (Shenyang: Liaoning Renmin Chubanshe, 2001).
(4) those who worked for the leaders, including doctors such as Li Zhisui; bodyguards such as Zhang Yaoci26 (noted cited) and Gao Zhenpu27 (not cited); secretaries such as Lin Ke28 (not cited), Tong Xiaopeng29 (not cited), Yang Yinlu (Jiang Qing’s secretary), Zhang Yunsheng (Lin Biao’s secretary), and Zhang Tingdong (Ye Jianying’s secretary); interpreters such as Ji Chaozhu30 (not cited); and photographers such as Du Xiuxian31 (not cited).
Although MacFarquhar and Schoenhals should be commended for their interpretations and their excellent mastery of Chinese sources, new materials and publications have been coming out every year, and it will take time to determine whether some of the authors’ interpretations will hold up. As is inevitable when dealing with subjects so complex, the reviewer is likely to ªnd ºaws or points of disagreement. For example, the authors write that “when Mao began his rise to supreme leadership from January 1935, Zhou recognized that here ªnally was a man with the vision for the party and country that he himself lacked” (pp. 10–11). But the latest evidence indicates that Zhou came to realize this about Mao only after the Yan’an Rectiªcation Campaign (1941–1943), when Zhou himself became a major target of the movement. Prior to that, Zhou was still angling for position. He had teamed up with Mao’s rival Wang Ming ªrst at the CCP Politburo meeting in December 1937 and then at the CCP’s Yangzi River Bureau in Wuhan in 1938, challenging the CCP Center in Yan’an, to Mao’s great irritation. Zhou would have been expelled from the party had it not been for the leader of the Communist International, Georgi Dimitrov, who sent a telegram on behalf of Zhou and Wang Ming.32 Recently, Shaoguang Wang published an article about the
26. Zhang Yaoci was Mao Zedong’s bodyguard. See Zhang Yaoci, Zhang Yaoci huiyi Mao Zedong [Zhang Yaoci Remembers Mao Zedong] (Xianggang: Sanlian Shudian, 1999). 27. Gao Zhengpu was Zhou Enlai’s bodyguard. See Gao Zhengpu, Zhou Enlai weishi huiyilu [Memoirs of Zhou Enlai’s Bodyguard] (Shanghai: Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe, 2000). 28. Lin Ke was Mao’s secretary, Xu Tao was Mao’s physician, and Wu Xujun was Mao’s head nurse. They published a book on Mao to try to rebut Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao. See Lin Ke, Xu Tao, and Wu Xujun, Lishi de zhenshi—Mao Zedong shenbian gongzuo renyuan de zhengyan [Let Historical Truth Be Told—Eyewitness Account of Mao’s Staff ] (Hong Kong: Liwen Chubanshe, 1995). 29. Tong Xiaopeng was Zhou Enlai’s secretary. See Tong Xiaopeng, Tong Xiaopeng huiyilu [Memoirs of Tong Xiaopeng] (Beijing: Zhongyang Wenxian Chubanshe, 1996). 30. Ji Chaozhu was an interpreter for Mao and Zhou. See Ji Chaozhu, Cong “Yang wawa” dao waijiaoguan: Ji Chaozhu koushushi [From Foreign “Doll” to a Diplomat: Ji Chaozhu Oral History] (Beijing: Beijing Daxue Chubanshe, 2000). 31. Du Xiuxian was a photographer for the highest leaders. See Gu Baozi (articles) and Du Xiuxian (photos), Hongjingtou: Zhongnanhai sheyingshi yanzhong de guoshi fengyun [Red Camera Lens: State Affairs in the Eyes of Zhongnanhai Photographers] (Shenyang: Liaoning Renmin Chubanshe, 1998). 32. Gao Hua, Hongtaiyang shi zenyang shengqi de—Yan’an zhengfeng yundong de lailongqumai [How
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
Wuhan Incident of 20 July 1967 that provides a much clearer and more convincing narrative and analysis of the incident than what we ªnd in Mao’s Last Revolution (pp. 199–220).33 The authors’ claim that “the PRC was voted into the China seat on the United Nations Security Council with U.S. support” on 25 October 1971 is misleading (p. 347). The reality is more complex. It is true that the Nixon administration had shifted its position toward China’s membership at the UN from unconditional exclusion of the PRC to advocating dual membership for both Taipei and Beijing starting in the fall of 1970. When Henry Kissinger was in Beijing for a second visit in October 1971, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly took up the matter. On 22 October the General Assembly placed an Albanian resolution supporting PRC membership on the agenda ahead of U.S. resolutions for dual representation. On 25 October, the General Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority to let Beijing have China’s seat at the UN and expel Taiwan. Also, the main reason that Mao launched his campaign to castigate Zhou Enlai at an enlarged Politburo meeting in November 1973 was not the Taiwan issue as MacFarquhar and Schoenhals claim (p. 361). Instead, Mao suspected that Zhou, during his latest talks with Kissinger, had discussed Sino-American military cooperation and accepted U.S. nuclear protection in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. Zhou was thus accused of “rightist capitulationism.” On p. 380, the authors allege that “in June  a team of doctors had informed the Politburo that Mao had not much more than two years to live.” This statement cannot be supported by available Chinese sources. No one during the CR would have dared to say that Chairman Mao had only two years to live. Apparently, the authors misinterpreted the source they cited, which says that “in June 1974, the second medical team was set up for Mao Zedong. . . . This medical team would exist for more than two years until Mao’s death.” On p. 381, the authors note that “Deng [was] made a CCP vice chairman, [Central Military Affairs Commission] vice chairman, and PLA chief of staff, the ªrst civilian to be given the last post.” The description of Deng as a civilian is not fully accurate. He was one of the highestranking political commissars in the Chinese Communist army from 1937 to 1952 and was also a leading member of the Central Military Affairs Commission of the CCP from 1952 to 1966. He was a politician with strong military credentials. Finally, in a subsequent edition of the book, the authors should correct
Did the Red Sun Rise? A History of Yan’an Rectiªcation Campaign] (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2000), pp. 136–153, 588–593. 33. See Shaoguang Wang, “The Wuhan Incident Revisited,” Chinese Historical Review, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 241–270.
some typographical errors and minor inaccuracies. The general who replaced Chen Zaidao as the commander of the Wuhan Military Region was Zeng Siyu, not Zeng Ziyu (pp. 213, 691). When Deng Xiaoping and his family were in exile in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, they lived in a large two-story building on the grounds of an old infantry school, not “a small apartment” (p. 358). Luo Ruiqing’s military rank was a senior general (“Dajiang” in Chinese, equivalent to a ªve-star general), not a marshal (“Yuanshuai” in Chinese) (p. 471). The author of the article “The Background to the ‘Seizure of Power’ in the Foreign Ministry” is Jin Ge, not Jin Xi (p. 628). These caveats aside, the book will be of immense value for anyone interested in recent Chinese history.
✣ ✣ ✣
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. xiii 693 pp. $35.00. Commentary by Joseph W. Esherick, University of California, San Diego
Forty years after the outbreak of China’s Cultural Revolution, we now have an authoritative history of this momentous upheaval, a volume that is certain to remain the standard work on the subject for years to come. The authors come to this project with unparalleled qualiªcations. Roderick MacFarquhar has already published three volumes on The Origins of the Cultural Revolution (in 1974, 1983, and 1997), each one more detailed and compelling than the last. Michael Schoenhals has been collecting Cultural Revolution material for decades and brings to the project a remarkable command of rare sources and a rare ability to read the hidden messages and human impact of Cultural Revolution rhetoric. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals also represent a particularly complementary pair for this project, the former focusing on elite politics, the latter providing insight into how the Cultural Revolution affected ordinary Chinese. Most of the existing Anglophone scholarship on the Cultural Revolution was written several decades ago, often relying on materials produced by Red Guards and the radicals who dominated the propaganda apparatus until Mao Zedong’s demise in 1976. This volume is able to combine original materials from the Cultural Revolution decade with insider accounts from survivors and victims of the movement who reemerged to tell their stories during and after the Deng Xiaoping era. The 47-page bibliography at the back of Mao’s Last Revolution reºects the extent of this new documentation—and also the considerable effort by the authors and their home institutions (Harvard Uni-
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
versity and Lund University) to assemble it. One ªnds, for example, repeated annotations in the form “Handwritten text. Available at the Fairbank Center Library” or “Schoenhals collection.” The new material and insights are presented here as a chronological narrative of “Mao’s Last Revolution” beginning in 1965, essentially where MacFarquhar ended his three volumes on The Origins. The strength of the account lies in the detailed yet judicious explication of the elite politics of the era. Step by step we are led through Mao’s orchestration of the early stages of the movement—working through his wife Jiang Qing and such henchmen as Kang Sheng. The 1965 purge of the army chief of staff Luo Ruiqing, orchestrated by Defense Minister Lin Biao and his wife, is presented as “the last chance for [the Politburo Standing Committee] to act together to restrain the Chairman before themselves being divided and denounced during the Cultural Revolution” (p. 26). The next few years saw “confusion on campuses” (ch. 3) sown by party leaders acting through family members and personal connections; the explicit condoning of Red Guard violence by the minister of public security, Xie Fuzhi; the dramatic shredding of the central government so that by 1968 some 70 to 90 percent of the original cadres in central ministries had been sent for reeducation at 7th of May Cadre Schools; the real threat of civil war in a standoff between rival military factions in Wuhan; the disbanding of the Red Guards; and the “cleansing of class ranks” carried out in 1968 by the new revolutionary committees that were ultimately responsible for the greatest number of deaths in the provinces. This initial and most chaotic phase of the Cultural Revolution came to an end with the Ninth Party Congress in 1969, which installed a new group of Communist Party leaders. Many would end a history of the Cultural Revolution at this point, conªning their deªnition of the movement to the era of mass participation by Red Guards and open factional ªghting on campuses and in some factories and administrative units in large cities. But the focus in Mao’s Last Revolution on elite politics makes the continuation of the narrative until Mao’s death in 1976 fully justiªed. The obscure dynamics of the fall of Lin Biao in 1971 are a case in point. The initial division between Mao and Lin was manifested in a debate over whether to restore the position of head of state, previously held by the ousted President Liu Shaoqi. Mao expressed his opposition to the idea, and MacFarquhar and Schoenhals interpret Lin’s support for it as a case of “‘working toward the Chairman,’ the attempt by uncertain subordinates to ºatter their leader by going beyond what the latter may have really wanted” (p. 327).34 This was a pattern of politics in Mao’s court, and the book contains
34. This concept is modeled after Ian Kershaw’s notion of “working toward the Führer” in the Third
several other convincing examples. Mao, for his part, was anxious to use the affair to limit the power of the People’s Liberation Army, another sign of his consistent desire to maintain ªrm control of the military. This concern lay behind the return of Deng Xiaoping and the progressive rehabilitation of old cadres in the 1970s. In the end, the authors conclude, the failure of Mao’s utopianism is what led to the dramatic reforms in China over the last thirty years. As they put it, “no Cultural Revolution, no economic reform” (p. 3). One of the hallmarks of all of MacFarquhar’s scholarship has been the deft interweaving of domestic and international inºuences on Chinese (and especially Mao’s) decision-making. The international dimension in this case relates mostly to the Soviet Union. The abrupt removal of the Soviet Communist Party leader, Nikita Khrushchev, in October 1964 represented a dangerous precedent for Mao, especially after an allegedly drunk Soviet defense minister told the Chinese Marshal He Long, “We’ve already got rid of Khrushchev; you ought to follow our example and get rid of Mao Zedong” (p. 9). That the opening to Richard Nixon and the United States was predicated on Chinese fears of the Soviet threat has long been evident, but MacFarquhar and Schoenhals provide new details about the ªghting along the Ussuri River and show that concern in Beijing was great enough to prompt an evacuation of party leaders from the capital. The book contains more than just the high politics among party leaders. The authors estimate the extent of violence against people and property and assess the effect of the Cultural Revolution on the economy. Mao’s Last Revolution also offers telling selections from Red Guard diaries in the authors’ possession. The basic narrative, however, is driven by a Mao-centered elite politics. Having just co-edited a volume on the Cultural Revolution,35 I would note that when one looks at the local level, from the bottom up as it were, the Cultural Revolution presents a somewhat different face. Because of the divisions within the central leadership and the deliberate obscurity of Mao’s supervision of the struggle, other actors—Red Guards, local cadres, and ordinary citizens—were often forced to think and act on their own. One of the greatest challenges in scholarship on the Cultural Revolution lies in explaining the unique combination of extraordinary attempts by Mao and his radical allies to manipulate and control the behavior, thought, lifestyles, and aspirations of Chinese citizens on the one hand, and the remarkable empowerment that many young people felt as they were freed from the ordinary institutional constraints on day-to-day behavior. This empowerment, of course, was brief
Reich—the attempts by senior Nazi ofªcials to anticipate and carry out (with great zeal) what Adolf Hitler would want. See Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1936–1945: Nemesis (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001). 35. Joseph W. Esherick, Paul Pickowicz, and Andrew Walder, eds., The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006).
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
and was followed by bitter disillusionment as Red Guards were disbanded and students were sent off to the countryside. But the independent agency of ordinary actors was real and is one of the legacies of the Cultural Revolution deserving of further investigation.
✣ ✣ ✣
Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006. xiii 693 pp. $35.00. Commentary by David E. Apter, Yale University
The historic ascent of humanity, taken as a whole, may be summarized as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces—in nature, in society, in man himself.
Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. 3 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1932), p. 347.
In our great motherland, a new era is emerging in which the workers, peasants and soldiers are grasping Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung’s thought. Once Mao Tse-tung’s thought is grasped by the broad masses, it becomes an inexhaustible source of strength and a spiritual atom bomb of inªnite power.
Quotations from Mao Tse-tung (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1967), p iii.
It is not possible totally to disentangle Mao’s motives, but the evidence suggests that Mao’s ultimate dread—the image of extinction that stalk[ed] him—[was] the death of the revolution. He had to devise some new recipe for reinvigorating it. He had experienced the morning-after epiphany common to all revolutionaries: in victory, the revolution dies. Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the post-revolutionary state; after the initial transformative spasm, exhaustion replaces exhilaration, routine replaces voluntarism, responsibility clogs idealism. Many revolutionary victors are happy to settle for power and stability. Mao was not.
Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, Vol. 3, The Coming of the Cataclysm, 1961–1966 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 469.
Even in a century marked by extraordinary cataclysms, the Cultural Revolution stands out. Perhaps antecedents exist, but one is hard-pressed to think of an equivalent to Mao Zedong’s bid for ultimate authority. Modesty, of course,
has hardly been a characteristic of left-radical revolutionary leaders generally, but no other such leader compares in scope and ambition to Mao. He was not simply laying claim to power. The Cultural Revolution he initiated was depicted as Aufheben, with the struggle itself as the necessary condition for revolutionary consciousness. The Jacobin phase of the French revolution, the Bolshevik takeover in Russia (for which the Jacobins became the initial model), and the Stalinist “revolution from above” in the Soviet Union all claimed victories over “blind forces” but were not aimed so single-mindedly at transforming “nature, society, and man himself ”—certainly not all at the same time and to the same degree. Perhaps, as MacFarquhar suggests in his Coming of the Cataclysm, Mao learned from these earlier experiences that even though the revolution was “on the side of history,” there was always a risk that “irreversible” change would reverse itself. In the Cultural Revolution, Mao was akin to a Chinese Canute, taking it upon himself to prevent the revolution’s demise, not least by turning the revolution itself upside down and provoking total social upheaval. Did Mao realize when he embarked on this ªnal revolutionary adventure what the scope and intensity of it would be? If MacFarquhar and Schoenhals are right, complete certainty about the most terrible consequences of the Cultural Revolution would not have been enough to deter Mao. On the contrary, it probably would have made him even more determined to press ahead. In this regard, what Mao’s Last Revolution describes, in great detail, is Mao’s lastditch attempt to create a revolution within the revolution. How much Mao actually believed in the whole enterprise is impossible to know. Did lingering affection for his anarchist youth perhaps spawn his thesis of permanent revolution? The succession of decisions that both followed and determined the course of events played factions and individuals off against one another, as Mao had done throughout his political life. One of the ironies is that the logic behind his call for permanent revolution was set out far more persuasively by the arch-enemy Leon Trotsky than by Mao himself. Whatever the complex of factors that led to and shaped the Cultural Revolution in all its tortured complexity, the events can be said to ªt between two bookends, the quotation from the “Little Red Book” cited above and MacFarquhar’s description of how revolutions fail. These two comments provide as good a framework as any for examining the dynamics of the Cultural Revolution. It is precisely on these counts that Mao’s Last Revolution is a tour de force. We see Mao’s revolutionary abstractions as pretenses and his logic of transcendence as an exercise in instrumentalism whereby he personalized his leadership and depersonalized his role. This new style of leadership endowed him
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
with intimacy, and his new role gave him agency—providing two forms of manipulative power at once. He depicted himself as the moving ªgure in Chinese history, the seeker after truth, the arbiter of right and wrong—a ªgure earning the adulation of the young through his direct appeals to strike the establishment wherever it might be. The lesson of Mao’s Last Revolution is how people can be made complicit in the afºictions they suffer. Such complicity was not limited to those directly involved. The wishful thinking of a good many Western liberals, radicals, intellectuals, students, journalists, scholars, and ªlmmakers, in their passionate yearnings for social improvement by transformational betterment and in their desire to blend modernity with moral ambition, were roped into the enterprise. As a phenomenon, the Cultural Revolution, despite its apparent uniqueness, reveals the mostly hidden human moral propensity to try to start the world all over. That alone should induce us to continue studying the Cultural Revolution and not allow it to be obscured by the achievements of Chinese economic growth. As the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 would suggest, future paroxysms are entirely possible. Mao’s effort to cleanse people’s minds of capitalist and wrong socialist thoughts helps to explain why the Cultural Revolution began at a moment of relative political and social calm, a period between spasms, when the Communist regime had consolidated itself after so many twists and turns in the party line and was shifting to the business of economic construction and growth. This “pragmatic” turn tended to sideline Mao as the main political actor. But, as MacFarquhar and Schoenhals demonstrate, Mao’s aim in launching the Cultural Revolution was not merely to restore himself to supreme power. External as well as internal factors were involved. What had been happening inside the Soviet Union over the previous decade, notably Nikita Khrushchev’s “exposure” of Josif Stalin’s crimes and the subsequent deStalinization campaign (as well as the polemical exchanges with China), was anathema to Mao. He found these disturbing tendencies mirrored in the policies pursued by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping and their followers, who had come to dominate the affairs of party and state. Lin Biao, the designated successor to Mao, became more and more politically dangerous as order disintegrated, leaving the army (under Lin’s command) as the main bulwark against foreign threats and internal conºicts. The greater Mao’s dependence on the army, the more urgent the need to subordinate Lin. But the Cultural Revolution during its initial stages increasingly spun out of control—so much so that even the old guard Yan’anites drew back, except perhaps for Zhou Enlai. Trying to decipher what “deep meanings” to attach to Mao’s words is always hazardous, given his theoretical ªckleness and volatile shifts and turns
of fancy. The Cultural Revolution was a high-risk venture for everyone. No one could play it safe. An event that ostensibly started as a literary critique of a parable about imperial power in China’s history escalated almost immediately into a totally unrealistic project for remolding the “mentalité” of revolution itself. Nuclear bombs as “little red books” indeed. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals have succeeded in making sense of this extraordinarily complex moment in China’s political evolution. They delineate the mixture of motives and actions and institutions. Their analysis depends not only on factual information but also on deep knowledge, good sense, and enough imagination to see the ridiculous in the sublime. In all these respects, the authors are superbly endowed. To the extent that both of them have had something of an obsession (no other word will do) with the Cultural Revolution, that is precisely what is needed to explore and recapture, almost on a day-by-day basis, the events, large and small, that affected everyone from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom. In a narrative at times gripping, MacFarquhar and Schoenhals bring to life the struggles over leadership, the mobilization of factions, and the plots and counterplots in national, local, and provincial venues. The narrative is replete with mystery, tension, and climax. So vivid are the portrayals of events that one can see the book as the script of a play in three acts marked by the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Plenums of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. The play is a tragedy in the interplay between moralism and sycophancy, the hypocrisy of the so called inner party struggles, the hollowness of spiritual claims that became so dangerous that the mere misuse of a word deemed inappropriate could lead to banishment or death. The whole process involved not even a pretense of legalism, none of the show trials that accompanied the Stalinist purges in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Impromptu “tribunes of the people” in the name of public rage reduced and trivialized individuals and their fate—not least the men and women who made the revolution in the ªrst instance. So complete is the account in Mao’s Last Revolution that one might be excused for calling the book (although I doubt that the authors would) a phenomenology. MacFarquhar and Schoenhals eschew explanation per se, speculation, or analytical commentary. So fastidious are they in describing what happened in great detail that the effect is to challenge social science theory itself and most particularly those claiming to deal with violence, revolution, and the games of power politics. Implied by the almost total absence of theory in the book is either an indifference to it or a belief that especially in political science, the more one knows about a situation the more theories, or at least grand theories, become simplistic or inadequate. That said, the book supplies plenty of grist for theoretical mills—the question is what sort.
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
My own answer would be that the Cultural Revolution lends itself to the application of interpretive theory. Whether called discourse analysis, narrative theory, or symbolic interaction, the idea is basically the same. Such modes of analysis do not, of course, displace or replace others. What they can do is shed greater light on some of the fascinating questions that turn up on almost every page of Mao’s Last Revolution. Some of these questions are introduced almost casually. How could Mao, “who loved upheaval (luan)” but “appreciated the services of a well-oiled and obedient bureaucracy,” have assumed that his headlong restructuring of the bureaucracy (doing away with ministries and replacing them by an entirely improvised “three-in-one formula” consisting of so-called leading and revolutionary cadres and “representatives of revolutionary masses”) could ever work? How could he have ever believed that the elected revolutionary committees he favored to supervise ministries, let alone the Cultural Revolution itself, would be anything but utterly chaotic? Was it the sinister instrumentalism hidden in the innocence of the formulation that so appealed to his exercise of personal power? The authors make nice work of Mao’s control over revolutionary symbolism, alluding to the romantic aspects of his appeals to the younger generation. They note, more or less in passing, that the so-called Shanghai Commune established itself on the anniversary of the Paris Commune, 27 March 1871. They describe how the old guard was, despite its misgivings, maneuvered into supporting Mao, who in turn became increasingly suspicious of the military as it was called on to restore local order (pp. 182–183). Other examples abound. Taking a step back from the narrative itself, we can discern two “dialectical” themes. One, a dialectic of political position and power, focuses on how Mao always retained the initiative. The second, embedded within the ªrst, is the usurpation of power by the Gang of Four (Five really if one includes Kang Sheng, who died before their overthrow). As for the substance of the Cultural Revolution, it is a ballet between those opposed to the Gang of Four and those favoring it, marked by poisonous betrayals of friend against friend and of colleague against colleague, and of course of revolutionaries against fellow revolutionaries. All sides engaged in pretense accompanied by an increasing crescendo of celebratory acts of public humiliation, not to speak of the wanton destruction of property, of art, and of history itself. Other “dialectical” encounters include the successful counterplot after Mao’s death. We witness how the Gang of Four were outºanked by the old guard of senior party cadres and arrested by the PLA, an account that reads like an adventure story. One interesting side comment conªrmed something I had wondered about after interviewing a clerk in a factory in Shanghai in 1986—the accep123
tance and apparent lack of desire for revenge and reprisal in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution the clerk was a relatively young man who had recently married and whose wife had just had a baby. His best friend, who shared his desk in the ofªce, denounced him. After the clerk was sent off to a pig farm, divorced by his wife, and deprived of any contact with his child, the “friend” took over his apartment. When I interviewed the clerk in 1986, he had been restored to his old job and was sitting once again across from this “friend” every working day. I asked how he could stand it. His explanation was that the Cultural Revolution was like a natural disaster. One accepted it. One survived. That was enough. The only thing that seemed to bother him is that his erstwhile friend had expropriated his favorite sweater and continued to wear it to work every day.
Although the authors include little if any theory in the book, they do point out how texts, their interpretation, and their realization in action played into the contest between Mao’s own “theory” and the instrumentalism of “empiricism.” In a fascinating vignette, MacFarquhar and Schoenhals describe the struggle over which faction would ultimately control the production of volume ªve of Mao’s Selected Works, which was published posthumously. What comes through in the narrative is the tension between what to believe, how to believe it, and facts on the ground—facts that in the end were decisive. As the authors note, the Cultural Revolution cost China well over a year’s worth of national income. But not until Mao was already near death did he reluctantly acknowledge that something drastic had to be done to restore the economy. At the ªnal CCP Politburo meeting Mao attended, he switched to the other side, charging the Gang of Four, the “anti-empiricists,” with actually being “empiricists.” He cast doubt on the “authenticity” of their revolutionary credentials and speciªcally singled out Jiang Qing as an example. In so doing, he set the stage for their demise. This is a big book but difªcult to put down. One fascinating episode unfolds after another. Despite the cynical use of “Maoism” in battles over power, the book makes clear that a great many of those involved took ideological matters very seriously. I have three copies of the Little Red Book, and one of them, an English edition bought in Oxford, appears never to have been read. The two others were bought in China. One appeared early, well before the downfall of Liu Shaoqi, Lin Biao, and the Gang of Four. This copy is full of earnest underlining. The second, published after the demise of all three, is a patchwork of scratched out and restored names, words, and faces.
Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China
MacFarquhar and Schoenhals help us to understand events that otherwise might appear as madness. They suggest the continuities behind the twists and turns of party policy. Missing perhaps is reference to the Yan’an period, some of the events of which amounted to a dress rehearsal for some aspects of the Cultural Revolution. In these terms one might say that the Cultural Revolution happened twice, although no one would suggest that its second coming was farce. I refer to the so-called rectiªcation campaigns. One could argue that the ideological orchestration in Yan’an, not least by the notorious Kang Sheng, was in some ways a forerunner of things to come, although the context and the times were too different to call Yan’an a full-ºedged precursor to the Cultural Revolution. In both events one sees how the propensity to use Mao’s texts as a recipe for political power and to equate “truth” with revolutionary legitimacy actually worked. Perhaps Mao believed with Karl Marx that “the traditions of all of the dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” Tradition now includes the Cultural Revolution itself. The current leaders in China have sought to exorcise the residue of its effects. In this regard one of the conclusions of the book is of particular relevance: “The Cultural Revolution and the Reform era had destroyed respect for the ideology that had given the party legitimacy and glued the system together. Party members were for the most part careerists without a cause, and, more dangerously for them, unrespected [sic] by their people” (p. 461). Nowadays, when mass protests erupt frequently in China, one might wonder how the regime survived at all. The Chinese Communist Party today is hardly like the political parties in democratic countries, but one might hope, if only tenuously, that the more the CCP is held in popular contempt and the more it fails to exercise its responsibilities in acceptable ways, the more receptive it will be to sharing power with other parties if only to distribute the onus of governing. Stay tuned.
Response Forum to the Commentaries
Response to the Commentaries36
✣ Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals
First, we must express our warm appreciation to the editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies for arranging to have not just one but a bevy of distinguished and knowledgeable scholars review our book, and for inviting us to respond. And of course our thanks go, too, to the scholars themselves for taking the time from their own work to write the kind of review that makes authors think hard about what they wrote. Needless to say, when such knowledgeable reviewers pay tribute, it is particularly welcome. However, we come not to cite praise of our book, but to disinter its meaning where we have been insufªciently clear. Lynn White asks why Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping were so slow to understand what was happening, and he then goes on to quote our contention that Mao Zedong had no strategy for the mass movement as if that were our explanation. What we evidently did not convey sufªciently was our vision of a two-stage Maoist plan. In the ªrst stage, employing various stratagems, Mao plotted successively to remove senior colleagues in Beijing from power. Only by eviscerating the central party apparatus could the mass movement be unleashed, and only Mao had the cunning and prestige to carry this through. White later implies that our concentration on Mao’s court led us to neglect sociological explanations of why the struggles for political power became so violent all over China. However, we did attempt to deal with this obviously important issue, even if not as extensively as he might have wanted us to. On pp. 129–131, we argued that the youth of China had been brought up in a culture of class-struggle violence, notably the “four clean-ups” campaign in 1965, and that once the party’s leading strings were cut these young people were effectively empowered to make revolution their own way and indeed created a state of nature. Their actions stemmed not so much from their anger at local Communist party bosses as from Mao’s injunctions to them to bombard the headquarters. Having been provided with this example of purging the party headquarters in Beijing, they took as their natural targets the local party ofªcials. In the case of “cleansing the class ranks,” which accounted for more deaths even than Red Guard violence, we follow the argument of Andrew Walder that the leaders of the new revolutionary committees were inexperi36. This response was drafted by Roderick MacFarquhar and reºects the views of both authors.
Response to the Commentaries
enced and insecure and thought that the best guarantee of continued political ofªce was to show the maximum zeal by executing their opponents (p. 256). Underlying all the violence, we feel, is the concept we learned from Ian Kershaw’s Hitler of working toward the leader (p. 48). Red Guards and new leaders all wanted to do Mao’s bidding and were prepared to go to any lengths to do so. We certainly did not mean to suggest that provincial power was unimportant. In the chapters on Shanghai’s January storm, on seizing power, and on the Wuhan incident, which also dealt with other incidents elsewhere, as well as the chapter on cleansing the class ranks, we covered events in the provinces with as much detail as we could unearth. On the recall of Deng: The idea that Mao wanted Deng to counter Zhou is a theory we have heard from knowledgeable Chinese foreign service ofªcers, as we indicated (p. 366). However, as we also indicated, we are more inclined to believe that the reason he was recalled was to allay the concerns of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that the country might be left in charge of a whippersnapper like Wang Hongwen. Steven Levine has understandably harsh words for Chairman Mao and the Communist system over which Mao presided, and we agree with much of this. Levine seems disappointed that we did not write in similarly excoriating terms. Our belief was that we should on the whole let the record speak for itself because in that way we would be more likely to carry conviction with Chinese readers—a Chinese translation will be published, though obviously not in mainland China itself—than if we showered the Chairman or his party colleagues with highly negative adjectives. Our book was designed as a political history rather than a polemic. Levine’s Mao is concerned not with revisionism or with the rise of the “new class,” as we suggest, but with maximizing his own power and manipulating everyone like a puppet master. We heartily agree with the suggestion that Mao manipulated his comrades and factions, particularly in the ªrst year, as Yafeng Xia notes in his comments. But if Mao had simply been concerned with maximizing power, he could have called a halt and declared a victory in February 1967. By then, he had vanquished those of his old colleagues who conceivably could have been thought of as threats. Levine may be right to complain that our treatment of the Lin Biao affair is not as satisfactory as our “masterful” analysis elsewhere. Despite Chinese memoirs and histories and two penetrating Western analyses of the affair, we do not believe that enough of the facts have emerged to enable us, or indeed anyone in China to make a ªnal judgment—as Yafeng Xia comments, the plane crash that ended this episode is still “mysterious”—but we like to think we got as close as is currently possible!
We feel that Levine does not quite do us justice with respect to our treatment of Zhou Enlai, whom he states we conventionally characterize as “Mr. Moderate.” Lynn White got it right, suggesting that we revised “Zhou’s general image from mainly moderate to mainly lapdog.” Levine adds that we only “lightly touch on” the possibility that Zhou might have been able to mobilize the old guard against the Cultural Revolution (CR). He presumably refers to our speculation (on pp. 194, 415–416) about what might have happened if Zhou had backed the February countercurrent or rallied his colleagues. Again, as with our treatment of Mao, we believe that our approach is more likely to persuade Chinese readers of Zhou’s great failure. This is particularly the case if one is uneasily conscious, as we were, that it is only too easy to accuse leaders of cowardice from afar, not knowing how one would personally have behaved under those circumstances. It is better always to praise those who did take the risks and show courage. Sadly, during the CR, few at the top actually did show any courage. Yafeng Xia ªnds unconvincing our argument that the CR was caused by Mao’s desire to establish a more revolutionary China. Xia argues that Mao’s extravagant lifestyle indicated that he had no real interest in creating a new socialist man, but we believe that Xia is excessively idealistic about political leaders anywhere. How many leaders genuinely practice, in their private lives, what they proclaim in public? Mahatma Gandhi perhaps, but few others. On one occasion during World War II a British civil servant looked askance at Winston Churchill’s luxurious eating and drinking, but the disapproving ofªcial was apparently told that if you have a Rolls Royce for a leader you have to treat him appropriately. If Mao ever reºected on his imperial lifestyle, as opposed to taking it for granted, we suspect that he would have thought it justiªed because ultimately he alone bore responsibility for the revolutionary transformation of China. Xia also rejects the suggestion that the CR was caused by a power struggle between Mao and Liu. But we never made that argument. Rather, we agree with Xia that Mao was worried that his senior colleagues might unite against him. Indeed, we made that very point in our introduction (pp. 9–10). However, we do not agree that Mao could simply have arrested Liu or Lin Biao. Mao was perennially conscious of the verdict of future historians and wanted precisely to avert any possibility that he could be compared to Josif Stalin as a leader who arrested colleagues and sent them off to prison or worse. Xia’s voluminous listing of Chinese sources exhibits his great knowledge of this ªeld, and it will be a valuable aid to future researchers on this topic. With respect to some of the sources he mentions, we chose not to cite them because we did not believe they added much (e.g., Marshal Xu Xiangqian); but in other cases we either did not come across the sources or did not obtain
Response to the Commentaries
them in time. We also faced a more fundamental dilemma: we wanted to produce a “state-of-the-art” study, but we were also conscious that the more footnotes and sources we added to the end of the book, the less likely we were to attract the intelligent general readers who were our target readership. As it was, a number of otherwise complimentary reviews commented that the number of Chinese names meant that the book was only for specialists. Xia makes numerous other speciªc complaints and adjustments, and on some of these we will have to agree to disagree. But I would point out that in the case of the Wuhan incident, we relied heavily on the account given by Wang Shaoguang in his 1995 book on the subject.37 If Wang revised his narrative and analysis in a fall 2006 article, after our book was published, that was our bad luck. As for whether the doctors dared to say that Mao had only about two years to live, we relied on Dr. Li Zhisui’s account in The Private Life of Chairman Mao.38 Finally, we are particularly grateful to Xia for his listing of some errors, which we will try to correct in the paperback version. We were intrigued by David Apter’s comments because his Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (co-authored with Tony Saich) does indicate some of the distant origins of the CR in the Yan’an Rectiªcation Campaign, in which Kang Sheng rehearsed his later, even more sinister role.39 Apter is right to suggest that we should have referred to that campaign. The nearest we came to it was our reference to the “culture of violence that class struggle represented” (p. 131). The Yan’an Rectiªcation was the ªrst major instance of internal class struggle after Mao attained a dominant position in the party. Even more interesting is Apter’s comment that the almost total absence of theory in our book suggests either that we are indifferent to it or that we believe the more one knows about a situation, the more grand theories become inadequate. Actually, this is not totally accurate, even though he is right to imply that we saw our main task as giving the general reader an account of these extraordinary events that would be as factual and dispassionate as possible. For us, a key question underlying our narrative was how Mao managed to bring about the chaos, a feat he achieved with much help but with little resistance. For this purpose, as indicated above, we adopted Kershaw’s concept of working toward the leader. Countless Chinese, both leaders and led, adopted this tactic, out of either fear or enthusiasm. In effect, this is what Apter delineates as one of the “dialectical” themes of the book. The theory that we need is
37. Wang Shaoguang, Failure of Charisma: The Cultural Revolution in Wuhan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). 38. Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician, trans. by Tai Hung-Chao (New York: Random House, 1994), pp. 380–385. 39. David E. Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).
one that compares the most important twentieth-century dictators, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, something which I attempted in a brief appendix in the ªnal volume of The Origins of the Cultural Revolution (pp. 331–333), but more at the empirical rather than the theoretical level. Finally, to repeat, our warm thanks to the reviewers and the editor for giving our book this splendidly extensive treatment.