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Transition after Mao’s death Recall that there was enthusiasm for the CCP’s rule just before it came into power Contrast this with the political atmosphere at the time of Mao’s death – provides important context Cultural revolution created morale and legitimacy problems that needed to be addressed by post-Mao Chinese leaders Cultural Revolution (launched 1966) Red guard struggle Ended in 1969, but still some activity in the rural areas until Mao’s death in 1976 Appeared to be the height of the “cult of personality” – groupthink, but in significant ways there were other forces at work By this time the Leninist power structures were no longer intact, thus the party ceased to operate on an individual level – people would leave indoctrination schools and travel, etc. People in fact had extraordinary personal freedom because the communist infrastructure was broken. Individuals began to learn more about their society than the official propaganda would let on, therefore people (young people in particular) began to question the disconnect between the CCP and the peasants. Starting in 1969, Mao tried to reconstruct the communist institutions, impose discipline. Violence and personal suffering led to all sorts of ‘nastiness’ (suicide, beatings) which individuals questioned. After the Cultural Revolution, there was state-organized downward social mobility. Urban people were forced to move to the countryside and adopt a peasant life (17-18 million). So unpopular that the mandate was changed from a lifetime of rural life, to just a few years. These individuals became known as the “Lost Generation” Pleading up to Mao’s death, the propaganda and political campaigns became more abstract, bizarre, and hard for the average citizen to understand. E.g. Lin Biao (hero of Korean War) appointed during Cultural Revolution to succeed Mao, but his plane crashed a few years later. Deng Xiopeng was purged by Mao twice, thus he was more likely to question the political machine that caused it. In general, hard to convince people that things were going well when all these other things were going on. Led to a feeling of tension and anxiety in society. Deng Xiopeng determined that China’s political system had been overly-centralized and overly bureaucratic

FOREIGN CULTURE 63

10.12.2005

Political initiatives of Deng Xiopeng in the Reform period Arrests of Gang of Four in 1976, denunciation of their followers Show trial of GoF in 1980 Party authorities wanted to criticize Mao’s policies, excesses, and crimes without undermining the legitimacy of the party and government in general Getting rid of the Mao “cult of personality” (still going on today) Beginning to criticize the Cultural Revolution (starting in 1977); reversal of policies Mass rehabilitations – those who had their lives destroyed in the Cultural Revolution or in previous campaigns were rehabilitated. Termination of the program that sent youth to the countryside Declaration that the era of class struggle had ended; the Xiopeng said that the class struggles had been fabricated; Mao’s notion that class struggle led to progress was completely unfounded, and actually hurt economic/social improvement. Decision to eliminate the class label system; had previously been used as a basis for discrimination and the advancement of Mao’s “class struggle” 1981: Party produced a verdict on Mao himself (party document) Acknowledged that Mao was a good leader at the beginning; declared that most of the initiatives he took from 1957 onward were mostly wrongheaded and harmful. Mao not totally denounced and discredited – still held on as a symbol of the good things as well to some extent. Mao in contemporary China Diversity of opinion Education individuals are relieved that he is gone, yet still a fair amount of Mao nostalgia (among rural residents and factory workers)

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