A Very Very Short History of the CCP (7): The Age of Mao—The Cultural Revolution

Part 7 – The Age of Mao: The Cultural Revolution

Since 1949 Mao has launched one political campaign after another without even moment for people to catch their breath.

During 1963 to 1965, Mao gave the appearance that he was semi-retired and content that his successor Liu Shaoqi was running the country. We know now that was not the case.

Mao, as a dictator, could not tolerate that someone else rather than himself calling the shots. He was spending the time contemplating to stage a big come back. He would bring about a huge tornado which intended in tearing down everything in its path.

In 1966 Mao was to launch, not a campaign this time, but a revolution, his infamous Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Toward the end of his life, Mao reportedly said that he had two major achievements during his life time. One was the Communist revolution to overthrow the sitting government of KMT. The other was also a revolution to overthrow a sitting government, only this time it was his own, the CCP itself.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution had two main goals: to take back power for himself, and to make Maoism as the supreme ideology of the land.

Mao believed that the entire CCP bureaucracy had its loyalty to Liu Shaoqi by following Liu’s capitalist line to focus on improving the economy, and it needed to be dismantled and to be replaced by true revolutionaries who were loyal to him and his line of class struggle. This would be a revolution of the masses to seize power from below, as Mao called it.

Who were the revolutionaries Mao had in mind? He found them in his government schools and universities. The indoctrinated youths would be his perfect foot soldiers. They were known as the Red Guards. They were to follow Mao’s order to carry out his revolution.

To fundamentally transform China, Maoism must be installed as the dominant religion of the land. The supreme being of this religion was Mao himself. Its scripture was Mao’s little Red Book. Its chief theological heretic was the Soviet revisionism represented by Khrushchev. Revisionism was to be thoroughly discredited and denounced. Maoism would be established as orthodoxy of Marxism and Leninism.

To institute this religion, everything old and traditional had to be eradicated. It was called the Four Olds: old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. The Red Guards launched the Smashing the Four Olds Campaign to cancel the past and tradition, by tearing down statues, destroying temples and churches, burning books and art, changing street names and institution names, and even personal names. The campaign successfully destroyed the 3000 old Chinese civilization including the pre-Cultural Revolution CCP institutions. Mao wanted to burn everything down and to build it back better, sounding pretty much like what Biden wants to do to today’s America. Build it Back Better meant to Mao was to remake China exactly in his own image.

The Red Guards were also given the task of taking down the CCP. They did just as a good job as they did with the smashing of the Four Olds. The CCP leaders, from central to local government were all the targets of the Red Guards.

It is important to understand that there was a great enthusiasm from the masses who participated in persecuting these CCP leaders. For 17 years, these leaders were the new tyrants ruling over the masses while enjoying special privilege. Mao understood this. He was the master of pitting people against each other, resulting in no winners except himself and his close confidants.

In Beijing the Red Guards were after the bigger guys. Majority of the CCP’s so called founding fathers were brought down by the Red Guards. General Peng Dehuai, who made himself Mao’s enemy by criticizing Mao for the Great Leap Forward, had to endure more than 100 struggle sessions. He was beaten and several of his ribs were broken. He was left to die of cancer with little treatment in 1974.

Xi Jinping’s father, who was purged by Mao prior to the Cultural Revolution endured the wrath of the Red Guards as well. The entire family was denounced as the Black Class and was persecuted.

The biggest guy who Mao wanted to bring down was Liu Shaoqi, the president of China. After realizing Mao’s true intention, Liu pleaded with Mao to let him leave his post and go back to his home village to be an ordinary person, but to no avail. Mao won’t let him go. Mao wanted to see him destroyed and see him dead.

When the Red Guards besieged Liu, Liu tried to reason with them: “I am also a citizen, why am I not allowed to speak? The Constitution guarantees that every citizen’s personal rights are inviolable, and those who violate the Constitution will be severely punished by law.”

He must be so dilutional. When did the Constitution protect any citizen by CCP’s tyranny Liu himself helped to build. Now he himself was hit by the iron fist of the tyranny.

Liu was eventually imprisoned and died a miserable death from deliberate medical negligence and alone. On his death certificate he was given a fake name, his employment status was unemployed. And that was the ending of a Communist president, who helped create the personality cult of Mao. People still fail to understand that Communists killed more communists than any other of their political opponents.

Victims of Cultural Revolution were more than just CCP leaders. The largest victim group was those who belonged to the Black Class and those who were accused of all sorts of crimes in the previous political campaigns. Now they got to be punished the 2nd time. During the earlier stage, the Red Guards brutally persecuted this class of people. In August of 1966, the day after Mao’s first meeting with a million of Red Guards on Tiananmen Square Tower to give them the unconditional support, the Red Guards went on a killing spree in Beijing.

That August will be remembered as the bloody Red August. A total of 1,772 people were killed. And this was only the beginning. And this is CCP’s data. In reality the death toll must be much higher. Similar killings were to follow all over the country.

How could it happen? Were there any police trying to stop the killing? The answer was no.

Instead of being defunded, the police and the entire criminal justice system was dismantled. No one dared to intervene because everyone understood that Mao was behind the Red Guards.

By 1969, all the powers were seized by the Red Guards. But the fighting did not stop. Only this time it was among the Red Guards themselves. They were now fighting for power. They naively believed that Mao would put them in position of power. Wrong. Mao deployed army to suppress the most violent Red Guards factions. And he had a plan for the rest. Mao expelled them from cities by sending them to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants. As for the power the Red Guards helped to seize, it would go to the workers and peasants, the real revolutionaries and the adults.

Just like that, the Red Guards movement of the early years of the Cultural Revolution was over, and the organization dismantled and died out.

Mao thought he would have it easy to build China back better based on his grand ideals. Well, it did not turn out to be so easy. China was in a state of total ruins with all institutions destroyed, economy in shambles, a nation on the verge of collapse.

Another blow was delivered to Mao. The nation was in total shock to learn in 1971 that Mao’s successor, Lin Biao, who was called Mao’s closest comrade-in-arms, died in a plane crash on route to Russia after a failed coup. I remember my reaction of total disbelief. For many Chinese, that was a wake-up call. For the first time people started to doubt Mao as their all-knowing and all-seeing god. How could he make such a mistake of choosing the wrong person as his successor. Some people started to doubt everything they had been told by Mao and the Party.

Lin Biao incident was a lethal blow to Mao. He appeared beat and his health deteriorated over night. Even I, a young high school girl, noticed the change from the news digest we watched.

Mao looked aged and feeble. And so did the future of his revolution.

But rescue was on the way. And it came from the most unlikely place. In 1972 the US President Richard Nixon came to visit China to build an alliance against the Soviet Union. To me, the news was like an announcement that the sun now would rise from the west. Since I could remember, I was told that America was our number one enemy. Why on earth would we welcome our worst enemy to China?

America would not only revive the CCP from its deathbed, but also help to build it into the world no 2 economy and a mortal threat to the US. Who would have imagined all these?

In 1976, Mao died. His decade long Cultural Revolution was officially over.

Or was it?

History has proven that Mao’s Cultural Revolution did not die at all. What Mao ignited in 1966 would spread like a wild fire. It would eventually threaten to burn down and the entire west and its crown jewel, the United States of America, if we fail to stop it.