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The Cultural Revolution

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Urvi Mittal History SL Assess the role played by youth and terror in China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was launched by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong to stem what he perceived as the country's drift away from socialism, toward the "restoration of capitalism." The origins of the Cultural Revolution can be traced to the mid-1950s when Mao first became seriously concerned about the path that China's socialist transition had taken in the years since the CCP had come to power in 1949. His anxieties about the bureaucratization of the party, ideological degeneration in society as a whole, and the glaring socioeconomic inequalities that had emerged as China modernized escalated through the early 1960s and propelled him to embark on a crusade to expunge the "revisionism" that he believed was contaminating the party and the nation. Mao had also been disturbed by his analysis that the Soviet Union had already abandoned socialism for capitalism which made him insecure and made him want to control the people by terror. Mao was also insecure about his position in the party because of the growing popularity of moderates Lin Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping to whom he had given power to correct the mistakes made by the policies of The Great Leap Forward. The moderates had introduced an element of capitalism in Chinese society. ...read more.


The young were made to feel that they had a special role to play not only in the regeneration of the nation but in the creation of a new socialist world order. The awe in which Mao was held by the young was extreme but it was not wholly irrational. The young persons saw Mao as a great hero who had freed China from a century of humiliation at the hands of the foreigner. He was regarded as the man who had made China a great world power, possessing its own nuclear weapons and capable of displacing the Soviet Union. Anthony Grey a British historian suggested that the veneration of Mao illustrated two features in Chinese society-emperor worship and the power of conformity. Mao knew that the need to conform to the standards of their peers is very powerful among the young and makes them susceptible to suggestion. It was this psychology that Mao kept in mind, knowing the youth could be easily persuaded he used them as a means to stage the Cultural Revolution. Mao also used terror to control the people and make them conform to his ideas. There was a terrifying and deadly side to the Red Guard movement. The young were deliberately brutalized. Mao's presentation of chaos as more virtuous than order was tantamount to declaring that there was no moral restriction on what could be done in the name of revolution. ...read more.


The Cultural Revolution was not spontaneous. Youth and terror were directed from the top by Mao and his associates. There were guiding hands behind the marches and thuggery. The idealistic youngsters who appeared to lead the Cultural Revolution were pawns in the power struggle within the CCP and were used effectively by Mao in helping him regain his authority, his position of power and instilling in the minds of the people his communist ideology. The official view of the Communist Party of China is that the Cultural Revolution is what can happen when one person establishes a cult of personality and manipulates the public in such a way as to destroy the party and state institutions. In this view, the Cultural Revolution is an example of too much popular participation in government, rather than too little; and is an example of the dangers of anarchy rather than statism. By contrast, writers such as Jung Chang argue that the Cultural Revolution was merely one of a series of events which illustrate Mao's low moral character. This interpretation of history has the effect of calling into question all of Mao's early accomplishments and indirectly the legitimacy of the Communist Party and the People's Republic of China. Mao wanted to route out all the capitalist, anti revolutionary and bad elements and so he used terror and the youth who could be easily moulded to achieve his goals for the Cultural Revolution. ...read more.

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