What was the impact of the Cultural Revolution on China?
The Cultural Revolution encouraged the Red Army to challenge peoples views to ensure that they were true Maoists. This was often done in a very violent manner as different units sought to make themselves appear to be the true representatives of Mao’s vision. Consequently many people were not only verbally challenged but also physically abused. This led to many deaths.
In the early stages of the Cultural Revolution there were large scale changes in the leadership of the Communist party. Throughout the party, including the Politburo, officials who were not deemed to be supportive of Mao’s vision were removed and replaced by people more in line with Mao’s vision.
The use of the military to support the introduction of the Cultural Revolution led to an increase in tensions between military leaders. Instead of uniting people behind a vision it led to conflict and chaos in many parts of the country. These divisions went right to the top of the Military and Government. Following the initial changes to the politburo the newly named successor to Mao, Lin Biao, began to make moves to assert his position an authority. His moves led Mao to be wary of someone who appeared to want power before his time. A power struggle ensued within the Politburo which resulted in Lin being killed, possibly whilst trying to flee to the Soviet Union following an abortive assassination attempt on Mao’s life. Following this, the military leadership was purged.
The cultural Revolution also incorporated a Cult of Personality which venerated Mao. This had a large impact on towns and cities with developments being introduced that idolised Mao. This, of course, cost money and diverted funds from Industrial development: resulting in a decline in Industrial output.
Another aspect of the Cultural Revolution was the change in education policies. Instead of a balanced curriculum the education programme was essentially a enlightenment program. Thus anyone of school age at the time of the Cultural Revolution would not necessarily have been taught the skills required to have a really positive input in the workplace.
The Cultural Revolution was intended to build on social reforms and cement Mao’s ideology into society. The educational changes would benefit the country. Progress in all areas would follow which would secure China’s position as a superpower and assert it’s might over neighbouring countries.
Source: Poster, 1969. Entitled ‘Mao is the red Sun’
History Learning Site – The Cultural Revolution
BBC – China’s Revolution, a glossary
Suite 101 – Red Guards and Mao Zedong Terrorized China in 1966-76
About.com – entry on the Chinese Cultural Revolution