Mao's Political and Ideological Motives
Were Political, Ideological, or Economic Considerations behind Mao's decision to launch the Cultural Revolution in 1966?
Mao Zedong mobilised the Chinese youth in 1966 to start the Cultural Revolution. It is a violent process that led to an elimination of the customs, culture, habits and thoughts of Chinese people. This Cultural Revolution purged counter Revolutionary party members. It also heightened Mao's personality cult as he intended to reassert his authority over the Chinese government (Ho 2014). This paper discusses if political, ideological or economic considerations are responsible for Mao's decision to launch the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Based on the arguments in the essay it will be concluded what the reasons for launching the cultural revolution by Mao were.
According to Gao (2016), the Cultural Revolution by Mao was due to a conflict between his economic reality and political ideology. Mao did not firmly believe in Communism, as he was not a pure communist. His understanding of Chinese history was based on Russia's early leader Lenin. However, Mao was not found of Lenin’s successors. Mao was revisionist and believed in the Leninism he adapted. Mao was popular among base class farmers and workers. He had strict control of an army, and his party holds good coordination, which formed a basis for his ideology and success. It was believed that the reason for Cultural Revolution was Mao’s aim to increase his popularity among the base class (Wu 2014). This act would eliminate the hope of capitalism revisionist. However, with the failure of the Cultural Revolution, the capitalism revisionist did open and ultimately reform the country.
Mao was influenced by the socialist ideology. It is was evident from the ideas of Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing. Using the socialist ideology, the Chinese tradition and culture were destroyed to replace it with the purely "socialist ideas". It was the reason that attacked anything that was old in China may it be economic or political policy. Anything new was accepted readily, without criticism. The socialist ideology was evident from the Mao’s attempt to equalize the value of mental and the physical labour in different socioeconomic areas. This ideology meant to equally reward the contributions of people in society and economy. However, this goal was not fulfilled by the devastation of China between 1966-1968 (Starr 2015). According to Li (2015), Mao wanted to bring China under one ideological movement. He wanted the country to become socialist after the fashion of Stalin's (Lenin’s son) Soviet Union. In short, he tends to implement half-hearted socialism.
Economic Considerations or Implications
Mao was pushed out of economic affairs, but no positive economic considerations were found to be a reason for him to push the Cultural Revolution. For instance, the Great Leap Forward was recognized by the “Peng Dehuai, Liu Shaoqi, and Deng Xiaoping” as working against intended cause. The industrial and the agricultural output precipitated as famine. It left 45 million people to death. Further, it was observed by them that it was ruining China both socially and economically. This was loyally criticized in Lushan Conference (Kim et al. 2014). However, Mao failed to understand the economic implications of it and rather took the criticism personally. In response to the criticism, Mao did nothing to improve the economic affairs of the country rather purged Peng and his supporters from the party and PLA respectively. This event made Liu and Deng more cautious that tend to keep Mao out of the day-to-day running of the Party and eventually out of the presidency of the PRC (Callahan 2015). Instead of Mao, it was Liu and Deng who modified the economic reforms for the country’s benefit. In turn, they gained popularity in CCP. Thus, improvement in economic affairs and the decline in Mo's power were the main reason for the Cultural Revolution by Mao. Mao’s failure reflected clearly in the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution
It can be argued that Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to resist the government and the CCP from becoming too remote from people. The country’s industrial and agricultural benefit was not the main goal of Mao. The same is evident from the Mao’s criticism on the increasing strength of the specialists and the experts in the economy and party. Mao complained about the high level of preference given to the urban families in the Chinese education system. Mao complained that this system led to privileged middle class in the country (Wang 2017). This can be considered true because, under the leadership and policy of Liu and Deng, there was a development of a body of scientist, intellectuals and technologies (Jian, Song and Zhou 2015). Eventually, it was increasing their influence in the Chinese economy. From the economic point of view, there was a tremendous success in Central control planning system. In addition to the success in the heavy industry, there was a great failure in the light industry. Adding to it, the big feminine led to deviation from socialism within the party members. It was the same condition among other top leaders inside the party. In short, China was developing much more rapidly under the rule of Liu and Deng when compared to the leadership of Mao in 1950 (White 2014). Thus, Mao wanted to regain his dominant position.
Mao's Attempt to Regain Power
Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attempt to undermine the power of Liu and Deng and regain his influence on the policy, which was decreasing 1959. With the help of Cultural Revolution Mao, tend to appeal the Chinese people. His intention was to reinforce the support of the mass people by attracting them over the heads of the party leadership. Thus, it can be argued that Cultural Revolution was the best way to achieve this motive. Criticizing the activities of Liu and Deng was the gateway for Mao to strengthen his policies and position. Therefore, Mao accused Liu and Deng of betraying the revolution. Consequently, one group of class was never allowed to take control and the authority was continually, challenged during the process of change (Gao 2016).
However, Mao was “father of nation for a small group of people” for his limited beneficial activities to China. He thus reclaimed the party's mantle as his own. Using his limited public support, he instigated the poor in china to fight against his failure and increase the political power. He did involve the poor section of society to make people believe that he was developing the bourgeoisie class. If his intention were to improve the economic affairs, he never would have created Red Guards. He wanted to purge the elements of CCP. Therefore, he motivated these red guards to roam like terrorizers, attack the state element, and raid state arsenals for weapons. These guards controlled all the broadcasts attacking the cultural revolution, public transport, and attacked all the teachers, intellectuals, doctors, scientists and any other putting forward an opposing view (Ho 2014). These activities were opposite of initially mentioned goal of the revolution. It includes unifying the lifestyle of the urban and the rural communities, eliminating traditional cultural elements, and eradication of Bourgeoisie. However, Mao disbanded the Red Guards its chaotic effects that reached the brink of civil war. After the disbanding of the Red Guards, China gained back its normalcy. It was by 1976 that China restored its peace. With the death of Mao in 1966, the Cultural Revolution was ended, and its effects were reduced (Starr 2015).
It is evident from the literature review that Cultural Revolution by Mao was mainly a political power struggle by Mao. He implemented the stated goals by assisting the rural communities. Improved Education, developed red guards and persecuted the bourgeoisie class. However, the hidden motives were prominent in his activities, which include regaining the power within CCP and contra over the Chinese people. The apparent motives were fulfilled only to achieve the personal motives. He won over the society by educating peasants and promoting equal rights to rural and urban regions. Once he was successful, he gained the power to overthrow other politicians and categorized them as the bourgeoisie. He gained the respect of China by snatching the power of other men to gain authority. Ultimately, the cultural revolutions began at the behest of Mao and several fractions were battled in his name. Thus, political, ideology and economic considerations underlied the Mao’s decision to launch the cultural revolution in 1966.
Callahan, W.A., 2015. History, Tradition and the China Dream: socialist modernization in the World of Great Harmony. Journal of Contemporary China, 24(96), pp.983-1001.
Gao, M., 2016. 2. The Cultural Revolution: class, culture and revolution. Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China, p.44.
Ho, D.Y., 2014. Culture, Class, and Revolution in China's Turbulent Decade: A Cultural Revolution State of the Field. History Compass, 12(3), pp.226-238.
Jian, G., Song, Y. and Zhou, Y., 2015. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Rowman & Littlefield.
Kim, S., Deng, Q., Fleisher, B.M. and Li, S., 2014. The lasting impact of parental early life malnutrition on their offspring: evidence from the China Great Leap Forward Famine. World Development, 54, pp.232-242.
Li, H., 2015. Political Thought and China’s Transformation: Ideas Shaping Reform in Post-Mao China. Springer.
Starr, J.B., 2015. Continuing the revolution: The political thought of Mao. Princeton University Press.
Wang, Y., 2017. China's Economic Development and Democratization. Routledge.
White III, L.T., 2014. Policies of chaos: the organizational causes of violence in China's Cultural Revolution. Princeton University Press.
Wu, Y., 2014. The Cultural Revolution at the Margins. Harvard University Press.
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