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16. Mao’s Aim of the Cultural Revolution|
This issue is important as Mao considered the Cultural Revolution one of the two major achievements in his life. JC claims that Mao “had intended the Great Purge to install much more merciless enforcers” for his Superpower Program (p. 558), his real target “was the old enforcers who had shown distaste for Mao’s extremist policies. Mao aimed to get rid of them en masse” (p. 543).
However, her evidence not only contrasts to her claim, but also supports Mao’s proclaimed aim of the Cultural Revolution, i.e., “a move to rid China of Soviet-style ‘revisionists’” (p. 570).
In particular, we will show how her evidence demonstrates: (i) Mao did not need to replace merciful officials to enforce his plan for the JC called Superpower Programme. (ii) Mao neither targeted merciful officials nor promoted merciless ones during the Cultural Revolution. (iii) Mao’s approach of mobilizing the masses to topple officials seriously damaged the very basis of any enforcement, and was totally unnecessary if his goal was “to install much more merciless enforcers”. (iv) JC believes that there was a pro-Russian faction within the Chinese government before the Cultural Revolution.
We will explain each of these points in details below.
(i) Jung Chang’s evidence shows Mao did not need the Cultural Revolution to “install much more merciless enforcers”, because there existed no serious resistance to his so called Superpower Programme at the top level. In 1964 Mao started his biggest project after the Great Leap Forward, the Third Front. “It cost an astronomical 200 billion-plus yuan, and at its peak it sucked in at least two-third of the entire nation’s investment. The waste it created was more than the total material losses caused by the Great Leap Forward” (p. 503). In spite of that, “Liu Shao-chi and Mao’s other colleagues put up no resistance to this lunacy… . For Mao to forgo deaths and political victimization seems to have been the best his colleagues thought they could expect – and enough to make them feel they might as well go along with him” (p. 504).
(ii) If Mao’s aim was to replace merciful enforcers with merciless ones, he would have targeted the former and promoted the latter during the Cultural Revolution. But Jung Chang’s evidence shows the opposite. She first gives an example: one of the outspoken opponents of the Cultural Revolution was “Mao’s old follower Tan Zhen-lin, who had been in charge of agriculture during the famine (showing how far he was prepared to go along with Mao)” (p. 546). Later, JC puts it more flatly: “Mao did not differentiate between disaffected officials and those who were actually totally loyal to him and had not wavered even during the famine. In fact, there was no way he could tell who was which. So he resolved to overthrow them all first, and then have them investigated by his new enforcers” (p. 543). This is not the way to find merciless enforcers. If Mao could not “tell who was which” among his old followers after years of scrutiny, how could he trust those totally unknown rebels out of his party system? In fact, merciless enforcers were more likely to be thrown out first by rebels, who might have suffered under them for years. For instance, the Sichuan boss Li Jingquan and his associates (including “Public Affair” officials), who cooperated quite well to cover the famine, could not escape this time.
(iii) Mao’s approach of mobilizing masses to push the party apparatus into chaos contradicts Jung Chang’s theory. If Mao’s goal was merciless enforcement, the last thing he wanted should have been to destroy the very basis of any enforcement, the authority of his government, without which no enforcers can enforce anything regardless of how merciless they are. Mao’s approach can only be consistent with Jung Chang’s theory if it was necessary “to install much more merciless enforcers”. Unfortunately, Jung Chang’s evidence convincingly rules this possibility out.
JC shows Mao could get rid of his enemies without mobilizing masses. For instance, let’s consider “the first list of victims of the Great Purge, four big names described as an ‘anti-Party clique’: Mayor Peng, Chief of Staff Luo, Yang Shang-kun, the liaison with Russia and the tape-recording suspect, and old media chief Lu Ding-yi. Mao did not bother to come to the occasion”. The meeting “was actually chaired by Liu Shao-chi, who knew he was chairing an event that was ultimately going to bring him to ruin”. “Liu then asked all in favor to raise their hands. All did, including Mayor Peng and Liu” (p. 531).
The Red Guards were involved in toppling the President Liu Shao-chi, but JC shows their contribution was merely nominal. After citing the words of Kuai Da-fu, who was the Rebel leader in condemning Liu, JC writes: “This is a good self-confession of how the Rebels really worked; they were tools, and cowards, and they knew it” (p. 550). To formally purge Liu, “Mao had Chou En-lai telephone Liu and tell him to stop meeting foreigners, or appearing in public, unless told to do so. That day, Mao wrote a tirade against Liu which he himself read out to the Central Committee two days later, in Liu’s presence, breaking the news of Liu’s downfall” (p. 548).“Out of his remaining top echelon, there came only one burst of defiance. In February 1967, some of the Politburo members who had not fallen spoke up, voicing rage at what was happening to their fellow Party cadres” (p. 546). “But these elite survivors were either devoted veteran followers of Mao’s, or men already broken by him. Faced with his wrath, they folded… . The mini-revolt was easily quelled” (p. 547).
Masses were not needed against the challenge which involved some of the country’s top military leaders. Clearly JC cannot explain the essential feature of the Cultural Revolution.
(iv) Now let’s look at how JC’s evidence supports a totally different goal of the Cultural Revolution, proclaimed by Mao himself, who “had presented the Cultural Revolution as a move to rid China of Soviet-style ‘revisionists’” (p. 570).“On 14 October 1964, Khrushchev was ousted in a palace coup… Within days, Chou was telling Soviet ambassador Chervonenko that it was Mao’s ‘utmost wish’ to have a better relationship. Chou requested an invitation to the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Moscow on 7 November” (p. 510). “At the reception in the Kremlin on 7 November, … Soviet defense minister Rodion Malinovsky approached Chou… . Out of the blue, Malinovsky said to Chou: ‘We don’t want any Mao, or any Khrushchev, to stand in the way of our relationship’… . Malinovsky then turned to Marshal Ho Lung, China’s acting army chief: ‘We’ve got rid of our fool Khrushchev, now you get rid of yours, Mao’” (p. 511).
Moreover, JC reveals secret moves within the Chinese leadership. In “February (1966), with the backing of Liu Shao-chi, Mayor Peng issued a ‘national guideline’ forbidding the use of political accusations to trample on culture and the custodians of culture. Moreover, he went further, and actually suppressed Mao’s instructions aimed at starting a persecution campaign… . As soon as he issued the guideline, Mayor Peng flew to Sichuan, ostensibly to inspect arms industries relocated in this mountainous province. There he did something truly astonishing. He had a secret tete-a-tete with Marshal Peng… . judging from the timing, and the colossal risk Mayor Peng took in visiting a major foe of Mao’s, without permission, in secret, it is highly likely that they discussed the feasibility of using the army to stop Mao… Marshal Ho Lung, the man to whom Soviet defense minister Malinovsky had said ‘Get rid of Mao’, soon also went to Sichuan, also in the name of inspecting the arms industries… . And there was more that was gnawing at Mao’s mind. It seems that Mayor Peng was contemplating getting in touch with the Russians, and may have thought of seeking Russian help to avert Mao’s Purge” (p. 528).After seeing JC’s evidence, one has hardly any choice but to view Mao’s “Cultural Revolution as a move to rid China of Soviet-style ‘revisionists’”.
(v) The mass mobilization not only contradicts JC’s theory, it also fits Mao’s declaration of “denouncing those power-holders inside the Party pursuing a capitalist road”. Mao believed that the capitalism would benefit officials at expense of ordinary people. His proclaimed goal is also consistent with China’s reality today. Few people doubt China is capitalist, at least economically.
The transformation was coincidently guided by the then No. 2 capitalist-roader Deng Xiao-ping (p. 553). Since Mao foresaw capitalist forthcoming, and even anticipated its top campaigner, it seems logical that he would launch the Cultural Revolution to prevent that from happening.