Cultural Revolution

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The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or simply the Cultural Revolution was a violent mass movement that resulted in social, political, and economic upheaval in the People’s Republic of China starting in 1966 and ending officially with Mao's death in 1976. It resulted in nation-wide chaos, economic disarray, and stagnation.

It was launched by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party of China, on May 16, 1966; he alleged that liberal bourgeoise elements were permeating the party and society at large and that they wanted to restore capitalism. Mao insisted, in accordance with his theory of permanent revolution, that these elements should be removed through revolutionary violent class struggle by mobilizing China's youth who, responding to his appeal, then formed Red Guard groups around the whole country.

The movement subsequently spread into the military, urban workers, and the party leadership itself. Although Mao himself officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, its active phase lasted until the death of Lin Biao in a plane crash in 1971. The power struggles and political instability between 1969 and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976 are now also widely regarded as part of the Revolution.

After Mao's death in 1976, forces within the party that opposed the Cultural Revolution, led by Deng Xiaoping, gained prominence, and most of the political, economic, and educational reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution were abandoned by 1978. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since. The people involved in instituting the policies of the Cultural Revolution were persecuted. In its official historical judgment of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, the Party assigned chief responsibility to Mao Zedong, but also laid significant blame on Lin Biao and the Gang of Four for causing its worst excesses.


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