Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
The young man whose revolutionary work of destruction I had
interrupted said angrily, “You shut up! These things belong to the old
culture. They are the useless toys of the feudal emperors and the
modern capitalist class and have no significance to us, the proletarian
class. They cannot be compared to cameras and binoculars, which are
useful for our struggle in time of war. Our Great Leader Chairman
Mao taught us, 'If we do not destroy, we cannot establish.' The old cul-
ture must be destroyed to make way for the new socialist culture.”
(Cheng 1986, 73-74)
The fall of 1968 was the end of the Cultural Revolution proper, and it
was officially declared over in the spring of 1969. Its lingering effects,
however, continued to reverberate until Mao's death in 1976. After
1969 movements reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution flared up
occasionally but were not given the full rein they had in 1966 and
1967. Mao knew that his Cultural Revolution was, like his Great Leap
Forward of the late 1950s, a monumental failure, but this time he made
sure that nobody like Peng Dehuai would dare come forth and criticize
him. This time the odds were stacked in his favor; the highest levels of
the CCP were packed with his allies, and he always had Jiang Qing
and her group of literary hatchet men ready to slice up any potential
Mao continued to be concerned about the state of the revolution in
China, but by the late 1960s and early 1970s he was becoming preoccu-
pied with another matter, the growing Sino-Soviet split. Mao became
convinced during this time that the greatest threat to Chinese and
international security was not the United States but the Soviet Union,
which had distanced itself from China in horror after the lunacy of
the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and had begun
menacing China along the Sino-Soviet borders.
The Cultural Revolution was a complex phenomenon, and making
sense of it is not an easy task. Indeed, several scholars who have
devoted their careers to plumbing its depths have not been able to
come to full grips with its causes and the course of its development.
The Cultural Revolution was more or less officially launched in mid-
1966, but after that it seems to have assumed a momentum and mean-
ing all its own, quite apart from what Mao originally foresaw or
intended. It ended with the deaths of more than one million Chinese
and massive disruptions in the lives of almost all of China's urban
population. (Disruptions were less extensive in the countryside.) Per-
haps we never will fully understand the Cultural Revolution, but at
present it appears that it was more or less a failed attempt by Mao
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