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a huge demonstration in response. After angry crowds burned the
police station near the square, the army moved in with truncheons to
clear the square. The radicals on the Politburo then blamed one of their
number, Deng Xiaoping, for the disturbances. Deng was expelled from
the Politburo and sent into internal exile. He retained only his party
membership, but he was too major a figure to be forgotten. He eventu-
ally came back to power after Mao's death and was China's leading
figure until his death in 1997.
The radicals then gained the upper hand, but they did not enjoy their
day in the sun for long. Mao fell gravely ill in the summer of 1976 and
finally died on September 9. China mourned his passing, but not with
the same grief that attended Zhou's passing earlier in the year. The
main question for China after Mao's death was, once again, who his
successor would be. Then, as now, the Chinese public would have
nothing to do with the selection of his successor. Because China was
not a democracy, the death of a national leader was typically followed
not by an orderly transition, but a raw power struggle between
unelected, high-ranking political figures. Hua Guofeng was the nomi-
nally designated successor, but he knew that his base of support was
limited and that he would probably not prevail in a protracted power
struggle. So he decided to strike first. The PLA, by now sick and tired
of all the upheavals and instability in China, responded positively to
his appeal for military support, and on October 6, 1976, Jiang Qing
and three of her fellow radicals were arrested. These four people,
dubbed the Gang of Four, were made scapegoats for most of China's
suffering over the past decade. Everyone knew that Mao did find
the Gang of Four useful at times and occasionally gave his support to
them as he saw fit, but Mao was still too much a revered figure to share
in the blame. Mao was the unnamed fifth man in what was really a
gang of five.
Mao was a political revolutionary and an important national sym-
bol, but he made most of his contributions to China prior to 1949. After
that he proved to be largely an impediment to peacetime growth and
development in China. He understood neither economics nor military
operations. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Mao was not a military
genius; the military writings and victories commonly credited to him
are actually attributable to other figures in the Red Army (Wei 2002,
229-48). After his death in 1976 his mistakes were openly recognized,
and the Chinese people in their innately good sense decided that
China would never again allow the disruptive national movements
and class struggle he so treasured.
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