China Under Mao

August 7, 1968

Report Outline
Communist China at Turning Point
Course of Great Cultural Revolution
Revolution'S Effect on Future of China
Special Focus

Communist China at Turning Point

State of China After Two Years of Turmoil

The great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao Tse-tung in the late spring and summer of 1966, brought mainland China to the brink of anarchy. Virtually all secondary schools and universities in the country were closed for a year or longer, while five or six million students in the Red Guard or other organizations—impelled by utopian objectives and encouraged by the highest state authorities—wrought untold physical and psychological damage. At the peak of the convulsion, anyone suspected of “bourgeois leanings” (policies differing from Mao's) was fair game for character assassination, removal from a post of responsibility, or personal harassment. At times, a civil war of gigantic proportions seemed imminent.

Forces of moderation, including the military, finally joined in determined efforts to put the genie back into the bottle. Despite the Maoist pullback, however, ideological challenge, economic disruption, and social turbulence continued. The future direction of events in the world's most populous country therefore remains a matter of concern.

Among the disturbing portents is the view, taken by some of the passionate revolutionaries, that curbing of their activities represents a betrayal of Mao's own teachings. These radicals constitute in essence a “New Left,” and it is questionable whether Mao will be able to hold them in check indefinitely. Possible unleashing of a “new civil war” by factionalists was suggested by a Shanghai newspaper on June 21. Extensive fighting between a Maoist “Red Flag” faction and a traditionalist “East Wing” faction has occurred in recent weeks in and around Canton, chief city of the southern province of Kwangtung. Eighty per cent of Canton's factories were reported in mid-July to have suspended operations because of the disturbances. Later reports indicate that fighting has been going on in numerous cities and towns of the neighboring province of Kwangsi, which borders on North Viet Nam. The combatants are said to have engaged in heavy looting of arms and other supplies headed for North Viet Nam.

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