China After Mao

February 8, 1974

Report Outline
Revival of Maoist-Inspired Upheavel
Mao's Legacy of Continuing Revolution
Prospects for a Collective Leadership
Special Focus

Revival of Maoist-Inspired Upheavel

Aging Chairman as a Disruptive Father Figure

Chairman Mao Tse-tung, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Dec. 26, is now at the apogee of his power. Mao's name has become almost synonymous with that of the People's Republic of China which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. Moreover, Mao's reign, like that of the dynastic emperors of ancient China, has become one in which national obeisance to an individual has become almost absolute. The Tenth Party Congress in August 1973 re-elected Mao as chairman of the 28 million members of the Chinese Communist Party, a position which he has held for 40 years. And while the cult of Mao may equal or even surpass that of any other historic figure, Mao himself remains a paradox: Father of the Republic, he is also described as “the greatest single disruptive influence in the country.”

Mao remains China's leading revolutionary. He believes “one must divide into two” and has kept China in turmoil through such personally inspired revolutionary movements as the anarchic “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950s and the chaotic “Great Cultural Revolution” in the 1960s. Even now, at age 80, Mao's concern seems to be not so much the stability of his country, or the living standards of its 800 million people, as the continued momentum of the revolutionary elan which he himself has provided. This may be one of the reasons why the question of his succession remains unanswered. It appears that Mao does not want a stable leadership to follow him, but rather that he hopes his testament will be permanent revolution.

A revival of the once-discredited Cultural Revolution has been proclaimed in Mao's name. Since about Feb. 2, when the party newspaper People's Daily in Peking spoke editorially of a new “class struggle” to purify the ideology of China, official press and broadcasting outlets have told of mass rallies in the provinces. And wall posters, the main means of communication during the original Cultural Revolution, are reported to have reappeared in Peking and Shanghai. All of this has been preceded by six months of scarcely veiled debate in the press and official speeches over seemingly arcane matters of ideology which, to many “China watchers,” indicated a power struggle over Mao's succession.

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