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What Was China's Cultural Revolution?

  • VOA News

FILE -A young woman calls out to embolden her fellow Red Guards in Beijing's Tiananmen Square at the start of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Aug. 10, 1966. May 16 is the 50-year anniversary of the start of the controversial campaign.

FILE -A young woman calls out to embolden her fellow Red Guards in Beijing's Tiananmen Square at the start of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Aug. 10, 1966. May 16 is the 50-year anniversary of the start of the controversial campaign.

What Was China's Cultural Revolution?

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the violent political movement in China known as the Cultural Revolution.

Who was behind the policy? Communist leader Mao Zedong

What was it? A socio-political campaign ostensibly started to reignite revolutionary fervor among China's masses. The hardline political campaign spurred class war, leading students to violently revolt against their teachers, and neighbors, co-workers and even family members to turn against each other. Students were sent to the countryside to learn from peasants, and across the country, millions of people were subjected to public humiliations.

When did it end? The end of the campaign is considered to be Mao's death on September 9, 1976, and the subsequent arrest of the Gang of Four.

What was the Gang of Four? A group of Communist Party activists led by Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, that acted under Mao's authority. The four were largely responsible for propelling the Cultural Revolution, and the country, into utter chaos. They issued political directives and wrote criticisms of Communist Party leaders and others who were targeted during the movement.

Cultural Revolution outcome?

* During the 10-year period, millions were persecuted, an untold number of people were killed and the economy was destroyed.

* The Gang of Four -- Jiang, Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan -- was tried in 1981. Jiang and Zhang received death sentences that were later commuted to life terms. Wang received a life sentence and Yao received a 20-year sentence. Yao was the last member to die, in 2005.

* While the Communist Party largely ignores the period, the official party line is that Mao was "70 percent right and 30 percent wrong." It also proclaimed the campaign "an appalling catastrophe" and "the most severe setback to the socialist cause since 1949."

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