the chinese cultural revolution: the spirit of the people

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Journal entries from a professor during the period of violence and chaos we call the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

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  • 1. THE CHINESE CULTURALREVOLUTION:THE SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLECHRISTOPHER LIU
  • 2. PROLOGUEOn October 1, 1949, the Peoples Republic of China was officially established. At its head, was the famous leader Mao Zedong. Mao Zedongwas the one who lead the revolution against the previous ruling political party of China, the Kuomintang, Mao was idolized and practicallyworshipped by his subjects. He had captured the hearts of the people with promises of a peaceful and prosperous country through communism,and therefore wielded the considerable power that was the will of the people.Yet, it wasnt enough for him; Mao wanted more. He wanted to make China a superpower rivaling the power of the USA or the Soviet Union.To do this, though, he knew that industrialization was crucial. And so, he launched a campaign: the Great Leap Forward. The Great LeapForward was essentially an economic plan with the aim of accelerating the industrialization of China; some of the implemented methodsinclude merging huge amounts of peasants into large communes, sending many peasants to work on large infrastructure assignmentssuch as railways, and recommending peasants to try to create steel using their own so-called backyard furnaces.Unfortunately for Mao (and the rest of China), the movement was a complete failure. Not only did agricultural production plummet due tothe shift from agriculture to industry, many of the infrastructure projects eventually abandoned due to famine from said agriculturalrecession, and the backyard furnaces only producing unusable badly-produced steel (and at the expense of the heaps of tools and furnituremelted to produce the steel). In the end, all that resulted from the Great Leap Forward was among the most severe famines in recent history,and a great blow to the Partys trust in Mao.As the failure of the Great Leap Forward was largely Maos fault, it caused many to start to doubt his ability. As a consequence of this, Maowas pressured into relinquishing his position as the President of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party); however, he still held on to his title asthe Chairman of the CCP.As a result of this, it is likely that Mao feared that he was slowly being edged out of the government; this may have been his motivation forstarting the Cultural Revolution (though one could also argue that his motivation for the revolution was because he genuinely wished for atrue communist state with no elite ruling party). So, what is the Cultural Revolution? The Cultural Revolution, as the name suggests, wasa great cultural upheaval characterized by the destruction of past cultural heritage, and extensive persecution of many intellectuals andParty members.This, then, is where the following journal entries are from; the age of violence and chaos known as the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Thecharacter from whos point these entries are written is a leftist professor at Peking University. His (or her, it doesnt particularly matter)name is not mentioned in the journal entries and is quite irrelevant, but if you must, his name is Xi Jinming.And so, let us begin on the great journey through time that these journal entries will take us. We begin just before the revolution starts...
  • 3. MAY 15, 1966Its been quite hectic the last few years, but I believe that things are finally cooling down.You know, while I love Mao Zedong, and hes the leader that finally overthrew the tyrants of the previous era and gave us communism intheir place, I sometimes question his motives. Take, for example, the Hundred Flowers campaign about a decade ago. First, Mao encouragespeople to criticize the government and show them how to improve, then he suddenly decides to persecute all those who spoke out! While Iunderstand that such actions were able to root out numerous bourgeois citizens, it was also horribly inefficient, condemning many loyalpatriots who were merely following Maos suggestions. I, myself, had barely escaped unharmed!Then, after that, came what is known as the Great Leap Forward. A campaign to improve and accelerate Chinas industrialization, itended in complete failure. Mao had too high expectations of the common peasant; not all of them were very bright! He expected them toproduce advanced commodities such as steel, when they could barely tend to their farms correctly. In fact, being blinded by zeal andexcitement for creating steel, the fools even melted their own tools to make steel! How can you expect to make anything with the steel youmade without tools! Worse, the steel that they produced was impure, and useless, so they wasted their tools to make scrap metal, and nowthey cant even farm! You could not possibly imagine the great recession which followed. There was disease, there was famine, there wasdeath. People could barely get 1/4 of a kilogram of meat per month! We all survived on mere basic grains, and not enough of that as well.And, of course, much of that was blamed on Mao (who, admittedly, was the one who started the movement in the beginning). With thecomplete and utter failure of the Great Leap Forward, Mao was disgraced, and these are merely rumors essentially lost power overChinas economy. How dare they! How dare the government abandon Mao so! Yet, I cant help but, in some ways, agree with them.As I said, I am loyal to Mao and China. However, being an intellectual, I cannot help but ponder Maos true intentions behind his actions. Iknow of Maos blinding intellect, and I know that he would not be so foolish as to make mistakes of such a grand scale as the HundredFlowers movement, or the Great Leap Forward. After all, hes Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong is not a fool. Mao Zedong would not do somethingwithout proper reason. So I wonder, for what reason did he start these campaigns?But, for now at least, we have peace, and we will rebuild our country to a prosperous utopia for all. May our glorious nation progress andprosper!
  • 4. MAY 15, 1966BACKYARD FURNACESWHICH PRODUCED COMPLETELYUSELESS STEELI ONCE WAS LUCKYENOUGH TO TAKE APICTURE OF MAO!
  • 5. AUGUST 19, 1966It appears that I spoke too soon, that the conflict and chaos of the past few years was only the beginning to something far, far larger.Mao was indeed preparing for something. He calls it the Cultural Revolution. A mere day after my previous journal entry, an series ofarticles were released, claiming that there are still more bourgeois citizens in China, but this time in the Party itself. I remember it quiteclearly; the news was all across the headlines.However, for the revolution, Mao did something quite unprecedented: he called upon the students to carry out his wishes for persecution. Hisorder spread like the plague; soon, nearly every student in Peking University, where I am a professor, started banding together into groupswhich theyve termed Red Guards. It was an awe-inspiring sight, to see the entire school so easily and so completely united by just a fewwords by Mao. Is this the true power which he wields? Not the power of the military and its force, nor the power of the government and itsstrategy, but the power of the people?But I digress. Interestingly enough, one of the most popular revolutionary activities which the students enjoy is writing so-called dazibao,essentially large words painted on large pieces of paper. While I find this to be juvenile, I nevertheless fully support each and every one of theRed Guards in their activities. After all, Mao himself had wrote an important dazibao himself, with a simple statement: bombard theheadquarters. It seems that Mao is intent on rooting out every single bit of bourgeois influence within society, and is convinced that theParty is corrupted to its roots.Here, though, is where I am slightly confused; if he tells the masses to bombard the headquarters, does that not also include himself aswell? Additionally, would not this turn out similar to the Hundred Flowers incident, with not only the guilty, but also the innocentpersecuted? After all, there is no definite way of truly determining if a person is not bourgeois... Its likely that many perfectly communistcitizens will be accused of being rightist. Which raises the question: is it worth it? Is it worth it to sacrifice a few innocent to find theguilty? I do not know of the answer to this question, but I must trust Maos judgement. After all, hes Mao. The genius behind this greatcountry. If I cannot trust him, who may I trust?Yes, I must trust in Mao. To do anything else would be rightist, and where would that put me? In the coming storm, I must remain vigilantin my love for Mao, lest I be blown away by the winds of conflict. May my belief never waver, my faith never fade!
  • 6. AUGUST 19, 1966RED GUARDS RALLYINGAT A LOCAL SCHOOLWRITING DAZIBAO SOONBECAME RIDICULOUSLY POPULAR
  • 7. JULY 14, 1968Everything went wrong.What the Cultural Revolution became was something that no one could have possibly predicted. It wasnt a revolution, it was massacre!The Red Guards were supposed to be the enemy of the bourgeois, the savior of the people. Instead, they simply became the enemy of