1958-1962: “THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD”
The economic and social campaign led by Mao aimed to rapidly transform the country into a socialist society. The Great Leap was widely considered to have been the cause of the Great Chinese Famine. Tens of millions of people died. Mao was criticized in Communist Party conferences held in 1960 and 1962. Moderate Party members rose to power, and Chairman Mao was marginalized.
Mao outlined his concerns about those who did not share his vision of communism in a Chinese Community Party Central Committee document.
Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution at the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee. Mao gathered students and youth as his Red Guards to attack revisionists in the party. He used violence to purge remnants of capitalist elements of society and abolish the “Four Olds”: ideas, culture, customs and habits. “Fight selfishness, criticize revisionism” was a rallying slogan of the time. China’s schools were shut down. All religions and worship of any kind were banned. Churches and temples were destroyed and those who remained faithful would be imprisoned.
JANUARY 3, 1967
Mao’s supporters, led by his wife, Jiang Qing, overthrew the party apparatus in Shanghai.
Many remaining political leaders called for an end to the Revolution but the radical partisans continued on.
Disorder and chaos were widespread throughout the country. More than 400,000 were killed and many more were tortured and imprisoned. The economy plummets. By September, China was on the brink of anarchy.
350 million copies of “The Red Book,” a book of quotes from Mao, had been printed.
Mao decided to rebuild the Communist Party to gain further control. The Red Guards were dispersed to rural areas to live, to spread revolution and learn from the nation’s peasantry.
Mao announces that the Revolution is over.