The Cultural Revolution (China) Facts for Kids

  • The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a political and social upheaval in China led by Mao Zedong.
  • The Cultural Revolution lasted from 1966 to 1976 after Mao died.
  • He chose to do this by using his power to make people fight for Communism. 

Chinese Communism

The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921. They took ideas from other countries like the USSR, which also wanted to make Communism happen. The Qing dynasty was not good at governing the people, so the Communists took over. Keep reading to learn more about the cultural revolution.

The party’s early efforts were not very good. They were unable to find a base in either the cities of the country.

But one of the party’s founders, Mao Zedong, began to think about using village people. While still being the leader of the party, he pushed for more focus on these peasants.

Some people introduced economic reforms to try and fix the economy. They let families farm their land.

The Chinese Communist Party formed a Red Army to take over urban areas.

After World War II, the Chinese Communists were a powerful group because they had lots of support. They organized better and had more motivation. They took supplies from Japan, which lost Manchuria to the Communists.

After the Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward was a campaign that Chinese communists undertook to organize their country. They wanted to develop a way of making more products without needing machines but only people.

China wanted to have more manpower rather than just machines or lots of money. They hoped that it would be faster for them to become an industrialized country if they did this.

Mao wanted to create a better country. To do this, Mao had the people work together with the government. This is called collectivization.

At first, it seemed like it was going well, but then there was a famine, and 45 million people died from starvation. Many people blamed Mao, and he was partly taken out of power by Communist Party leaders who weren’t as extreme as him about collectivization.

Causes for the Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong felt that the current leadership of China was moving too far away from the original ideas. Mao’s power was weakened after the failure of the Great Leap Forward.

He gathered a group of radicals, including his wife Jiang Qing and defense minister Lin Biao, to help him attack current party leadership.

One of the reasons for the Cultural Revolution was a play called “The Dismissal of Hai Rui From Office.” The play is about an official who criticized the emperor. Mao saw it as attacking him.

The movement of the Chinese Cultural Revolution was about politics. Mao wanted to take control of the Communist Party again. He did that by siding with radical youths against the party hierarchy. But this had many different consequences for society, not just for one level of society.

Young people fought with Mao’s enemies. This was before they were sent to the countryside.

They battled with each other, too. But they were not the only ones who took part in this and suffered for it after. Intellectuals and people who worked against Mao also suffered from this too.

Intellectuals who had ties to the Nationalist party were prosecuted. They were killed or had long-term repercussions because of it.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution Begins

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. It lasted 10 years.

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. It lasted 10 years.

Mao began by closing the schools. He wanted young people to come to the rallies.

After that, the students formed groups called Red Guards. These groups attacked and harassed people who were old or who had different ideas.

A poster against the school leaders was made and put up at Beijing University. The feelings of the students were strong against them.

Classes across the country were canceled. Students began protesting and shouting against Mao Zedong’s enemies.

Mao Zedong supported the Red Guard. He later called for people to bombard the headquarters. It was clear that he was denouncing the President.

Mao believed that the important people in the government had grown lazy and not as good as they used to be. Local Red Guards – who were very strict and wanted to make sure everyone had the same ideas- attacked anyone they believed didn’t agree with their ideas.

The Cultural Revolution started when teachers and intellectuals in the nation were publicly humiliated, beaten, and killed. It is estimated that over 10 million people were persecuted. It was hard to find work because people had to move and schools closed.

After the first student-led red terror, chaos spread quickly. Workers joined the fight, and China was in a state of civil war with rival factions fighting in cities all over the country.

People were told to get rid of the four “olds”:

  1. old customs
  2. old culture
  3. old habits
  4. old ideas

After the Cultural Revolution, the country’s rulers said that it was a bad thing. It had only made things worse.

The Leader

President Lin was a person with a lot of power and popularity. Mao was afraid that Lin would take away his position as the leader of China. To fix this, Mao got rid of President Lin to make sure he had no competition.

A personality cult quickly sprang up around Mao. This is similar to that which existed for Stalin. Different groups of people argued about the true interpretation of Maoist thought.

Defense Minister Lin Biao created copies of the Little Red Book of Mao’s quotes and distributed them to get people to like Mao.

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, people read from “The Little Red Book.” This book was read on public buses. Even in the sky, air hostesses talked to passengers about Mao’s words. The Little Red Book was printed more than one billion times!

Control Over the People

Mao ordered the army to restore order in China. This made China a military dictatorship.

The Chinese Communist Party would assign labels to each person called “classes.” These classes determine how people were treated.

The Communist Party had a lot of control over the lives of people. They knew what everyone did.

As a result, people in China were not allowed to express themselves during the Cultural Revolution. They had to do what their boss said and be obedient to the Chinese nation. Only the Party members could have direct influence over their own lives.

There was a lot of fighting in China during the Cultural Revolution. Fighting was especially bad in Beijing and Guangzhou. This fight led to more than 1000 people dying.

Radicals took control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They began to put radical Chinese ambassadors in all the other embassies around the world.

Consequences of the Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution lasted for a long time, and many people were persecuted. They tried to get rid of people with “bad” backgrounds.

Many people from China who were not on Mao’s side were sent to the countryside. They had to do hard work in the fields. And when they weren’t working, they had to listen to things that made them think about what they did wrong and why Mao was a good leader.

Many people ended up living in the country. They did not get any education because they were away from schools.

China also had fights with the Soviet Union during the Cultural Revolution. Then China began trying to make deals with Western countries to renew relationships with the West.

Mao wanted people to stay true to the Communist values in China. So he started a campaign for the Chinese to remain loyal to their Communist Party.

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The End of the Cultural Revolution

Zhou Enlai, China’s premier, was always more moderate than Mao. By 1974, China’s most powerful leaders were sick. They could not make decisions for the country after they got sick.

Zhou Enlai died. He was a good leader who always looked out for the well-being of the Chinese people.

Thousands of people gathered in Tiananmen Square. They wanted the government to be more open and for there to be an end to dictatorship. The people who did demonstrations were stopped.

Mao Zedong was China’s leader for 27 years. He died. The people in China were sad, but they did not protest after Zhou’s death.

Hua Guofeng took over the power. He arrested the last leaders of the Cultural Revolution, who he called “The Gang of Four.”

They were accused of a variety of wrongdoings, including the Cultural Revolution’s mistakes. They became a scapegoat for the Cultural Revolution’s excesses, and Mao’s reputation was unaffected.

The arrest of the Gang is considered by many to be the end of the Cultural Revolution.

When Deng regained power in 1977, he would control the Chinese government for the next 20 years.


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