What were Mao’s educational aims during the Cultural Revolution and how far did he achieve them?
A. Plan of the investigation
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution seemed to have settled down to the job of ruling China during 1960s1. Its main goals were to establish nationalism and promote a prosperous modern economy and a government capable of maintaining national unity and in consequence uphold the place of China in the world. Nevertheless to achieve those, there had to be a drastic change to convert Chinese life and Education into a new society. The aim of this investigation is to find out Mao’s educational aims in the Cultural Revolution and how far he achieved them. The mark of the Cultural Revolution was seen in the desire to reduce the “three great differences” between workers and peasants, cities and country sides, and manual and intellectual work.2
The investigation will cover Mao’s aims at The Start of the Cultural Revolution, the first students’ actions through the Red Guards, the Reshaping and recreation of the Chinese Culture and Mao’s legacy. The analysis will evaluate the changes and reform in the field of Education. The sources used include textbooks, original documents, Mao’s speeches and first-hand accounts, two of which will be evaluated in detail.
B. Summary of evidence
1. The Start of the Cultural Revolution
The Cultural Revolution started as a decisive battle between the proletariat and the masses of working people on the one hand and bourgeoisie and its agents in the Party on the other3. Shangai was the place where the revolution broke out. The revolutionary masses in Shangai have called it the great ‘January Revolution’4. During those months there was a campaign against bourgeois influences in art and literature; however it was expanded in May 1966, when a student of Beijing University was the first young person to protest against the conservative administration for restricting movement5. Mao supported her accusations and thought that organizing the young people he would get a key tool to achieve his aims by removing the traditional Four Olds and hence change China.
2. – The Red Guard Terror
The Red Guard was a movement whose members in general were young people. Most of them were students or pupils who believed in and venerated Mao Zedong. Its ideals were basically to replace the traditional China and to create a new and modern society, a new type of China to bring a new culture which means Mao’s aims. Mao Zedong defined in his Sixteen Articles (August 1966) the opponents of the revolution categorized as “class enemies” and the “Four Olds” designed by himself: old culture, old thoughts, old customs and old habits.
The first Red Guard group was formed in Beijing on May 29, 1966.6 Within a year, the majority of high school and college students, together with many younger workers, had joined the Red Guard or other rebel organizations. Wearing red arm bands, supplied to them by Maoist officials, these ‘Red Guards’ began a reign of terror7 were the mere tool of change was violence. There was no respect to the adults; teachers and parents were replaced by Mao Zedong who became the new master for them. Obedience belonged to Mao and no one else.
The youngsters were supported by Mao in the actions that they decide to take in order to destroy the Four Olds. For instance temples, shrines, works of art and ornamental gardens became obvious targets; many priceless and irreplaceable treasures of Chinese civilization were destroyed in this wave organised vandalism. In the words of a Western correspondent: ‘Mao told the Red Guards: to rebel is justified8.
3. – Reshaping the Chinese Culture & Education
The process of reshaping China was based in make China: a country without differences by establishing equality and giving access to education to the ones who were ignored in the ancient regimes. Between 1969 and 1974 some ten million young students from the cities (graduated from secondary schools) went to live in the country where they worked on farms or did others jobs.9 The changes were therefore occurring simultaneously in education administration under the impact of these reforms. In terms of education there were three related changes: “one was the decentralization within the education bureaucracy, a second was deprofesionalization with the authority of the intellectuals broken and a third related change was the strengthening of local community and especially local Party control over education.”10
4. – The legacy (After the Cultural Revolution)
Between 1949 and 1978, the People’s Republic of China underwent a radical political, social, and economic transformation11; nonetheless the Cultural Revolution had important consequences for all aspects of life in China.
Mao’s ideological legacy
Maoists proclaimed the Cultural Revolution a great victory because it re- established the supremacy of Mao’s authority and of his thought and ideology, which were deemed essential to China’s progress12. However not all the Chinese population agreed with Mao’s ideology and reforms. They regarded his legacy as not suitable for the new mission of modernization and cited his failure to lift China from poverty as proof of the inadequacy of his approach. It created conflicting views and a consensus was difficult to reach. To avoid those conflicts it was necessary to separate Mao’s thought from his leadership. Mao’s thought represents the Chinese Revolution and the struggle and efforts made by Chinese people; therefore it was also their legacy.
After the chaotic years
The Cultural Revolution was not just a disaster for the Party, for the country, but for the whole people13. Besides the dead, millions of Chinese limped away from the battles and repression of the Cultural Revolution physically and psychologically scarred. Millions were arbitrary arrested and sent to prisons and labour camps, and many more millions were shipped off to labour or to idle away their days in the more remote areas of Manchuria and Xinjiang14. An especially vulnerable group was the intellectuals, a term used loosely to denote all those whose way of life or work was deemed to detach them from the people. Schools teachers, University staff, writers, and even doctors were prey to the Red Guard squads who denounced them as ‘bad elements’ and made publicly confess their class crimes15. The Maoists were prepared to let things run to extremes.16
C. Evaluation of Sources
David Milton, Nancy Milton and Franz Schurmann (1974) People’s China: Volume 4 of the China Reader series.
The Milton’s are professors of Sociology at Berkley. Schurmann is one of the leading China scholars in the United States 17. Their purpose is to emphasize the external and internal developments in the first years of the Cultural Revolution.
This source is valuable because it shows us the impressions of the start of the revolution and the way it had been going and also because it is a first-hand account from 1974. The speeches, recorded conversations, letters and quotations are very helpful and give us a panorama of Mao’s environment and people. The book gives prominence to the Chinese view of events and highlights the powerful influence that China has in the world. Nevertheless it was published in 1974 and so does not reflect recent interpretations of the Cultural Revolution.
Alan Lawrance (2004) China since 1919 Revolution and Reform-A sourcebook
Alan Lawrance, a History professor went to China twice on official delegations in 1972 and 1981 and experienced the contrast between the Cultural Revolution policies and their impact on education18. In his travels he made numbers of contacts and also he could get closer to ‘the real China’.19 The purpose of the book is to present a collection of documents as well as less accessible extracts.
As a sourcebook it is valuable in giving a variety of primary. Lawrance structures every chapter by an introduction that summarizes the general topic and then he presents the statements ordered by the date. However a limitation could be the introduction to the sources with his ideas which may influence the interpretation of the reader.
To assess Mao’s educational aims and how far he achieved them, it is first of all important to recognize his goals in Education though the Cultural Revolution and his reasons to revolutionize the Chinese Education System. Chairman Mao, as Red Guards used to called him, created the “Four Olds”: old culture, old thoughts, old customs and old habits; and also defined the opponents of the Cultural Revolution known as “class enemies”20; who in general were intellectuals, traditional teachers and all that promoted the conservation of the Four Olds. Moreover, according to Mao: Education was dominated by Confucian ideas and did not fit with the goal of building a socialist country21 where the equality between the intellectuals, working class and peasants was seen as an unreachable objective22.
Mao’s aims were also that Education be related to reality and the daily life. He believed that students can learn more by working and not only reading texts and attending classroom lectures23. Hence the great changes during the Cultural Revolution were mostly in the Admission Policy, the Length and substance of Education and the Governance of Schools. However even though the peasant population agreed with the reforms, not all the Chinese population supported the abuse and violence as tools of change.
The first one, the Admission Policy, changed drastically by abolishing the traditional entrance examination at all levels of schooling because it had been used by bourgeois intellectuals and for the worker and peasant class24. Second, the length and substance of education were points of immediate change. Education could not take so long, for instance the primary and secondary schools were cut from six to five years, and in the colleges the length was cut from four or five years.
Mao did prefer that young people end school or college early and after be promoted travel inside China to take part in the Cultural Revolution through the Red Guard. Nonetheless another reason was that students were involved in the agriculture or industry development25instead of the academic researches or studies. In fact, Mao considered that classroom study should be oriented towards social, political and production needs26, things which are practical for real life.
Third, the Governance of schools was such a controversial change because the usual administration of schools was moved from the hands of bourgeois intellectuals to committees made up of local workers, soldiers, peasants, and to those students and teachers who were active members or sympathizers of the CCP27.
Furthermore politically powerful individuals would be able to ensure admission for their children, or just someone who had offered them a bribe.
Corruption and injustice were notable in that decade, Chinese people who did not have any advantage, influence or participation in the local and national political life simply did not have many privileged chances to enter to school or college. Education became a business in a political cycle for the CCPs’ supporter and injustice for intellectuals and bourgeoisie in China.
Even though the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution brought many changes in the economy, political and foreign life of China, it also brought important changes in the field of education. The Cultural Revolution put an end to the traditional education system through the new reforms during 1966 to1976.On one hand the Cultural Revolution did not accomplish Mao’s objectives. Instead, it created a terrible legacy: a generation of young people whose confidence in any code of belief had been destroyed, and who had also lost their chance of meaningful education. In a large part, it resulted in a ‘missing generation’ of professionals and specialists.28
But on the other hand the new reforms, contrasting with a usual democratic regime, were under the domination of a man who aimed to build a new republic. Mao Zedong had the direction and the spirit of the real Revolution. It is true that Education was seen as a right for peasants but as an abuse for the intellectuals; however it is important to recognize that China made some steps forward in the equality and broke the bridge of the social differences.
F. List of Sources
Chesneaux, Jean (1979) China: The People’s Republic 1949-1976.
Crispin, Denis Twitchett, John King Fairbank & Albert Feuerwerker (1978),
The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge University Press. Volume 15
Gregor, Anthony James (1986) The China Connection: U.S. Policy and the People’s Republic of China. Ed. Hoover Press
Haoran, (1976) Ma plume au service du prolï¿½tariat [My pen in the Service of the Proletariat] Lausanne, Alfred Eibel Editions.
Haughwout, Ralph Folsom & John H. Minan. (1989)Law in the People’s Republic of China. Ed. Brill
Hsu, Immanuel C. Y. (2000) The Rise of Modern China. 6th ed. Oxford University Press.
Jiang, Yarong & David Ashley (2000) Mao’s Children in the New China Voices from the Red Guard Generation. Ed Asia’s Transformations.
Lawrance, Alan. (2004) China since 1919- Revolution and Reform. Routledge
Lynch, Michael (1998). The People’s Republic of China since 1949. London: Hodder and Stoughton
Meisner, Maurice. (1998) Mao’s China and after. The Free Press. 3rd Edition.
Milton, David and Nancy, and Franz Schurmann. (1974) People’s China. Volume 4th. Penguin Books.
Moise, Edwin E. (1986) The Present and the Past: Modern China. 2nd London and New York: Longman Group
Schugurensky, Daniel. Chinese Cultural Revolution brings about massive educational change. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT) 1966 http://www.wier.ca/~daniel_schugurens/assignment1/1966chinarev.html Date 13th August
University of California, Berkley http://sociology.berkeley.edu/alumni2/viewbio_querylist.php?ID=606 Date 25th September
1 The passing of time alone is good enough reason for re-examining the cataclysm that shook China in 1966-1976, whose legacy endures into the China of the 1990s. Like all momentous events in human history, the Cultural Revolution demands constant restudy, reinterpretation, and reflection.
William A. Joseph, Christine P. W. Wong, and David Zweig.
2 Haoran, Ma plume au service du proletariat [My pen in the Service of the Proletariat] Lausanne, Alfred Eibel Editions 1976. Pages 48-52
3 David and Nancy Milton, and Franz Schurmann. People’s China. Volume 4th. Penguin Books. 1974. Page 304
4 David and Nancy Milton, and Franz Schurmann, 304.
5 Ibid, Pages 304 – 305
6 Yarong Jiang & David Ashley, Mao’s Children in the New China
Voices from the Red Guard Generation. Ed Asia’s Transformations. Page 4
7 Michael Lynch,. The People’s Republic of China since 1949. Ed 1998. Page 41
8 Lynch, Page 45
9 Jean Chesneaux, Ed.1979 China: The People’s Republic 1949-1976. Pages 189-190
Originally published as La Chine: Un Nouveau Communisme 1949-1976 by Hatier University (1977)
10 Denis Crispin Twitchett, John King Fairbank & Albert Feuerwerker, The Cambridge History of China. Ed. 1978 Cambridge University Press. Volume 15 Page 567
11 Anthony James Gregor. The China Connection: U.S. Policy and the People’s Republic of China. Ed. Hoover Press 1986.Page 43
12 Immanuel C. Y. Hsu. The Rise of Modern China. Oxford University Press. Ed. 2000. Page 702
13 Michael Lynch. Pufang Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping’ son) Reflections twenty years after the events. The People’s Republic of China since 1949.
14 Maurice Meisner. Mao’s China and after. The Free Press. Third Edition 1998. Page 354
15 Michael Lynch. Page 46
16 Ibid, Page 49.
17 University of California, Berkley http://sociology.berkeley.edu/alumni2/viewbio_querylist.php?ID=606
18 Alan Lawrance. China since 1919- Revolution and Reform. Routledge 2004 – Second preface
19 Lawrance. Second preface.
20 Yarong Jiang & David Ashley, Mao’s Children in the New China Voices from the Red Guard Generation. Ed Asia’s Transformations. Page 5
21 Daniel Schugurensky. Chinese Cultural Revolution brings about massive educational change. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT) 1966
22 Daniel Schugurensky, 1966.
23 Daniel Schugurensky ,1966
24 The ability to demonstrate academic competence, through written examinations, was de-emphasized; this had been one of the first major slogans under which the Cultural Revolution began, in 1966. Edwin e Moise. The Present and the Past: Modern China. Longman 1986.
25 Edwin e Moise. The Present and the Past: Modern China. Longman 1986.Page 194
26 Daniel Schugurensky, 1966.
28 Ralph Haughwout Folsom & John H. Minan. Law in the People’s Republic of China. Ed. BRILL 1989. Page 12