Introduction: A Short History of the Cultural Revolution
Started in 1976 under the umbrella term of “Reconstruction,” he Cultural Revolution has definitely left a mark on the history of China. The changes made to the country’s economy and politics were truly huge; and, weirdly enough these alterations could be viewed both as a foot forward in the development of market economy and market relationships, and a giant leap backwards in the security of the Chinese people’s liberty, social and political freedoms and control over the state.
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Like any other revolution, however, the Cultural Revolution started by Mao Zedong left the state in economic, political and cultural devastation. The state needed the reformation of the existing legislation system, new economy model and a more coherent cultural policy. Unfortunately, the changes that Mao Zedong brought onto China did not contribute to the provision of rights and freedoms to its citizens.
The “Mongol purges” (Black and Munro 9) did not make the situation any better, either. The state was at the brink of a major crisis, and with the subsequent emergence of the Gang of Four, the situation turned drastic.
New Democracy: Where the Road Paved with Good Intentions Leads to
Although it has been stressed above that the Cultural Revolution had very little to do with the actual principles of democracy, the new regime, which was established after the revolution was over was, in fact, called the New Democracy.
Weirdly enough, the New Democracy did not affect the establishment of democratic principles in the present day China positively; despite the name, the given phenomenon had little to do with the actual democratic principles.
Indeed, in a retrospect, the core concepts of the New Democracy rubbed elbows with political oppression, seeing how saying a single word against the Party meant becoming a political prisoner. In Black and Munro’s book, the story of Hang Dofhang sheds some light on the methods that were used in order to hush the rebellious people down: “Han served out his three years at Tuanhe, fighting to the end for the rights of his men” (Black and Munro 157).
The creation of the New Democracy was clearly meant to be a positive start into an entirely new world of social justice, at least as Mao Zedong envisioned it. However, with the organization of the Gang of Four, the premises for developing market based economy were ruined completely.
If it had not been for the popular movement organized by the government getting out of hand, the process of the state democratization may have been possible, and the dictator ship of the proletariat would have finally ceased. Instead, the state was thrown several decades back in its development, which resulted in complexities with the establishment of democracy principles in the decade following the fall of Mao Zedong.
Coalition of classes and its effects on the Chinese democracy development
As it has been stressed above, the China of the Mao Zedong era had a very peculiar angle compared to the rest of revolts that had been registered by the time. In contrast to the previous revolts, the one started under the flagship of Mao Zedong actually heralded the era of coalition of classes, which “under the leadership and guidance of the working class and its communist party, work to create a “new democratic order” (Yuan 3) as a stepping stone to socialism and then communism”.
Therefore, initially, no proletariat dictatorship was supposed to take place – quite on the contrary, it was supposed that the representatives of different lasses could finally reconcile and coexist peacefully. The given idea can be seen as a major foot forward in promoting adequate relationships between China’s lower, higher and middle classes.
Unless it had not been for a minor amendment to the aforementioned formula, the Cultural Revolution would have spurred impressive progress in tying in the concept of a market economy and equality between different members of the Chinese society.
Unfortunately, the fact that the proletariat was going to be at the helm of the state destroyed any possibility of establishing the principles of democracy and equality in China at the moment. The lack of consistency between what has been promised in the course of the Cultural Revolution and what the Chinese citizens finally obtained must have resonated badly with the financial and economic concerns of the time, which spurred the necessity to switch to the traditional democratic principles.
Participatory democracy: a reasonable compromise or a clever device?
When it comes to defining the key specifics of the famous Chinese social movement, one must mention the fact that, unlike other revolutions, this one was clearly a state-sponsored one. As Su explained, “A movement is thought to be more likely to emerge, develop, and succeed if the system is open, the state’s repression capacity is low, the elites are in conflict, and/or some elite members are supportive” (Su 1).
New Democracy and Traditional Democracy: Key Problems of the Cultural Revolution, Revealed
The differences in the approaches that the traditional democracy and the so-called New Democracy suggested by Mao Zedong were quite impressive. Though the political campaign launched by Mao Zedong and then spread all over the state under the aegis of the newly created Gang of Four and similar political groups did aim at restoring the balance between the working class members of the Chinese society and the Chinese elite, the totalitarian undertones turned into totalitarian overtones very soon.
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According to the existing evidence, the famous Cultural Revolution was doomed to fail eventually due to the inconsistencies within the very course of the politicians.
The fact that the youth, who were suddenly given the power to make radical changes, were unaware of what they could contribute to the state’s development and help people retain their rights and freedoms: “Although Zhao Ziyang had been in politics for a long time, he had failed to learn some basic lessons about the realities of power in China; the inexperienced students, however, grasped even less than Zhao” (Black and Munro 169).
To be more exact, the very fact that the revolt was called cultural yet was technically political is already confusing enough. It can be assumed that the people supporting the movement were fooled into thinking that they were changing the entire fabric of the Chinese society, whereas the people beholding the power, including the state sponsored social movements, were using their chance to seize control over the population.
Nevertheless, the concepts that were supposedly underlying the idea of the Cultural Revolution did affect the introduction of democracy into China after the reign of Mao Zedong was over. After all, the Chinese population was finally introduced to an entirely new economic model and the model of trading relationships.
The fact that the state was under the pressure of a particular political force – the proletarian movement, in this case – hindered the economic growth and the following recognition of people’s rights, including the right for running a business, considerably.
Comparing the methods: the possibility of creating a politically free state
There is a huge gap between the traditional principles of democracy and the ones that Mao Zedong’s policy suggested. The difference in the two approaches, however, becomes obvious only once each is planted into a specific environment of the totalitarian regime. The former will simply case to exist; the latter, on the contrary, will finally evolve into the provision of rights solely for the people who behold the power at the moment: “reform – good! Very good!” (Black and Munro 101).
Effects of the democratic principles, implemented: a grain of truth in a primordially wrong model
The idea of restoring democracy in the society where the lower class had little to no chances for affecting the economic and political course of the state was admittedly rather noble. Despite the fact that the process of democratization of the Chinese society went backwards because of the influence of such state sponsored social movements as the notorious Gang of Four, the idea of providing equal chances for the representatives of different social classes was admittedly good.
Putting the idealistic concepts to practice, however, turned out rather problematic; the members of the aforementioned social movements were clearly unwilling to give up their positions, thus, resorting to the most despicable methods: “The Party had to deal with the enemy within” (Black and Munro 107). Thus, the noble cause was finally ripped to shreds by the lowest of the low.
A Retrospect into the Beginning of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: What Went Wrong
Dictatorship of the proletariat: equality principles forgotten
Clearly one of the most controversial elements of the Cultural Revolution, the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat was heralded as the new form of government should be mentioned. The idea of letting the Gang of Four take over the state and introduce the dictatorship of the working class into the country was clearly one of the major mistakes made by Mao Zedong.
The fallacy of the given step is obvious – what was supposed to be the beginning of an entirely new era without any dominant force period finally turned out to be merely another form of dictatorship. According to what Black and Munro say, equality as the basic concept of democracy was long forgotten in the new Chinese society (Black and Munro 151).
A prerequisite to a moneyless stage: New Democracy as a tool
The infamous Great Leap Forward can be considered the classic example of why the concept of New Democracy failed so badly. In fact, the flaws of the New Democracy could be noticed at one of the earliest stages of introducing the Chinese people to the new economy principles.
According to Black and Munro, the effects of the proletarian dictatorship have taken their toll over the state economy quite soon, with some of the jobs that used to be paid rather moderately for suddenly turning impressively non-prestigious compared to the jobs of the so-called “blue collars”: “The library job paid less than manual labor” (Black and Munro 157).
Therefore, it was obvious that the New Democracy was not the basic principle according to which the state was going to operate to provide people with their indefeasible rights and freedoms, but a tool for the proletariat to retain their dominant position in the Chinese society.
The given phenomenon can be attributed to the revolutionists’ lack of experience: “Workers and ordinary citizens had organized themselves, not only to support the students but for interests of their own” (Black and Munro 207). With a single political force that has seized the entire power, there was no way for democracy to evolve in the Chinese society.
The absence of democracy in China on the given time slot has clearly affected the attitudes towards the democratic ideas in the contemporary Chinese society. Though people were clearly fed up with the dictatorship of the working class, they still treat the idea of democracy as something alien and, therefore, to be taken with a grain of salt.
Giving Credit to Where It Belongs: Cultural Revolution Ideology and Its Manifest of Equal Opportunities
It would be wrong to assume that the Cultural Revolution played a solely negative role in the establishment of the democracy principles in China. Though the process was based on the Communist theory and postulates, it still contributed to the introduction of an entirely new political thought into China (Yu 13). To be more exact, the concept of equality was mentioned as the basis for the New Democracy as the Cultural Revolution heralded the latter to be the fundamental principle of the relationships between the citizens of the state.
Market based economy and the anticipated economic growth
The New Democracy was also loosely based on the concept of market economy, which supposedly allowed for a perfect match between the Western concept of entrepreneurship and the dictatorship of the Gang of Four and Mao Zedong. After all, as Chaw explained, the state was clearly moving towards the introduction of the market based economy and anticipating an impressive economic growth: “China’s economic reform toward a market-oriented economy began in 1978 and has been recognized as essentially successful” (Chaw 127).
Reaching out for independence: China learns to make choices
Another obvious improvement of the situation regarding the lack of democracy in China, which the Cultural Revolution facilitated, concerned the financial independence from a range of countries, including Britain. This change will later on predispose the financial and economic independence of the Chinese entrepreneurs at the end of the XX century and at the beginning of the XXI century.
In other words, the effects of the Cultural Revolution contributed to making the Chinese entrepreneurs “financially independent, allowing them to keep the earnings as their own profits after paying taxes to the state, rather than as revenue belonging to the government” (Chaw 130). Therefore, the changes brought onto China were quite drastic, yet they spawned the factors that triggered the further reconsideration of the New Democracy principles and the choice of economy development.
Conclusion: Cultural Revolution and Its Impact: An Opportunity to Analyze Mistakes
There is no denying that the infamous Cultural Revolution triggered a number of difficulties for the Chinese people to battle, including the fight for their right to pursue their business goals and excel in their entrepreneurial skills. However, the effects of the Cultural Revolution could be observed on a much more global scale as well; apart from changing people’s economic statuses, the revolution also altered their culture and shaped their identity.
Therefore, the Cultural Revolution and the principles of New Democracy both defined the further course of the state’s development and put a number of obstacles in China’s progress. Several ideas being quite successful, the revolution as a tool for democracy principles implementation failed at its core.
The revolution contributed to creating the culture that did not approve of any original thought and was only encouraging the acceptance of the new model of dictatorship. Starting as the process that launched the introduction of democracy principles into the relationships between the proletariat and the social elite, the Cultural Revolution finally ended in the latter taking power in their own hands and heralding the era of new type of dictatorship.
It could be argued that the Cultural Revolution did help the Chinese nation recognize the necessity to make the people belonging to the lower social class equal to those considered the “high society”; however, given the fact that the following abuse of power by the proletariat finally led to the destruction of the key concept of the Cultural Revolution and violation of the basic principles of equality, which it was based on.
Thus, the economic and financial aspects of the struggle finally ousted the political and cultural ones, which was the point of the entire revolution. Rather controversial, the overall effects of the Cultural Revolution on the establishment of democracy in China seem quite unimpressive. Instead of creating the grounds for the evolution of the concept of people’s rights and freedoms, the Cultural Revolution was reduced to the struggle for political and socioeconomic influence on the Chinese society.
Black, George and Robin Munro. Black Hands of Beijing. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1993. Print.
Chaw, Gregory C. “Economic Reform and Growth in China.” Annals of Economics and Finance 5.7 (2004), 127–152.
Su, Yang. State-Sponsored Social Movements. New York, NY: Blackwell Publishing, 2013. Print.
Yu, Chun. Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
Yuan, Liu. “Archetype of a “Xi Jinping Man” in the PLA? James Mulvenon and Leigh Ann Ragland.” China Leadership Monitor 36.1 (2011), 1–8. Print.