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Mao’s China: Movements, Revolutions, and Campaigns Essay


What was the historical context of the Hundred Flowers Movement and Anti-Rightist Campaign in 1957? What was the historical and political significance of the 1957 episode?

First and foremost, it should be noted that the period of the Hundred Flowers Movement was the time of the overall decline in China. The main problems that needed to be truly addressed were the fragile economy and the dominance of the bureaucratic mechanisms.1.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the local society was in want of some inspiration and encouragement. From this perspective, the Hundred Flowers Campaign seems to be an appropriate step taken in response to the social demand. However, it can, likewise, be suggested that Mao’s rationale for this implementation was far more complex. Thus, it is essential to refer to the external events that took place in Hungary and Poland that made Chinese leaders become particularly concerned about retaining power.

Historians do not have any consensus regarding the true motives of Mao that underpinned his initial support of the Hundred Flowers Movement. There is an opinion that the Chairman might have had a sincere intention to put up with the public criticism for the sake of the overall wealth. Thus, his fear of repeating Stalin’s way could have motivated him to create a new intellectual environment that would have little resemblance with the suppression of thought in the Soviet Union.

In the meantime, a contrary vision of these events suggests that the peaceful appeal to Chinese intellectuals to express their views was just a well-thought trick performed in order to make them speak openly and indicate “potential betrayers.”2. Nevertheless, it would be justified to claim that the outcome of the Hundred Flowers, the Anti-Rightest Campaign was more significant from the historical point of view than the movement itself. Thus, the events of 1957 can now be compared to the repressions carried out by Stalin’s regime in terms of violence and terror.

From a historical standpoint, the Anti-Rightest Campaign led to hundreds of thousands of ruined lives and created an atmosphere of fear and suspect in Chinese society. From a political perspective, these events might be evaluated as a powerful blow to the reputation of the party. Hence, the fact that the Hundred Flowers Movements was accepted trustfully by the society signifies that Chinese people would still express confidence in the government despite the poor economic and social environment in 1956. However, it is evident that after the repressions of 1957, this confidence decreased significantly. In other words, Mao, who feared to repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union’s regime, would do everything to copy its experience.

Another important aspect that needs to be analyzed in the framework of the political significance of the repressions is the way the priorities were set. Thus, according to historians, Mao assumed that the main threat to the regime’s stability was represented by the Party’s revisionists.3. Therefore, the key target of the campaign was to eliminate all the risks within the Party. This target reflects Mao’s vision of power and its basis. Thus, the Chairman considered the Party to be the most important and reliable mechanism in terms of countering social unrest and anti-governmental movements. The significant role assigned to the Party is the aspect that the Chinese regime had in common with the Soviet Union.

At this point, critical discrepancy should be essentially discussed. On the one hand, the main aim was to get rid of the dissidents within the Party – as a consequence, thousands of its members lost their jobs and were openly persecuted. On the other hand, those intellectuals that would criticize the Party and, pursuing the initial logic, should have been treated as the valuable contributors to the overall wealth, were also announced dissidents and subjected to persecution. Therefore, the Party failed to pursue a concise strategy, and an atmosphere of anxiety and fear was established in society.

The events of 1957 illustrated the powerfulness of propaganda as the key tool of governing in the twentieth century. Hence, as well as Stalin, Mao employed this mechanism to reach his own aim of strengthening political positions. The slogans of the Hundred Flowers Movement appealed to high aims and elaborated morality. Meanwhile, the real course of things showed that the true aims of the Party were different from those announced. Historians agree on the point that the Anti-Rightest Campaign was a crucial blow to the country’s freedom of thought and press.4.

How do we situate the Cultural Revolution in the context of the 20th-century Chinese Revolution as a whole? What were the goals of the Cultural Revolution as Mao conceived it, and did the Cultural Revolution accomplish its objectives?

The “cultural revolution” initiated by Mao had a significant long-term effect on the life of Chinese society. Broadly speaking, this policy might now be regarded as an act of terror that led to the deaths of more than a million people and submitted other millions to imprisonment or poverty. What is most remarkable is that Mao’s policy, which was initially supposed not to repeat the mistakes of Stalin’s regime, is now considered to be identical to it due to the methods employed in the “cultural revolution.”

According to experts’ opinion, “cultural revolution” was an equivalent of the preceding “socialist education” movement, though it was of a more violent and oppressive character.5. It is critical to point out the significant shift in Mao’s policy that occurred in the relevant period. Thus, it was in 1957 that Mao criticized the “cult of personality” and the methods employed by Stalin and his Party, while in less than a decade, he adopted all the techniques of the Soviet Communists for the realization of the “cultural revolution.”

The reasons that underpin this strategic change play an important role in understanding the principles of the “cultural revolution.” First and foremost, as well as every politician that seeks absolute power, Mao was highly concerned about the betrayal of his cronies. Moreover, the events that would simultaneously develop in the Soviet Union were rather concerning. Thus, Mao could see the outcomes of Khrushchev’s revisionism, and he was, evidently, not eager to have a similar situation in his country. Finally, and most importantly, Mao’s strategic shift was largely determined by the failure of the Great Leap program.

This cause is particularly important as the unsuccessful outcomes of the program led to the general social decline. As a result, there was a strong possibility for the appearance of the public outcry initiated by different communities, including the armed forces. Otherwise stated, Mao was obliged to compensate for the collapse as soon as possible in order to prevent the potential social unrest.

As a result, it might be concluded that the “cultural revolution” had two groups of objectives: those that were publicly announced and those that Mao really targeted. The public appeal was focused on elucidating the survivals of bourgeois views that were positioned as the key disincentives of social and economic development. From this perspective, it is important to point out the crucial discrepancy that underpins any revolution – the announced targets tend to differ from the true motives of its initiators.

Referring back to the enlisted causes of Mao’s strategic shift, it is reasonable to suggest that his core objective was to assign the responsibility for the failure of the Great Leap program to the Party cadres so that the society did not associate it essentially with Mao. This objective was particularly important as social disapproval, especially one of its forms – intellectual dissidence – implied critical dangers for Mao’s regime.

Secondly, it was vital to assure the loyalty of the military groups, the lack of support of which could have been crucial for Mao’s regime. These two objectives characterize Mao as a typical dictator; however, it should be admitted that his decision to announce the beginning of a new revolution is highly pragmatic. In social perception, revolution commonly signifies some favorable change and is almost always welcomed by the public. Thus, Mao managed to outguess the social unrest and camouflage the true nature of his intentions.

The methods selected for the achievements of the set aims were, likewise, similar to those that Stalin’s regime employed. Thence, the key method that was supposed to resolve the first problem – social skepticism and intellectual dissidence – was propaganda. This element is pivotal for understanding the sense of the analyzed phenomenon. Thus, for instance, MacFarquhar and Schoenhals describe in detail the political “hysteria” that grew particularly actively in the university circles. According to the authors, the propaganda had such a powerful impact on Chinese students that they switched their attention from studies to finding faults with their professors.6.

These “faults” had nothing to do with the educational process; they were utterly political. Therefore, the revolution that was announced to be “cultural” turned out to have an opposite impact – the only culture that would develop at that time was the culture of propaganda. In the meantime, even the propaganda’s power turned out to be insufficient; otherwise, there would be no need for the Red Guards. The implementation of the Red Guards might be treated as the last step in imitating Stalin’s regime. It would be justified to suggest that it was this movement that signified the inevitable failure of the Cultural Revolution – the violent character of the employed mechanism was apt to meet social resentment.

Therefore, it might be concluded that the methods Mao chose were inconsistent with the goals he set. Hence, his principal aim was to get rid of the anti-revolutionary public moods; however, terror, the tool he selected, had a reverse effect – the opposition to the party and its leader increased significantly. It should also be pointed out that the failure of this revolution was, to a certain extent, determined by the fact that it did not address the existing economic problems in a proper manner so that the overall economic decline contributed to the oppositional social moods.

Discuss the origins, processes, and consequences of the Great Leap Forward

One of the central principles of the Marxist theory resided in carrying out rapid and effective industrialization. Despite the fact that historians have no consensus regarding the general character of the Soviet industrialization, the major part of them agrees on the point that it was highly beneficial from the economic perspective.7. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Mao’s Five Year Plan that was supposed to be implemented between 1958 and 1963 was an intentional imitation of Stalin’s reform.

There are two main aspects that need to be discussed in the framework of the Great Leap Plan’s implementation. First and foremost, it introduced a new form of citizen living – a commune. From this standpoint, the parallel might be, likewise, drawn with Stalin’s “collective farms.” This new existence pattern was supposed to reshape people’s attitudes towards their lives, work, and country. Thus, an average commune would comprise thousands of families. In such a manner, people were supposed to accept the idea of common property and sacrifice everything that might be characterized as personal: tools, animals, etc.

The work they performed was also aimed at contributing to the commune’s prosperity rather than the individual wealth. This point is of high importance as it provides an explanation for the increase in labor productivity that could be overviewed in the first year of the program. Thus, people’s approach to work was controlled by the commune that had a powerful psychological impact on their sense of responsibility.

The second aspect important in terms of the program’s realization was the powerful propagandistic campaign. As well as in the Hundred Flowers Movement, propaganda was employed in order to encourage the population to act in accordance with the government’s interests. Hence, it is reasonable to suggest that the Party would not have been able to maintain the overall enthusiasm unless the propaganda machine was employed – in the course of the working process, people were supposed to hear political speeches encouraging them to meet the set objectives and even beat the targeted results. At this point, the problem of the labor’s quality must have arisen. Thus, people would mainly focus on doing over the quota, neglecting, in such a manner, the quality of the goods they produced.

At this point, it might be concluded that the key drawback of the Great Leap Plan, as well as the main cause of its failure, resided in the fact that the government put the emphasis on the quantitative variables rather than the qualitative characteristics. In addition, historians point out the fact that the quantitative norms imposed by the Party would often be impossible to achieve; thus, workers tried to find alternative solutions using all the available methods to conceal the flaws of the produced goods.

In the meantime, it was not only the poor strategy that prevented the Great Leap Plan from a successful realization. External factors such as weather conditions played an unfavorable role in the plan’s implementation. Otherwise stated, bad weather made the working conditions harder and the imposed norms less achievable. Moreover, the implementation of rationing served to be a crucial blow to the health and the working capacity of commune’s members – some of them got seriously ill, others would die of starving or associated diseases. A due parallel with the famine of Stalin’s reforms might be, likewise, drawn, which shows that all Mao’s attempts to avoid the mistakes of the Soviet Union failed – the two regimes resemble one another perfectly.

Broadly speaking, the key figures of the first year of the Great Leap Plan were highly promising – there was a consistent increase in the production of steel, grain, cotton, etc. However, this increase was too rapid and unstable to be characterized as sustainable success. The failure of the project was admitted by Mao, and the fact that it was scrapped before the due date signifies that the outcomes were worse than expected. Therefore, the proposed existence pattern – commune – did not prove to be favorable and was gradually totally rejected. The economic growth was not achieved either as the quality of the produced goods was very poor.

It is essential to note that the failure of this plan had an important outcome from the political perspective. Thus, Mao had to search for urgent measures that would help him avoid social unrest that was likely to develop in the context of the overall decline.


Bernstein, Thomas. “Stalinism, Famine, and Chinese Peasants: Grain Procurements during the Great Leap Forward,” Theory and Society 13 (1984): 339-377. Web.

Bridgham, Philip. “Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”: Origin and Development,” The China Quarterly 29 (1967): 1-35. Web.

Brodsgaard, Kjeld Erik. “The Democracy Movement in China, 1978-1979: Opposition Movements, Wall Poster Campaigns, and Underground Journals,” Asian Survey 21 (1981): 747-774. Web.

Chan, Sylvia. “The Image of a “Capitalist Roader”–Some Dissident Short Stories in the Hundred Flowers Period,” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 2 (1979): 77-102. Web.

MacFarquhar, Roderick, and Michael Schoenhals. Mao’s Last Revolution, 1941–1945. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2006.

Meisner, Maurice. Mao’s China and After. New York: Free Press, 1999.


  1. Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After (New York: Free Press, 1999), 155-190.
  2. Ibid., 182.
  3. Sylvia Chan, “The Image of a “Capitalist Roader”–Some Dissident Short Stories in the Hundred Flowers Period,” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 2 (1979): 78.
  4. Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard, “The Democracy Movement in China, 1978-1979: Opposition Movements, Wall Poster Campaigns, and Underground Journals,” Asian Survey 21 (1981): 771.
  5. Philip Bridgham, “Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”: Origin and Development,” The China Quarterly 29 (1967): 2.
  6. Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, Mao’s Last Revolution, 1941–1945. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2006), 68.
  7. Thomas Bernstein, “Stalinism, Famine, and Chinese Peasants: Grain Procurements during the Great Leap Forward,” Theory and Society 13 (1984): 340.
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