The Cultural Revolution was a major initiative that was instigated by Mao Zedong in the late 1960s. It was Mao's attempt to take greater control of the country and the Communist Party for himself and to return it to what he saw as proper orthodox policies.
Mao had tried to change the country through his earlier "Great Leap Forward" program. When this program failed miserably, Mao was left in a somewhat less powerful position within the Communist Party. The Cultural Revolution was his attempt to take power back into his own hands. Mao aimed to radicalize Chinese youth and have them back him and his policies against others in the Communist hierarchy who opposed him. The Cultural Revolution succeeded in increasing Mao's power and the intensity of his "cult of personality." However, it brought chaos and even more repression to the country.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao Zedong and aimed at eliminating purported revisionists within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, top party officials, such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, abandoned Mao’s extreme leftist approach in favour of more pragmatic policies. Concerned with their rise in power within the CCP, Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution in an attempt to eliminate those who threatened his personal authority, such as Liu and Deng who had advocated a different political doctrine from him. Arguing that the bourgeoisie had infiltrated the party and was leading the country away from communism, Mao recruited students, known as the Red Guards, to carry out the revolution. All classes in universities and schools were suspended to give time for the holding of revolutionary activities, and the reading of the Little Red Book, a collection of Mao’s personal teachings, was promoted. The movement effectively sought to destroy the “Four Olds” (old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits of the capitalist class) and the outburst of revolutionary fervour from Chinese youths resulted in the period known as the “Red Terror”. Any perceived rightists were brutally beaten to death, exposed to personal criticisms in struggle meetings or sent to the countryside for re-education campaigns. The movement met its dramatic end in 1976, when both Mao and a respected party official, Zhou Enlai died. The four radical leaders of the revolution, led by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, were arrested under the orders of the CCP and became the easy scapegoats for the excesses of the Great Leap Forward campaign and the Cultural Revolution.