The Four Olds are the old ways, or signs of pre-revolution China. Mao wanted them eliminated because they were reminders of who used to be in power.
The Four Olds consisted of Old Ideas, Old Customs, Old Culture, and Old Habits. These were the elements that Chairman Mao wanted to eliminate from China as a result of the Cultural Revolution.
When China underwent a Cultural Revolution, one of the important components was eliminating symbols of old China. Anything that reminded people of the old order, or symbolized the old aristocracy, was to be destroyed. Jiang’s difficulty with the Four Olds is that her family used to have money, and therefore they are a target.
Part of the Cultural Revolution involved replacing the Four Olds with communist dogma. This was not a good thing for those who wanted to actually be educated.
Besides the political and social chaos that ensued during “the ten bad years” (1966-1976), a generation of teens later referred to by their fellow Chinese as the “lost generation” would lose as many years of education. (enotes, cultural revolution)
Jiang is not thrilled with the elimination of “old ideas that are holding the country back” (p. 26). She follows the new order, but has reservations.
Chairman Mao’s campaign to “Destroy the Four Olds” was even more important than others. The newspaper and radio said so. (p. 27)
Anyone who is not on board with the ideas faces retribution. People like Jiang’s family lived in fear that they would end up on the wrong side of the revolution. The idea that anything old is dangerous is just another way to control the populace. The children are always the first to be targeted for new education.
They served as reminders that the capitalist class was still present in China, and in turn how the communist ideology has not been fully ingrained within the Chinese population. The existence of the capitalists was in fact viewed by the CCP as a threat to their hold on power and an obstacle in their path to becoming a total communist state. It was thus seen as essential that such remnants of old, feudal China had to be eliminated before communism could be fully embraced in the nation.