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Why did Chinese youths support Mao so enthusiastically during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s? What convinced them to support Mao?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mao was highly critical of the Chinese Communist Party's political leadership. To him, it was taking China down the capitalist road, presiding over a system that was ossifying into the kind of creaking structure which he saw and despised in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. Although Mao was still the most powerful individual in the People's Republic, by the late 1950s his influence was on the wane. A series of disastrous policies—most notoriously The Great Leap Forward—had damaged his credibility in the eyes of many of the Party's most senior cadres.

But Mao still had the enthusiastic support of millions of young people, to whom he appeared like some kind of god. Most of them had never experienced life under anyone but Mao. Right throughout their childhoods, they were constantly indoctrinated with Mao's ideology, his sayings, even his poetry. Chairman Mao was the father of the nation, the presiding genius of the Revolution, a man who more than anyone else had founded the People's...

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The massive outpouring of violence from Chinese youths, who enthusiastically supported Mao during the Cultural Revolution, could be attributed to a backfiring of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) educational campaigns. Youths in China had been increasingly taught to live a revolutionary life but they had no chance to do so in the post-war era, when the CCP had already attained control. Such deep frustrations pushed them to participate actively in the Red Guard movement - the Cultural Revolution provided an opening for their revolutionary fervour to be unleashed. The personality cult the CCP had created for Mao was also effective in instilling loyalty amongst the impressionable youth, who put his ideals to practice, often to the extreme. The Little Red Book, a collection of Mao’s personal teachings became the de-facto “religious” book of the Red Guard movement and all prerogatives from Mao were strictly followed by all who considered themselves as revolutionaries.