Why did Mao launch the Cultural Revolution? Discuss the Four Modernizations.
After the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, the victorious Communist Party came into power in China. Mao Zedong, who was one of the most important strategists and leaders of the Communist Party from 1933 to his death, became the leader of China. In 1966, he launched a series of social policies aimed at reestablishing communist control over China. This was in essence an attempt at clearing out perceived corruption within the party and bringing China back to its goals established at the beginning of the movement.
Prior to the Cultural Revolution, Mao attempted a reform called the Great Leap Forward. This was an attempt to turn private farms and its agrarian economy into something that was more communist, including collectivization of farmland, creating communes for peasants, and increasing food yields. The attempt was a disaster, and some thirty million Chinese peasants starved to death.
Trying to win back the people, the Cultural Revolution was an attempt to silence dissent. Schools were shut down, dissenters were harassed, and people were given The Little Red Book (picture linked below), creating a cult of personality around Mao. Those who did not fall into the party line were sometimes killed, imprisoned, stripped of property, tortured, or harassed. This movement ended when Deng Xiaoping came into power after a series of leaders who were unable to help China's economy as a result of Mao's policies.
The "Four Modernizations," started by Deng Xiaoping, were goals set to modernize agriculture, industry, defense, and science/technology. Deng Xiaoping felt that isolating China as an agrarian power limited their access to technologies available throughout the world. In order to accomplish modernization, China sought help and financial advice from the UN, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank. What Deng Xiaoping did for China was create a hybrid public-private sector economy, where major businesses (like the media) remained state-controlled, but some businesses and industries became private. This blend of economic capitalism and social communism worked for China, and its economy started to grow.
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