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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

A colossal portrait of Mao Zedong hangs to this day over Tiananmen Square in the center of China’s capital Beijing. Photo: Feedzhyu/Wikimedia Commons “Those who were important for the new political line received privileged treatment.” own party’s bureaucratic apparatus and mobilized the youth against the temptations of capitalism. The resulting student paramilitary organization, the Red Guards, spread terror across the land. The Cultural Revolution got out of hand, and China sank into chaos. In the end, Mao only managed to restore order and stay in power with the help of a rigid military dictatorship. Archives Remain Closed After the end of the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s death, the CPC instituted a reform phase involving the review of millions of historical case files. Many of those who had been convicted were symbolically rehabilitated and could thus again take part in social life, receive a work permit, or be admitted to universities. Others received compensation payments or pensions. The Chinese leadership even returned some of the property that had been taken from persons who had been accused of being capitalist class enemies. “The way the cases were judged varied,” explains Leese. “Those who were important for the new political line, for instance because they possessed capital or technical know-how, received privileged treatment.” The CPC had to perform a balancing act: They wanted to distance themselves ideo- logically from Mao’s reign of terror on the one hand, while not jeopardizing their monopoly on power on the other. The strategy worked. The revised cases played a big part in stabilizing the party’s power. The CPC did not denounce Mao as a criminal but characterized him as a tragic hero who had made ideological mistakes in the last years of his life. 29