Chinese Cultural Revolution, which began in the early 1960's and endured until the death of Mao Tse-tung, drastically altered the cultural arena of China from an agrarian system to one of modernity and acceptance by Western nations. Yet the Cultural Revolution was in effect based on communist principles which affected its ability to transcend the needs of the majority at the expense of the needs of the individual, meaning that it failed to achieve true freedom for the Chinese people.
The intermingling of Chinese and Western cultures, beginning in the middle years of the 19th century, effectively ended China's seclusion from the rest of the world and brought about profound changes in all cultural manifestations. As a result, this interplay between foreign and domestic entities gave rise to revolutionary changes in China's political and economic systems, not to mention its social structure and intellectual attitudes and ideas.
Also, the forced insertion of foreign cultural ideas into Chinese life created a powerful sense of nationalistic and racial identity which was substantially increased by the Cultural Revolution. As an added benefit, this great change in China's cultural life made it possible for democracy to begin spreading its roots throughout the country and bring about the most important political changes ever envisioned in China's long and violent history. In addition, with the advent of democracy in China, the entire system, at least since the early years of the 1980's, has begun to shift toward a capitalistic system, much like that found in many Western nations.
Generally speaking, one major political event which occurred as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was the rise of Communism in China which played a major role in shaping its contemporary history. Of course, Mao Tse-tung played a major role in the emergence of Communism is China, especially during the 1950's. Though deeply committed to Communism, Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were national communists at heart and were greatly concerned over China's future position in the international arena.
But most importantly, the Soviet Union promoted China's interest by allowing the growing country to play a major role in the affairs of Asia. But internally, China was highly dependent on the Chinese Communist Party and the ideals of Mao, especially when the Cultural Revolution began in the 1960's.
According to H.T. Lee, modern China "defies comparisons with the China of previous ages, for the changes which distinguish China from its traditional counterpart are both fundamental and far-reaching" (37), meaning that Communism greatly altered the political and cultural face of China by doing away with the old systems related to the monarchy.
Politically, by the time of the Cultural Revolution, the dynasties and most imperial institutions had passed away and were replaced by a population of young Chinese who were educated and yearned for cultural superiority. Economically, the ancient system of land tenure and landlordism were also eliminated; socially, the upper classes no longer provided the basic foundation for Chinese society, for the old four-class stratification system and the family as the basic unit of Chinese society were permanently dissolved.
Intellectually, the old religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, had become obsolete to a great degree, mostly because of the influx of Western ideas about religion. Thus, all of these changes "virtually affected every aspect of Chinese life, yet this great metamorphosis of modern China was often prolonged and painful" (Henderson 45), especially when one takes into account the rapid changes that occurred in China during the Cultural Revolution.
Since 1949, the Chinese government has devoted a great amount of time and effort toward promoting economic growth within China, usually through a huge increase in industrialization which is comparable to the "Industrial Revolution" that occurred in the West during the 19th century. China's current economic situation is due to certain historical events, for beginning in the 1950's, China created an industrialization program which was originally intended as a backup for any kind of military strike by the U.S. Or the Soviet Union.
Since most of China's industry was concentrated along its vast coastline, the Chinese leaders decided to create and maintain a highly-centralized investment plan which would re-locate many of its industries to the remote regions of the country, thus giving the peasants and common laborers the opportunity to participate in the economic system.
By the mid-1970's, China's economic development was brought into the modern world via the successes of other Asian economies, most notably Japan, yet despite all of this economic growth since the 1950's, the lives of most Chinese failed to be highly affected and China was still viewed as being a basically poor and rural nation.
In today's China, as contrasted with its past economic system, the pace of economic change has grown rapidly and has shifted into an extensive expansion toward a capitalistic system which has led to a new class of wealthy and prosperous Chinese citizens. In addition, China has altered from a socialist society that restricted the private lives and affairs of its citizens to a booming consumer society with increased economic security and individual participation.
By accepting certain Western principles, whether through social change or democracy, Chinese leaders, for the most part, have always desired to change China's cultural system in order to make China less foreign in the eyes of its citizens. For example, Sun Yat-sen accepted the Republican form of government but rejected the traditional three-way division of power and Mao Tse-tung brought to the forefront his own "New Democracy" in which the dictatorship of the proletariat was replaced with an alliance of all the classes within China.
Thus, "the great Chinese leaders have always seemed inclined to seek a new order that is thoroughly modern yet distinctly Chinese" (Huang 67). More importantly, the Chinese have shown and demonstrated a great desire to embrace certain Western values which are fundamental to the future of China, especially in relation to accepting a capitalistic system comparable to those in Western nations.
In today's China, politics and economic development are closely tied to many traditional political and economic systems, both of which are reflections of the modern Communist system. With a history going back some four thousand years, China, in reality, has only recently accepted Communism and declared itself as the People's Republic of China. However, Communism, based on Western political ideals and the philosophical tenets of Karl Marx, has undergone many long years of political, economic and social disorder which affected China through much of the 20th century. Yet the China of today continues to change at a rapid pace, for as Laurence J. Brahm relates, China "is poised on the edge of greatness as one of the most influential Asian giants in the areas of economic growth and political evolution" (34).
Without a doubt, all of these changes made the Cultural Revolution possible. Of course, Mao Tse-tung was the creator and inventor of the Cultural Revolution and his principles and opinions are very crucial in order to understand exactly what occurred during this time of great social change. Some historians view Mao Tse-tung as being not only the creator of the Cultural Revolution but also as the instigator of "resistance, both north and south, toward the corrupting influence of the West" (Brahm 56).
Thus, Mao's radical call during the Cultural Revolution to seek out and eliminate those members of the Communist Party who were leading China in the direction of capitalism was not an actual democratic attempt, for as O. Edmund Clubb sees it, this "was an attempt by Mao Tse-tung to enhance his own power base at the expense of other party and state elites" (28).
Although Mao's Cultural Revolution commenced in 1965, its true origins can be traced back to 1959 when a major group of outspoken Chinese leaders spoke publicly against the policies of Mao Tse-tung. As a result, after being dismissed from the party, these "revolutionaries" became cultural icons and were often quoted by those considered as intellectuals within the Communist Party; also, many Chinese writers, artists and playwrights considered these "revolutionaries" as prime material for their various novels and plays.
However, the failure of certain political policies created and fostered by Mao Tse-tung greatly aided in the overall tarnishing of his image following his death in 1976, yet through Chinese propaganda created by Mao's staunch followers in the Communist Party, his image has now taken on the position of deification. Since 1964, many efforts have been made "to place Mao above Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin as the only one who creatively developed Marxism to new peaks " (Chang 68).
In 1967, Lin Piao, a Chinese journalist, made the comment that Mao Tse-tung "has profoundly affected the laws of class struggle and cultural superiority and has put forth a whole set of. . . methods and policies for the continuation of the Cultural Revolution" (Henderson 89). These "methods and policies" could mostly be found in Mao's "Quotations," better known as his "Little Red Book," which offers to the reader…