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Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution was a campaign launched by Mao to rid the Party of his rivals, but which ended up destroying much of China's social fabric.

At its start, Mao and his supporters mobilised thousands of young, radical "Red Guards" who were ordered to destroy the "four olds" in Chinese culture old customs, habits, culture and thinking. Colleges were shut so students could concentrate on "revolution", and as the fervour of the movement spread, they began to attack almost anything and anybody that stood for authority.

Schools and temples were destroyed, their teachers and parents vilified and, in thousands of cases, beaten to death or driven to suicide.

While this was going on, Mao and his supporters including his former film-star wife Jiang Qing purged the Party of thousands of officials, including Mao's expected successor Liu Shaoqi, and the man who went on to become paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping.

The Cultural Revolution officially lasted until 1976. Although the fervour of the first two years was not maintained, some areas of the country became almost ungovernable. In the cities, only the army prevented a complete breakdown of law and order.

Following Mao's death in 1976, his wife and three other radicals were officially blamed for launching and orchestrating the Cultural Revolution.

Red Guards lined up in Peking, China in front of a portrait of Mao Tse-Tung in 1966. (AP)
Politics replaced education


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