Organ of Alliance Maxist-Leninist (North America) $4.00
Zhou En Lai
“How Did the Phoenix Deng Xiaoping Grow His Wings?”
A Book Review by Hari Kumar.
Deng Xiaoping and the Cultural Revolution – A Daughter Recalls the Critical Years; Deng Rong, otherwise known as Maomao; Translated Sidney Shapiro; Foreign Languages Press; Beijing; 2002; ISBN: 7-119-03040-X.
As everyone knows, the
phoenix is a mythical bird held by earlier times to arise from the
ashes of the
It is appropriate for this purpose, that Chinese mythology has long revered this bird. The remarkable career of Deng Xiaoping [1904-97; Veteran of
the Zunyi Conference. Purged early in the Cultural Revolution as ‘the number-two person in authority taking the capitalist road’, but not expelled from
the party. Rehabilitated in 1973; but purged again in 1976], can rightly be considered as phoenix-like. Early on, he was a member of the secretariat
around Mao Zedong [1893-1976] in the Wuhan days of the Communist Party China (CPC), finding himself investigated in 1933 by Party Officials for
being a supporter of Mao rather than Bo Gu [1907-46 Part of the ‘Returned Student’ Faction which had trained in Moscow; de facto party leader
1931-1935; but became sidelined at the Zunyi conference; remained in CC till death].
In the war of liberation against Japanese imperialism, Deng
was in charge of two million peasant auxiliary fighting corps during the Huaihai campaign of 1948.
After the founding of the
Peoples Republic of China (PRC) he continued to play important roles in
CPC. By 1954, he was promoted to the
Secretary-General of the Central Committee (CC), and then to the Politburo. By 1956 he had become Party Vice-Chairman. Thereafter twice,
in spectacular fashion he was purged during the Cultural Revolution. Yet – he returned, and led China into the full-blown capitalist development
where she stands now. An intriguing question is how did he survive the purges? Why did Mao Zedong not destroy him, as he did Liu Shaoqi?
The complete answers to this question is not yet available, but will throw considerable light on the nature of Mao’s alliance with the Chinese
The book being reviewed was
written by Deng’s daughter, and was obtained in China. We are uncertain
now, whether the book is available
in English outside of China. But as the title indicates, the book is of more than passing interest. It contains a significant amount of as yet
apparently unpublished speeches, conversations and apparently transcripts from key documents. Unfortunately, these are not referenced, and
presumably these documents cannot be independently verified; however they remain of considerable value. It is because of these considerations,
that we review the book.
remain divided about the interpretation and legacy of the Cultural
Even those remaining loyal to Mao
do not agree as some argue that it was too late in coming; some argue that it was not continued deep or long enough; some argue it was an error.
Other sections of the Marxist-Leninist left, argue that it was a catastrophe aimed to destroy the Party from outside, engineered by Mao and the
so-called Gang of Four to destroy opposition to his policies. Alliance Marxist-Leninist follows this latter analysis, largely following the views of
Comrade Bill Bland. These can be found at our web-site.
The Main Cast
Being the daughter of Deng
Xiaoping, Rong conveys a special insight into the circumstances
division in the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of China in the years 1966-1972. She gives us fascinating insights into how a tough politician can withstand enormous
personal and political crises. In doing so, Rong reveals details of the battle between the “old” “veterans” of the Chinese national democratic
Zhou En Lai [(1898-1976) Vice-Chairman of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State Council of the PRC],
Liu Shaoqi [(1898-1969) Former Vice-Chairman of the CPC CC and President of the PRC; purged as a ‘capitalist roader’ during the
first wave of the Cultural Revolution; died after physical torture and with-holding of medical attention in 1969; rehabilitated by the CC in 1980],
Deng Xiaoping and others, on the one hand – and the “Gang of Four”.
It is largely accepted by
most Marxist-Leninists that the public face of the Cultural Revolution
largely that of the Gang of Four,
Jiang Ching [(1914-91) Mao’s wife, and nominally chief of the Division of Cinema, Publicity Dept of the CPC CC; later sentenced to death;
commuted to life imprisonment, during which she committed suicide];
Kang Sheng [(1898-1975) former alternate member of the Politburo & member of the secretariat of the CC of the CPC; then ‘consultant’ to the
Cultural Revolution Group and Vice-Chairman of the CPC CC]; and
Zhang Chunqiao [(1917- ) member of the Political Bureau of the CPC CC. Sentenced to death in 1981, but sentence commuted]; and
Lin Biao [(1907-71) Former Vice-Chairman of the CPC Central Committee and member of the standing committee of the Politburo and
Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Died fleeing from arrest for conspiracy] to organize a coup. Despite the ‘public face’,
most informed observers agree that in reality, driving the Gang of Four, but staying himself in the background was Mao.
Therefore the central
of the author is a little difficult to accept. For both Deng Rong the author
and Sidney Shapiro the
translator present a
complex story. Namely, that Mao launched the Cultural Revolution for truly revolutionary motives that differed from the motives of the Gang of Four,
and of Lin Biao. They assert that Mao was ‘misled’ or duped by the Gang of Four at several points, which led him to continue the Cultural Revolution,
beyond any reasonable point. They believe that Mao tried to halt the disruptions of the Cultural Revolution. Ultimately, they present Mao as somehow
a victim of events, rather than as the instigator of events. Finally, Rong paints a picture of Deng Xiaoping resisting the Cultural Revolution purely
because of the chaos that ensued.
It is largely impossible to accept this overall view. In this review we will attempt to show why.
Attempting to Divorce Mao from the Chaos of the Cultural Revolution
In his good and brief
Introduction, Shapiro lays out the analysis. Mao was “decisive” in the
victories by which the Peoples Republic of China was
formally established in October 1949, because Mao had:
What could go wrong with Mao’s leadership? Only it seems Mao’s recklessness:
“He was erratic and
subjective. He pushed ambitious projects without feasibility studies,
disastrous results. He saw all problems
in terms of “class struggle”. Other members of the Party Leadership expressed doubts and opposition, but Mao simply over-rode them”
Ibid p. iiii
Shapiro contends that “none
of us, including Mao” were able to foresee that the Cultural Revolution
just ‘slip out of control’, and be taken over
by “nefarious persons”:
“The tragedy was that none of
us, including Mao Zedong, was able to see that the Cultural Revolution
taken over and manipulated
by nefarious persons for their own purposes, causing enormous social and political damage. Mao, when he woke up to the seriousness of
the situation, was unable to control it”.
Ibid; pp. iii-iv.
This reviewer believes that
this appears to be an evasion of the facts, for numerous facts show
was the font to which the Gang of Four
repeatedly came to receive instructions on the next step. Basically, nothing happened in the Cultural Revolution without the ultimate sanction of
the Boss - barring that is Lin Biao’s attempted coup. Moreover, Shapiro side-steps Mao’s doctrines, refusing to subject these to a Marxist-Leninist
analysis. No mention is made of the underlying key tenet of Mao’s politics – the New Democratic State.
But this review is not about
Sidney Shapiro, a professional revolutionary. It is about Deng Rong’s account
of her father’s years in the turmoil
of the Cultural Revolution. Now Rong was not a first line politician – after qualifying as a physician, she worked as a consular official in the
USA embassy, but later did hold posts in the executive of the All-China Women’s Federation. As such, she does not pretend her goals are
to write a full history of the period, and nor does she pretend to be a historian. Her goal is to offer memories of the personal effects of the
turmoil on the Deng family.
Deng Rong does go further than
Shapiro, in trying to downgrade Mao from deity status. But, she also
have her cake and eat it, for her while
she critiques the Great Leader, she does not want to “unseat him”. She ends up with the same strategy as Shapiro, of blaming the Gang of Four and
Lin Biao for subverting Mao’s good intentions. She continually therefore cycles back-and-forth, first exculpating Mao for the mistaken and criminally
stupid policies of the Cultural Revolution; then attacking him for the effects of his actions. The effect is to nullify any meaningful analysis.
As Rong puts it:
“Mao Zedong was a great man
who committed grievous errors in his late years. Deng Xiaoping made a
responsible appraisal of
Mao as an integral whole. At that time, two attitudes were current.
One, influenced by traditional long-standing concepts, stubbornly
clung to regarding Mao as a deity. The other, while able to break free of the old fetters, negated him completely.”
The Beginning of the Cultural Revolution
The official launching of the Cultural Revolution coincided with the Circular of the Politburo that became known as the May 16 Circular. Rong calls it:
“The inevitable result of
“leftist” errors within the Party carried to an extreme… After the
Republic was established we had more
than 7 years of successful socialist reform and construction. But then… combined influence of our victories, inflated self-confidence,
and over-heated brains, engendered within the Party a kind of joyous arrogance… a number of leftist theories evolved and finally found
prominence within the Communist Party”;
Rong Ibid p. 1.
However Rong then critiques
Mao heavily saying:
The disguised beginning of
the Cultural Revolution is rehearsed clearly by Rong. It began as an
newspaper critique of a play was
printed in Shanghai newspaper ‘Wen Wui Bao’, on November 10 1965. The play was called “Hai Rui is Dismissed From Office”, and was
written by Yao Wenyuan. It was alleged that this was an allegorical complaint about the dismissal of
Marshall Peng Dehuai [(1898-1974). He had fought with Mao at Jinggangshan. Was a veteran of Zunyi; commanded the Font in the anti-Japanese
war of liberation; and was the Chinese Commander in the Korean War. Former member of the Politburo of CC of CPC, Vice-Premier Defense.
Purged leading up to the Cultural Revolution for criticizing Mao’s Great Leap Forward].
Peng’s dismissal from office had occurred after the CP Conference of Lushan in 1959, when in a letter to Mao, Dehuai had criticized the
‘Great Leap Forward’. The allegorical play in question:
“Told of a Ming dynasty
emperor who arbitrarily dismissed a good official named Hai Rui. Mao
that he was being portrayed
as the wicked emperor and Peng Dehuai as the wronged official”;
Footnote by S. Shapiro p. 2; Ibid.
The critique of the play was
Yao Wenyaun [(1925- ) Literary critic, who became prominent in the Political Research Section of the Shanghai Party Secretariat.
Sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 1981]
at the instigation of Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing.
Mao reviewed the earlier drafts three times, and then approved the article.
Very soon after, in December
Yang Shangkun [(1907-98) alternate member of the CC Secretariat and Chief of the Central Committee General Office]
was removed from his positions on charges of “installing a listening device without the knowledge of the CC”.
In fact owing to Mao’s refusal to have secretaries present during interviews with foreign visitors, the Central Committee had been made aware
that taping these meetings was necessary:
“In order for the government to be informed of any casual policy statement he may have made”;
Shapiro, Footnote Ibid p. 4.
Then in December,
Lin Biao in
charge of national military operations, accused
Luo Ruiqing [(1906-78) Vice-Secretary of the CC Secretariat & Chief of Staff of the PLA], of attempting to seize control of the armed forces.
Rong is clear that Deng
Xiaoping intensely disagreed with all these steps, and informs
us that he:
”had always disliked Lin Biao.”
Ibid p. 5.
A chain of rapid events from
January – when Lin Biao convened a full session of all military units
in political work – to March,
was a warning of storms to come. In March, Luo Ruiqing was dismissed from office, and Mao ordered the release of the
“Highlights on a “forum on Literature and Art in the Armed Forces” sponsored by Jiang Qing & Lin Biao. This was the Army’s instructions to
intervene in the Cultural Revolution.
Still both Deng Xiaoping and Liu
Shaoqi were unaware of the meaning behind these events.
Peng Zhen [(1902-97) Led party underground in North China in from 1930- late 1940’s; member secretariat of the CPC CC; politburo since
1945; First Secretary Beijing Municipal Party committee & Major of Beijing]
tried to prevent the Beijing re-publication of the Shanghai attack on Wu Han and his play.
Jiang Qing, Kang Shen and Zhang Chunqiao got Mao to order that Peng undergo criticism, which ended up being ten years in prison.
Although Rong makes it appear that Mao was simply being played by false vicious people.
But this is simply unbelievable. Mao was very shrewd and could not be so easily manipulated.
Again Deng did not agree with the criticism and yet, had to swallow any reply because as Rong says:
“Mao’s rage was obviously out
of control. At a time when democracy within the party had reached low
high-ranking Communists like my
father, despite their opposition were not able to state it openly”:
Rong, Ibid; p. 8.
At an enlarged session of the
PB in Beijing from May 4 to May 26, charged Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing, Lu
and Yang Shangkun with
“anti-Party activities”. The session adopted a document known as the “May 16 Circular”, drafted by
Chen Boda [ 1904-89) Former alternate member of the Politburo, director of the Political Research Office of the CPC Central Committee
and Mao Zedong’s secretary. Head of the Cultural Revolution Leading Group, working closely with the Gang of Four; imprisoned 1981
for 18 years; paroled]
and corrected by Mao.
This launched an attack on:
thinking in the fields of academia, education, news media, literature
and publishing, and urged a purging of
the bourgeois leadership” in those fields... it warned that “representatives of the bourgeoisie” had wormed their way into the CP, the
government and armed forces and all aspects of cultural field. It said that these were counter-revolutionary revisionists” who when the
time was ripe would seize political power, moving it from the hands of the proletariat to the hand of the bourgeoisie”:
Ibid pp. 8-9.
As the movement gathered
pace, in Mao’s absence from Beijing, on May 25th a large poster was put
the campus of the university. It was
the “first Marxist-Leninist Poster” initiating the real launch of the Cultural Revolution, and it was instigated by Kang Shen who got the Philosophy
Department CP secretary Nie Yuanzi to obtain signatures. By March 29th, the three Standing members of the Politburo – Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai
and Deng Xiaoping decided to send work groups to the university and to the Peoples Daily, to attempt moderating the storms.
A telegram to Mao asking for permission was approved (Ibid p. 12). In retrospect, it was clearly a trap designed to snare Liu and Deng.
Chen Boda had been placed in
charge of the work team to the Peoples Daily. Unsurprisingly, the paper
promptly endorsed the Nie Yuanzi
poster in an editorial called “Sweep Away all Ox Demons and Venomous Spirits”, on June 1. Under pressure, the three man Standing Committee
of the Politburo met on June 3rd to formulate Eight Principles to govern participation in the Cultural Revolution. These were:
“Distinguish between internal
and external matters;
keep confidential matters secret;
do not put up posters in the streets;
no linking of revolutionary groups in different organizations;
no parades and demonstrations;
no large denunciation meetings;
no surroundings of the homes of accused persons;
and no beating or vilifications”;
Ibid; p. 13.
Because of a complete
paralysis of schools and academies, they also decided to send urgently
brigades to quench the fires.
The Politburo also attended meeting at schools and Beijing University in person. Temporarily, the storms abated. But Mao intervened
saying in a letter to Jiang Qing:
“Complete confusion leads to
complete stability; The task today for the entire Communist Party, for
entire nation is to fundamentally
destroy the rightists”;
Cited; Rong Ibid p. 17.
On July 24th Mao signaled his
hidden leadership of the movement, when at the Joint Meeting of the
Standing Group and the
Cultural Revolution Group; he attacked the work teams sent out by Liu, Zhou, and Deng. At the 11th Plenary Session of the 8th Party CC of
August 1-12 1966, Mao attacked the work teams. This meant the “exposure” and “criticism” of both Liu and Deng. The day after his major c
lash at the meeting with Liu, Mao publicly called on the Student bodies that constituted the Red Guard – to “Bombard the Headquarters”.
Since Liu and Deng controlled the Party, Mao knew to get rid of them, it was necessary to destroy the Party.
It emerges clearly from
Rong’s book, that Mao was determined to unseat Liu Shaoqi and expel him
the party, but was careful to draw
a distinction between Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
This is quite consistent with other accounts, including the most detailed biography recently published by Philip Short (“Mao: A Life”; London 1999).
Mao ‘protected’ Deng from expulsion and from complete denigration and physical danger from the Red Guards.
He was not prepared to do that for Liu.
This is very likely true, although Rong does not show or clearly cite relevant documents, that indeed this was what happened.
Accepting the fact this
happened, we should ask why this ‘protection’ of Deng occurred. Really,
herself gives no real indication of
why this happened.
Mao Differentiates Between Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping
The three Standing members of
the Politburo were largely of a single line of thought.
That is to say – Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai were in agreement. They believed strongly that the prior so-called “Great Leap Forward”,
had brought considerable economic turmoil to China, and was a serious error.
Of the three, Liu Shaoqi had been probably the most vociferous and had put himself most clearly in logger-head opposition to Mao.
Already in 1951, he had clashed over the pace of collectivization:
“A dispute had developed over
the pace of the transformation. That year the Finance Minister Bo Yibo,
supported by Liu Shaoqi had
spoken out forcefully against pushing rural collectivization too fast.”
Short P: “Mao - A Life”; London 1999; p. 441.
Moreover, far more recently, Liu
again had had the determination to force a criticism of Mao, following
debacle of the “Great Leap Forward”.
Peng Dehuai as we noted above, had challenged Mao on this very same issue. What made the case of Liu Shaoqi even more serious for the faction
of the CPC led by Mao was that despite the ‘example’ treatment of the respected Marshall Peng Dehuai, Liu was prepared to take the same position
of challenging the Chairman’s leadership and Cult of Personality.
What had happened to Peng?
Peng Dehuai had been struggling since he had seen the effects of the “Great Leap”. A verse he wrote talks of:
“Scattered millet…. And withered potato plants.”
Short P: Ibid; p. 494.
But he held his criticism for a year because of:
“The sheer difficulty, even
for a man of Peng’s stature, who had been at Mao’s side for three
call into question policies with which
the Chairman was so intimately involved”.
Short Ibid; p. 494.
It was the onset of famines that drove Peng Dehuai to finally act:
“Serious food shortages had
begun to appear. At first they were confined to the cities. Rice
reduced. Vegetables and cooking oil
disappeared. Then as the government stepped up procurement to feed the industrial workforce, swollen by the Leap. The countryside went short.
The 1958 harvest had not been 370 million tons (as estimated-Ed)... but only 200 million tons….. In many parts of China penury set in…
Peng was better informed than most… Military transport was being used to take relief grain to the worst-hit areas, and within the PLA there
were already ominous rumblings as the overwhelmingly peasant recruits received news form home that their families were going hungry”;
Short Ibid; p. 494-5.
And Mao encouraged criticisms, offering ironically in light of later events, the example of Confucian bureaucrat Hai Rui (See above), and saying:
“No one would be punished for ‘making criticisms and offering opinions”:
Short Ibid; p. 495.
Peng came forward saying:
“Everybody is responsible for the mistakes committed during the Great Leap… including Comrade Mao Zedong.”
Short Ibid; p. 495.
Having said this in open forum, Peng wrote a “letter of opinion”, and took aim at the claim by Mao that “politics is the commander”:
“In the view of some
comrades, putting politics in command can take the place of everything
They have forgotten that it is aimed at …
giving full play to the enthusiasm and creativity of the masses in order to speed up economic reconstruction. [It] cannot take the place of
economic principles, still less can it be a substitute for concrete measures in economic work.”
Cited; Short Ibid; p. 496.
Retribution was swift, and
Mao publicly rebuked Peng. After the Lushan Conference Peng’s case was
the Politburo, and Peng was replaced
as Defense Minister by Lin Biao. Peng was placed under house arrest for the next 6 years.
Liu, Deng and Zhou stayed quiet in this period. Yet, Liu soon was to come forward with identical criticisms. After all this was serious matter:
“In 1980, Hu Yaobang… officially... acknowledge(ed) the existence of the famine, putting the death toll at 20 million.”
Short Ibid; p. 505.
Even if this figure is set
slightly high, if one accepts that the Great Leap Forward had been
and had led to famine, one can see why
Liu now came forward. While Mao was still attacking ‘individualism’; in the countryside and strongly endorsing an enforced collectivization,
resistance was being offered in the countryside. It took the form of peasants taking “household” or, individual plots of land:
“In Anhui and other hard hit
provinces (by famine – editor) cadres began experimenting with
‘household responsibility systems’,
under which land was contracted out to families to farm individually.
Marshall Zhu De [(1886-1976) After an early career as a revolutionary
nationalist, he joined the CCP; led the Hanchang Uprising. Was with Mao on Jinggaggshan; and became Commander-in-chief of the Red
Army. Remained a Politburo member from 1945 till his death; never attacked in the Cultural Revolution on order of Mao - Editor]
on a visit to his native Sichuan found cases of peasants abandoning the communes to grow crops on their own and asked whether,
in the current extremity, such expedients should not be officially approved since ‘even if you don’t write it in, it will happen anyway”.
Short Ibid; p. 509.
Mao tried to shore up his
leftist perspectives by summoning a Central Committee work conference
Beijing, and instead of the usual small
number of participants, called more than 7,000 cadres from county and commune Party Committees of all China. The meeting was however
hijacked by Liu, who together with Peng Zhen led an attack on prior policies:
“Set the tone with a report
which lavished fulsome praise on Mao’s correct guidance ‘at every
moment’ before coming abruptly to
the nub of the matter. ‘It is necessary to point out’, he acknowledged, ‘that the primary responsibility for the shortcomings and errors in our
work over these past few years lies with the Party Center’. That provoked demands from the floor for a precise attribution of blame….
A few days later… the North China leader Peng Zhen was more forthright. The Party Center, he said included Mao, Liu Shaoqi, and the
rest of the Politburo Standing Committee. To the extent they were responsible they should share the blame. Mao himself, Peng went on,
was not immune form mistakes. It was he who had spoken of the transition to communism in ‘; three or five years’, and …
Even if the Chairman had been ‘only one-thousandth part mistaken’ it would be ‘odious if he did not make a self-criticism’.”
Short Ibid; p. 509-510.
Peng Zhen was well known to
be a close ally of Liu Shaoqi. Even though Mao’s “self-criticism” was
“perfunctory in the extreme (Short Ibid)”, the
significant factor was that Mao was actually forced to make one. It is not surprising therefore that the two people who Mao targeted above all
in the Cultural Revolution were Liu and Peng Zhen.
Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai
had not exposed themselves to potential obvious counter-attack from
fact Zhou Enlai took a place in
Mao’s close circle, having been outwardly careful to maintain his confidence. The strategy of the anti-Mao faction was to expose themselves
to risk of defeat and capture, only one at a time. But the biggest weapon given his prestige was Liu Shaoqi. It was his prestige that gave Mao
a difficult task in attacking Liu’s character, as Liu:
personified, a remote intimidating man with no real friends, no outside
interests, and little sense of humor, whose
phenomenal energy was channeled into the service of the Party – which in practice meant making possible whatever it was that Mao
wanted to happen. He was exacting with himself and his family; eschewed privilege of any kind; and cultivated a puritanical public
persona who spoke of 18-hour workday and a code of conduct so absolute that when he found out that he was being paid an extra one
Yuan (at the time about 30 pence [about 80 Canadian cents-Editor]) because he worked after midnight, he insisted on reimbursing every l
ast penny through deductions from his salary.”
Short Ibid; p. 519.
Moreover, Liu was very prominent in the Party and well known to the masses as an important leader:
“Each May day and National
Day, Liu’s portrait was printed in the 'Peoples Daily', side by side
and of equal size. His writings
were studied alongside Mao’s... and... work started on preparing an edition of Liu’s “Selected Works”, an honor up till then accorded
only to Mao himself. One of Lius’ essays from the 1930’s entitled “how To be a Good Communist: was reissued as a pamphlet in an
edition of 18 million copies.”
Short; Ibid p. 520.
Of the three standing members
of the Politburo – Liu, Zhou and Deng – each had ‘exposed’ themselves
Zhou in especial was the most outwardly pliant to Mao’s will.
Deng was in the middle.
Liu was the biggest target for Mao to go against.
Having got rid of Liu in the Cultural Revolution in the most public and vicious humiliation, it is very likely that Mao’s hand was stayed against Deng.
The taking of both Liu and Deng’s scalps would have been too great a step at once.
The Cultural Revolution took
some 8 years to come to a halt in ignominy. Even then, neither the Gang
nor Mao himself, were willing to allow
its end. Right up to his own death in September 1976, Mao insisted upon being the driving force behind the Cultural Revolution.
There can be no doubt that Mao knew that Deng was not entirely “his” man. In December 26th 1964, Mao:
“Showed his displeasure at a
banquet in the Great Hall of the People. When, without naming names, he
that Liu’s views were
non-Marxist and that Deng was running the Party Secretariat as an “independent kingdom”. Two days later. He held up a copy of the
Party Constitution and after stating icily that he had as much right to express an opinion as any other Party member, implied that Deng
was attempting to stop him from attending leadership meetings and Liu was trying to stop him from speaking”.
Short Ibid; p. 525.
That Deng would be attacked
during the Cultural Revolution came no surprise to him. Nonetheless,
protected him from complete destruction.
Indeed he sent him into exile in the countryside at Jianxi, where he and his wife worked mornings at a tractor repair plant. These years are the
focus of Rong's book. Mao labeled Deng’s case as a “Contradiction among the people”.
Mao said to the Gang of Four:
“Deng had fought well against
the enemy in wartime, and nothing wrong had been discovered in his
should be treated differently
from Liu Shaoqi. You all want to kick him out, said Mao. I’m not keen on the idea”.
Rong Ibid; p. 75.
At the height of the Red
Guard assaults on the Deng family, Mao sent his emissary
Wang Dongxing (Head of the Central Committee General Office, and Rong points, out he was close to Mao and was his most trusted confidant – Rong Ibid p. 108) to relay three messages to Deng:
“1) Be patient, don’t get
2) Understand that a distinction would be made between Liu and Deng.
3) Write to me directly if you feel it becomes necessary”.
Rong Ibid; p. 37.
Accordingly Deng’s mistreatment was less severe:
“The criticisms of Liu Shaoqi
were loud and vociferous. The criticisms of Deng Xiaoping were clearly
Liu was the
“biggest capitalist roader”. He obviously had to be overthrown first. The pressure on him was therefore greater. Mao, moreover, felt that
a distinction had to be made between the two men in their disposition of the charges against them. Mao’s “proletarian” rage was directed
primarily against the man he originally had designated as his successor – Liu Shaoqi. “
Rong Ibid; p. 39.
Moreover he was not expelled from the Party:
“At the Enlarged 12th Plenary
Session of the 8th Party Central Committee Mao Zedong ignoring
preserved the Party membership
of Deng Xiaoping. This puzzled and disturbed Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and their cohorts”;
Rong Ibid p. 95.
In a shrewd manner, Deng
profusely admitted errors, insisting upon his rights to direct them
to Chairman Mao, and writing directly
to him (Rong Ibid p. 36; 44).
“Deng Xiaoping’s Letter was
put directly into the hands of Mao... Deng Xiaoping’s attitude surely
impression on Mao Zedong.
First he was willing to criticize himself. Mao considered this very important. He mentioned it in later statements. Second it proved to Mao
that his decision not to expel Deng from the Party was correct.”
Rong Ibid; p. 101.
Mao was clearly in two minds about
what to do about Deng. On the one hand he authorized and abetted the
assaults on Deng and his
family – including the persecution of his son into attempted suicide, leaving him a paraplegic.
On the other hand, he knew that Deng was exceptionally capable, and he thought he might need him:
“On July 16, 1967, after Deng
was removed from office, Mao speaking privately, told Wang Li then a
the Cultural Revolution Group:
“If Lin Biao’s health gets worse I intend to Call Deng back. I’ll make him a member at least of the Stand-in Committee of the Politburo”:
Rong Ibid; p. 39.
The case of Zhou Enlai is at
first, also perplexing. Clearly Zhou was ‘looking out for Deng’, and
him during the attacks on him in the
Cultural Revolution (Rong p.109-111). Rong details consistently how Zhou shielded Deng from attack. Even though during the early part of
the Cultural Revolution, Zhou wrote a denunciation of Deng. Deng himself knew this but, Deng:
“Exonerated him on the grounds that he would otherwise have been overthrown, which would have made the situation still worse.”
Cited Short P; Ibid; p. 587.
Again the same strategy was
being played, of staying in the shadows to save the fight in the long
why did Mao not rid himself of Zhou -
another man who had been at various key points sided with Liu and Deng’s general anti-Mao line? A very strong element of pragmatism was
always present in Mao:
“One thing was clear in Mao’s
mind: It wouldn’t do to bring down all the old leaders – including Zhou
Some had to be retained.
There was still use for them. Mao therefore ordered that, although a strategic exodus was to be carried out, special consideration should
be given to the veteran comrades. He directed Zhou Enlai to take charge, for he knew that Zhou was the only man who could do the job…
He said that he still needed them that he couldn’t do without them. He said they were useful, that he would soon be calling for them”:
Rong Ibid; p. 118.
This was brought home to Mao
Zedong even more, by the sudden flight of Lin Biao from China on a
by his son, which crashed.
This was a momentous change in the capacity at the leadership level:
“Lin Biao’s self-destruction
was the most shaking political event since the inception of the
Revolution. Five days after it happened
the Central Committee with the approval of Mao Zedong, notified the members of Lin Biao’s treacherous flight. Ten days alter military
leaders of departmental and divisional rank was also informed. On October 6 the CC issued a document regarding the criminal activities
of the Lin Biao clique.”
Rong Ibid p. 182.
Deng heard the news at a special reading of party documents at his tractor repair factory. He knew that this was an opportunity to be grasped:
“Now, with Lin Biao gone, his
goal was clearer. He should grasp every opportunity to make a
Lin Biao had died,
China’s political scene remained confused. Opposition to the old revolutionaries returning to office was still very strong. It would be a
tough struggle. Mao had to rethink his strategy and placement of personnel. It was an important time, an opportunity not to be missed.”
Rong Ibid; p. 185.
In the meantime, Zhou Enlai had been keeping the flag of the old-timers, including Deng, still flying:
“(in 1972) thanks to Zhou
Enlai,, well over a dozen of China’s top veteran Communist leaders
appeared in public or were released from
prison, or were admitted to hospitals for treatment. Their release sparked the release of restoration to their posts of many more high-and
middle ranking Communists on the Central Committee or local levels. “
Rong Ibid; p. 208.
Deng knew that his moment had
come & again wrote to Mao, stating his own errors, and supporting
Central Committee’s actions regarding
Lin Biao. He again requested that he be put back to more meaningful work. This time, being coaxed by Zhou Enlai, he agreed:
“Papa (Deng- Editor) knew
that Mao was waiting to learn his attitude, including his own attitude
criticism of Lin Biao, and toward the
criticism of his own “errors”. Papa believed that Mao would see his letter.
On August 14 1972, Mao wrote the following instruction to Zhou Enlai:
“After you have read this
Premier, have Wang Dongxing print and circulate it among all comrades
Comrade Deng Xiaoping committed serious mistakes, but he is different from Liu Shaoqi.
(1) He was attacked in the Central Soviet days as one of the four offenders – Deng, Mao, Xie and Gu – and as leaders of the
so-called Mao faction. The materials against him were described in only two books: Since the Sixth party Congress and Two Lines.
(2) He has no question in his past. He never surrendered to the enemy.
(3) He gave valuable support to Comrade Liu Bocheng in battle and won distinction. Moreover, after we came into the cities,
he did quite a few good things, such as leading the delegation to the Moscow talks and not giving in to Soviet revisionist pressure.”
Rong Ibid; p. 209-10
Deng was brought back into
the Politburo by stages from the end of 1973 on. But that his return
complete is indicated by the fact that he was
by end 1974 re-appointed as a Standing member of the Politburo and a Vice-Chairman of the party Central Committee. Already by end 1973
Deng was placed in both the politburo and head of the State Council responsible for the army (together with Zhou Enlai) giving direction to the
armed forces under Ye Jianying and Deng Xiaoping (Rong Ibid p. 260). The Gang of Four tried to object. But Zhou Enlai had done his work well,
and the power of the ‘old’ cadre was re-invigorated, almost to its old strength. The Mao and Gang of Four faction had once more, been forced to
retreat – key positions were again in the hands of their enemies. This time, not only the party was under its’ control, but this time the Army was
also under their control.
The Old Guard vigorously started its “rectification”. In response the Gang of Four launched a counter attack:
“They launched an “Oppose Lin
and Confucius Campaign”. Actually their real target was neither Lin
It was Zhou Enlai”;
Rong Ibid, p. 261
But they could not prevail.
At the Fourth National Peoples Congress, Zhou although dying of cancer,
delivered the Government Report as drafted
by Deng. He said he had asked Chairman Mao for a slogan:
Rong Ibid; p. 288.
But the speech stressed:
“the modernization of
agriculture, industry, the armed forces and science and technology
end of the century, thus moving China into
the first ranks of the world economically”:
Rong Ibid; p. 289.
This was a repudiation of the
attack on the intelligentsia offered by the Cultural Revolution. During
Chaos of the Cultural revolution, production
had fallen, and:
“The overall economy was in the red”:
Rong Ibid; p. 295.
Deng was characteristically
business-like in his efforts to reverse the effects of the Cultural
on industry and agriculture. But now, he was
more and more open in his phrasing. At a meeting from February 25 to March 8 1975, of all Party Secretaries responsible for industry in all of China,
the theme was the crucial problem of getting the railway working properly again. Deng was blunt in his attack on “factionalists” in the leadership,
who were hampering efforts to “promote production”. All they wanted to do was to “make revolution”.
This was “utterly wrong” said Deng:
“Chairman Mao has said that
it is necessary to make revolution, promote production and other work
ensure preparedness in the
event of war. I am told that some comrades only dare to make revolution but not to promote production. They say the former is safe but the
latter dangerous. This is utterly wrong... In agriculture... per-capita yield is only 304.5 kilograms, grain reserves are small and the income of
the peasants is pretty low. As for industry, its existing capacity is not fully utilized, and its output last year was inadequate. This is the final
year of the Fourth Five-Year Plan, and if production doesn’t increase we are sure to have difficulties in carrying out the Fifth year Plan...
The Central Committee is determined to solve this problem. The decision of the CC also includes constructions on factionalism. Factionalism
now seriously jeopardizes our overall interest…Persons engaging in factional activities should be re-educated and their leaders opposed.
Generally speaking such leader scan be divided into groups. One category consists of persons who are obsessed by factionalism, have
engaged in factional activities for several years and have lost their sense of right and wrong. Form them Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought
and the Communist Party have all disappeared. If they correct their mistakes we will let bygones be bygones, but if they refuse to mend
their ways, they will be sternly dealt with. The second category consists of a few bad elements. .. They fish in troubled waters by capitalizing
on factionalism and undermining socialist public order and economic construction. Something must be done about such people…””
Rong Ibid; p. 296-7.
In this assault on the Group of Four, Deng was making public his views on the Cultural Revolution. In Rong’s words:
“Deng’s speech was a manifesto against the leftist: errors of the Cultural Revolution. It was a declaration of full-scale war”;
Rong; Ibid p. 298.
The Gang of Four again went
on the attack, this time against Deng, Zhou and Ye Jinying – labeling
“empiricist”. But Mao was in no
position to seriously fight as well – his own health was failing, at the age of 83. Mao actually had to give ground, and he criticized the
Gang of Four at this time. Zhou and Deng seized this opportunity and increased the pressure. They attacked the factional struggles in the
Army – saying that the army had:
“Been plagued with problems that Deng summed up in five words: “Bloating, laxity, conceit extravagance and inertia”;
Rong Ibid p. 316.
Marshall Ye met with the top generals and relayed Mao’s criticism of the Gang of Four, whom:
“He said, Mao had called the “Shanghai Mafia”:
Rong Ibid; p. 317.
But Rong clearly cannot bring
herself to say that Mao was not going along with this fully. It seems
Mao’s temporary retreat at this time, blinds
her to Mao’s ultimate faith to the Cultural Revolution principles that he had started. Thus while for the moment he endorsed the rectification in the
arts (see Rong p. 319-321) he was waiting his time.
When the State Planning
Commission produced a draft of the thrust of rectification being put
Deng, it endorsed his main points that
were made to a State Council meeting and summarized as:
“1. Confirm that agriculture
is the foundation of the national economy. Industry must support it and
up its modernization. Bring in
new technology and equipment form other countries, expand imports and exports. In return for more exports, obtain technology and equipment
of the highest quality.
2. Speed up the reform of industrial technology and raise labor productivity.
3. Strengthen scientific research in State enterprises.
4. Bring order to the industrial management.
5. Stress product quality.
6. Restore and improve rules and regulations.
7. Enforce pay according to work, an extremely important principle in the period of socialist construction”;
Rong Ibid p. 326.
However, this document never
saw formal circulation owing to Mao’s intervention. Moreover, another
“A Report on Several Problems Concerning Scientific and Technological Work”, was also denied Mao’s approval (Rong Ibid; p. 329).
Unsurprising – since it completely negated the attacks on teachers, professors, and scientists undertaken during the Cultural Revolution.
Deng continued to attack the
“Factionalists”, and pushed the rectification of all fields. In doing
never neglected to quote Chairman Mao,
using the great Personality Cult for his own ends.
This prompted the Gang of Four to attack Deng as having adopted the tactics described in “Outlaws of the Marsh”, a famous Chinese
classic of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In this, a warrior named Song Jiang took a citadel by “making a figurehead of the leader Chao Gai”.
Jiang Qing accused Deng of doing that to Mao (Rong Ibid p. 337).
Rong writes that initially Mao dismissed Qing’s complaints as:
“Dog farts! Utter nonsense”
Rong Ibid p. 338.
But for once Qing was
correct; Deng was actually using the Mao Cult for fostering a new
to Maoist doctrine.
“I always feel that there is
a big problem we have to solve: How should we spread Mao Zedong
Comrade Luo Ronghuan was the
first to express his disapproval of Lin Biao’s vulgarization of Mao Zedong Thought. He said that when we study Chairman Mao’s works we
must study their essence. …Lin Biao urged people only to study the “three constantly read articles”… This was a way of fragmenting
Mao Zedong Thought. .. We must study it (i.e. Mao Zedong Thought – Editor) in its totality and not base our conclusions on a partial
understanding or an erroneous interpretation by others”;
Cited Rong Ibid p. 339-340.
Of course this was an
invitation to critique versions of Mao Zedong Thought.
As Zhou’s health worsened and he came closer to death, Mao had a temporary resurgence following surgery for cataracts, which enabled
him to read again.
He now took up the theme of the “Outlaws Marsh that had been raised by Jiang Qing before – which he had rebuked her for earlier!
As Deng got more powerful, it was imperative to try to halt him. Mao allowed Yao Wenyuan to use his sayings on this classic to circulate a
series of articles. Published in peoples Daily on August 31 to September 4 1975.
These lit a new campaign.
It was clear the targets were Deng and Zhou:
“Zhou said on September 15th:
“They the Gang of Four really go too far. It's very clear who they are
at in their criticism of ‘Outlaws’ and
the ‘surrender faction’.”
Rong Ibid p. 345.
Despite 14 major and minor
operations, Zhou Enlai died of cancer on January 8th 1976.
The death was mourned by many of the people.
Deng gave the oration.
However, the death of Zhou enabled Mao to launch a new and major counter-attack.
Yet again the faction led by the Old three Stalwarts – Liu, Deng and Zhou – were on the defensive.
Already before Zhou’s death, the Gang of Four had arranged through Mao’s nephew Mao Yuanxin – a new personal pipeline into
Mao’s thinking (Rong Ibid p. 350-1).
Mao needed no real convincing that Deng was undermining the Cultural Revolution goals. He insisted upon confirming the Cultural
“The general consensus is
that the Cultural Revolution has been 70 percent right and 30 percent
It made two mistakes: Calling for down with everything and causing all-out internal warfare”.
Rong Ibid p. 355.
Mao’s statement was widely circulated. Deng came against under criticism. The strange situation was exemplified by Deng’s memory:
“The (Politburo) meetings
criticizing Deng Xiaoping were chaired by none other than Deng
As Papa later recalled:
Rong Ibid p. 367.
Although Mao was determined to get an affirmation of the Cultural Revolution (Rong Ibid p. 363) Deng was now equally determined to not bend on principles. The difference between now and prior years was that the Chairman was:
“Too old, too weary”.
Rong Ibid p. 363.
Hence Deng’s new uncompromising stand:
“Deng offered what he called
a “few small points of clarification”.
Firstly regarding what Mao referred to as the “three correct attitudes”
that is correct attitudes toward the Cultural Revolution, toward the masses, and toward oneself.
Secondly Deng continued
Rong Ibid p. 364.
After Zhou’s death, the Gang
of Four used the pretence that Deng had fomented mass grieving and
in Tiananmen Square
as rebellious acts. Gatherings of people in the Square were banned and mourners killed by stooges of the Gang of Four. Yet mourners continued
to come as a political act of mourning, but also as an act of defiance to the Gang of Four – subtly and carefully supported by the pro-Rectification
wing of the party.
Once more under fire from the Gang fo Four, Deng now simply demanded resignation from office.
Mao was faced with a threat of withdrawal of labor, and attempted conciliation:
“”It is still a contradiction
among the people If (Deng) is guided well, it needn’t become a hostile
it was with Liu Shaoqi and
Lin Biao. Deng is different. He’s willing to criticize himself. Those two absolutely refused.”
Rong Ibid p, 382.
But the gang of Four insisted
on his removal from office, which duly occurred in 1976. That this
with the approval of Mao is obvious
from the issuance of “Important Instructions From Mao Zedong” on March 3rd by the CC with Mao’s permission.
In part this read:
“That fellow Xiaoping doesn’t
put much stock in class struggle, He’s always been like that. For him
matter of ‘Black cat, white cat’,
he doesn’t care if its imperialism or Marxism. Xiaoping’s case in an internal one among the people. If he’s guided well he may not turn hostile,
as it did with Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao. .. He should be criticized. But don’t strike him down with a single blow”.
So Deng was removed, and many
of the pro-rectification leaders in the CC were also removed – such as
It was now the turn of the Old cadre to launch a “spontaneous mass movement”.
They initiated the “Great April 5th Movement” – where supposedly:
“The sparks of the people's
anger ignited in February and March. On February 23 a poster appeared
China’s Fujian Province listing the
crimes of the Gang of Four, “
Rong Ibid p. 390.
The pro-rectification leaders
had learned the lessons of the Cultural Revolution and its
On the “Pure Brightness day” of April 4 1976, two million people came to Tiananmen Square to mourn Zhou Enlai. The gathering was crushed by force.
Yet the Gang of Four was not
victorious as Deng was still in the party, and Mao did not expel him.
While Deng was in house arrest Mao Zedong died on September 9th 1976.
Before dying he had made Hua Guofeng General Secretary.
He and the remaining old veterans rapidly arrested the Gang of Four using various subterfuges to lure them to meetings.
The lead role was taken by Marshall Ye Jianying. The formal announcement of the “smashing of the Gang of Four was made on October 16 1976,
by the party CC. In July 1977 Deng Xiaoping was restored to office. This time, the Phoenix did not have to square off against Mao.
This book contains some very useful information and certainly conveys the favor of the times. But Rong is too misled by statements such as this by Mao:
”It is still a contradiction
among the people If (Deng) is guided well, it needn’t become a hostile
it was with Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao.
Deng is different. He’s willing to criticize himself. Those two absolutely refused.”
Rong Ibid p, 382.
Of course it is true that
Deng was always aware that the Chairman needed to be led into thinking
And that was the role allotted to
Deng by the Old three Standing Members of the Politburo after the Great Leap Forward. Someone had to be in the wings.
To stay in the wings, it was necessary to “apologize”.
Deng Xiaoping could do that well. And therein was how the Phoenix Deng Xiaoping grew the wings of a phoenix.
The book being reviewed still does not answer the questions of the underlying forces ranged against each other in the Cultural Revolution.
Were these purely personality conflicts? Or was there an economic under-pinning?
This question is yet to be answered with materials from the archives.
We look forward to future documents being released. .
In passing, it is worth
commenting on an additional point of significance.
It concerns the description of the introduction of the “Three Worlds Theory”.
While it has been known that this was presented by Deng Xiaoping, the degree to which Mao’s views were in accord with this, has been somewhat
uncertain. Rong puts it unequivocally:
“On April 10 1974,
Vice-Premier of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China,
Xiaoping, addressed the Sixth
Special Session of the United Nations. To an intently listening audience had articulated the “Three Worlds” thesis of Mao Zedong and
the principles of China’s foreign policy.”
Rong Ibid; p. 267.
It can definitely be said
that this book is well worth obtaining.