After Mao Zedong



Mao remained in undisputed control of China until his death in 1976.  After Mao's death there was a power stuggle, which saw the fall of Mao's 'Gang of Four' supporters, and the restoration of Deng Xiaoping, who followed a more moderate line ... whilst retaining absolute political control.

Deng, however, did not try to destroy Mao's reputation.  Instead, the Central Committee declared that Mao had been '70% right 30% wrong', and this is the official stance of the Chinese government today.


The following websites will help you complete the task:


After Mao:
• List of facts 

• Chinese posters

• Evaluation of Mao 

• American newspaper article on Deng Xiaoping


The power struggle after Mao’s death

a.  Arrest of the Gang of Four, 1976

Without the spectre of Mao to protect them, the Gang of Four were arrested and imprisoned

b.  CCP General Secretary, 1977

Deng Xiaoping was reinstated, and in 1977 was appointed General Secretary of the CCP

c.  Third Plenum, 1978

The CCP met in 1978 and appointed Deng Chairman of the Committee in charge of economic reform. It accepted Deng's policy of the 'four modernisations' and resolved to restore Party democracy

d.  Central Committee resolution on Mao, 1981

Rather than trying to attack Mao, Deng proposed a compromise; Mao was accepted as a great leader who, although he had made some 'gross mistakes … his contribution far outweighs his mistakes' – the Central Committee declared that Mao had been '70% right 30% wrong'

e.  Trial of the Gang of Four, 1981

The Gang of Four were put on trial for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people during the Cultural Revolution


Economic development in the 1980s

a.  'Four modernisations'

Deng introduced set a policy of reform called the 'four modernisations' (agriculture, industry, technology, military)

b.  Household Responsibility System

In agriculture, peasants were allowed to rent a plot of land and farm it almost as a private farm provided they gave a set quota of produce to the commune

c.  Industrial Responsibility System

In industry, each State-owned Enterprise had to produce a certain amount for the state … after which any extra profit could be used to award higher wages, bonuses etc.

d.  Reform of the Economic System Resolution, 1984

This Resolution did not allow private businesses, but it gave much more freedom to SoE managers to run their businesses as they wanted, along capitalist lines

e.  Special Economic Zones

The first four SEZs were Shanton and Xiamen (north), Shenzen and Zhuhai (south); they were given autonomy and tax deals, and told to concentrate on exports - exports quintupled 1978-88


Social and political changes in the 1980s

a.  Reforms and Openness

Similarly to Gorbachev in Russia, Deng introduced 'Reforms and Openness' (the Beijing Spring'), and set a policy of reform called the 'four modernisations' (agriculture, industry, technology, military)

b.  The 'Four Cardinal Principles'

Modernisation was NOT accompanied by political reform – Deng opposed democracy and recommended upholding 'the socialist road', democratic dictatorship, the CCP leadership, and Mao Zedong Thought

c.  Corruption

The CCP was accused of corruption, especially when scandals like the Heilonjiang fraud (where SoE managers of a power company were stealing the profits) were discovered

d.  Democracy Wall

A place where reformers stuck their writings – from time to time the government would arrest them and clear the posters

e.  Tiananmen Square Massacre, June 1989

The funeral of popular reformer Hu Yaobang and the visit of Gorbachev to Beijing prompted a student hunger strike and occupation of the Square; after the tearful pleas of General Secretary Zhao Ziyang were ignored, the PLA moved in and killed thousands of students


The role and status of Mao – historiography

a.  Chinese historians

Even after Mao died, Chinese media were not allowed to attack his record; Chinese schools do not teach the failures of the past. The 1981 declaration of the CCP Central Committee – '70% right 30% wrong' – is the current official Chinese assessment of Mao

b.  Cold War histories

Western accounts written during the Cold War often presented Mao as a monster, and China as a terrifying, alien society

c.  Western sympathetic writers

In the 1970s and 1980s, many westerners formed a romantic image of Maoism – the Little Red Book sold well – and formed a view of Maoism as the best way forward for Chins

d.  Revisionists

Even until recently, revisionists such as Lee Feigon, although accepting Mao’s violence and mistakes, still regarded Mao as generally successful at bringing China into the modern world

e.  ‘Scar’ literature

Writers such as Lu Xinhua and Jung Chan, whose families suffered under Mao, 'fuelled by an unrelenting hatred of Mao', have produced ‘scar’ accounts, stressing the suffering and negative aspects of Mao’s rule



Read the following passage from China Daily (an English-language Chinese newspaper which claims to be more liberal than other Chinese newspapers, but is still carefully state-controlled) and write answers to the questions which follow:

An article on Mao Zedong in China Daily, July 2007
It is true that Mao Zedong made gross mistakes in his later years, but when his life is judged as a whole, his indisputable contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes, and his merits are primary and his errors secondary.  He is still held in great respect by the Chinese people.  The CPC gave an all-round evaluation of all his revolutionary activities and thought in a resolution adopted by its Central Committee five years after his death.  Zedong Thought, the development of Marxism in China, is still the guiding ideology of the CPC.

Do the facts support this judgement of Mao Zedong?

Describe the struggle for power after Mao's death.

Was Mao a success?