The question facing the Chinese Communist leaders in the early spring of 1967 was whether to bring the cultural revolution to an early conclusion or to carry it through to the end. The decision reached was to push on with the cultural revolution, a decision which precipitated bloody armed conflict throughout China for the next two years and sporadic violence after that. Only the direct and massive intervention of the People’s Liberation Army kept provincial-wide outbreaks from spreading into wider civil strife. Continued instability and the inability to establish a satisfactory provincial apparatus required ever increasing inputs of main force military units. The result was that by the middle of 1968 China’s national defense capabilities had been seriously reduced. In order to guard against possible external attack by the Soviet Union, China’s leaders brought the cultural revolution to a premature conclusion in the latter months of 1968.
“Carry the Cultural Revolution Through to the Very End”
The Tsinghai bloodbath of late February had been only the most extreme example of a phenomenon which had occurred with increasing frequency during February and March following the introduction of the regional military into the cultural revolution. The military commanders in virtually every province had tended to support the less radical of revolutionary rebel groups. The result was that although “great alliances” were formed and the nuclei for provincial revolutionary committees established, Mao’s political interests were not being served. The natural outcome of the “support the left” policy as it was being applied was the reentry of the old cadres to positions of dominance inside the new structures. It was this trend which precipitated a new crisis in the Central leadership in late March.
In the face of the mounting crisis the leadership became embroiled in a dispute over the course to follow. The failure of Mao’s revolutionary rebels to seize power or to unify into “great alliances,” and the increasing level of chaos and hardship, prompted several leaders in the Central Committee and PLA cultural revolution groups to advocate the early termination of the cultural revolution. Mao and his supporters had superior guns, however, and emerged victorious in yet another leadership conflict, purging the dissenters and embarking upon a more vigorous but less hasty attempt to capture power in the provinces.
In a speech delivered to a visiting Albanian military delegation in early April Mao revealed that some leaders wanted to bring the cultural revolution to an end. “This question is being discussed in the Central Cultural Revolution Group,” he said. “Some think the suitable time is the end of this year, others favor May next year. But the matter of time must also be subject to the law of class struggle.”1 The upshot of this “discussion” was a victory for Mao and his supporters, who thereupon sent the struggle into what Mao termed its “fourth phase,” a protracted effort which involved not only “the question of [political] power seizure,” but also the “ideological seizure of power from revisionism and the bourgeoisie.” Mao clearly admitted that initial attempts to bring victory in the provinces had failed and that a longer-run policy was being set into motion.
The Center repeatedly urged the formation of revolutionary great alliances after the January storm, but to no avail. Later it was found that this was a subjective wish which did not conform to the objective law of class struggle, because the different classes and political forces of different factions would still stubbornly seek self-expression, and . . . would fall apart again even if they were united in the alliances. So what the Center now does is simply to urge, not to help speed up, the formation of alliances. The method of speeding up the growth of rice by pulling at the stems will not do. The law of class struggle will not change according to anyone’s subjective wishes.2
Mao’s new policy consisted of “urging” the formation of great alliances, after which he would make another strike for political power in the provinces. As part of the new hands-off attitude, the regional military forces were to be instructed to step aside from the struggle which would inevitably accompany the merging of factions. To ensure that the regional military would respond positively to the Center’s policy, Mao played his trump card, the army corps, which were to be deployed to prevent the conflict from growing to uncontrollable dimensions. The decision to inject the army corps into the struggle engendered great opposition within the military leadership, undoubtedly on the ground that to do so would leave China vulnerable to external attack. Mao weathered this storm as he had so many others by compromising with the moderates and excluding the unyielding in both party and military. He placated the moderates by assuring them that the army corps would not become politically involved but would, in effect, play the role of pacification units preventing further conflict. Secondly, partly to mask the fact that China’s first line army units were being redeployed for domestic political purposes, Mao initiated a voluminous propaganda campaign in late March which continued at fever pitch for the next two years. In it for the first time in the open press (as apart from wall posters) Liu Shao-ch’i and his now numerous “accomplices” were savagely attacked.
Mao removed those unalterably opposed to him. These included Hsü Hsiang-ch’ien, head of the PLA cultural revolutionary group appointed only a few months before in January, and three others in that group, T’an P’ing-tzu, Hu Ch’ih, and Ho Ku-yen, all men in charge of communications work.3 The PLA cultural revolution group was reorganized with a triumvirate at the top consisting of Hsiao Hua, who was named acting head of the group, Yang Ch’eng-wu, acting chief of staff’ since Lo Jui-ch’ing’s fall, and Hsieh Fu-chih, newly appointed member and current Minister of Public Security. Two men were also dropped from the Central Committee cultural revolution group. Liu Chih-chien, who had been removed as head of the PLA cultural revolution group in January, was now removed from the Central group entirely, as was Hsieh T’an-chung, head of cultural aff’airs in the General Political Department of the Ministry of Defense.
The Order of the Military Commission of the CCP Central Committee, which Mao described as “very good,” was issued on April 6. It prohibited the district commanders from making arbitrary arrests, declaring revolutionary organizations “reactionary,” and acting independently in their relations with mass organizations.
When it is absolutely necessary to declare them reactionary organizations and repress them, approval must first be obtained fi’om the Center. . . . Before taking any important action, a report should be made to the Central Cultural Revolution Group and the All-PLA Cultural Revolution Group and their advice sought.4
Above all, shooting was forbidden; any form of corporal or “disguised” corporal punishment was also similarly prohibited. In short, the regional military forces were instructed to end their direct involvement with the revolutionary mass organizations.
While urging the rebels to unite, Mao attempted once more to defuse the explosive potential of burgeoning factional organizations. On April 8 People’s Daily set forth a new formula by which every member of a revolutionary unit or organization would be judged. Contracted to the characters “tou-p’i-kai” (struggle-criticism-transformation), all rebels would henceforth be required to undergo criticism—self-criticism experiences in terms of which the general repudiation of Liu Shao-ch’i and others would serve as the criterion. Periodically, beginning later in April, Peking issued proclamations reiterating a February order prohibiting travel by any individual except with permission of the Central Committee and directing the return of all individuals to their original organizations.5
Under cover of the intensive propaganda campaign, Mao sent all or parts of at least eleven army corps into the most serious trouble spots to prevent further escalation of fighting. From late March onward, army corps became involved in ten provinces and four generally troubled areas.6 Troops were sent to the three regions where conditions had been unsettled earlier—East, Northwest, and Southwest China. In addition, a fourth area—the Central South region—required the presence of an army corps. The growing disturbances in these regions threatened to develop into precisely that which Mao most feared, the coalescence of a regional opposition; this was a primary reason for involving the army corps.
From late March onward, Mao and his supporters in Peking attempted to achieve political solutions on a province by province basis as the situations in these provinces reached a flash point. The Center published decisions on certain provinces without prior consultation with the individuals involved, as in Inner Mongolia and Szech’uan. For the most part, the general procedure became the adoption of one of two methods. Either the Central Committee sent representatives to a disturbed province, for example, Chou En-lai’s trip to Canton April 14–18, or provincial groups were received in Peking to negotiate a settlement. Afterward, the Center would publish a “decision” on the concerned province which, following the earlier prescription for a “three-way alliance,” publicly identified those revolutionary mass organizations, old cadre groups, and military leaders who enjoyed the Center’s support and those who did not. Most of the directives included the appointment of a preparatory committee to lay the groundwork for the formation of a provincial revolutionary committee. Paradoxically, the immediate result of Mao’s new policy as it came into focus during the spring of 1967 was increased chaos and violence, not the reverse.
Failure of Mao’s Policy and Increase in Violence
Mao strove to curtail the spiral of violence developing during early spring and provide a respite during which he could mobilize his forces for yet another attempt to seize power in the provinces. His policy was too little too late. Although he succeeded in establishing a revolutionary committee for Peking on April 20, the situation had already deteriorated farther than he had realized, for no other province or municipality followed Peking’s example. The revolutionary groups had already polarized to such an extent that it proved impossible to unite them into grand alliances. Therefore, calling off the regional military forces and inciting the masses with the intensive anti-Liu propaganda campaign had the opposite effect from that intended. Instead of cooling down the situation in the provinces, it incited groups, particularly in already troubled areas, to further violence. In many cases, revolutionary groups intensified their attacks on military installations!
Throughout May the number of killed and wounded mounted as the use of weapons multiplied. By the end of the month, armed incidents had occurred in virtually every province, autonomous region, and large municipality, but Szech’uan and Inner Mongolia were the most serious problems. In Szech’uan, despite the presence of the 50th Army corps, sent from Manchuria, violent disturbances occurred in the major urban areas .of Ch’engtu, Ip’in, and Chungking involving the use of rifles and machine guns. On April 14, a separate “notification” was issued concerning the situation in the Ip’in area and a month later, on May 7, a more encompassing directive was issued for Szech’uan as a whole. In it the Peking leadership relieved Li Ching-ch’uan and the top Szech’uan party and military leadership from their regional party and military posts.7 Chang Kuo-hua, party and military chief of Tibet, was instructed to assume control of Szech’uan and begin the preparation of a revolutionary committee for the province.
In Inner Mongolia a similar “decision” was published on April 13 which publicly branded Ulanfu, long-time chief of the area, “the party person in authority taking the capitalist road,” who was to be “openly exposed.”8 Liu Hsien-ch’uan, who had been given “full power” earlier to return order to Tsinghai after the Chao Yung-fu incident in February, was named Commander of the Inner Mongolian Military District and Wu T’ao, ousted secretary of the party committee, was restored to his former position. The two men were instructed to set up a preparatory committee for the establishment of a provincial revolutionary committee.
While Mao acted to contain the fighting in Inner Mongolia and Szech’uan, the situation in the East China and Central South regions deteriorated rapidly. Mao was forced hurriedly to bring the military, or at least a selected portion of it, into the struggle once again to prevent further breakdown of a situation which now saw frequent use of weapons in factional fighting and open brigandage. A “circular” of June 7 ordered that “no organization or individual” could henceforth arrest anyone, steal or destroy official documents, disturb state property, or engage in armed struggle under pain of strict punishment.
To prevent counterrevolutionary elements from taking advantage of this trend [toward breakdown] all garrison forces and PLA forces dispatched from Peking shall take responsibility for the implementation of each of the above items.
In other words, as he had done so often in the past, Mao had used the developing crisis to do what he had previously assured his comrades he would not do. In this case, the army corps “dispatched from Peking” were now to become more directly involved. Initially, it had been thought that their mere presence would be a brake on violence. Now the army corps and garrison forces were instructed to enforce order by apprehending and punishing lawbreakers.
Ironically, in attempting to resolve one type of crisis, Mao set the conditions for still another more dangerous development. If the April 6 order generally restrained or removed the PLA regional forces from direct involvement in the cultural revolution, the June 7 “circular” contained a loophole through which they could legitimately reenter the struggle. Although Mao had limited the participation of regional forces to urban “garrison forces,” their inclusion provided the opportunity for those regional commanders whose responsibilities included large municipalities to involve themselves directly in the cultural revolution once again. Aided by “all revolutionary organizations” which were to “set examples,” the “garrison forces and dispatched PLA forces [had] . . . the right to arrest, detain, and punish the leaders and the wirepullers in an offense.”9 In fact, this is precisely what one such regional commander, Ch’en Tsai-tao, did, leading to the extremely explosive affair known as the “Wuhan incident.”
From the beginning Wuhan had been the scene of clashes among literally hundreds of rebel groups. Between February and April Ch’en Tsai-tao, as had other commanders elsewhere, supported the “left” by suppressing the most radical groups. The order of magnitude was indicated by one estimate in which it was noted that during that period “more than 300 ‘revolutionary rebel groups’ throughout the province of Hupeh were branded ‘counterrevolutionary’ and over 10,000 people arrested.”10 Although the situation eased somewhat after the issuance of the April directive restraining the regional forces, immediately after the promulgation of the June 7 circular the intensity of clashes picked up. Given the authority once again to “arrest, detain, and punish,” Ch’en resumed his support of the strong paramilitary organization named the “Million Heroes.” This organization was composed of several rebel groups, demobilized troops from one of Ch’en’s own independent divisions (the eleventh independent division under the command of Niu Huai-ling), public security forces of Wuhan, and other elements of the established order. These were arrayed against another composite rebel group, the “Three Steels.” By late June clashes between the two large groups had become increasingly bloody. In Wuhan alone between June 16 and 24, 350 had been killed and over 1,500 wounded.11
To make matters worse a similar sequence of events had taken place in Honan, the province immediately to the north of Hupeh. Chengchow, the main city and key rail junction, had also been the scene of serious clashes and by late June it, too, exhibited extreme disorder. Honan and Hupeh together composed the Wuhan Military Region, which was the key link between Peking and South China and an area, which, according to Lin Piao, Mao and his supporters had found particularly difficult to penetrate.12 Further chaos in this region would hinder north-south movement from Peking, reducing the Center’s ability to respond quickly to crises that developed in the various regions. Therefore, the chaos and disorder in Wuhan, in particular, had to be brought to an end as quickly as possible.
Earlier, Peking had sent Hsieh Fu-chih and Wang Li, two members of the Central Committee’s Cultural Revolution Group, to Yunnan and Szech’uan to manage factional disputes.13 These men were subsequently instructed to proceed to Wuhan en route to Peking, where they arrived on July 14.14 Chou En-lai, who had preceded Hsieh and Wang to Wuhan, attempted to resolve the difficulty in that city. He informed Ch’en Tsai-tao that he, as commander of the military region, had made mistakes in supporting the left and instructed him to rehabilitate the “Three Steels” as a revolutionary mass organization, brand the “Million Heroes” a conservative group, and bring about a “great alliance” of the two feuding groups. Chou then left the city, delegating further management of the dispute to Hsieh and Wang. On July 19, at a meeting between the Wuhan region command and concerned persons, Wang Li issued a four-point directive to Ch’en Tsai-tao ordering him to rehabilitate two large revolutionary organizations—the Three Steels and the Workers’ General Headquarters—label the Million Heroes “conservative,” and publicly acknowledge that the military district command had committed “errors.”15
Whatever the reasons, an angry group from the Million Heroes refused to accept Wang Li’s directive and took matters into their own hands, abducting both Hsieh and Wang and holding them incommunicado for several hours.16 If the commander of the region, Ch’en Tsai-tao, did not support their action, he did nothing to stop them. Wang was severely beaten and one of his entourage killed. News of the “incident” in Wuhan quickly spread, presenting Mao and his supporters with a serious problem, which was not primarily how to handle the events in Wuhan, but what they portended. Successful open defiance by the Wuhan military command would be interpreted by other military leaders as weakness of the Center. Unless Peking demonstratively showed its strength in Wuhan and decisively dealt with those involved, then other commanders also might be tempted to test the strength of Peking.
Mao appears to have panicked momentarily in the face of this realization and to have overracted. Fearing that the defiance of the Wuhan leaders would be emulated, Mao immediately sent Chou En-lai back to the city with air and naval support. The East China fleet steamed up the Yangtze River, anchoring off the city while planes parachuted several airborne units into the city. These troops forcibly disarmed and broke up the Million Heroes’ organization. In short order Hsieh and Wang were on their way to Peking, followed a few days later by Ch’en Tsai-tao and the leaders of the Wuhan military command, who were required to “confess” their errors. A heroes’ welcome was staged in Peking for Hsieh and Wang, which was clearly intended to suggest a Central triumph; the immediate policy reaction, however, demonstrated apprehension regarding the regional commanders.
In the initial panic during the Wuhan incident, Peking had summoned the principal military commanders to the capital. Pressured by the “left wing” in the Central Cultural Revolution Group, Mao acceeded to a policy of arming the revolutionaries and directing them against the military. People’s Daily on the 20th called for the revolutionary masses to “drag out the handful of power holders in the army” and on the 22nd Chiang Ch’ing urged the revolutionaries to adopt a stance of “attack by reasoning, defense with force.”17 At the same time. Central leaders armed a few rebel organizations in Peking and Shanghai. The reasoning behind the decision was undoubtedly to prevent any repetition of the Wuhan syndrome elsewhere and the growth of provincial into regional incidents. The almost immediate result of the order to arm the left was a precipitate increase in the level of armed conflict between rebels and military. Rebels immediately stormed arms depots and arsenals and even took weapons from troops. In the ensuing conflicts the military got the worst of it because, except for “garrison forces and dispatched PLA forces,” the entire army was still under the restrictions of the April 6 hands-off, no-shooting order.
To Whom the Leading Role, Rebels, or Soldiers?
Mao succeeded in preventing the link-up of potentially dissident forces by the stop-gap measure of directing the armed revolutionary rebels against the regional commands, but the increased level of violence and number of casualties suffered by military forces provoked strenuous opposition among Mao’s top military leaders. They undoubtedly demanded either disarming of the rebels or release from the April 6 restraints or both. At this critical juncture during the first week of August, two groups pressed for mutually contradictory policies in what seems to have been a vicious encounter. Wang Li, hero of Wuhan and close confidant of Chiang Ch’ing, supported by several members of the Central Committee Cultural Revolution Group, argued for continuation of the expedient policy of late July. He urged that the armed revolutionary rebels become the primary vehicle for achieving the objectives of the cultural revolution in place of the military. His alleged grounds were that:
. . . 90 per cent of the leadership in the armed forces is conservative, 7 to 8 per cent is Rightist, and only 1 to 2 per cent is revolutionary.18
The military leaders in the PLA Cultural Revolution Group vehemently opposed the proposition that the leading role in the cultural revolution be delegated to the armed rebels, although they seem not to have been unified over the precise extent to which the military should continue to be entangled. Given the clear-cut choice of power to armed rebels or to the military, Peking’s military men reached the obvious conclusion. However, they divided over the manner in which the power should be exercised by the military. Events of the 8th and 9th of August reveal that the top leadership had resolved the debate over “to whom the leading role” by devising a compromise of sorts between the two positions. Mao and his top leaders decided that the army and not the armed rebels would continue to be the instrument in the cultural revolution, but that all independent initiative would be withdrawn from field force commanders and centered in Peking. Literally all problems large or small would henceforth be decided by the Central leaders. As for the rebels, it was decided to arm on an experimental basis selected revolutionary rebel groups, which, however, would be subordinate to, and function under, the orders of the local military commanders.
On August 9, Lin Piao drove home the main guidelines for field commanders in an important policy speech given at a reception for Tseng Ssu-yü and Liu Feng, the newly appointed commanders of the Wuhan military region, Ch’en Hsi-lien, commander of the Mukden military region, Liu P’ei-shan, first political commissar of the Foochow military region, Cheng Wei-shan, commander of the Peking military region, and Wu Fa-hsien, commander of the Air Force.19 These men represented the key regions of Central South, Northeast, East, and North China. Although Mao was not present, members of the Central Committee Cultural Revolution Group included Ch’en Po-ta, K’ang Sheng, Chiang Ch’ing, Hsieh Fu-chih, Wang Li, Kuan Feng, and Ch’i Pen-yü. To preclude the possibility of “another Ch’en Tsai-tao,” Lin stipulated three guidelines to be followed. First, commanders were to study local conditions carefully so that they were well acquainted with the various mass organizations. Second, commanders were ordered to:
. . . seek instructions from and report to Chairman Mao, the Central Committee, and the Cultural Revolution Group of the Central Committee. We must not have jthe idea that we need not report to the Central Committee so long as we ourselves understand the situation. Nor must we have the idea that we need not seek instructions from the Central Committee because the matter can be dealt with by us since it is so small or because we ourselves are intelligent enough to deal with the matter. . . . We should seek instructions . . . on all matters, big and small.20
To emphasize his point, Lin reiterated, “don’t act on your own because you think your ideas are right or you are clever. This I must say again and again, and it is the most important of the three ways.”
The third point concerned the method of distinguishing Maoists from non-Maoists. “You must divide people into Left and Right,” Lin declared, “not according to whether they attack the military district, but according to whether they protect or oppose Chairman Mao.” He continued:
We must resolutely stand on the side of Chairman Mao, on the side of the Left, and on the side of the masses. We must not judge a group as to whether it is a leftist or rightist one simply on the basis of whether the class status of its members is pure or not, whether it has many or few Party members or many or few cadres. Class status must be examined, but it is not everything. The main thing is to see what line is followed.21
The “rightists” must be divided and won over, and their leaders dragged out “in the spirit of Chairman Mao’s directives.” Above all, however, continued Lin, “the masses must not be suppressed.” Those cadres who make “mistakes,” he said, “should be sent to receive training in accordance with Chairman Mao’s instructions.” In a final admonition to his listeners, Lin cautioned:
Lest you should make mistakes, may I remind you once more of the three ways, especially the second one. Things should rather be done a bit slowly . . . and must not be done in a hurry. If they are delayed for a few days, the sky would not fall.22
On the next day, the Central Committee issued “several decisions” concerning the problem of Kiangsi. Point five of the document revealed the decision concerning the future role of the revolutionary rebels.
In districts where opportunity is ripe, revolutionary masses should be armed under the guidance of the preparatory group. For the time being research and preparations for putting this into effect will be made in the Nanchang and Fuchou areas. The reason for arming the revolutionary masses is to help the PLA protect state property and maintain revolutionary order. Guns and ammunition should not be supplied to the conservatives under any excuse.23
The revolutionaries would be armed, on an experimental basis, but only “to help the PLA,” not to become the main force in the cultural revolution. The slogan “drag out the handful of power holders in the army” was dropped, and Wang Li with his supporters sufi’ered the predictable consequences. They were purged from their positions and efforts were made to ferret out all those with whom they had been linked. Wang Li, Kuan Feng, Mu Hsin, and Lin Chieh, all members of the Central Committee Cultural Revolution Group, were dismissed from their positions. To signal this major decision, Mao issued his directive “Give Back Our Great Wall” to indicate that the army would no longer come under attack.
Although the army would continue to function as the main bulwark, Mao took safeguards to insure that those regional commanders of dubious reliability would comply with Central directives. He ordered additional army corps to take over all or parts of eleven military commands, bringing the total number of army corps involved in the cultural revolution to at least twenty.24 This was a major decision for the leadership to make and one which some military leaders, notably Hsiao Hua, acting head of PLA Cultural Revolution Group, refused to accept. Undoubtedly, these men repeated the argument broached earlier about denuding China’s defenses, this time with greater force. With over half of China’s first line corps entangled in “defense of the cultural revolution,” how could she meet an external threat? Mao’s response, one may believe, was that unless the army corps were deployed there would be no China left to defend, at least not one under the current leadership.
During the debate over greater employment of the army corps, Hsiao Hua evidently had countered with the proposal that the task of supervising the regional forces be assigned to the Public Security Forces, but this alternative was forcefully rejected by Hsieh Fu-chih, former Minister of the Public Security Forces, who noted that:
We have not found a single instance where public security, procuracy and judicial systems support the proletarian revolutionaries. Of course, individually speaking, everywhere there are persons who support the Leftists. But, in terms of the organization as a whole, all support the conservatives. In big cities, 80 percent of county public security bureaus support the conservatives whether they have had revolts or not and whether the power has been seized or not.25
The upshot of the debate was that Mao carried the day and his opponents were purged from their positions in the PLA Cultural Revolution Group. Those dismissed were Hsiao Hua, Hsu Li-ch’ing, Li Man-ts’ung, and Kuan Feng. Appointed to replace these men were Wu Fa-hsien, head of the air force, Ch’iu Hui-tso, General Rear Services chief, Yeh Ch’un, Lin Piao’s wife, and Chang Hsiu-ch’uan, head of the navy political department.26 With the exception of Yeh Ch’un, all the new men were military leaders whose primary areas of responsibility were at the national defense level.
While removing his opponents, Mao attempted to reduce the likelihood of an external aggressor’s acting on the knowledge that China’s defenses were being seriously compromised by creating an extraordinary diversion which screened the events. Beginning on August 11 and continuing through that month, attacks were carried out not only on foreign embassies in China, particularly the Soviet and other Communist embassies, but the British legation in Hong Kong was set afire and Red Guards stormed China’s own Foreign Ministry(!), “dragging out” the foreign minister, Ch’en Yi, and making a spectacular issue of his “errors.”27
After almost a month of experiment with arming the rebels, the leadership reached a major decision concerning the future role of the revolutionary rebels. It was decided to terminate “struggle by force.” In the weeks since the Wuhan incident it had become clear that arming the rebels simply complicated the overall situation. Combined with the decision to continue with the military as the main force in the cultural revolution, arming the rebels was counterproductive as it created a force basically antagonistic to the military. The rebels were extremely difficult to control. Therefore, Mao and his supporters rammed through the decision to disarm the rebels entirely and gave the task of promulgating this decision to Chiang Ch’ing, the central leader who had been publicly identified with the policy of arming rebel groups. In a speech given on September 5, which was recorded and subsequently widely disseminated as the authoritative statement of the new policy decision, Chiang Ch’ing set forth the following points:
The Central Committee is tackling the problems province by province, and city by city in the case of those large cities.
Now in various provinces the case is generally like this: Talks are being held through arrangements made by the Central Committee, and although there have been reversals in some individual places, reversals are a normal phenomenon.
Now we come to the second question—the army. Sometime earlier, there was this wrong slogan: Seize a “small handful in the army.” As a result, “a small handful in the army” was seized everywhere and even the weapons of our regular troops were seized. . . . Let us not fall into the trap. The slogan was wrong. . . . We can only talk about dragging out the handful of Party capitalist roaders in authority and nothing else.
The slogan of seizing the small handful in the army is wrong, and it has produced a series of undesirable consequences.28
At the end of her speech, Chiang Ch’ing read a Central Committee order on control of weapons which was issued that same day. The order called for a movement to “support the Army and cherish the people.” The main point was repeated several times:
No mass organization or person, no matter to which group they belong, is permitted to steal weapons, ammunition, equipment, vehicles, munitions or materials from the PLA nor to steal weapons, ammunition, equipment, vehicles, munitions or materials from the munitions stores or scientific enterprises. They are not permitted to steal weapons, ammunition, equipment, vehicles, munitions or materials from trains, vehicles or boats. No outside unit is allowed to occupy military commands or Army camps.29
The PLA was instructed to collect all weaponry, using persuasion first in dealing with those in possession of stolen materials. “If this is ineffective they should fire warning shots in the air.” If this doesn’t work:
. . . they may announce that the theft was a counterrevolutionary action and should . . . arrest the small number of bad elements among the leaders of the group. . . . If these people resist the PLA has the right to counterattack in self-defense.30
The speech and disarmament order represented a major shift in the course of the cultural revolution, which became manifest in the fall of 1967. The short-lived “experiment” of using selected armed rebel groups “to help the PLA” had not worked. The role of the revolutionary rebels had been curtailed because the range of possible developments and consequences virtually had dictated this course of action.
The Attempt to Construct a Civil-Military “Balance”
Until the Wuhan incident Mao had been willing to tolerate a high level of chaos and wait for a Maoist “core” to develop and provide new leadership for the provinces. The Wuhan incident forced a change of plans, convincing him of the overriding need for the rapid establishment of an administrative structure to harness the political and military forces in the provinces. Mao feared the consequences implied in the Wuhan “mutiny,” that other regional military commanders would follow suit. Hence he sought some means of placing a check upon the power of the regional commanders. The decision to send in additional main force units to take over troublesome military districts was part of the answer, arming selected revolutionary rebel units the other part; but the latter had proved infeasible.
The new means employed to check the military was to speed up the formation of provincial revolutionary committees. Mao hoped that a civil structure in the provinces would serve to counterbalance and eventually to supersede the military’s position in the provincial power structure. Paradoxically, the chief builder of this new administrative apparatus would be the regional military forces themselves. Once it was built, of course, the separation of civil and military functions could be effected, but that was in the future. In the short run, each revolutionary committee would be dominated by military men, to be sure, but there would also be “civilian” functionaries on each committee, an as yet undertermined mix of old cadres and revolutionary rebels, which would act to balance the presence of the military.
Mao’s decision to use the old, experienced cadres instead of the rebels in the drive to reestablish an administrative structure for the provinces provided mute but dramatic testimony to the magnitude of the post-Wuhan political crisis as viewed in Peking. All along, Mao had strenuously resisted the arguments of those who, like T’an Chen-lin, had urged the employment of the cadres to counter the military. Now, at last, he had grudgingly acceded. He could no longer afford the luxury of “waiting” for a Maoist revolutionary core to form in the provinces. The civil structure had to be restored in the shortest possible time. It was the decision to proceed with the rapid establishment of the revolutionary committees that in fact determined the mix of cadre and rebel. The old cadres were experienced and could be employed immediately, while the rebels, for the most part, had not yet even forged great alliances, let alone developed the necessary expertise to participate in the administration of the new political structure Mao sought to build. The result was that through the fall and winter of 1967–68 the rebels were systematically and intentionally excluded from important positions in the provincial political organs.
The medium used to form the new revolutionary committees was the “Mao Tse-tung Thought Study Class,” in which provincial representatives of old cadres, revolutionary rebels, and military leaders were brought together either in Peking or in the concerned province, or sometimes in both places. At these “classes” Central leaders including the highest personages, such as Mao Tse-tung himself, Chou En-lai, K’ang Sheng, Chiang Ch’ing, and others, would exhort the provincial representatives to unite. The representatives of the revolutionary rebel groups would form “grand alliances,” after which representatives from all three elements would form the “three-way alliance.” Only after successful completion of the “course” would the group be permitted to return to its home province to establish a revolutionary committee. Following this general procedure, eleven additional provincial and municipal revolutionary committees were formed between November 1, 1967 and March 24, 1968, bringing the total to eighteen.31
Anticipating an adverse reaction from excluded rebel groups, Mao and his supporters attempted to reduce the problem in both quantitative and qualitative terms. In efforts to siphon off as many rebels as possible schools were reopened in September and students were urged to return to “make revolution in the schools,” rather than to study.32 It was hoped that the numerical size of the rebel groups would be diminished by this measure. At the same time, the Central leadership employed both cajolery and threats to minimize further the opposition of disgruntled rebel groups to the new political apparatus being set up in the provinces. As an organizational alternative, the party and youth organizations were revived and aspiring individuals were urged to seek membership. This would further weaken the independent rebel organizations. It was stressed, however, that the leaders of the revolutionary committees would hold real power, not the party. The question of party leadership in the provincial power structure was, in Hsieh Fu-chih’s words, “to be mentioned later.”33
Threats ranged from denunciation of “extremism” in the press to televised public trials and executions. An article by Yao Wen-yuan, member of the Central Cultural Revolution Group, in September launched an extensive campaign against what was called the “ultra ‘left’.”34 Yao attacked T’ao Chu for his “pseudo-leftist” role as former head of the Central Committee’s Propaganda Department, but more importantly named a heretofore unknown group, the May 16 corps, as a current perpetrator of T’ao’s undercover activities. Whether or not such a group ever existed, subsequent Red Guard publications contained accusations against several alleged ringleaders of the organization. These included Wang Li and Kuan Feng, former members of the Central Cultural Revolution Group who had already been purged. It seems that the drive against the machinations of members of the May 16 corps was a clear signal that extremism would no longer be tolerated and that those associated with such policies—even in the very center of the proletarian dictatorship—would be eliminated. Wang Li and Kuan Feng thus served as scapegoats for the new policy.
At the other end of the spectrum, the leadership revived public trial rallies on an extensive scale. Not since the early and mid-fifties, when ‘ Peking required a demonstration that it would tolerate no further disorder, had the method of public trials and executions been used. The reintroduction of such trials in late August clearly indicated that the regime would treat those who refused to bend to its policies in the same harsh manner. During the critical period of late August 1967 to April 1968, the official Chinese press reported numerous public trial rallies attended by large numbers of people, sometimes as many as 250,000, of “counterrevolutionary elements.” In some cases public executions were televised.35
The larger, more encompassing theme carried in the official press during the fall and winter was the personal and continuous involvement of Mao Tse-tung himself in all questions. In the context of an alleged trip made by Mao through the North, East, and Central South China regions in late September, Mao’s “great strategic plan” and his “latest instructions” were continuously publicized throughout the country. Beginning in November, the press talked optimistically of the final battle and decisive victory and the convocation of the Ninth Party Congress by the spring of 1968. In the “latest supreme instructions” of September 26, Mao is reported to have said:
The situation is highly favorable. In the whole country, the problems of seven provinces have been solved and those of eight other provinces have been basically solved, and effort should be made to solve the problems of another ten provinces (five in southern China and five in the north) this year. . . . Problems of the whole country should be solved basically and the whole situation put into the normal track before the Spring Festival.36
A month later, Hsieh Fu-chih noted that “judging from the situation in Peking, it is possible to hold the [Ninth] congress in May or June 1968].”37 These hopeful forecasts concerning the rate of progress on the formation of provincial revolutionary committees, which determined when the Ninth Party Congress could be held, were not borne out by events.
Instead of a projected twenty-five provinces having revolutionary committees by the end of 1967, only six provinces plus the municipalities of Peking, Shanghai, and Tientsin had proclaimed them. It was only with the start of the new year that the pace picked up. Two revolutionary committees were formed in January, four in February, and three more in March. The increased pace was accompanied by a revival of violence as disaffected rebels, excluded from positions in the revolutionary committees, increasingly rejected these committees as well as their efforts to bring dissident groups under control. The press referred more and more to the need to bring “factionalism and anarchism” to an end, even while it praised the new committees. There was no further talk of convening a congress.
Representative of the views of those rebel groups left out in the cold politically was the program of the Hunan Provincial Proletarian Revolutionaries Great Alliance Committee, abbreviated as the Sheng Wu Lien.38 In a lengthy pamphlet entitled “Whither China?” the rebel leaders attacked the Hunan revolutionary committee as just “another kind of bourgeois rule of bourgeois bureaucrats” made up by “the old provincial party committee and the old military district command.” The rebels were bitter about their exclusion from the committees and particularly so about the decision to bring back the old cadres. In their view, only the form of political power had changed, not its content. The old cadres, they claimed, along with the old party provincial committee and the military district committee, simply had changed their titles to revolutionary committees or preparatory groups for revolutionary committees.39 The rebels demanded “radical change . . . from below.” The Hunan Sheng Wu Lien was not the only disaffected rebel group overtly or covertly opposing the revolutionary committees; there were others in practically every province.40 The cohesion of such groups varied with the province and while the power each group had was minimal, still, such groups provided foci for the attraction of those who were excluded from a share in the provincial power structure.
Cultural Revolution on the Verge of Success
By the early spring of 1968, then, two trends were clearly observable on the cultural revolution scene. The first and more obvious trend was the apparently successful formation of provincial revolutionary committees, which, by the end of March, had reached a total of eighteen. The creation of a functioning administrative apparatus in the provinces accomplished the primary objective of stemming further deterioration of the military situation following the Wuhan incident. This success was partly offset by the necessity of bringing in the old experienced cadres to run the new apparatus and shunting aside the revolutionary rebels. The rebels simply rebelled, opposing the formation of revolutionary committees, a development which was confined for the most part within provincial boundaries. From the perspective of the central leaders, rebel-caused disorders were an acceptable price to pay to forestall the military rebellion which seemed imminent after the Wuhan incident. Having overcome the greater danger of an army revolt, central leaders turned to the lesser problem of growing “factionalism and anarchism” in the provinces.
The question facing the leadership in February-March 1968 was how to deal with those rebels who had been excluded from the revolutionary committee. Mao Tse-tung proposed to undercut the growing opposition of the rebel groups—which had been his own creation—by giving them a greater collective share in the revolutionary committees. Several top leaders, led by acting chief of staff Yang Ch’eng-wu, opposed this course of action, proposing the continuation of the existing policy for the revolutionary committees. Yang and his supporters, Yü Li-chin and Fu Ch’ung-pi, Air Force Political Commissar and commander of the Peking PLA garrison respectively, were defeated in this policy struggle and removed from office. According to Lin Piao’s post-mortem of the affair they were “wrong and . . . in a minority.”41 Such are the bare outlines of the “Yang Ch’eng-wu affair.” The underlying motives and generative impulses are at best murky and it is possible to propose only a tentative hypothesis at this time.
Part of the decision to restore the civil-military balance the previous fall included renewed emphasis on the role of the Central Committee in the policy-making process and the relative decline of both the Central Committee Cultural Revolution Group and PLA Cultural Revolution Group. The CCCRG had suffered considerably through the purges of its membership during the cultural revolution, and the latest of those purges, that of Ch’i Pen-yii in mid-February, left that organization with only five members.42 A worse fate befell the PLA Cultural Revolution Group. Sometime during the late fall of 1967 (November-December) the PLA Cultural Revolution Group had been quietly dissolved and replaced by a “management group” (pan shih tzu).43 The effect of this decision was to remove several military leaders from the high political councils and give greater weight to the civilian component in the policy-making process.
Yang Ch’eng-wu’s opposition to Mao’s call to allocate a greater political share to the rebel component in the provincial revolutionary committees appears at bottom to represent his attempt to arrest the further deterioration of what he conceived to be the PLA’s proper political role. From accounts linking Yang with a “rightist reversal of verdicts” it would seem that he favored the continuation of the previous policy of relying on the old cadres to staff the revolutionary committees. He sought unsuccessfully to bolster his position with the appointment of “men with whom he had close ties” to important positions in Peking.44 Instead, his current rivals, Wu Fa-hsien, Huang Yung-sheng, Hsü Shih-yiü, Han Hsien-ch’u, and Hsieh Fu-chih, moved into stronger positions.45 Huang Yung-sheng, in fact, succeeded Yang Ch’eng-wu as chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army.
Following Yang’s dismissal, the new policy was inaugurated, accompanied by a new surge of violence in the provinces. Between early April and the end of May, six provinces established revolutionary committees and in four of these a discernible increase occurred in the ratio of rebel to cadres and military men. The first two committees established during the period reflected the earlier policy of military dominance. In Hunan (formed on April 8) and Ninghsia (April 10) the respective ratios of rebel:cadre:military were 2:4:8 and 1:1:6. In the succeeding four committees, however, there was a distinct increase in rebel representation. In Anhwei (April 18) the ratio was 4:3:8; in Shensi (May 1) 6:2:9; in Liaoning (May 10) 7:6:11; and in Szech’uan (May 31) 8:7:7.46 In other words, Mao was succeeding in his attempt to brcaden rebel participation in the provincial revolutionary committees.
The Szech’uan revolutionary committee at the end of May was the twenty-fourth to be established, leaving only five provinces to complete the task of establishing revolutionary committees for all of China. Yet no other revolutionary committees were set up after May 31. Instead, in a 180 degree policy turnabout, the PLA from early June onward began to move forcibly against the rebel organizations which Mao had just recently unleashed! On July 3 and 24 Peking issued strongly worded “notices” calling for the “immediate” end to armed struggles, the return of all weapons to the PLA, the resumption of the flow of railway traffic and material to Vietnam, and the punishment of the “small handful” hoodwinking the masses.47 At the same time the army began the task (to be continued well into the following year) of rounding up the more intractable rebels and cadres and shipping them off to PLA camps to learn how to “forget self and to “study” the Thought of Mao Tse-tung. The result was widespread armed clashes between rebel groups and military units. Some of the bloodiest conflict to occur at any time during the cultural revolution took place during the policy reversal of June and July.
Finally, on the early morning of the 28th, Mao held an interview with five rebel leaders representing the largest mass organizations in Peking. In what was reportedly a lengthy and acrimonious session Mao vented his exasperation at the rebels’ inability to achieve settlements in the provinces.48 Mao had publicly declared at different times that revolutionary committees would be established over all of China, first, by the end of 1967, then later by the spring of 1968. Neither target had been met. Unmistakably, Mao’s meeting with the rebels signaled a major decision to bring their role in the cultural revolution to an end. What had happened? Why had Mao and his top leaders suddenly reversed themselves after seeming on the verge of triumph? Why had the cultural revolution been halted abruptly in mid-stride?
The Decision to Terminate the Cultural Revolution
Mao and his supporters had successfully hidden from the outside world the extent to which China’s national defenses had been weakened during the cultural revolution. Still, they realized that it was only a matter of time before this condition would be perceived and possibly tested by a hostile neighbor, namely the Soviet Union. In other terms, external perception of China’s weakness would constitute the time limit for the cultural revolution. Several events occurred during the spring and summer of 1968 which strongly suggested that the Soviet Union’s leaders not only had perceived China’s state of unreadiness but had decided to prepare to take action, the nature of which, however, was undisclosed. The first indication of a change in the Soviet position came in April with the publication of the first of what became a series of six articles on the “events in China.”49 Timed to coincide with preparations for the World Congress of Communist Parties, scheduled to open in June (the same conference which had originally been scheduled for December 1964), the articles constituted a strong attack on Mao Tse-tung and his policies and laid the political basis for a formal break. The essence of the Soviet position developed in the articles but clearly spelled out in the very first one was that Mao had destroyed the Communist party and replaced it with a military dictatorship suffused with the cult of Mao Tse-tung. Alluding to the coming world congress, the Soviet author called for a “collective rebuff” to Mao Tse-tung and “practical international aid to the forces in China which remain loyal to Marxism-Leninism and resist Maoism.”50 The implications in this argument were ominous.
More serious were Soviet military activities. Since 1965, the Soviet Union had gradually built up the number of divisions and logistical service components in the Soviet Far East. By the spring of 1968 the Soviets reportedly had in place close to half a million combat troops with an equally sized logistical complement. In addition, Outer Mongolian military power was augmented both in terms of troop strength and missile implacement. Although the incidence of border clashes had risen in proportion as the buildup along the border progressed, the Soviet and Chinese press played down the potentially explosive significance of the clashes.
In terms of their implications for China, the events in Czechoslovakia were most foreboding, providing Chinese leaders with a current case study in Soviet problem-solving techniques. Beginning in May, the Soviets openly mobilized their armed forces in an effort to intimidate the Czech party leadership into accepting Soviet demands. “Joint military maneuvers” on Czech territory as part of the Warsaw Pact operations were to be held to “test cooperation and commands under conditions of modern warfare and to improve the combat readiness of troops and staff.”51 At the end of the month, Soviet troops and tanks entered Czech territory for the maneuvers. Accompanying these troop moves, Soviet press commentary justified the Soviet position and action in terms which sounded strangely similar to terms used to denounce China at about the same time.52
The point was inescapable. If the Soviet Union were willing to employ a combination of political and military pressure against the Czechs, was it not conceivable that they would do the same against the Chinese? However unlikely China’s leaders may have considered actual military intervention by the Soviet Union, both the propaganda and the military buildup in the context of the Czech crisis could not be ignored. In view of China’s extremely weak national defense position due to the deep involvement of her main force units in the cultural revolution, the mounting Soviet threat presented Mao and the central leadership with a painful dilemma. To continue the cultural revolution would leave China exposed to outside aggression and to terminate it would leave Mao’s objectives unfulfilled. The decision reached by the leadership was to bring the cultural revolution activity to a conclusion—to terminate the cultural revolution for the time being—and to devote all efforts toward the buttressing of China’s defenses.
The decision to shore up border defenses to meet the growing Soviet threat required a rapid shift in domestic policies, a shift which, under the circumstances, was accomplished with remarkable dispatch beginning during the month of August. It was necessary to begin the process of extracting the main force units from their domestic political involvement and return them to their defense positions. On August 1 the People’s Daily editorial demanded “absolute obedience” to the PLA. On the 5th the same organ declared that there was only one command post, the proletarian headquarters of Chairman Mao. All other claimants to authority were false; there could not be “many centers” of power. Meanwhile, the PLA crackdown on the rebels continued, but a new group was introduced to assist the military in its job. On the 5th of August Mao gave a gift of mangoes received from a Pakistani delegation to a new group of Tsinghua University, a group called a “Worker-Peasant Mao Tse-tung Thought Propaganda Team.”
Mao’s symbolic act signaled the appearance on the political scene of an organization which partially assumed duties heretofore performed by the main forces of the PLA. Regional military units provided military support for the teams,53 permitting the extraction of main force units from their involvement on the domestic scene. Delegation of authority over the teams to the provincial revolutionary committees further confirmed the jurisdictional shift and also served to facilitate the release of main force units from their domestic chores. On the 15th of August, perhaps to assert a degree of doctrinal orthodoxy in the face of Soviet claims to the contrary, the “leading role” in the cultural revolution was now assigned to the working class as represented by the Mao Thought Propaganda Teams. The leading role of the working class became a prominent theme in the press. Yao Wen-yuan, member of the Cultural Revolution Group and author of the article attacking Wu Han, which in 1965 had signaled the beginning of the cultural revolution, confirmed the basic policy shift. In another article which appeared in late August, Yao severely criticized the Red Guards and revolutionary rebels for their ineptitude. They must submit to “revolutionary discipline,” he said, and learn from the working class, which must lead “in everything.”54
Meanwhile, between August 13 and September 5 the remaining five provinces announced the formation of revolutionary committees. The new policy adopted in the spring of a more equitable balance among rebels, cadres, and military was adhered to in each case, although the committees were clearly imposed from above by the military commanders on the spot and not formed through struggle as they were earlier. In Yunnan, whose committee was formed on August 13, the rebel:cadre: military ratio was 8:7:7; in Fukien, formed August 19, the ratio was 7:4:9; in Kwangsi, formed August 26, it was 8:2:9; and in Sinkiang and Tibet, formed on September 5, the ratios were 4:5:7 and 12:5:10.55 Peking demanded the rapid completion of the revolutionary committee system and would brook no further delay. By September 5, 1968 China had turned “all red.”
The abrupt policy reversal was met—as could be anticipated—by considerable resistance from the rebels and, as before, the leadership employed a carrot and stick policy. On the one hand. Central leaders spoke of the positive achievements made by the Red Guards during the early and middle stages of the cultural revolution, but that a new stage had been reached in which they must follow and no longer lead. For example, at a rally in Peking on September 7 celebrating the establishment of revolutionary committees throughout China, Chiang Ch’ing said:
At the command of our great leader Chairman Mao, the working class, that main force, ascended the stage of struggle-criticism-transformation of the superstructure on July 27. The People’s Liberation Army gave it backing. The young Red Guard fighters and all teachers and staff who are willing to make revolution should welcome this act of the working class and follow its leadership. We must not allow the few bad elements to make trouble.56
On the other hand, provincial leaders were much less conciliatory in both word and deed. “Intellectuals” would be “welcomed” only if they accepted reeducation by the workers. If they were “willing to serve the workers, peasants, and soldiers,” then there might be “hope for them and they have a future.”57 At the same time, provincial military forces continued to gather up and deport thousands of young people, both rebels and cadres, to the countryside. Even though violent armed clashes were common during this time, the youthful rebels stood little chance against trained military forces. The youths were installed in “cadre schools,” where they were subjected to “fierce class struggle and intense manual work.”58
“Unity and Strength Under Chairman Mao and Vice-Chairman Lin”
The dual thrust of regime policy throughout the fall and winter of 1968 was the consolidation of “all-round victory” in the cultural revolution and China’s preparedness to meet any external challenge. The latter theme was expressed in several different but unmistakable ways. Chou En-lai, speaking at the September 7 rally noted above, hinted broadly that the reason for the policy shift was the increased threat of external attack. In discussing the trials and tribulations of U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism, Chou stated:
It is . . . certain that our proletarian socialist revolution is advancing to world-wide victory. However, before the advent of victory, the enemies throughout the world will surely put up last-ditch struggles and launch counter-attacks. Therefore, our present Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is a most extensive, thorough-going and all-round political and military mobilisation. Should enemies from abroad dare to invade China, we will . . . wipe them out.59
It was clear which enemy the Chinese considered the more dangerous. Throughout the fall, Chinese leaders stressed China’s readiness to meet the Soviet buildup along the Sino-Soviet and Sino-Mongolian borders. Moreover, they specifically related the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August to the border problem. On September 16, in a protest note to the Soviet embassy in China, the Chinese claimed that Soviet aircraft had intruded into China’s airspace 119 times in 1968 and that between August 9 and 29 twenty-nine intrusions had occurred over the border province of Heilungchiang alone. Soviet “provocations” were expressly linked in the note with the invasion of Czechoslovakia.60 Later that month, Chou En-lai bluntly accused the Soviet Union of “stepping up armed provocations against China.”
In coordination with U.S. imperialism, it is energetically forming a ring of encirclement against China by stationing massive troops along the Sino-So-viet and Sino-Mongolian borders and, at the same time, it is constantly creating border tension by even more frequently sending planes to violate China’s air space.61
The Chinese leadership sought to discourage any challenge by displaying military strength, political unity, productive capacity, and quietly beginning war preparations. On National Day, contingents of soldiers from “outposts of coastal and frontier defenses” marched past the Gate of Heavenly Peace, while both Lin Piao and Chou En-lai in speeches averred China’s defenses were “stronger than ever.”62 Two weeks later, the leadership secretly convened its Twelfth Plenum, which continued through the end of the month. It was attended by the top party leadership, “members” and alternate members of the Central Committee, “all members” of the central cultural revolution group, “principal responsible comrades” of the revolutionary committees and PLA. Unity was a dominant theme. The plenum communique noted that
This was a session of mobilization for the seizure of all-round victory in the great proletarian cultural revolution, a session on unprecedented unity in the whole party under the leadership of the proletarian headquarters with Chairman Mao as its leader and vice-chairman Lin as its deputy leader.63
Although both Mao and Lin reportedly spoke, their words were not made public. The session upheld as “correct” the Eleventh Plenum decision to initiate the cultural revolution, Mao’s “proletarian revolutionary line, his great strategic plan . . . the series of important instructions . . . and vice-chairman Lin’s many speeches. . . .” The communique contained the announcement that “ample ideological, political, and organizational conditions have been prepared for convening the Ninth National Congress of the Party . . . at an appropriate time.” The plenum formally expelled Liu Shao-ch’i from the party and dismissed him from all posts “both inside and outside the party.” Finally, a draft of the CCP’s new party constitution was circulated among those in attendance for discussion. It specifically named Lin Piao as Mao’s successor.
During November and December the Chinese leadership quietly accelerated the decentralization of Chinese society in preparation for invasion while at the same time loudly trumpeting the economy’s ability to satisfy all production targets. The effort was closely analogous in form to the decentralization of the Great Leap period, but, of course, it was undertaken at this time for entirely different reasons. Increasingly, references to terms such as “people’s war” and “Yenan” found their way into the press descriptions of educational, economic, and political activities. Commune authority was established over rural schools. People’s Daily of November 13 praised a Kansu middle school for pursuing an educational policy reminiscent of the “anti-Japanese military and political college in Yenan.” Inner Mongolia provincial radio broadcasts spoke of “people’s war” in the general context of the struggle to establish the revolutionary committee, but the use of such terms was meant to prepare the population for what could come.64 Exaggerated production targets and output figures appeared in the press. In Hunan, the provincial press spoke of production brigades raising production goals as much as 25 percent, and in Heilungchiang output during the cultural revolution was said to have increased by several times over production during 1963–1965.65
The Chinese leadership pushed forward with preparations for the Ninth Party Congress. There were reports of provincial congresses of revolutionary committees coupled with insistent demands that the party be rebuilt, infused with new blood, and transformed into a militant vanguard of the proletariat. At the highest level, Peking reopened the Warsaw talks with the United States government, which presumably would serve as a communication channel in the event hostilities erupted between the Russians and Chinese. Sporadic incidents continued to occur primarily in the Sinkiang and Manchurian border areas. Each side studiously ignored them in the press. On December 2, 1968 Izvestia did quote General Losik, newly appointed commander of the Soviet Far Eastern Military Region, as saying that “military maneuvers had taken place in the East of the Soviet Union.” No further details were given. By year’s end the situation along the border was filled with tension, but the Chinese leaders were already well on the way to reestablishing defense positions weakened earher. None too soon. In early March, 1969, the situation would erupt into armed conflict leading to the most severe crisis in the crisis-studded relationship between the two countries.