It might seem quite awhile ago, approximately 46 years, China’s Communist Party’s leader, Mao Zedong launched the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” which lead to the ultimate destruction of millions of lives, perhaps more apt to describe it as ‘Holocaust of the Chinese.’ This slate of history can never be whipped clean. It was a immense tragedy and catastrophic suffering for the people who went through this ordeal. Countless priceless historical artefacts, monuments and arts were destroyed. Children were encouraged to denounce even their parents if they did not follow Communist ideas.
In this article we would not strive to discuss the atrocities but concentrate on its economical impacts on China. During the ten years (1966- 1976) of Cultural Revolution, almost all economic activities were halted. Education also came to a virtual halt leading to a generation of inadequately educated individuals, causing a lag in technology and skills. Agricultural production also stagnated and even non-argricultural productions were disrupted by the political activities of the Red Guards and even students. Naturally output at factories were affected due to shortages of raw materials, supplies and even labour. Factories were put under the direction of revolutionary committees, who often had no knowledge of management or how to run an enterprise. Almost all professionals, including doctors, teachers, professors, scientists and technicians, religious leaders, virtually anyone with expertise or knowledge were denounced and prosecuted. Industry production decreases rapidly. The railway was largely disrupted for they were used by the revolutionists to transport the people around. Furthermore, the import of foreign equipments and machineries were largely curtailed. The economy of China already hit by the Great Leap Forward, is faltering badly.
The resulting damage was so massive and the goals that Mao Zedong sought to achieve remains elusive. Mao’s experiment yielded no benefit but almost bankrupt the whole country. It was a dagger in the heart of China’s economy.
Today, capitalism has of course infiltrate China’s economy and people have become more materialistic than in the past. Since Mao’s death, many reforms were implemented. Notably since initiating market reforms in 1978, China has shifted centrally planned to a market based economy and have since then experienced rapid development in its economy. GDP growth averaging about 10 percent a year has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty. With a population of approximately 1.35 billion, China has recently became the second largest economy and is increasingly having an influential role in affecting the global economy.
Although the Communist Party affirmed that the Cultural revolution ”brought serious disaster and turmoil to the Communist Party and the Chinese people” they have put the blame largely on the gang of four and described Mao’s merit to have outweigh his faults. There is still much scrutiny on this topic by the Chinese government in China and notably at the National Museum of China in Beijing, the cultural revolution is barely mentioned in the historical exhibits. No compensation were awarded or apologies given to the victims of this Chinese Holocaust.
Xing Lu, ‘Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution,‘ University of South Carolina, 2004,
Dongping Han, ‘Impact of the Cultural Revolution on Rural Education and Economic Development,‘ Modern China, Vol. 27, No. 1, January 2001, pp. 59-90.
‘China, Consequences of the Cultural Revolution,’
‘Deceiving a Nation – the Cultural Revolution,’ <http://sockey.xomba.com/deceiving_a_nation_the_chinese_cultural_reveloution>accessed 26th Feb 2013
The World Bank