China’s Cultural Revolution

Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966 - 1976 is one of the most notable historical events happened in the past century. The revolution changed society in China by introduction of socialistic views and ideology of people’s equality. It was brought to existence by Mao Zedong who organized Chinese youth (mainly children and students) into the groups called Red Guards and aimed to promote socialist ideas throughout the country. The revolution ended in 1976 with the death of Mao Zedong and the arrest of his closest comrades, the Bang of Four. Cultural Revolution had a number of positive and negative impacts on Chinese society and economy but it is obvious that its correlation with modern China is very significant in every field.

Research Question

The paper is aimed to research whether the final outcome of the Cultural Revolution was positive or negative for Chinese economy. This is accomplished by considering all pros and cons of the revolution in its time, directly after its end, and today. Conclusions to the paper lead to the final decision on the revolution’s impact on China.

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Research is conducted as analytical analysis of the related literature. Besides, the paper utilizes the book by Mobo Gao describing Mao Zedong and Cultural Revolution. Analysis is based on comparison of the book and the article supporting the revolution or blaming it for economic stagnation in China in 1970s.


Pros and cons of the Cultural Revolution in China were explored by a number of economists, officials, politicians, and historians. Still, the issue of whether it was good or bad for the country remains arguable. It is interesting that most foreign researchers and Chinese government officials consider the revolution as one of the worst events in the country’s history, while a range of Chinese researchers and scholars believe that Mao Zedong critically changed the development of China for the better.

The main negative implications of the Cultural Revolution on Chinese economic development include stagnation of total production volume as a result of country-wide nationalization, significant decrease in overall educational level of the country, improper application of highly qualified labor in the farms and waste of qualified workforce, and decline in agricultural production resulting in food scarcity. According to Gao nationalization of various companies and factories across the country lead to inability of government to properly plan and control the production processes. Besides, a wide range of qualified and experienced managers were dismissed with the purpose to fight bourgeoisie and newcomers were not able to provide effective management of the production operations and employed staff. As a result, a huge number of factories became bankrupt and closed decreasing the overall country’s output considerably. The overall educational level throughout China declined due to the ideology of equalization of all people and Mao’s belief that low educated population is easier to be directed in the way prescribed by government. As a consequence, a multitude of high schools and universities were closed in early 1970s leaving fewer opportunities for higher education for Chinese citizens. Additionally, in order to prevent reestablishment of the bourgeoisie power, Mao Zedong sent millions of highly qualified professionals and students from cities to farmlands and forced them to work at agricultural entities and farms. This directive resulted into the significant decline in the number of qualified professionals in China that are required for industrial production and development of financial markets. Most of the relocated students and professionals lost their qualifications while working on farmlands, and this waste of qualified labor force was not ever compensated for China in future. Finally, agricultural production was also declining in the early 1970s leading to the food scarcity and overall impoverishment of the country. This was also related to the global relocation of Chinese population. While intellectual bourgeoisie was moved to the farmland though representatives of this class had no practical or even theoretical knowledge about the farm activities, children of poor farmers where allowed to enter colleges without exams, and farmers themselves were motivated to relocate to towns to work on factories. Consequently, agricultural production shrank being maintained by those who were unaware of it, and the country suffered from food scarcity.

Although economy of China experienced many negative outcomes from the Mao’s regime, a number of positive results of the Cultural Revolution still can be listed. Advantages of the Cultural Revolution for China were extensively analyzed by Xing Li. These pros include the following main aspects: development of collectivism, demolition of the feudal system and classes, greater involvement of farmland and peasants in the production processes, and providing the basis for future communistic industrialized China. Collectivism can be regarded as the best and the most important consequence of the Cultural Revolution. During the governing of Mao Zedong, collectivism, working for the country’s prosperity rather than for own profit, and equal treatment of all people were actively popularized in masses. As a result, Chinese people united to push the country’s development even though it took time. Up till now, collectivism is considered as one of the main features of Chinese culture, and local people cooperate in working places to achieve the best results in their department, factory, city, and country. Demolished feudal system allowed millions of Chinese people to enter productive workforce and avoid continuous dependency and poverty. With collectivism in minds and the Red Guards fighting against feudalists and landlords, the country could overcome traditional segregation of the population by classes that removed considerable restrictions in social, employment and education aspects. Further, great relocation of the population resulted in new employment opportunities for farmers and peasants. Respectively, even if the overall output of China decreased during the Cultural Revolution, the number of peasants and the level of poverty declined considerably, and  the distribution of income throughout the population became more equal. Finally, modern China with developed communism and incredible, above 10 percent, annual GDP growth would never appear without the Cultural Revolution and its socialistic ideology. Thus, ideological basis provided by the governance of Mao Zedong and actively promoted among  Chinese people allowed creating effective communist country with high percentage of state-owned enterprises operating productively and competing on the international marketplace.


To conclude, the effect of Cultural Revolution and current economy of China is twofold. On the one side, the waste of a significant amount of qualified labor force at the early 1970s and the bankruptcy of a large number of companies still have effects on the overall educational level in China and the development in certain areas of the country. On the other side, strong advancement of collectivism as the main national idea and centralized control over the most important enterprises resulted in enormous development of Chinese economy in the past two decades based on communistic ideas and high involvement of every citizen in the country’s prosperity. Thus, on overall, the Cultural Revolution can be considered as a shocking event for the Chinese economy, but this shock led to the phenomenon of China as the fastest growing new economic power in the world.

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