The Red Book And The Power Structure

Of Communist China Essay, Research Paper

The Red Book and the Power Structure of Communist China

Propaganda in China during the Cultural Revolution took on many forms;

there were mass Red Guard demonstrations in Tianamen Square in support of Mao

Zedong, pictures of Mao were put up in every conceivable location from

restaurants to the wallpaper in nurseries, and pamphlets and books of Mao’s

teachings were distributed to every Chinese citizen. One of these propaganda

publications Quotations from Chairman Mao which later became known as the Little

Red Book contained quotes from Mao Zedong and was distributed to every Chinese

citizen. The history of the Red Book provides one of the best ways in which to

analyze Chinese propaganda during the Cultural Revolution and see the ways in

which the Chinese government was able to produce and effectively indoctrinate

the Chinese people with Mao Zedong Thought. Official Chinese magazines from the

period of 1967 to 1970 are filled with many pictures of citizens holding,

reading, and memorizing the Red Book. This proposal will trace the rise and fall

of images of the Red Book in the official Chinese publication China

Reconstructs. This proposal will use a graphical analysis of pictures in this

publication from 1966 to 1973 to show that propaganda was not just a tool of the

Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within the

party during the Cultural Revolution.

The Red Book was written several years before it became the object of

national adoration and a tool for the Cultivation of Mao’s personality Cult. The

history of the Red Book and its meteoric rise from a hand book for military

recruits to compulsory reading for all Chinese citizens, is closely tied to its

developer Lin Biao’s rise to power. Lin Biao was born in 1907 and was fourteen

years younger then Mao; he joined the communist party in 1925 and until the

communists captured control of China was at various times in charge of

resistance forces, and armies of communist soldiers. When the communists took

control in 1949 Lin Biao was behind Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun,

and Deng Xiaoping in rank (Yan and Gao, 1996: 179). But eighteen years later

during the height of the Cultural Revolution Lin Biao by winning favor with Mao

by publishing and championing the Red Book and the Cult of Mao became second

only to the Chairman in power and position (Ming-Le, 1983: 80).

In 1959 Peng Dehua was dismissed as minister of defense and Lin Biao was

appointed in his place. At an armed forces meeting for high cadres during

September of that year Lin Biao, energetically started promoting the Cult of Mao

saying, “Learning the writings of comrade Mao Zedong is the shortcut to learning

Marxism-Leninism. Chairman Mao’s writings are easy to learn and can be put to

use immediately. Diligent work will pay dividends many fold.” (Yan and Gao,

1996: 182) His references to “shortcut” and “quick dividends” in his speech went

unnoticed at the time as few foresaw the effects of creating a Cult around Mao.

But looking back on the Cultural Revolution and Lin Biao, we can see his using

the Cult of Mao was indeed a shortcut that produced huge dividends both for

himself and for Mao.

Mao to the Chinese people was a symbol sovereignty and the construction

of socialism; to them praise for Mao was fitting with his symbolic role in

society. Starting in 1959 Lin Biao in front of military audiences in order to

help buildup support for the Cult of Mao used such phrases as, “the dire

necessity of acquiring Mao Zedong’s thought,” “to study the writings of Mao

Zedong with questions in mind is to shoot arrows with target in sight,” “we must

arm our minds with Mao Zedong’s thought” (Yan an Gao, 1996: 181). Lin Biao’s

goal of building up both himself and the Cult of Mao lead him in September of

1960 to pass a resolution at the meeting of the Military Commission, which

called for more political education among the armed forces (Yan and Gao, 1996:


Mao Zedong Thought is the compass for the Chinese people’s revolution

and socialist construction, the powerful ideological weapon against imperialism,

and the powerful ideological weapon against revisionism and dogmatism….. raise

high the red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, go further and mobilize the minds of

all officers and soldiers with Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that

Mao Zedong Thought, and resolve to make sure that Mao Zedong Thought is in

command in all phases of work… Really learn by heart the Mao Zedong Thought!

Read Chairman Mao’s books, listen to Chairman Mao’s words, follow Chairman Mao’s

directives, and serve as Chairman Mao’s good soldiers!

Shortly after the passage of the resolution by Lin Biao, the fourth

volume of the selected works of Mao Zedong was published. On the occasion of it

being sold to the public Lin Biao wrote an article calling upon all people in

the military to read and study the works of Chairman Mao and dedicate to memory

Mao Zedong Thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183).

On April 1964 Lin Biao direct the military presses to publish a

selection of quotes from Mao in a Little Red Book. The book titled Quotations

From Chairman Mao was aimed at providing military recruits a shortened version

of Maoist thought (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). Military recruits before the

publication of the Red Book were encouraged to study the Selected Works of Mao

Zedong. But this set of books had grown so large (it’s four volumes contained

over fifteen hundred pages) many of the military’s recruits who were from

peasant backgrounds were unable to read its complicated articles. The Little Red

Book in contrast with its hand picked quotes and introduction by Lin Biao was

short with easy to read quotes. Before the publishing of the Red Book the study

of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong greatly increased in the military this was

in large part due to the encouragement and directives issued by Lin Biao. In

1961 Lin Biao while inspecting a contingent of troops said that the works of

Chairman Mao Zed ong, were a guide to those in the military, “Every lesson in

political education must use the works of Chairman Mao Zedong as an ideological

guide.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Lin Biao also directed the military press to

publish sections from the Red Book in the Liberation Army Daily the official

publication of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). The Red Book provided many of

the military recruits who were mostly uneducated peasants with a grounding in

Maoist thought. The quotes selected in the Red Book such as, ” Carry on the

workers struggle, down with rightist revisionism” were sufficient vague as to

allow recruits to draw from the Red Book what they wanted to. Lin Biao’s efforts

to promote the study of Maoist thought were done to win favor with Mao and

increase his position in the party (Tsou, 1986: 49).

Lin Biao’s cultivation of the Cult of Mao Zedong soon earned him Mao’s

notice. During a meeting in 1961 Mao applauded Lin Biao’s work in the armed

forces saying, “Recently comrade Lin Biao inspected the forces as far down as

the company level and showed understanding of a good many things, including the

problems of construction among our forces, and he made very good suggestions

about various tasks of construction.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182) Lin Biao feeling

that his work at publicizing Mao’s teachings was paying off redoubled his

efforts at promoting Mao Zedong Thought. He insisted that quotes from Mao Zedong

could be used to accomplish tasks within the military and made the Red Book

required reading for all in the military (Tsou, 1986:50).

In January of 1962 the Part Central held an enlarged work session called

a seven thousand person meeting. This meeting was aimed at rectifying the

mistakes of The Great Leap Forward, and to promote the economy. A large majority

at the meeting criticized Mao Zedong; but Lin Biao who believed that his future

was inextricably linked to that of Mao gave one of the lone speeches in support

of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 182). Lin Biao said at the conference that the reason

The Great Leap Forward had not a success was because the dictates of Chairman

Mao had not been followed closely enough. After the economy started to improve

in 1963 and Mao gained back wide support Mao looked back and remembered that Lin

Biao was one of the few who had stood by him and did not criticize him during

the Party Central meeting. This event shows how Lin Biao was a shrewd political

thinker who saw that his future was connected with that of Mao and winning Mao’s

approval. By 1962 Lin Biao’s chief tool at achieving this objective was the

promotion of Mao Zedong Thought (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 63).

After May of 1961 the Liberation Army Daily followed Lin Biao’s

directive and printed selection’s from the Selected Works of Mao Zedong. By May

of 1964 with a further directive from Lin Biao the general publication

department of the Liberation Army, edited and published the Red Book accompanied

by the publication of the selected reader of the workers of Mao suggested by Lin

Biao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183). The Red Book had an inscription on its cover

written in calligraphy by Lin Biao that read, “Study Chairmen Mao’s writings,

follow his teachings, and act accordingly” (Kraus, 1991: 109). The fact that the

inscription on the Red Book was in Lin Biao’s handwriting was significant in

that it symbolized the connection between the Red Book, Lin Biao, and the Cult

of Mao. Both of these publications were published in large quantities and

distributed among the armed forces. There now was a fervor for the studying of

works by Mao in military ranks, illiterate soldiers were able to recite long

passages from memory and military troops studied the Red Book during their

breaks. With such a backdrop Lin Biao recognized that the time was right for

increasing his position within the party. The cultivation of the Cult of Mao had

support from Mao Zedong and when he started the Cultural Revolution in August of

1966 Mao saw that Lin Biao’s thought education in the military could be applied

to the whole nation (Rodzinski, 1988:96).

The period before the Cultural Revolution provides some very important

insights into the development of the Red Book and of Lin Biao’s connection to

the Red Book. In the period before August of 1966 the Red Book was not read by

those outside of the military. A graphical analysis of pictures before 1967

shows that the Red Book was not a widely used method of propaganda as it did not

appear in many pictures and the pictures it did appear in were of soldiers in

the PLA. Although studying Maoist thought was important during the period prior

to the Cultural Revolution in society as a whole it was not very important.

There are several reasons: First, there was no reason to Cultivate the Cult of

Mao Zedong Thought during this time, Mao prior to 1966 was not trying to lead

any mass movements in which he would need popular support. The Great Leap

Forward and the anti-rightist campaign’s came during times in which Mao was

powerful within the party so he did not need wide spread support outside of the

central command. Second, Mao prior to the Cultural Revolution was more

interested in promoting communist economics then ideology. Mao promoted The

Great Leap Forward which was not a ideological campaign but instead an economic

campaign to promote industrialization (Rodzinski, 1988:74). And in the period

from 1961 to 1965 Mao was chiefly concerned with getting the economy back on

track following the disastrous Great Leap Forward. But by 1966 the economy of

China was back on track and Mao had once more gained back the support of the

central leaders of the communist party.

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 lasted depending on the author

until 1971 or 1976 and was initiated by Mao Zedong to renew the spirit of the

Chinese Revolution. Fearing that China would develop along the lines of the

Soviet model and concerned about his own place in history, Mao threw China into

turmoil in a monumental effort to reverse what Mao saw as a rightist movement

within China.

During the 1960’s tensions with Russia increased and Mao became

convinced that the Russian Revolution had stalled and become rightist, Mao

feared that China was following the same path (Yan and Gao, 1996: 7). Mao

theorized that to keep China from becoming social stratified and elitist the

process of continuos revolution had to be initiated by the government. To Mao

the Cultural Revolution that he initiated had four goals: to replace party

members with leaders more faithful to his thinking; to reenergize the Chinese

Communist party and Purge the rightists; to provide China’s youth with a

revolutionary experience; and to change society such that specific systems such

as education, healthcare, and cultural systems such as opera and music became

less elitist (Mitchell and Kua, 1975: 465).

Mao launched the Cultural Revolution at the Eleventh Plenum of the

Eighth Central Committee in August 1966. In the following weeks Mao shut down

the schools in order to allow young people to take part in the revolution

(Mitchell and Kua, 1975: xii). Mao also established a national mobilization of

the countries youth. They were organized into Red Guard groups and encouraged to

attack all tradition values, symbols, and leaders who were rightist or bourgeois.

Mao believed that the attacks would both provide the youth with a revolutionary

experience thus continuing the cycle of continuos revolution and they would

strengthen the party by removing the rightist elements. Mao also saw the

Cultural Revolution as a way to strengthen his own political base because the

Red Guards acted to remove all who opposed Mao Zedong. The movement quickly

escalated; intellectuals party officials, teachers, and the elderly were both

physically attacked and verbally abused made to wear dunce caps in the streets

and to denounce themselves. Temples, restaurants, and all signs of old values

were ransacked by the Red Guard youths. The Cultural revolution put middle

school and high school students in charge of the nation and like a version of

Lord of the Flies the nation fell into anarchy and paralysis

The Cultural Revolution also lead to changes within the structure of the

communist party. Before the Cultural Revolution Liu Shaoqi was Mao Zedong’s

designated successor, but during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution

Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping and many others who Mao deemed as being rightists were

removed from the party. In their place Mao installed those who had been most

loyal to him in the past; one of those men was Lin Biao (Dutt and Dutt, 1970:


Mao rightly saw that the best way to provide both direction for the Red

Guards and to make himself immune from their attacks upon party official would

be to foster a personality Cult. Thus under the guidance of Lin Biao who after

Liu Shaoqi was removed; become the successor to Mao Lin Biao helped foster a

personality Cult for Mao. Lin Biao used the same types of techniques that he

used in the army to help foster this Cult of Mao. Lin Biao used the same

organization to disseminate propaganda that he had devised for the Army. Lin

Biao continued to head the army till his death in 1971 but his role was expanded

as he became the high priest of the Cult of Mao (Yan and Gao, 1996: 334). The

reading of the Red Book was encouraged by both Mao, party directives written by

Lin Biao, Chen Boda, and Kang Sheng who during the Cultural Revolution became

Mao’s closest advisors. All three of these advisors worked tirelessly to promote

the Cult of Mao because they saw it as their way to curry favor with Mao Zedong

and their efforts met with whole hearted approval. Mao in an interview near the

end of the Cultural Revolution commented that Krushchev could have avoided

loosing his power if he had created an appropriate Cult for himself (Yan and Gao,

1996: 313).

Mao relied on the power of propaganda to enlarge his Cult during the

Cultural Revolution. The Red Book became his most powerful weapon. Quotations

from the Red Book replaced the usual front page section entitled today’s

important news in the People’s Daily. Various other newspapers and journals

increased their coverage of Mao Zedong printing his speeches, pictures, and

quotes. Some even retold stories of his days fighting the Japanese and the KMT

(Yan and Gao, 1996: 215). The major newspapers in June of 1966 started writing

editorials and stories encouraging the public to study the thought of Chairman

Mao by reading . On June 6 both the Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily

simultaneously published a front page article calling on the Chinese people to

study Mao Zedong Thought and reading Selected Works of Mao Zedong. The headline

read, “Raise high the Great Red Flag of Mao Zedong, Carry to the end the great

proletariat revolution.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 215) It was no coincidence that the

Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily both carried the same story about

increasing Mao Zedong thought study. It symbolized the rise in power of Lin Biao

who with the start of the Cultural Revolution and the expulsion of Liu Shaoqi

had increased his power within the communist party. Lin Biao’s ideas of

education and indoctrination into Maoist thought had with the publishing of the

story in the People’s Daily in June of 1966 moved from the army to all of China.

From this point on until he lost favor with Mao in 1970 Lin Biao became the

cheerleader of the Cult of Mao directing the national frenzy that enveloped

China with its adoration of Mao Zedong (Dutt and Dutt, 1970: 80).

Under the leadership of Lin Biao the leading newspapers in China printed

stories urging readers to read the works of Mao. As of yet the only books

available to the public was the four volume long Selected Works of Mao Zedong;

the Red Book had not yet become available to the pubic. In the fall of 1966 the

People’s Daily published such headlines as, ‘Mao Zedong thought is the red sun

within our bosom,” and stories in newspapers were filled with such lines as,

“Chairman Mao’s books are not gold, but are more precious then gold; not steel,

but stronger then steel.” (Yan and Gao, 1996: 183) Pictures from this time

depicted happy Chinese citizens reading pamphlets by Mao such as the, “Man Who

Moved The Mountain.” But as of yet the number of pictures in 1966 that pictured

Red Books was limited and only included members of the armed forces. But the

stories in the newspapers and other propaganda put out by the government such as

radio broadcasts stirred up a great fever in support of Mao and the study of Mao

Zedong Thought. On August 12 following the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth party

congress copies of The Selected Works of Mao Zedong were distributed at major

universities before they were shut down to prepare for the Cultural Revolution.

During the rest of 1966 newspapers reported daily on the sale on The Selected

Works of Mao Zedong. The government lowered the price of the set of books to two

yuan so that every person could posses a copy of the Selected Works. Sales were

brisk then starting in January of 1967 Lin Biao made Quotations From Chairman

Mao available to the public. Everyone immediately wanted to buy it. Group study

sessions of the book became common. At many Red Guard rallies during the next

several years Red Guard troops set whole pages of the book to song (Yan and Gao,

1996: 248). Lin Biao ordered the presses of China to print millions of copies of

the Red Book and distribute them to the public. The Chinese media encouraged the

reading of the Red Book by printing stories extolling the virtues of those who

committed the book to memory. (Yan and Gao, 1996: 249)

Granny Liu spent days and nights studying the works of Chairman Mao.

When she forgot, she called other to teach her. Granddaughter Yuhzen slept with

her and would thus be awakened ten times a night. Even though the granddaughter

could not sleep well, Granny Liu would say endearingly to her, “Yuhzen, one more

word you can teach granny is one more measure of loyalty to Chairman Mao and one

more bullet for Liu Shaoqi.”….Granny Liu also eagerly disseminated Mao Zedong

Thought. For more than sixty years she, had not known how to sing. Now, learning

from her daughter and granddaughter, she sang every where….Proudly Granny Liu

said, “This old women can’t really handle a tune. But what I sing is my feeling

for Chairman Mao. When I disseminate Mao Zedong Thought, the more I sing the

younger I get.”

Thus from January of 1967 to Lin Biao’s death and the end of the

Cultural Revolution everyone in China it seemed wanted to be a Granny Liu; a

person who worked for the greater glory of Mao Zedong and China. The Red Book

provided the Chinese people both with a basic although cryptic introduction to

Maoist thought and it also provided them with a connection to their leader. Lin

Biao was able to successfully indoctrinate the entire nation not just in an

idolization of Mao but also in a frenzied studying of his quotes.

The period from 1966 to 1971 is marked by Chinese publications filled

with pictures of Chinese citizens studying the Red Books on communes, in fields,

in classrooms, at rallies, and at ad-hoc study groups that met from along the

Pearl River in the south of China to the plains of Tibet. The number of pictures

in China Reconstructs of people holding Mao books increased from just a trickle

prior to 1967 to almost fifty percent of all at the Height of the Cultural

Revolution. Along with this upward trend in the number of Mao books was an

increasing number of flattering articles about Lin Biao. One article in 1968

called him both a valiant fighter for the revolution and a loyal follower of Mao.

The irony of this quote was probably missed by most readers at the time but

looking back it was Lin Biao who created the Cult of Mao to further his own

goals within the communist party and not Lin Biao’s goals of helping Mao. The

percentage of pictures of the Red Book and articles about Lin Biao during this

time reflected not just the frenzy over the Cult of Mao in China but also the

power of Lin Biao it was through his work that the Red Book became a talisman

for the Chinese people.

Chinese citizens read the Red Book because of the appeal and aura that

surrounded it. The Red Book connected individual Chinese citizens with their

leader. It enabled the average citizen who would never meet Mao in their

lifetime to possess a piece of him and his words. During the Cultural Revolution

Mao became a god in the eyes of the Chinese people no criticism of him could be

tolerated, nor the slightest deviation from his instruction permitted. Every

word he uttered was taken as truth he became in effect a living Buddha, and like

Buddha his writings became like sutra’s. His quotes like passages from the

sutra’s were memorized, chanted, set to song, and reproduced on billboards and

on the beams of houses. (Rodzinski, 1988:121) The Red Book became during the

Cultural Revolution a holy sutra carried by every citizen everywhere and studied

endlessly. Some would say that the Red Book became the bible of the Cultural

Revolution but this theory has several flaws. First, if this is true then the

Mao would be the Jesus Christ of his time, but Mao unlike Jesus reached

unquestioned power during his lifetime and unlike Jesus had no one above him;

Mao was god not the son of god in China. Second, the Red Book is not parallel to

the bible in its symbolism. The bible is not committed to memory by most

Christians unlike the sutras which Buddhists learn long passages from. Mao

followed in the footsteps of the Buddhist framework of religious organization.

Under the Cultural Revolution Buddhism and Confucianism were wiped out, Red

Guards destroyed Buddhist temples and tortured monks; but in this religious

vacuum Mao placed himself as Buddha and his writings as Sutra’s.

The Red Book during the Cultural Revolution provided a semblance of

structure and unity in the chaos of the time. Even though rival Red Guard

factions frequently clashed and the nation was thrown into turmoil the Red Book

acted as a bond between the Chinese; they were all followers of Mao even as

their nation dissolved into anarchy. The Red Book provided a framework in which

for people to criticize others and also a bond between citizens, the party, Red

Guards, and Mao. The study of the Red Book also provided a de-facto type of

education while the schools were shut down. People learned to read in study

groups while learning the Red Book’s quotes. In these ways the Red Book was

valuable in that it created a type of order out of the chaos of the Cultural


One of the fascinating things about the Red Book was that nearly ever

Chinese citizen possessed one but only a few of them could read it. This was one

of the things that made the Red Book so popular was that it created with the

idea that the Chinese populace was educated while many remained illiterate. This

was one of the reason study groups were formed; so that a reader could read the

Red Book to a group of illiterate peasants who would then memorize long passages

so that they could feign literacy. In many places all other books but those by

Chairman Mao were banned. Reading in Chinese society was held in high esteem

even under communism and the idea of each citizen being a scholar was an

appealing idea to both the peasants and served the purposes of Lin Biao who saw

that the more widely the Cult of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought was spread the more

his power would increase.

But by 1970 the end of the Cultural Revolution had begun. Many within

the party believed the Cultural Revolution had gone to far, destroyed to much,

and were scared that they would become the next party member to be openly

criticized by Red Guards. Lin Biao’s success in promoting the teachings of Mao

made him the successor to Mao starting in August of 1966 but his role was

formalized in at the Ninth Party Congress convened in April of 1969 (Ming-Le,

1983: 49). After this Lin Biao tightened the grip of the military on Chinese

Society. Lin Biao maneuvered to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet Border clashes

in the spring of 1969 to declare martial law. Lin Biao quickly encountered

opposition to his growing power. Mao himself became concerned about what he saw

as a successor to eager to assume power, and starting in the fall of 1970 Mao

maneuvered to limit the power of Lin Biao (Ming-Le, 1983: 47-52).

In August of 1970 a national conference was held called the Second

Plenum which was a conference of people chosen at the 1969 national conference

to decide national policy. The Second Plenum was held in Lushan and chaired by

Mao Zedong. At this conference Lin Biao maneuvered to make himself president of

the republic. His clique of followers which included Chen Boda circulated such

statements as, “Lin Biao is an uncommon genius he is one of the great teachers

like Marx, and Lenin and Mao” (Ming-Le, 1983: 50) Lin Biao saw that holding the

office of the presidency which became vacant after the death Liu Shaoqi in 1969

was a tool by which he could assume control over China and fulfill his lifetime

ambition. On August 25, 1970 Mao convened the conference and upon hearing of Lin

Biao’s plan destroyed it in a matter of two days. Mao did this in three ways.

First, he sentenced Chen Boda to self-examination, this was a clear warning to

Lin Biao to stop his grab for power. Second, Mao threatened the members of the

conference by saying that he would leave if they brought up the issue of the

presidency. Third, Mao wrote in a public letter called, “Some Views of Mine,” a

criticism of those who claim but do not really understand Marxism. This letter

was clearly speaking about Lin Biao although it did not say so directly. The

conference at Lushan was a turning point for Lin Biao is symbolized his fall

from the graces of Mao because of what Mao perceived as his impatience to become

president. Mao was able to effectively eliminate Lin Biao as a threat by joining

forces with Zhou Enlai and by isolating Lin Biao’s assistant Chen Boda. (Yan and

Gao, 1996: 309) By January of 1971 Lin Biao was no longer in Mao’s clique of

advisors and Mao further distanced himself from Lin Biao and his work at

creating a cult of Mao by saying in December of 1970 that he felt the cult

created around him had grown to large (Yan and Gao, 1996: 313), what happened

between then and Lin Biao’s death in September of the year is the object of much

speculation. The official Chinese government’s story is that Lin Biao died on

September 13, 1971, in an airplane crash in Mongolia as he was fleeing to the

Soviet Union after having plotted unsuccessfully to overthrow Mao. According to

this account during the whole of 1971 Lin Biao was organizing a coup among

military officers. This account is very much in doubt and their is much

speculation that Lin Biao after falling out of favor with the party leadership

was assassinated by communist party (Ming-Le, 1983:228). This has been

reinforced by Mongolian reports in 1990 that say that Lin Biao a was not on the

plane that crashed in 1971.

The years of 1970 to 1971 were also marked by the winding down of the

Cultural Revolution as schools were reopened and Red Guard groups disbanded. It

is a historic irony that Lin Biao who gave Mao so much power by building up his

cult following was in the end a victim of the power that he created for Mao when

he tried to gain control of the presidency in 1970. The death of Lin Biao in

1971 brought to China a silent liberation from the Cult of Mao. The people

discovered that the person that they had for so long recognized as the high

priest of the Maoist Cult and Mao’s most loyal supporter was in fact a Janus

faced person who was in fact planning to overthrow Mao. Lin Biao’s two-faced

appearance awakened in the Chinese public a distrust in politics and a feeling

of deception in the Cult of Mao. The death of Lin Biao marked the end of the

mass rallies in Tianamen Square and the end of the Cultural Revolution’s crazed

delirium (Yan and Gao, 1996: 335).

The fall of Lin Biao is closely connected with the end of the Red Book.

After Lin Biao fell from the inner circle of Mao newspapers stopped publishing

accounts of Lin Biao’s genius and stopped also publishing pictures of the Red

Book. A graphical analysis of pictures during this period shows a sharp decline

in the number of pictures of the Red Book following December of 1970. This

closely correlates with the demise of Lin Biao as a member of Mao’s inner circle.

By the time Lin Biao died in September of 1971 barely any pictures of Lin Biao’s

Red Book were published in place of pictures of the Red Book and slogans urging

education in Mao Zedong Thought; were tractors, workers in factors, and farmers

plowing fields. All around China images of Lin Biao and his calligraphy were

destroyed (Kraus, 1991: 111) On of the most telling pictures is that of the

Albanian Nation Basketball team in 1972 being received by Mao in Beijing the

accompanying story says that the Albanians received Chinese handicrafts from

their hosts. In a nearly identical article published in 1967 the Albanian

Basketball team is pictured meeting Chairman Mao and Lin Biao and the

accompanying story says they received copies of the Red Book translated into

Albanian. These two articles show the tremendous transformation that took place

in China during the intervening years between the articles.

The rise and fall of Lin Biao is inextricably connected with the rise

and fall of his Red Book. When Lin Biao first became head of the army in 1959 he

saw that if he wanted to rise in power he could do this only by currying favor

with Mao Zedong; to this end he promoted Mao Zedong Thought within the army and

later throughout China. Lin Biao built up the Cult of Mao Zedong Thought through

a combination of playing on the needs of the Chinese people during a time of

chaos by publishing the Red Book and by extolling the virtues of memorizing

Mao’s quotes in newspapers. The story of Lin Biao is the fascinating story of a

man who rode the production of propaganda to great heights but his story also

provides an insight into propaganda and what it tells us about China. Pictures

in China Reconstructs from 1966 to 1974 show that propaganda was not just a tool

of the Communist party but also a reflection of internal power struggles within

the party during the Cultural Revolution. When Lin Biao gained power so did the

number of images of the Red Book and when Lin Biao lost power the number of

images of his Red Book dropped to nearly zero. Propaganda during the Cultural

Revolution was not just a way for the communist party to control the people but

it also was a reflection of individuals power within the party. The history of

Lin Biao meteoric rise and demise is told not only in the history books but also

in ascent and fall of his most prized piece of propaganda the Red Book.


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