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Chinese Cultural Revolution - Trenton Morrow EALC 120 AD7...

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Trenton Morrow EALC 120 AD7 TA: Shimizu, Tuesday 9:00am 12/3/07 The Chinese Cultural Revolution and Its Effect on Class Structure China has always been plagued by gross inequalities in wealth and power. Throughout history and even to recent times the rural poor have constituted the majority of the Chinese population, resting at the bottom rung of the social ladder; even after the events of the Civil War and the establishment of the People's Republic, there were stark differences in quality of life across classes and regions. For many the promises of Communism went unfulfilled. Sensing this, Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution in 1966 with the aims of eliminating class distinctions and privileges, and succeeded only in creating a new class structure based upon whether or not one came from a 'Red' or proletarian background, in addition to destroying many lives and damaging Chinese culture. At the outset of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese society became less inclusive of those from non-proletarian backgrounds. Many began to describe those descended from landlords, rich farmers, former Kuomintang, rightists and others as being part of the “Black Categories”, social classes to be shunned in the new Communist society. Similarly, those from poor peasant families or whose parents fought for the Communists during the civil war came to be part of the “Red Categories”, who would be free from purges and persecution. In Yu Hua's novel “To Live”, there are numerous depictions of the deprivations imposed of those from the Black Categories as well as the advantages of being from the Red Categories. Heritage was very important, regardless of one's current circumstance. The book's main character, Fugui, witnesses firsthand the dangers of being wealthy – the man who took his wealth through gambling was killed following the Communist revolution. 1
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At the heart of the Cultural Revolution were the Red Guards, mobilized by Mao at the early stages of the movement. Their membership was comprised mostly of students and young people and was restricted to those from peasant or proletarian backgrounds. They were entrusted with the duty of spurring revolution through smashing the “Four Olds” - Old Habits, Old Culture, Old Customs, and Old Ideas. The Communist Party set very loose guidelines in terms of classifying what was actually "old". As a result, anything that existed before 1949 was subject to being destroyed, including examples of centuries-old artwork. Anyone caught in possession "old goods" would suffer serious consequences from the Red Guards. Their efforts expanded into branding and labeling anyone with even the most remote connections to what might be seen as counter-revolutionary or capitalist. It was a very serious liability to be branded as descended from one of the Black Categories. Many of those in education, media, literature, and even the Party were attacked and punished by the Red Guards, who were given almost free reign to do as they wished.
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