Question 1: After Mao Zedong’s unsuccessful Great Leap Forward ending in 1959, the Communist Party needed to implement new policies to save the country from crisis. The Great Leap policies instigated The Three Difficult Years, a widespread famine claiming an estimated 30 million lives. As a result, Mao began the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966 to regain the peoples’ faith in the Communist Party and to carry out his final vision for China. The main objective of the Cultural Revolution was to seek out and punish those in the Communist Party who were proponents of bourgeoisie and feudal cultures. These counterrevolutionaries, or reactionaries, were most easily sought out in the schools and universities, where Mao saw his opportunity to instigate his plan. One’s status of being a revolutionary or not was based on two often-contradictory qualifications: their state-assigned class label and their public behavior. Many faced public trials and humiliation, such as being carried through the streets, tied up, and beaten. The Great Cultural Revolution relied heavily on the efforts of the youth of China, who came to be known as the Red Guard. These middle school, high school, and college students were born and raised in Communist China and were instilled with the values of the revolution (Tanner 217). Chairman Mao enlisted the help of the Red Guard to save the revolution by attacking counterrevolutionaries. The first setting for these attacks was universities, where students not only attacked their peers but also professors and those in positions of authority. Students were explicitly instructed by Mao to disregard the authority of their parents, teachers, and administrators (Yang 120). “When Mao used students as shock troops in his Cultural Revolution, the tension-filled world of the school and colleges exploded in an orgy of violence and destruction” – just as he intended (Tanner 217-218). In
May of 1966, Mao called for the Red Guard to challenge the administrators of the university who were believed to be against the Communist Party. They raided homes, assaulted professors, and even killed those who were seen as antirevolutionary. Professors, parents, and even Party cadre were attacked due to their class background, personalities, unpopularity, or even because of their dress (Tanner 218). Rae Yang, author of the memoir Spider Eaters describes a scene that greatly disturbed her. While going to get lunch one day, she encountered one of her teachers hiding in a broken fountain. “Blood was streaming down his head, as a number of students were throwing bricks at him. He tried to dodge the bricks,” she recalls. Although she, along with her peers, was exuberant about the opportunity to rebel
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