'Cultural revolution' (1966-76)
Phase II was the period from the CPC's Ninth National Party Congress in April 1969 until the 10th National Party Congress in August 1973. The main event was the effort to crush the conspiracy by the counter-revolutionary group of Lin Biao to seize supreme power and stage a counter-revolutionary coup d'etat. This objectively declared the failure of the "cultural revolution". Zhou Enlai presided over the daily work of the Central Committee, taking the situation a turn for the better.
After the Ninth National Party Congress, the whole country entered into a stage of "struggle, criticism, and transformation". The central task was to completely repudiate the so-called revisionist route, carrying out policies adopted by the Ninth National Party Congress and putting everything in the country on the track of the "cultural revolution". At this stage, China continued to carry out the movement of the "mass revolutionary criticism". It also went on to purge class ranks and expanded the scope, cracking down on counter-revolutionary activities, on corruption and theft, on speculation and on extravagance and waste, and eliminating the so-called "516 members". Many cadres and intellectuals were persecuted in the name of reducing bureaucracies, sending cadres to the countryside and re-educating them, which were carried out according to the May 7 Instruction of 1966. The "Education Revolution" had caused a widespread decline in the quality of education and created chaos in teaching ranks. In 1971, Jiang Qing issued the Summary of the Work Conference on National Education, severely dampening the enthusiasm of the intellectuals.
In September 1971, after the counter-revolutionary coup d'etat led by Lin Biao was defeated, Zhou Enlai presided over the central government's daily work with the support of Mao Zedong and took political, economy and diplomatic steps to improve the situation. However, he was also slandered by Jiang Qing and her allies. Mao thought the top task then was still to oppose the ultra-right stance, resulting in the denial of the correct suggestions to criticize the left, and the country continued to move in the wrong direction.
In August 1973, the CPC's 10th National Party Congress was held in Beijing. The Congress inherited the left-leaning mistakes and guidelines adopted by the Ninth National Party Congress, and appointed Wang Hongwen vice chairman of the CPC Central Committee. The Gang of Four -- Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen -- was formed within the Political Bureau, and the power of the counter-revolutionary group led by Jiang Qing was strengthened.
Phase III was the period from the CPC's 10th National Party Congress in August 1973 until the crushing of the Gang of Four in October 1976.
In July 1973, Mao Zedong called for criticizing Lin Biao and Confucius to vindicate the "cultural revolution". In early January 1974, Jiang Qing and Wang Hongwen proposed to start the Criticize Lin (Biao) and Criticize Confucius campaigns and received Mao's approval. With a hidden purpose to usurp the Party's power, Jiang Qing and her allies seized the chance to point the finger at Zhou Enlai. Mao Zedong discovered their conspiracy, criticized them and labeled them the Gang of Four. He pointed out that Jiang Qing's ambition was to be the chairman of the CPC Central Committee. Thus, their conspiracy was foiled.
In early 1975, a new State Council, the Cabinet, was formed with Zhou Enlai as premier and Deng Xiaoping as vice premier at the Fourth National People's Congress. Following the Congress, Zhou Enlai became seriously ill. Deng Xiaoping presided over the central government's daily work with the support of Mao and Zhou. He held the CMC enlarged meeting and a series of meetings on industry, agriculture, transportation, and science and technology, rectifying various aspects of work and taking the situation in an obvious turn for the better. However, Mao couldn't tolerate Deng Xiaoping's efforts to systematically correct errors of the "cultural revolution". He first called on learning the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then launched the so-called Criticize Deng and Oppose the Rehabilitation of Right-Leaning Elements campaigns.
On January 8, 1976, Zhou Enlai died. Various activities took place across the country in commemoration of Zhou. The Gang of Four tried their best to suppress these activities. The suppression, coupled with the ongoing Criticize Deng and Oppose the Rehabilitation of Right-Leaning Elements campaigns, sparked public anger. People in Beijing, Nanjing, Taiyuan and other places organized massive public rallies to mourn Premier Zhou and oppose the Gang of Four. The Political Bureau and Mao Zedong misjudged the nature of the Tiananmen rally, described it as counter-revolutionary, and wrongly removed Deng from office.
On September 9, 1976, Mao Zedong died. The Gang of Four accelerated the pace of counter-revolutionary activities. Wang Hongwen attempted to take over the leadership of the CPC Central Committee. At the same time, he distributed arms to Shanghai militias in preparation for a rebellion. On September 4, the Guangming Daily published an article entitled Forever Act According to Principles Laid Down by Chairman Mao, prepared by the Gang of Four, in which the gang misquoted Mao's dying words in an attempt to control the Party and the country. The Political Bureau, with Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying and Li Xiannian at its core, smashed the Jiang Qing-led counter-revolutionary group and saved the Party and revolution. Historically, this marked the end of the "cultural revolution". In August 1977, at the 11th National Party Congress, the Central Committee officially announced the end of the "cultural revolution".
In June 1981, the Sixth Plenum of the 11th CPC Central Committee passed the Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China. In this document, it was stated that "the Party, the country and the people suffered from the most serious setbacks and the biggest loss during the 'cultural revolution', which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, since the founding of the PRC...The history of the 'cultural revolution' proved that the main argument for comrade Mao Zedong to start the 'cultural revolution' was not in line with Marxism-Leninism nor with the reality of China... It was proved through practice that the 'cultural revolution' was not, and could not possibly be, a revolution or social progress in every sense... (It) was a civil turmoil, which was wrongly started by leaders, was exploited by counter-revolutionary groups, and which brought disastrous consequences to the Party, the country and the people."
(Translated from Xinhua)