The Chinese Intelligentsia During the Hundred Flowers and Anti-Rightist Movement

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  • Topic: Mao Zedong, Great Leap Forward, Anti-Rightist Movement
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The Chinese Intelligentsia during the Hundred Flowers and Anti-rightist Movement

After the coming to power of the CCP and the formation of the People's Republic of China, thorough and drastic changes began to take place in China. A country which had been founded on a mixture of Confucianism and a very spiritual lifestyle, with ancestor worship and even praying to the god of a particular object, which had went through various revolutions and changings of the guard, began to follow the influence of a Red Giant. The theories of Communism which were developed through a collaboration of Marx and Engels began to penetrate China through the Soviet influence. The sweeping changes that were introduced by Mao Zedong and his party would influence China in every aspect, and attempt to eradicate the old ways, which were consider to be corrupted and no longer represented what was right for the country as a whole. The CCP changed the way the government was set up, changed the way foreign relations were handled, re-evaluated the economic policies of the country, and, possibly more drastically, attempted, arguably successfully, to control and change the way people thought. The anti rightist movements of the 50s and 60s attempted to do just that. These movements followed on the heels of what was known as the Hundred Flowers. The Hundred Flowers slogan was "Let a hundred Flowers Bloom, a Hundred Schools of Thought Contend". The movement which had started in the spring of 1956 was a movement that was began by the party to do several things. The main theme behind the movement was to welcome criticism of the party by the intellectuals of the country, and was considered a good way for the party to prove that it cared about the people, was interested, and listening to what they had to say. According to Teiwes:

Lu (Ting-i) argued the victory of socialist transformation and a fundamental change in the political outlook of intellectuals created conditions for the Hundred Flowers. He held that free discussion and independent thinking were necessary to avoid academic stagnation and declared the imposition of narrow, doctrinaire restrictions on intellectual life the "bitter enemy" of true Marxism Leninism. (219)

Mao was under the impression that Communism was so perfect that intellectual criticism would not be hurt, but benefit the attitudes in the country. This was a major change in the way this type of thing had been handled previously. The Communist party had been very adamant in keeping down what they called counter-revolutionary forces prior to coming into power. This movement was different however in that prior movements had come from the peasantry, and this movement was allowing for the intellectuals to come to the forefront.

The party members who promoted the program expected only minor criticisms and were not really anticipating anything drastic from this new openness.
The intellectuals themselves felt similarly, as Teiwes writes:

Despite considerable caution on the part of intellectuals, the new atmosphere did result in significant debates in a number of academic fields – e.g., on hereditary, the periodization of history, the role of Marxism-Leninism in philosophy, and socialist realism in literature. Moreover, in journalism changes included a more lively style, greater space devoted to free discussion, the encouragement of professionalism including Western style pursuit of the full story, and greater use of Western news sources, at least in restricted publications. (220)

In the political realm, there was even room for other parties, such as the democratic parties of China.
Unfortunately the Hundred Flowers movement was short lived. The intellectuals, after cautiously testing the waters, burst through the damn, and the party had more to deal with than they had expected.

Teiwes writes that the movement was a failure for multiple causes:

The Hundred Flowers was based on the assumption that non-Party...
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