Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius

The Criticize Lin (Biao), Criticize Confucius Campaign (simplified Chinese: 批林批孔运动; traditional Chinese: 批林批孔運動; pinyin: pī Lín pī Kǒng yùndòng; also called the Anti-Lin Biao, Anti-Confucius campaign) was a political propaganda campaign started by Mao Zedong and his wife, Jiang Qing, the leader of the Gang of Four. It lasted from 1973 until the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1976. The campaign produced detailed Maoist interpretations of Chinese history, and was used as a tool by the Gang of Four to attack their enemies.

A poster from 1974 by Zhang Yan (张延). It reads "Criticize Lin, criticize Confucius - it's the most important matter for the whole party, the whole army and the people of the whole country."

The campaign continued in several phases, beginning as an academic attempt to interpret Chinese history according to Mao's political theories. In 1974 the campaign was joined with another, pre-existent campaign to attack Lin Biao, who had allegedly attempted to assassinate Mao in a failed coup before his death in 1971. In early 1975 the campaign was modified to indirectly attack China's Premier, Zhou Enlai, and other senior Chinese leaders. In mid-1975 the Gang of Four introduced debate on Water Margin as a tool to attack their enemies. The campaign only ended in 1976, when the Gang of Four were arrested, ending the Cultural Revolution.

Stages of the campaignEdit

The events that occurred during the "Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius" campaign were "complex and often confusing", but can be identified as occurring through four main phases. The first phase of the campaign began after the 1st Plenary Session of the 10th CCP Central Committee, in 1973. Following this session, Mao encouraged public discussions focused on criticizing Confucius and Confucianism, and on interpreting aspects of historical Chinese society within a Maoist theoretical perspective.

These initial debates focused on interpreting the issues of slavery, feudalism, and the relationship between Confucianism and Legalism according to the social theories published by Mao and Karl Marx.[1] Confucius himself was condemned as a defender of slavery and a denigrator of women who had hindered China's development by resisting historical progress.[2]

In late 1973 to early 1974 the second phase of the campaign began, when the Chinese public were encouraged to adopt criticism of Confucius in a great "study campaign". The universities were mobilized to deliver special courses to workers and peasants, State propaganda photographs depicted Chinese farmers supposedly carrying on "intense debates".[2]

The attacks on Confucius merged with a pre-existent campaign to criticize Lin Biao, who was condemned as a "capitalist roader" by his enemies among a radical faction of the Party led by Jiang Qing.[2] With the deployment of the campaign it became clear that "criticism of Lin Biao and Confucius" was directed not so much against the "enemies of the past," as against the "enemies of today." During this phase, Mao's image was identified with that of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang (glossed as an anti-Confucian Legalist). Hyperbolic praise was given to Qin based on his popular association with Mao.[3]

The third phase began after Zhou Enlai reorganized the State Council during the 4th National People's Congress, in January 1975. At the People's Congress, Zhou brought many cadres back to work who had been purged during the 1966-1969 phase of the Cultural Revolution. In comparison with the first stage of the Cultural Revolution, the rehabilitated leaders led by Zhou were able to exercise significant influence and authority.

Feeling strong support from his supporters on 31 January 1974 at the enlarged meeting of the Politburo, Zhou was able to strongly request not to involve the armed forces in a campaign for "four great freedoms", namely, writing, free expression of opinions and extensive discussion, and general criticism. Deng Xiaoping, who was among those rehabilitated under Zhou, sought to turn the campaign back against the radical faction by linking Confucius to resistance to modernisation and better education – goals that Deng was pursuing at the time, against the radicals' opposition.[2]

Because they had supported the purging of many career Communist Party veterans during the early Cultural Revolution, the radical faction, now dominated by the Gang of Four, opposed Zhou's efforts and began to subtly criticize him and his policies.[4] In particular, they used the ongoing anti-Confucius campaign to attack the 12th century BC Duke of Zhou, a major figure in Confucianism, whose name recalled that of Zhou Enlai.[2]

The fourth and final phase of the campaign coincided with Zhou's illness and hospitalization. After 1974, the campaign against Lin Biao and Confucius reached its climax, and soon subsided. However, beginning in the summer of 1975 the Gang of Four deployed a new campaign, introducing public debates on The Water Margin and the "war on empiricism" as a tool to criticize Zhou and their other enemies, notably Deng, which sidelined "criticism of Confucius." Deng Xiaoping then took many of Zhou's responsibilities, acting as premier in Zhou's absence until Deng was again purged, in 1976.

After Mao died, the Gang of Four also directed a campaign against Hua Guofeng, who was named Mao's successor. The campaign ended with Hua's arrest of the Gang of Four, in October 1976.[4] By this time, the population was largely exhausted by mass political campaigns. The Anti-Lin, Anti-Confucius campaign was the last campaign of the Maoist era, and with the demise of the Gang of Four, such campaigns were largely abandoned as a feature of Chinese politics.[2]

Theoretical focusEdit

The Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign was used as a political tool by the Gang of Four, but it did produce a genuine attempt to interpret historical Chinese society within the context of Mao's political theories. Maoist theorists attempted to use what they knew about the stone-age Dawenkou culture to produce evidence that a slave society had existed in Chinese history, just as Mao had described. These Maoist theorists used the recurrent patterns of peasant revolts, which have occurred throughout Chinese history, as evidence that the common people had consistently rejected both feudalism and the Confucian ideology that supported it. After their vitriolic denunciations of Confucianism, radical theorists attempted to interpret all of Chinese history as a long episode of conflict between the forces of Confucianism and Legalism, and attempted to identify themselves as modern Legalists.[4]

Local levelEdit

During the campaign, some dormant radicals on the local level resumed political activities, one such example was the Hangzhou incident of 1975, which had to be put down with a massive deployment of troops.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hsiung 637
  2. ^ a b c d e f Sullivan, Lawrence R. (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Scarecrow Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8108-7225-7.
  3. ^ Hsiung 637-638
  4. ^ a b c Hsiung 638