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Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956–7)

Subject History

Place Eastern Asia » China

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


An occasion when MAO zedong invited non-party intellectuals to criticize the Chinese Communist Party. Mao was worried that the CCP bureaucracy, which had vastly expanded since victory in the Chinese civil war (1946–9), was alienating the masses by becoming a privileged élite. The hungarian rising of 1956 showed Mao that problems should be dealt with before they got out of hand, but others pointed out that the rising took place because political controls had been relaxed and that party rule must not be endangered. At the CCP Congress in September 1956 most delegates were against ‘letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend’. Mao nevertheless went ahead and encouraged intellectuals to criticize abuses in the party, so that they could be rectified. After a cautious start, the vehemence of the criticisms seemed to take him by surprise. Most did not reject the system of public ownership but they condemned the corruption and incompetence of many party officials, who were arrogant and insensitive to people's needs. Students at Beijing University covered a Democracy Wall with posters criticizing the CCP. Mao took the lead in reversing the policy he had initiated by attacking the critics as ‘poisonous weeds’ in an Anti-Rightist Campaign. ‘Correct criticism’, he said, ‘must strengthen Party leadership and support the socialist system’. 550,000 were named as ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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