Events During the Cultural Revolution Decade, 1966-76
The Cultural Revolution was set in motion by Mao Zedong in 1966
and called to a halt in 1968, but the atmosphere of radical leftism
persisted until Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four in
(see The Cultural Revolution Decade, 1966-76
, ch. 1). During
this period, there were several distinct phases of economic policy.
High Tide of the Cultural Revolution, 1966-68
The Cultural Revolution, unlike the Great Leap Forward, was
primarily a political upheaval and did not produce major changes in
official economic policies or the basic economic model.
Nonetheless, its influence was felt throughout urban society, and
it profoundly affected the modern sector of the economy.
Agricultural production stagnated, but in general the rural areas
experienced less turmoil than the cities. Production was reduced in
the modern nonagricultural sectors in several ways. The most direct
cause of production halts was the political activity of students
and workers in the mines and factories. A second cause was the
extensive disruption of transportation resulting from the
requisitioning of trains and trucks to carry
Red Guards (see Glossary)
around the country. Output at many factories suffered
from shortages of raw materials and other supplies. A third
disruptive influence was that the direction of factories was placed
in the hands of revolutionary committees, consisting of
representatives from the party, the workers, and the People's
Liberation Army, whose members often had little knowledge of either
management or the enterprise they were supposed to run. In
addition, virtually all engineers, managers, scientists,
technicians, and other professional personnel were "criticized,"
demoted, "sent down" to the countryside to "participate in labor,"
or even jailed, all of which resulted in their skills and knowledge
being lost to the enterprise. The effect was a 14-percent decline
in industrial production in 1967. A degree of order was restored by
the army in late 1967 and 1968, and the industrial sector returned
to a fairly high rate of growth in 1969.
Other aspects of the Cultural Revolution had more far-reaching
effects on the economy. Imports of foreign equipment, required for
technological advancement, were curtailed by rampant xenophobia.
Probably the most serious and long-lasting effect on the economy
was the dire shortage of highly educated personnel caused by the
closing of the universities. China's ability to develop new
technology and absorb imported technology would be limited for
years by the hiatus in higher education
(see Higher Education
Data as of July 1987