Five Man Group

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The Five Man Group (also known as the Group of Five) was an organisation established in the People's Republic of China in early 1965 to oversee the beginnings of the Cultural Revolution.[1] The group was led by Peng Zhen (the mayor of Beijing), the fifth most senior member of the Politburo.[2] The group played a short-lived role in the Cultural Revolution, being formally dissolved in May 1966, to be replaced by the Cultural Revolution Group.[3]


Throughout the 1960s, Chairman Mao Zedong had become increasingly concerned with the prevailing bourgeois culture and attitudes of Communist China. Mao viewed these attitudes as sympotamatic of fundamental problems in Chinese society- problems which needed to be resolved.[4] At a meeting of the Politburo in January 1965, Mao called on his Party colleagues to initiate a revolution in China's culture, and the meeting established the Five Man Group under Peng Zhen (the fifth most senior member of the Politburo) to oversee and co-ordinate this planned revolution.[5] Of the five members of the group, only Kang Sheng could be considered to be a firm supporter of Mao.[6] The other members included Lu Dingyi, the head of the Central Committee's Propaganda Department, and Wu Lengxi, the editor of the People's Daily.[7]

Role in the build up to the Cultural Revolution[edit]

From January to November 1965, the Five Man Group was essentially dormant, playing little part in the events that were to proceed the Cultural Revolution.[8] However, the publication of Yao Wenyuan's criticism of Wu Han's play Hai Rui Dismissed From Office spurred the group into action.[9] Technically, the Five Man Group had to be consulted before attacks on senior figures like Wu Han were made,[10] and Yao's failure to do this displeased Peng. He was not prepared to allow the academic criticism of Wu Han's play to develop into a political debate, and so he moved to block the distribution of Yao Wenyuan's politically motivated article.[11] In February 1966, Peng attacked Yao and other Maoist writers for "treating a purely academic question in political terms",[12] and by the Spring of 1966 the group had successfully managed to keep the debate over Hai Rui Dismissed From Office as purely an academic one.[13]

Concerned that the group was stifling the development of the Cultural Revolution, Mao engineered the dissolution of the Five Man Group in the May 16th Circular. The same document condemned Peng Zhen for obstructing the Cultural Revolution, and replaced the group with the Cultural Revolution Group, an organisation of Maoist supporters that would bring a significantly more radical thrust to the Cultural Revolution.[14][15] In the subsequent months, Peng and his supporters were dismissed from their offices, with the mayor of Beijing becoming the first major casualty of the movement.[16]


  1. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  2. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  3. ^ Meisner, p. 332
  4. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  5. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  6. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  7. ^ MacFarquhar & Schoenhals, p. 28 and 29
  8. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  9. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  10. ^ MacFarquhar & Schoenhals, p. 15
  11. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  12. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  13. ^ Meisner, p. 331
  14. ^ Meisner, p. 332
  15. ^ MacFarquhar & Schoenhals, p. 33
  16. ^ Meisner, p. 332


  • MacFarquhar, R and Schoenhals, M; Mao's Last Revolution; Belknap Harvard (2006)
  • Meisner, M; Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic Since 1949; Free Press (1986)