Anti-Rightist Campaign

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Anti-Rightist Campaign
The slogan "carry out the anti-rightist struggle to the end" on display at the 1957 National Day parade on Tiananmen Square.
LocationPeople's Republic of China
TargetPolitical opponents, alleged right-wing figures
Attack type
Political repression
Victims550,000 (Official figures)
1–2 million (Estimates)
PerpetratorsMao Zedong
Deng Xiaoping
Peng Zhen

The Anti-Rightist Campaign (simplified Chinese: 反右运动; traditional Chinese: 反右運動; pinyin: Fǎnyòu Yùndòng) in the People's Republic of China, which lasted from 1957 to roughly 1959, was a political campaign to purge alleged "Rightists" within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the country as a whole.[1][2][3] The campaign was launched by Chairman Mao Zedong, but Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen also played an important role.[4][5] The Anti-Rightist Campaign significantly damaged democracy in China and turned the country into a de facto one-party state.[6][7][8][9][10]

The definition of rightists was not always consistent, often including critics to the left of the government, but officially referred to those intellectuals who appeared to favor capitalism, or were against one-party rule as well as forcible, state-run collectivization.[4][8][10][11] According to China's official statistics published during the "Boluan Fanzheng" period, the campaign resulted in the political persecution of at least 550,000 people.[6][11][12] Some researchers believe that the actual number of persecuted is between 1 and 2 million or even higher.[2][11][13] Deng Xiaoping admitted that there were mistakes during the Anti-Rightist Campaign, and most victims have received rehabilitation since 1959.[11][14][15]



The Anti-Rightist Campaign was a reaction against the Hundred Flowers Campaign which had promoted pluralism of expression and criticism of the government, even though initiation of both campaigns was controlled by Mao Zedong and were integrally connected.[16] Going perhaps as far back as the Long March there had been resentment against "rightists" inside the CCP, for example, Zhang Bojun.[17]

While the Hundred Flowers Movement was going on, in 1956, Khrushchev published the On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, which along with the ensuing riots in Poland and Hungary, had a large impact on China, where similar social unrest began to take place.[18]

First wave[edit]

During the Hundred Flowers Movement, some ideas that were not tolerated by the Party were gradually raised. Some people claimed that "now the students are on the streets and the citizens are following them", "the situation is very serious", "Chairman Mao and the others can't go on, it's time for them to step down";[19] and that the CCP should take turns to rule with the democratic parties and open "Hyde Park" for public debate.[20]

The first wave of attacks began immediately as the Hundred Flowers Campaign drew to a close in June 1957.[11] At the time, Mao began to view criticism during the Hundred Flowers as a threat to the rule of the party. In mid-May, Mao began writing Things Are Beginning to Change, an article that was not completed until June 11. In the article he said, "why is such a torrent of reactionary, vicious statements being allowed to appear in the press? to let the people have some idea of these poisonous weeds and noxious fumes so as to have them uprooted or dispelled."[21][22] On June 8, 1957, Mao drafted an inner-party document, Muster Our Forces to Repulse the Rightists' Wild Attacks, saying that "some bad capitalists, bad intellectuals, and reactionary elements in society are mounting wild attacks against the working class and the Communist Party in an attempt to overthrow the state power led by the working class."[23] On the same day, People's Daily published an editorial What is this for?, expressing the same view as the inner-party document.[24] These marked the beginning of the Anti-Rightist Campaign.[25] By the end of the year, 300,000 people had been labeled as rightists, including the writer Ding Ling. Future premier Zhu Rongji, then working in the State Planning Commission, was purged in 1958.[26] Most of the accused were intellectuals. The penalties included informal criticism, hard labor, and in some cases, execution.[11] For example, Jiabiangou, a notable labor camp in Gansu, held approximately 3,000 political prisoners from 1957 to 1961, of whom about 2,500 died, mostly of starvation.[27][28]

One main target was the independent legal system.[29] Legal professionals were transferred to other jobs; judicial power was exercised instead by political cadres and the police.[29]

Second wave[edit]

The second part of the campaign followed the Lushan Conference of July 2 – August 16, 1959, a meeting of top party leaders. The meeting condemned the PRC's defense minister, General Peng Dehuai, a critic of the Great Leap Forward.[30]

Criticism by Mao[edit]

Administering several provinces in the southwest, Deng proved so zealous in killing alleged counter-revolutionaries that even the Chairman felt obliged to write to him. Mao urged Deng Xiaoping to slow down the campaign's body count, saying:

If we kill too many, we will forfeit public sympathy and a shortage of labor power will arise.

— [31][32]


In a 2018 study by Zhaojin Zeng and Joshua Eisenman, analysing 144 counties within Anhui, Henan, and Jiangsu, it was found that the economic harm caused by the Anti-Rightist campaign continued for decades, even into 2000, compounded by existing issues with human capital at the time. The higher the percentage of the population were declared Rightists, the worse the economic outcomes would be in each county. Literacy rates were affected well into 1982, and academic performance at the high school level, as well as in compulsory education, continued to be affected into 2000. Counties that were previously Laoqu were found to have purged fewer Rightists than others because the party secretaries were local to the area. Negative correlations between the famine of the Great Leap Forward and China's economic performance in 1982 were also found, and distinguished from the Anti-Rightist Campaign, confirming a 2017 study by Elizabeth Gooch; additionally, it was found that the effects were more significant compared to the Cultural Revolution.[33]


After Mao's death in 1976, many of the convictions were revoked during the Boluan Fanzheng period. At that time, under leader Deng Xiaoping, the government announced that it needed capitalists' experience to get the country moving economically, and subsequently the guilty verdicts of thousands of counterrevolutionary cases were overturned — affecting many of those accused of rightism and who had been persecuted for that crime the previous twenty two years.[34] This came despite the fact that Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen were among the most enthusiastic prosecutors of the movement during the "First Wave" of 1957.[4][5]

Censorship in China[edit]

In 2009, leading up the 60th anniversary of the PRC's founding, a number of media outlets in China listed the most significant events of 1957 but downplayed or omitted reference to the Anti-Rightist Movement.[12] Websites were reportedly notified by authorities that the topic of the movement was extremely sensitive.[12]

Famous Rightists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Anti-Rightist Movement and Its Ideological and Theoretical Consequences". Chinese Law & Government. 29 (4): 36–45. 2014-12-07. doi:10.2753/CLG0009-4609290436.
  2. ^ a b Sun, Warren (2011-07-01). "Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-) (CD-ROM). Editorial Board of the Chinese Anti-Rightist Campaign CD-ROM Database". The China Journal. 66: 169–172. doi:10.1086/tcj.66.41262814. ISSN 1324-9347.
  3. ^ Sha, Shangzhi. "从反右运动看中国特色的政治斗争". Yanhuang Chunqiu. Archived from the original on 2020-11-25. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  4. ^ a b c Chung, Yen-lin (2011). "The Witch-Hunting Vanguard: The Central Secretariat's Roles and Activities in the Anti-Rightist Campaign". The China Quarterly. 206 (206): 391–411. doi:10.1017/S0305741011000324. ISSN 0305-7410. JSTOR 41305225. S2CID 153991512.
  5. ^ a b Wang, Ning (2020-04-28). "Victims and Perpetrators: Campaign Culture in the Chinese Communist Party's Anti-Rightist Campaign". Twentieth-Century China. 45 (2): 188–208. doi:10.1353/tcc.2020.0019. ISSN 1940-5065. S2CID 219045783.
  6. ^ a b King, Gilbert. "The Silence that Preceded China's Great Leap into Famine". Smithsonian. Archived from the original on 2019-10-14. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  7. ^ "PETITIONING FOR REDRESS OVER THE ANTI-RIGHTIST CAMPAIGN" (PDF). Human Rights in China. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-06-24. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  8. ^ a b Liu, Zheng (2004-07-15). "反右运动对人民代表大会建设和工作的损害". Renmin Wang (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2020-06-09. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  9. ^ Du, Guang (2007). ""反右"运动与民主革命——纪念"反右"运动五十周年". Modern China Studies (in Chinese). Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  10. ^ a b Mu, Guangren. "反右运动的六个断面". Yanhuang Chunqiu. Archived from the original on 2020-11-24. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Vidal, Christine (2016). "The 1957-1958 Anti-Rightist Campaign in China: History and Memory (1978-2014)". Hal-SHS. Archived from the original on 2019-11-28. Retrieved 2019-11-28.
  12. ^ a b c "Uneasy silences punctuate 60th anniversary coverage". China Media Project. Archived from the original on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
  13. ^ Wu, Weiguang (2007). "中共"八大"与"反右"运动". Modern China Studies. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  14. ^ Qi, Yiming (2014-05-06). "邓小平对"大跃进"的理解和认识--邓小平纪念网". Renmin Wang. Archived from the original on 2014-07-11. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  15. ^ "1957年反右运动". Peking University. 2009-05-11. Archived from the original on 2020-07-18. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  16. ^ "Hundred Flowers Movement". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  17. ^ The International PEN Award For Independent Chinese Writing Archived 2007-05-17 at the Wayback Machine, EastSouthWestNorth, retrieved 2007-01-19.
  18. ^ Chung, Yen-lin (2011). "The Witch-Hunting Vanguard: The Central Secretariat's Roles and Activities in the Anti-Rightist Campaign". The China Quarterly (206): 394. ISSN 0305-7410. JSTOR 41305225. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  19. ^ "反右派斗争及其扩大化" [Anti-Rightist Campaign and Its Expansion]. People's Daily (in Simplified Chinese). United Front Work Department. Archived from the original on 2018-10-10. 极少数资产阶级右派分子,错误地估计了形势,把共产党开展整风以及邀请党外人士帮助整风,广泛地揭露各方面的矛盾,批评党和政府工作中的错误缺点,看成是天下即将大乱。他们散布说什么:"现在学生上街,市民跟上去","形势非常严重",共产党已经"进退失措",局势已是"一触即发","毛主席他们混不下去了,该下台了";公然提出要共产党退出机关、学校,公方代表退出合营企业,要求"轮流坐庄";"根本的办法是改变社会主义制度","请共产党下台"。等等。这些人的言行表明,他们的意图就是不要共产党的领导,不要社会主义制度。在他们的煽动、蒙蔽下,一些人看不清方向,一些地方发生了少数工人罢工、学生罢课和闹事,而且有蔓延之势。这些情况不能不引起共产党的警惕和重视。 [A very small number of bourgeois rightists misjudged the situation and took the Communist Party's rectification and its invitation to people outside the Party to help it, its extensive exposure of contradictions in various areas, and its criticism of the mistakes and shortcomings in the work of the Party and the government as a sign of impending chaos. They spread the word that "the students are now on the streets and the people are following", that "the situation is very serious", that the Communist Party is "at a loss as to what to do", and that the situation is "on the verge of an outbreak", "Chairman Mao and the others can't go on, it's time for them to step down"; they openly proposed that the Communist Party should withdraw from the organs and schools, and the representatives of the public side should withdraw from the joint ventures, demanding "to take turns to sit in the chair"; "the fundamental solution is to change the socialist system", "please let the Communist Party step down". And so on. The words and deeds of these people showed that their intention was not to have the leadership of the Communist Party and not to have the socialist system. Under their incitement and deception, some people could not see the direction, and a few workers' strikes, students' strikes and disturbances occurred in some places, and there was a tendency to spread. These situations could not fail to arouse the vigilance and attention of the Communist Party.]
  20. ^ Chen, Zeming (15 December 2007). "The "Active Rightists" of 1957 and Their Legacy: "Right-wing Intellectuals," Revisionists, and Rights Defenders". China Perspectives. 2007 (4): 42. doi:10.4000/chinaperspectives.2553.
  21. ^ Chung, Yen-lin (2011). "The Witch-Hunting Vanguard: The Central Secretariat's Roles and Activities in the Anti-Rightist Campaign". The China Quarterly (206): 398. ISSN 0305-7410. JSTOR 41305225. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  22. ^ Mao, Zedong. "Things Are Beginning to Change". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  23. ^ Mao, Zedong. "Muster Our Forces to Repulse the Rightists' Wild Attacks". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  24. ^ Chung, Yen-lin (2011). "The Witch-Hunting Vanguard: The Central Secretariat's Roles and Activities in the Anti-Rightist Campaign". The China Quarterly (206): 400. ISSN 0305-7410. JSTOR 41305225. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  25. ^ Tsai, Wen-hui (1999). "Mass Mobilization Campaigns in Mao's China". American Journal of Chinese Studies. 6 (1): 42. ISSN 2166-0042. JSTOR 44288599. Retrieved 14 January 2023.
  26. ^ "Four other prominent figures faced labels as rightists; one recovered, rose to premier". South China Morning Post. 25 April 2007. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  27. ^ Wu, Yenna (April 2020). "Cultural Trauma Construction of the Necropolitical Jiabiangou Laojiao Camp" (PDF). American Journal of Chinese Studies. 27 (1): 25–49.
  28. ^ French, Howard W. (2009-08-24). "Survivors' Stories From China". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  29. ^ a b Rickett, W. Allyn (1982). "The New Constitution and China's Emerging Legal System in Perspective". Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 22: 99–117. ISSN 0085-5774. JSTOR 23889661.
  30. ^ "The Lushan Meeting and the Assertion of Absolute, Total Control by Mao Zedong". San Jose State University. Archived from the original on 2019-09-10. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
  31. ^ Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life By Alexander V Pantsov & Steven I Levine
  32. ^ "Frank Dikötter - Number Two Capitalist Roader". 27 June 2023.
  33. ^ Zeng, Zhaojin; Eisenman, Joshua (September 2018). "The price of persecution: The long-term effects of the Anti-Rightist Campaign on economic performance in post-Mao China". World Development. 109: 249-260. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.04.013. Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  34. ^ Harry Wu; George Vecsey (December 30, 2002). Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty. Times Books. pp. 68–. ISBN 0-8129-6374-1.

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