Five Black Categories

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During the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong identified groups that he considered enemies of the Revolution. The phrase Five Black Categories (simplified Chinese: 黑五类; traditional Chinese: 黑五類; pinyin: Hēiwǔlèi) referred to the following five political identities. These groups were:

  • Landlords (地主; dìzhǔ)
  • Rich farmers (peasants) (富农; 富農; fùnóng)
  • Counter-revolutionaries (反革命; fǎngémìng)
  • Bad-influencers ["bad elements"] (坏分子; 壞份子; huàifènzǐ)
  • Rightists (右派; yòupài)

Conversely, Mao Zedong categorised groups of people, such as members of the Communist Party of China, poor farmers and low-class workers, as Five Red Categories. This new Red/Black class distinction was used to create a status society. People in the Five Black Categories were separated out for struggle sessions, humiliation, re-education, beating, and persecution. Mao believed that victimizing these people, as well as other groups of citizens – such as teachers, educated intellectuals, and enemies of the Communist Party (cadres) – was a necessary component to initiate the changes in the Chinese culture that he desired. He believed that those who were victimized either deserved it or became better citizens as a result of it.

According to a speech by Jiang Qing, who was his wife and Party leader, "If good people beat bad people, it serves them right; if bad people beat good people, the good people achieve glory; if good people beat good people, it is a misunderstanding; without beatings, you do not get acquainted and then no longer need to beat them" (Walder 149).

Members of the Black Classes were systematically discriminated against, as one's classification could affect employment opportunities and career prospects and even marriage opportunities. This could also be passed onto their children. Over time this resulted in a victimized underclass that was treated as if it were still composed of powerful and dominant people.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Margolin, Jean-Louis. "Mao’s China: The Worst Non-Genocidal Regime?." In The historiography of genocide, pp. 438-467. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2008, p.448
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick, John K. Fairbank, and Denis C. Twitchett, eds. "Mass Mobilization." The Cambridge History of China, Volume 15, The People's Republic Part 2. Revolutions within the Chinese Revolution, 1966–1982. 545. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.
  • WALDER, Andrew G. Fractured Rebellions: The Beijing Red Guard Movement. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.
  • Yongyi, Song. "Chronology of Mass Killings during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)." Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence. 25 August 2011. Web. 31 March 2014.