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Hundred Flowers Campaign

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Hundred Flowers Campaign
Simplified Chinese百花齐放
Traditional Chinese百花齊放

The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement (Chinese: 百花齐放), the double hundred movement (双百方针) was a period from 1956 to 1957 in the People's Republic of China during which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong purposed to "let one hundred flowers bloom in social science and arts and let one hundred of view points be expressed in the field of science.[1][2] It is a campaign that allowed citizens to offer criticism and advice to the government and the party.[3] Hence, it intended to serve for an antibureaucratic purpose, at least on Maoists' part. [4]The campaign resulted in a groundswell of criticism aimed at the Party and its policies by those outside its rank and represented a brief period of relaxation in ideological and cultural control. [5]

The movement was in part a response to address the tensions between the CCP and the intellectuals.[6] Another key issue that led to the hundred flower movement is the fact that Mao realized the CCP's control over intellectual life is stifling potentially useful new ideas. He was also worried of the emerging new party elites that could threaten his position.[3] He sought to use this movement to restrain the new forces within the party. However, criticism quickly grew out of hand and posed a legitimate threat to the communist regime. The liberation was short-lived. Following this liberation, a crackdown continued through 1957 and 1959 as it developed into an Anti-Rightist Campaign against those who were critical of the regime and its ideology. Citizens were rounded up in waves by the hundreds of thousands, publicly criticized during struggle sessions, and condemned to prison camps for re-education through labor, or even execution.[7] The ideological crackdown re-imposed Maoist orthodoxy in public expression, and catalyzed the Anti-Rightist Movement.

The campaign




The name of the movement consists two parts. The first part "Let a hundred flowers bloom" (百花齊放) is originated from a novel named "Flowers in the Mirror" by Qing Author Li Ruzhen; the second part "Let a hundred schools of thoughts contend" (百家爭鳴)comes from "Treatise on Literature" of the Book of Han authored by the Chinese historian Ban Gu:

The slogan was first used by Mao Zedong on May 2, 1956, during a public speech. The name was used to arouse the interest of China's intellectuals, referring to the Warring States period when numerous schools of thought competed for ideological, not military, supremacy. Historically, Confucianism, Chinese Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism had gained prominence, and socialism would now face its test. At the time, the movement was opposed by even some of Mao's most devout followers, as well as some within the academic circle, most notably, Guo Moruo.[8][9][10]

Launch (late 1956–early 1957)


In March 1951, the Peking Opera Research Institute was considered to be expanded and established as the Chinese Opera Research Institute. Mao was invited to inscribe a dedication for the institute. Meanwhile, half of the people argued that Peking Opera is outdated and that revolutionary opera should be promoted. In late March, Mao inscribed a dedication for the establishment of the Chinese Opera Research Institute: "Let a hundred flowers bloom; weed through the old to bring forth the new." In 1953, Boda Chen, who was in charge of the Committee for the Study of Chinese Historical Issues, sought Mao's guidance on the work principles, to which Chairman Mao responded with four characters: "Let a hundred schools of thought contend." Until April 28, 1956, in his concluding speech at an expanded meeting of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, he mentioned, "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend" in first time.[11] It is suggested that the launching of the campaign was delayed by the shocking impact of the speech denouncing Stalin at the Twentieth Soviet Party Congress in February 1956 delivered by Nikita Khrushchev. [12]

In the opening stage of the movement, during March and April, issues discussed were relatively minor and unimportant in the grand scheme. Emphasis was placed on a distinction being drawn between "friend and foe".[9] Intellectuals approached the campaign with suspicion, due to a lack of guidelines on what speech was acceptable; few also had suspicions about whether the campaign was bait, and whether disallowed speech would get them in trouble.[9] Resultantly, the Central Government did not receive much criticism, although there was a significant rise in letters of conservative advice. Premier Zhou Enlai received some of these letters, and once again realized that, although the campaign had gained notable publicity, it was not progressing as had been hoped. Zhou approached Mao about the situation, stating that more encouragement was needed from the central bureaucracy to lead the intellectuals into further discussion. Mao Zedong found the concept interesting and superseded Zhou to take control. Guo Moruo declared that the contending of diverse schools should be guided by the central aim of building a socialist society.[9]

The idea was to have intellectuals discuss the country's problems to promote new forms of arts and new cultural institutions. Mao also saw this as the chance to promote socialism, believing that after discussion it would be apparent that socialist ideology was the dominant ideology over capitalism, even amongst non-communist Chinese, and would thus propel the development and spread of the goals of socialism. To this end, in an attempt to reduce hesitancy, intellectuals were invited to forums in which they were allowed to ask exploratory questions, slowly discovering what was deemed acceptable speech. During this time, criticisms were often indirect and lauded the Hundred Flowers campaign itself. In Leknor's research, it is stated that the conventional understanding of communication and power is inverted during the campaign since the right to speak up and be heard was not the right resevered for those in powers, but the right to keep one's voice out of the unfolding campaign. In other words, students were pressured by teachers to speak out; inferiors were asked to speak by superiors. [13]

Criticisms became more specific in May, citing the regimentation of education, thought reforms in previous years that were described as "painful", and the lack of employment prospects for those who went to American and British scholars. Additionally, some recanted their self-criticism and confessions from previous years.[9]

Escalation of Criticism (Spring 1957)


By the spring of 1957, Mao had announced that criticism was "preferred" and had begun to mount pressure on those who did not turn in healthy criticism on policy to the Central Government. The reception was immediate with intellectuals, who began voicing concerns without any taboo. In the period from 1 May to 7 June that year, millions of letters were pouring into the Premier's Office and other authorities.

From May to June 1957, newspapers published a huge range of critical articles.[14] The majority of these critiques argued that the Party had become less revolutionary and more bureaucratic.[14] Nonetheless, most of the commentary was premised on complete acceptance of socialism and the legitimacy of the Communist Party and focused on making the existing socialist system work better.[14]

Criticism increasingly arose from Chinese citizens of varying backgrounds. Peasants criticized the effectiveness of cooperatives and demanded the repossession of their land.[15] Workers argued that the wage system was irrational and complained about the requirement to work overtime without pay.[15] Some individuals even argued that the people were better off under the administration of the KMT.[15] There was even advocation by ethnic minorities within the China to separate from the nation to form independent states.[15]

Others spoke out by putting up posters around campuses, rallying in the streets, holding meetings for CPC members, and publishing magazine articles. A journalist wrote that the party became alienated from the masses and that its members had become "flatterers, sycophants, and yes-men."[15] One professor mentioned that Marx and Lenin had repeatedly revised their theories and suggested that the two would be displeased if they had seen how strictly the CCP leaders were applying doctrine.[15] Notably, students at Peking University created a "Democratic Wall" on which they criticized the CCP with posters and letters.[16]

They protested CPC control over intellectuals, the harshness of previous mass campaigns such as that against counter-revolutionaries, the slavish following of Soviet models, the low standards of living in China, the proscription of foreign literature, economic corruption among party cadres, and the fact that 'Party members [enjoyed] many privileges which make them a race apart'.[16]

Effects of the campaign


On June 8, 1957, the major party newspaper, People's Daily, published an editorial that signaled the conclusion of the Hundred Flowers Campaign.[17] The editorial asserted that "rightists" had exploited the new found freedom to attack the party and undermine the revolution. This, the editorial claimed, amounted to a hostile struggle "between the enemy and the people," indicating the beginning of a crackdown that later became the Anti-Rightist Campaign led by then party General Secretary Deng Xiaoping.[17] Mao announced that "poisonous weeds" had grown amongst the "fragrant flowers" of the campaign, further terminology which signified the impeding crackdown.[14]

In a revised version of On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, an essay aimed to revive the Hundred Flowers campaign published on June 19 1957, Mao Zedong clarified the distinction between "beautiful flowers" and "poisonous weeds";[18]

  1. Whether they would help to unite the people of various nationalities.
  2. Whether they were beneficial or harmful to socialism.
  3. Whether they would consolidate or weaken the people's democratic dictatorship.
  4. Whether they would consolidate democratic centralism.
  5. Whether they would strengthen or weaken the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
  6. Whether they would strengthen our “international socialist solidarity”. Later in this version of the speech, "international socialist solidarity" was defined as "To strengthen our solidarity with the Soviet Union, to strengthen our solidarity with all socialist countries - this is our fundamental policy, herein lies our basic interest."[19]

In July 1957, Mao ordered a halt to the campaign.[citation needed] Unexpected demands for power sharing led to the abrupt change of policy.[20] By that time, Mao had witnessed Nikita Khrushchev denouncing Joseph Stalin and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, events which he felt were threatening. In essence, Mao was threatened by the intellectuals efforts to reclaim the position as loyal guardians of the proper moral framework for the political system.[6]

The campaign made a lasting impact on Mao's ideological perception. Mao, who is known historically to be more ideological and theoretical, less pragmatic and practical, continued to attempt to solidify socialist ideals in future movements in a more pragmatic manner, and in the case of the Cultural Revolution, employed more violent means. Another consequence of the Hundred Flowers Campaign was that it discouraged dissent and made intellectuals reluctant to criticize Mao and his party in the future. The Anti-Rightist Movement that shortly followed, and was caused by the Hundred Flowers Campaign, resulted in the persecution of intellectuals, officials, students, artists, and dissidents labeled "rightists."[21] The campaign led to a loss of individual rights, especially for any Chinese intellectuals educated in Western centers of learning. The campaign was conducted indiscriminately, as numerous individuals were labeled as “rightists” based on anonymous denunciations. Local officials across the country were even assigned quotas for the number of “rightists” they needed to identify and denounce within their units. In the summer and early fall of 1957, roughly four hundred thousand urban residents, including many intellectuals, were branded as rightists and either sent to penal camps or forced into labor in the countryside.[22] While the party attempted to improve relations with intellectuals at the end of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution obliterated any semblance of intellectual influence and prestige, "very few, if any, intellectuals survived the Cultural Revolution without having suffered physical and psychological abuse".[23]

The Hundred Flowers Movement was the first of its kind in the history of the People's Republic of China in that the government opened up to ideological criticisms from the general public. Although its true nature has always been questioned by historians, it can be generally concluded that the events that took place alarmed the central communist leadership. The movement also represented a pattern that has emerged from Chinese history wherein free thought is promoted by the government, and then suppressed by it. A similar surge in ideological thought would not occur again until the late 1980s, leading up to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. The latter surge, however, did not receive the same amount of government backing and encouragement.

Another important issue of the campaign was the tension that surfaced between the political center and national minorities. With criticism allowed, some of the minorities' activists made public their protest against "Han chauvinism" which they saw the informal approach of party officials toward the local specifics.[24]

The prominent party figures' attitudes toward the campaign is also a prime example of divided opinion on leadership level within the party on the issue of corruption among the party officials. As Lieberthal puts it, "The Chairman…in the Hundred Flowers campaign and in the Cultural Revolution, proved willing to bring in non-party people as part of his effort to curb officiousness by cadres. Other leaders, such as Liu Shaoqi, opposed “rectifying” the party by going outside of its ranks."[23]

Debated intention of the campaign


Historians debate whether Mao's motivations for launching the campaign were genuine. Some find it possible that Mao originally had pure intentions, but later decided to utilize the opportunity to destroy criticism. Historian Jonathan Spence suggests that the campaign was the culmination of a muddled and convoluted dispute within the Party regarding how to address dissent.[25]

Authors Clive James and Jung Chang posit that the campaign was, from the start, a ruse intended to expose rightists and counter-revolutionaries, and that Mao Zedong persecuted those whose views were different from those of the Party. The first part of the phrase from which the campaign takes its name is often remembered as "let a hundred flowers bloom." This is used to refer to an orchestrated campaign to flush out dissidents by encouraging them to show themselves as critical of the regime, and then subsequently imprison them, according to Chang and James.[citation needed]

In Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Chang asserts that "Mao was setting a trap, and...was inviting people to speak out so that he could use what they said as an excuse to victimise them."[26] Prominent critic Harry Wu, who as a teenager was a victim, later wrote that he "could only assume that Mao never meant what he said, that he was setting a trap for millions."[27]

One supposedly authentic letter written by Mao indicates that the campaign was a ploy for entrapment from the beginning. Circulated to higher party cadres in mid-May 1957, the letter stated:

Things are just beginning to change. The rightist offensive has not yet reached its peak. [The rightists] are still very enthusiastic. We want to let them rage for a while and climb to the very summit.[15]

Mao's personal physician, Li Zhisui, suggested that:[28]

[The campaign was] a gamble, based on a calculation that genuine counter-revolutionaries were few, that rebels like Hu Feng had been permanently intimidated into silence, and that other intellectuals would follow Mao's lead, speaking out only against the people and practices Mao himself most wanted to subject to reform.

Indeed, Mao responded to the accusation in July 1, 1956 editorial of People's Press:

Some say this is a conspiracy. We say this is an open strategy. Because we informed the enemy in advance: only by allowing the monsters and demons to come out of their lairs can we exterminate them; only by letting the poisonous weeds emerge from the ground can we easily uproot them. Don't farmers weed several times a year? Weeds, once removed, can still be used as fertilizer. Class enemies will inevitably seek opportunities to express themselves. They are unwilling to accept the downfall of the nation and the rise of communism.[29]

Professor Lin Chun characterizes as a "conspiracy theory" the depiction of the Hundred Flowers campaign as a calculated trap. In her analysis, this depiction is disputed by empirical research from archival sources and oral histories. She writes that many interpretations of the Hundred Flowers campaign "underestimate the fear on the part of Mao and party leadership over an escalating atmosphere of anticommunism within the communist world in the aftermath of the East European uprisings."[20]

Author Christine Vidal similarly rejects the idea of the campaign as being initially calculated to lure dissidents for later repression, stating that "the repression was not the initial aim of Mao and of his Hundred Flowers policy."[30]



CCP's internal perception towards the campaign


The party's internal attitude towards the campaign can be found in Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China:

The economic task in 1957, due to the serious implementation of the correct policies of the Party's "Eighth National Congress," was one of the most effective years since the founding of the country. This year, the entire Party launched the Rectification Campaign, mobilizing the masses to criticize and offer suggestions to the Party. This was a normal step in promoting socialist democracy. During the Rectification process, a very small number of bourgeois rightists took the opportunity to advocate for so-called "big revelations and big debates," launching a brazen attack on the Party and the new socialist system, attempting to replace the leadership of the Communist Party. It was entirely correct and necessary to firmly counteract this attack. However, the Anti-Rightist Campaign was seriously expanded, misclassifying a group of intellectuals, patriots, and Party cadres as "rightists," resulting in unfortunate consequences.[31]

See also



  1. ^ MacFarquhar, Roderick. 1960. The Hundred Flowers. pp. 3
  2. ^ "新中国档案:"百花齐放、百家争鸣"方针的提出". www.gov.cn. Retrieved 2024-06-02.
  3. ^ a b Fofa (2023-03-02). China a century of revolution, part 2 (1949-1976). Retrieved 2024-06-02 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Maurice J., Meisner (1986). "Mao's China and after : a history of the People's Republic". Internet Archive. p. 169.
  5. ^ Daniel, Leese (2011). Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China's Cultural Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 55.
  6. ^ a b Burns, John P. (March 1996). "Governing China: From Revolution Through Reform. By Kenneth Lieberthal [New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. xxvi + 498 pp. $30.00. ISBN 0–393–96714–X.]". The China Quarterly. 145: 189–190. doi:10.1017/s0305741000044192. ISSN 0305-7410.
  7. ^ Short, Philip (2000). Mao: A Life. Macmillan. pp. 457–471. ISBN 978-0-8050-6638-8.
  8. ^ "双百方针的历史回顾 - 长城战略咨询 北京市长城企业战略研究所". www.gei.com.cn. Retrieved 2024-06-02.
  9. ^ a b c d e Hsi-chen, Theodore (1981). Chinese Education Since 1949: Academic and Revolutionary Models. New York: Pergamon Press Inc. pp. 44–62. ISBN 0-08-023861-0.
  10. ^ Priestley, K.E. (July 1962). China's Men of Letters. Hong Kong: Dragonfly Books. pp. 73–100.
  11. ^ Judong, Zhu. "The Profound Implications and Contemporary Significance of Mao Zedong's "Double Hundred" Policy". People’s Daily Online. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  12. ^ Maurice J., Meisner (1986). "Mao's China and after : a history of the People's Republic". Internet Archive.
  13. ^ Lekner, Dayton (2021). "Echolocating the Social: Silence, Voice, and Affect in China's Hundred Flowers and Anti-Rightist Campaigns, 1956–58". The Journal Of Asian Studies. pp. 933–953.
  14. ^ a b c d Karl, Rebecca E. (2010). Mao Zedong and China in the twentieth-century world : a concise history. Durham [NC]: Duke University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8223-4780-4. OCLC 503828045.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Dreyer, June Teufel (2018). China's Political System: Modernization and Tradition (10th ed.). New York: Routledge (published 30 July 2018). pp. 86–88. doi:10.4324/9781315144399. ISBN 978-1-315-14439-9.
  16. ^ a b Spence, Jonathan D. 1990. The Search For Modern China (2nd ed.) New York: W.W. Norton Company. pp. 539–43.
  17. ^ a b Lieberthal, Kenneth (2004). Governing China: From Revolution Through Reform (2nd ed.). W. W. Norton. p. 102. ISBN 9780393924923.
  18. ^ Maurice J., Meisner (1986). "Mao's China and after : a history of the People's Republic". Internet Archive. p. 183.
  19. ^ Roderick MacFarguahar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, vol. 1, Contradictions Among the People, 1956-57 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974), pp.261-269
  20. ^ a b Lin, Chun (2006). The transformation of Chinese socialism. Durham [N.C.]: Duke University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-8223-3785-0. OCLC 63178961.
  21. ^ Link, Perry. 23 July 2007. "Legacy of a Maoist Injustice Archived 2021-11-09 at the Wayback Machine." The Washington Post. p. A19.
  22. ^ Lieberthal, Kenneth (1995). "Governing China: from revolution through reform". Internet Archive. p. 101.
  23. ^ a b Lieberthal, Kenneth (1995). "Governing China: from revolution through reform". Internet Archive. p. 295.
  24. ^ Teiwes, cited in MacFarquhar, ed. The Politics of China, 1949-1989, p. 53.
  25. ^ Spence, Jonathan D. 2013. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton. ISBN 9780393934519. pp. 508–13.
  26. ^ Jung Chang; Jon Halliday. Mao: The Unknown Story. Jonathan Cape. p. 435.
  27. ^ Harry Wu; Hongda Harry Wu; George Vecsey (2002). Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty. NewsMax Media, Inc. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-9704029-9-8. Archived from the original on 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2016-09-20.
  28. ^ Zhisui Li (1996). "1957-1965". The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Chatto & Windus, Ltd. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0679764434. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  29. ^ People's Press (April 1977). "The Bourgeois Orientation of the WenHui Daily should be criticized". Marxists Internet Archive.
  30. ^ Vidal, Christine (2016-04-25). "The 1957-1958 Anti-Rightist Campaign in China: History and Memory (1978-2014)". CCJ-Occasional-Papers: 6.
  31. ^ "Resolution on CPC History". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2024-06-03.

Works cited

  • Daniel, Leese. Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China's Cultural Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011. p. 55.
  • Hsi-en Chen, Theodore. Chinese Education Since 1949: Academic and Revolutionary Models. Pergamon Policy Studies. Pergamon Press Inc. 1981. Print.
  • Lieberthal, Kenneth. 1995. Governing China: from Revolution Through Reform. New York: Norton.
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick. 1960. The Hundred Flowers, Paris: The Congress for Cultural Freedom.
  • 1973. The Origins of the Cultural Revolution: Contradictions Among the People, 1956-1957. Columbia University Press.
  • Meisner, Maurice. 1986. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic. New York: Macmillan. pp. 177–80.
  • Priestley, K. E., and Shou-jung Chʻên. China's Men of Letters, Yesterday and Today. Hong Kong: Dragonfly Books, 1962. Print.
  • Spence, Jonathan D. 2013. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton. ISBN 9780393934519.
  • Zheng, Zhu. 1998. 1957 nian de xiaji: Cong bai jia zhengming dao liang jia zhengming. Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe.