Socialist Education Movement

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The Socialist Education Movement (simplified Chinese: 社会主义教育运动; traditional Chinese: 社會主義教育運動; pinyin: Shèhuìzhǔyì Jiàoyù Yùndòng, abbreviated 社教运动 or 社教運動), also known as the Four Cleanups Movement (simplified Chinese: 四清运动; traditional Chinese: 四清運動; pinyin: Sìqīng Yùndòng) was a 1963–1965 movement launched by Mao Zedong in the People's Republic of China.[1] Mao sought to remove reactionary elements within the bureaucracy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saying that "governance is also a process of socialist education."[2][3]


During the 1960s, Mao's view of class struggle focused on two distinct dimensions.[4] One level was class struggle within society to avoid revisionism, a process which required socialist education.[4] The second level was struggle within the Party itself to address bureaucratism and the fear that Party bureaucrats might become a new bourgeoisie.[4]

Thus, the goal of the socialist education movement was to "purify politics, purify economics, purify the organization, and purify thought" in opposition to revisionism.[1] Mao sought to make Communist Party cadres closer to the people and to increase revolutionary consciousness among younger people who had grown up after the founding of the People's Republic of China.[5]: 51  He described the movement as "lifting the lid" on class struggle in rural China and exposing the ox-demons and snake-spirits working against socialism.[6]: 221 


During the Socialist Education Movement, higher level cadres were sent around the country to investigate the relationships between local cadres and the people.[5]: 51  Urban young people were also encouraged to visit rural areas during breaks from school to learn about the conditions of rural people.[5]: 51  Approximately 3.5 million officials and students were sent into rural China to implement the movement.[7]: 138 

In rural China, mobile film projectionist units showed films and slideshows that emphasized class struggle and encouraged audience members to discuss bitter experiences onstage.[6]: 85  Films termed "emphasis films" were released to support the aims of the Socialist Education Movement, and the film version of The White-Haired Girl was re-released to coincide with the campaign as well.[6]: 185 

The campaign had immediate difficulties.[5]: 51  Higher level cadres often did not want to be sent to the rural China.[5]: 51  In a technique described as "turning away the spearpoint," local cadres often sought to blame problems on former landlords or those who had been criticized during the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign.[5]: 51 


The Socialist Education Movement is regarded as the precursor of the Cultural Revolution.[8][9]Mao became frustrated with resistance to the Socialist Education Movement and the experience further developed his view that the relationship between cadres and the people needed to be improved.[5]: 51–52  When the Cultural Revolution began, rural regions had not yet completed the Socialist Education Movement, and the committees in charge of it converted into Cultural Revolution leading groups.[10]

Following the Socialist Education Movement, the relationship between Mao and Chinese President Liu Shaoqi, Chairman Mao's potential successor, deteriorated.[11]

Some Chinese sources state that the Socialist Education Movement resulted in 77,560 deaths, with 5,327,350 people being persecuted.[12][13]

A positive outcome of the campaign was that urban youth gained greater experience with the conditions of life in rural China.[5]: 51 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Xu, Youwei; Wang, Y. Yvon (2022). Everyday Lives in China's Cold War Military Industrial Complex: Voices from the Shanghai Small Third Front, 1964-1988. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 361. ISBN 9783030996871.
  2. ^ "People's Republic of China: III". University of Maryland. Retrieved 2021-01-08.
  3. ^ MacFarquhar, Roderick (1997). "The Socialist Education Movement". The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. Oxford University Press. pp. 334–348. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780192149978.001.0001. ISBN 9780192149978. Archived from the original on 2016-12-19. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  4. ^ a b c Cai, Xiang; 蔡翔 (2016). Revolution and its narratives : China's socialist literary and cultural imaginaries (1949-1966). Rebecca E. Karl, Xueping Zhong, 钟雪萍. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 358. ISBN 978-0-8223-7461-9. OCLC 932368688.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Hammond, Ken (2023). China's Revolution and the Quest for a Socialist Future. New York, NY: 1804 Books. ISBN 9781736850084.
  6. ^ a b c Li, Jie (2023). Cinematic Guerillas: Propaganda, Projectionists, and Audiences in Socialist China. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231206273.
  7. ^ Doyon, Jérôme; Yang, Long (2024). "Shades of Red: Changing Understandings of Political Loyalty in the Chinese Communist Party, 1921-2021". In Doyon, Jérôme; Froissart, Chloé (eds.). The Chinese Communist Party: a 100-Year Trajectory. Canberra: ANU Press. ISBN 9781760466244.
  8. ^ Baum, Richard (1969). "Revolution and Reaction in the Chinese Countryside: The Socialist Education Movement in Cultural Revolutionary Perspective". The China Quarterly. 38 (38): 92–119. doi:10.1017/S0305741000049158. ISSN 0305-7410. JSTOR 652308. S2CID 154449798.
  9. ^ "People's Republic of China: III". University of Maryland. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  10. ^ Walder, Andrew G. (2016-01-01). "Rebellion of the Cadres: The 1967 Implosion of the Chinese Party-State". The China Journal. 75: 109. doi:10.1086/683125. ISSN 1324-9347. S2CID 146977237.
  11. ^ Su, Weimin (2015-07-23). "杨尚昆谈"四清"运动:毛泽东刘少奇之间的裂痕由此产生". The Paper. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  12. ^ Yang, Jisheng (2017-07-04). 天地翻覆: 中国文化大革命历史 (in Chinese). 天地图书.
  13. ^ Song, Yongyi (2006). "被掩藏的历史:刘少奇对"文革"的独特贡献" (in Chinese). Modern China Studies. Retrieved 2020-01-31.