Struggle session

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Struggle session
Panchen Lama during the struggle (thamzing) session 1964.jpg
The 10th Panchen Lama during a struggle session
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 批斗大会
Traditional Chinese 批鬥大會
Tibetan name
Tibetan འཐབ་འཛིང

A struggle session was a form of public humiliation and torture used by the Communist Party of China in the Mao Zedong era, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, to shape public opinion and to humiliate, persecute, or execute political rivals and class enemies.[1]

In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit to various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused, but were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was famous enough.[1]


According to Lin Yutang, the expression comes from "批判" (pinyin: pīpàn; literally: "to judge") and "鬥爭" (pinyin: dòuzhēng; literally: "to fight"), so the whole expression conveys the message of inciting the spirit of judgment and fighting. Instead of saying the full phrase "批判鬥爭" (pinyin: pīpàn dòuzhēng), it was shortened to "批鬥" (pinyin: pīdòu).

Origins and purpose[edit]

Struggle sessions developed from similar ideas of criticism and self-criticism in the Soviet Union from the 1920s. The term refers to class struggle; the session is held to benefit the target, by eliminating all traces of counterrevolutionary, reactionary thinking. Chinese Communists resisted this at first, because struggle sessions conflicted with the Chinese concept of saving face, but struggle sessions became commonplace at Communist Party meetings during the 1930s due to public popularity.[2]


Margaret Chu, writing retrospectively for the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation's Mindszenty Report, in November 1998, gave this account:

Anne F. Thurston, in Enemies of the People, gave a description of an infamous struggle session for the professor You Xiaoli:

Lately, the term "struggle session" has come to be applied to any scene where victims are publicly badgered to confess imaginary crimes under the pretext of self-criticism and rehabilitation[citation needed].

Disuse after 1978[edit]

Struggle sessions were disowned in China after 1978, when the reformers led by Deng Xiaoping took power. Deng Xiaoping prohibited struggle sessions and other kinds of Mao-era violent political campaigns.

In September 2013, Xi Jinping has taken his "criticism and self-criticism" campaign on the road, attending a series of meetings where Hebei provincial cadres were made to admit shortcomings and offer ideas for correcting their behaviour. Xi has instructed regional officials to "promote self-criticism and criticism" to implement his "mass line" campaign, which he said is necessary to eliminate formality, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance among rank-and-file cadres.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lipman, Jonathan Neaman; Harrell, Stevan (1990). Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture. SUNY Press. pp. 154–157. 
  2. ^ Priestland, David (2009). The Red Flag: A History of Communism. Grove Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-8021-1924-7. 
  3. ^ "A Catholic Voice Out of Communist China - November 1998 Mindszenty Report". 2008-03-13. Archived from the original on 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  4. ^ "Enemies of the People". World and ischool. June 1987. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  5. ^ Hsu Shang-li (27 September 2013). "Xi Jinping promotes criticism, self-criticism campaign". Want China Times. Retrieved 23 September 2015. [permanent dead link]