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CIA, Mao's Cultural Revolution - Origins and Development, Oct. 6, 1967

In the midst of China's Cultural Revolution, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prepared a report on the forces leading to the launch of the Cultural Revolution and its first year. It was written by Philip L. Bridgham. This report was declassified in 2007 (40 years after its preparation). Bridgham published a versions of this in The China Quarterly.

October 6, 1967

The full report is available as a pdf at the link below.

This working paper of the DD/I Special Research Staff is an attempt to reconstruct the  history of China's "great proletarian Cultural revolution." It presents the thesis that China's *lcultural revolution" is in reality a "political revolution" designed by Mao Tse-tung to test the entire apparatus of power (party, government and army) in Communist China  and to purge it of all found guilty of opposing his leadership and his programs.

Central to this thesis is the view that the origin of the llcultural revolution" must be traced to the "three years of economic hardships" from 1959-1962 when large numbers of Chinese Communist party, government and military leaders became disillusioned with Mao's leadership following the collapse of his radical "great leap forward" and commune programs. The failure of the "socialist education" campaign in the ensuing three-year period to achieve its objectives of ferreting out opposition to, and arousing heighten Mao's suspicions of the loyalty and efficacy of his top party lieutenants and,  indeed, of the party apparatus as a whole. The launching of the "great proletarian cultural revolution" in the fall of 1965, then, is viewed as essentially a continuation of the "socialist education" campaign in pursuit of the same goals, but under new management (Lin Piao and others on Mao's new team), employing new methods (systematic terror and violence) and directed primarily at "old revolutionaries" and "high-level" cadres held responsible for the failure of Mao's programs.

Following a discussion of the background, this study then traces the development of the "cu1tural revolution" through several stages from the fall of 1965 to the summer of 1967. At each stage, Mao is seen as taking the initiative and,  moreover, as succeeding in eliminating an ever-widening circle of "old comrades" adjudged guilty of opposing his will, many found guilty of opposing the "cultural revolution" itself. Despite success in this destructive phase, the continuing turmoil and disorder in Communist China makes clear that Mao is still far from achieving the basic goal of his "cultural revolution"--the creation of a revitalized Chinese Communist party, government and army staffed by devoted and trustworthy  "revolutionary successors."

This paper presents a working thesis against which other analysts may test their own; it does not reflect an official position of the Directorate of Intelligence. The conclusions  expressed, some of which are controversial, are solely those of the author, Philip L. Bridgham. The DDI/SRS would welcome comments on this paper,  addressed to either the author or the Acting Chief of the Staff XXXX.