By John Gardner
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Extra resources for Chinese Politics and the Succession to Mao
As he became increasingly concerned that the Party apparatus was moving away from him he turned for support to his personal clique. In this, four people were of special importance. Jiang Qing was Mao's wife, and her 'meteoric' rise to power in the 1960s was to evoke dark comparisons with certain periods of dynastic decline. Chen Boda was Mao's former secretary and Editor-in-Chief of Red Flag. Kang Sheng was a leading ideologue and chief of the secret police; he was an old friend of Jiang Qing and came from the same home district in Shandong.
In late 1966 the PLA had done little more than to help to cope with the influx of Red Guards into Beijing and other cities and, on occasions, to prod them gently into obeying the orders of the Cultural Revolution Group. Mao's initial insistence on maximising the participation of the masses meant that only benevolent neutrality was required of the military, and many PLA leaders were happy to remain uninvolved. But these two policy departures did not bring the Cultural Revolution to a speedy and successful close, for their actual effect was to widen the conflict.
An early step in this direction was taken by Jiang Qing who, after the tenth plenum, made the reform of Beijing Opera her personal mission. This extremely resilient and LIU SHAOQI AND THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION 21 popular art form was, in her opinion, riddled with feudal and bourgeois themes. Her attempts to persuade opera companies in Beijing and elsewhere to rid themselves of slavish devotion to the doings of 'emperors' and 'beauties' and to produce works portraying contemporary themes based on peasants, workers and soldiers, did make their mark.