Gang of Four

Gang of Four

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The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 (1966–76) and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes. The members consisted of Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing was the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Communist Party of China power figure. She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career, and was known by various other names during her life...

, Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

's last wife as the leading figure of the group, and her close associates Zhang Chunqiao
Zhang Chunqiao
Zhang Chunqiao was a prominent Chinese political theorist, writer, and politician...

, Yao Wenyuan
Yao Wenyuan
Yao Wenyuan was a Chinese literary critic, a politician, and a member of the "Gang of Four" during China's Cultural Revolution.-Biography:...

, and Wang Hongwen
Wang Hongwen
Wang Hongwen was the youngest member of the Gang of Four. At the pinnacle of his power he ranked third in the Communist Party's hierarchy. He was charged with counterrevolutionary activity in October 1976, and sent to prison.-Biography:Wang was born in a village outside of Changchun...

.

The Gang of Four effectively controlled the power organs of the Communist Party of China through the latter stages of the Cultural Revolution, although it remains unclear which major decisions were made through Mao Zedong and carried out by the Gang, and which were the result of the Gang of Four's own planning.

The Gang of Four, together with disgraced Communist general Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, were labeled the two major "counter-revolutionary forces" of the Cultural Revolution and officially blamed by the Chinese government for the worst excesses of the societal chaos that ensued during the ten years of turmoil. Their downfall in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

on October 6, 1976, a mere month after Mao's death, brought about major celebrations on the streets of Beijing and marked the end of a turbulent political era in China.

Formation


The group was led by Jiang Qing, and consisted of three of her close associates, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen. Two other men who were already dead in 1976, Kang Sheng
Kang Sheng
Kang Sheng , Communist Party of China official, oversaw the work of the People's Republic of China's security and intelligence apparatus at the height of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. He was a close associate of Mao Zedong and remained at or near the pinnacle of power for decades...

 and Xie Fuzhi
Xie Fuzhi
Xie Fuzhi was a Communist Party of China military commander, political commissar, and national security specialist. He was born in 1909 in Hong'an County, Hubei and died in Beijing in 1972. He was married to Liu Xiangping...

, were named as having been part of the "Gang". Chen Boda
Chen Boda
Chen Boda was born in 1904 in Hui'an and died on 20 September 1989 in Beijing.He was a member of the Chinese Communist Party, a secretary to Mao Zedong and a prominent member of the leadership during the Cultural Revolution, chairing the Cultural Revolution Group.-Early life:Chen Boda was born...

 and Mao Yuanxin
Mao Yuanxin
Mao Yuanxin was the liaison between Chinese leader Mao Zedong and the Communist Party's Central Committee in the former's ailing years, when he was no longer able to regularly attend political functions...

, the latter being Mao's nephew, were also considered some of the Gang's closer associates.

Most Western accounts consider that the actual leadership of the Cultural Revolution consisted of a wider group, referring predominantly to the members of the Central Cultural Revolution Group. Most prominent was Lin Biao, until his purported flight from China and death in a plane crash in 1971. Chen Boda is often classed as a member of Lin's faction rather than Jiang Qing's.

Role



The removal of this group from power is sometimes considered to have marked the end of the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, which had been launched by Mao in 1966 as part of his power struggle with leaders such as Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

, Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 and Peng Zhen
Peng Zhen
Peng Zhen was a leading member of the Communist Party of China.-Biography:Born in Houma , Peng was originally named Fu Maogong....

. Mao placed Jiang Qing, who before 1966 had not taken a public political role, in charge of the country’s cultural apparatus. Zhang, Yao and Wang were party leaders in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 who had played leading roles in securing that city for Mao during the Cultural Revolution.

Around the time of the death of Lin Biao, the Cultural Revolution began to lose impetus. The new commanders of the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 demanded that order be restored in light of the dangerous situation along the border with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (see Sino-Soviet split
Sino-Soviet split
In political science, the term Sino–Soviet split denotes the worsening of political and ideologic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the Cold War...

). The Premier, Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai
Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976...

, who had accepted the Cultural Revolution but never fully supported it, regained his authority, and used it to bring Deng Xiaoping back into the Party leadership at the 10th Party Congress in 1973. Liu Shaoqi had meanwhile died in prison in 1969.

Near the end of Mao's life, a power struggle occurred between the Gang of Four and the alliance of Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, and Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying was a Chinese communist general and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983.-Biography:...

.

Downfall


It is now officially claimed by the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 that Mao in his last year turned against Jiang Qing and her associates, and that after his death on 9 September 1976, they attempted to seize power (the same allegation made against Lin Biao in 1971). Even decades later, it is impossible to know the full truth of these events.

It does appear that their influence was in decline before Mao's death: when Zhou Enlai died in January 1976, he was succeeded not by one of the radicals but by the unknown Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

. In April 1976, Hua was officially appointed Premier of the State Council. Upon Mao's death Hua was named Communist Party chairman as well.

The "Gang" had arranged for Deng Xiaoping's purge
Purge
In history, religion, and political science, a purge is the removal of people who are considered undesirable by those in power from a government, from another organization, or from society as a whole. Purges can be peaceful or violent; many will end with the imprisonment or exile of those purged,...

 in April 1976 (however, he would return and by 1978 become the real power of the Party). They hoped that the key military leaders Wang Dongxing
Wang Dongxing
Wang Dongxing was Mao Zedong's principal bodyguard during the Cultural Revolution....

 and Chen Xilian
Chen Xilian
Chen Kaichu, better known by the nom de guerre Chen Xilian was a general of People's Liberation Army of China and a member of the Central Committee Politburo....

 would support them, but it seems that Hua won the Army over to his side. On 6 October 1976, Hua had the four leading radicals and a number of their lesser associates arrested. A massive media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 campaign was then launched against them, dubbing them the Gang of Four and blaming them for all the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. (The Chinese words for "four" and "death" are nearly homophones, and thus the moniker contained a second, inauspicious
Tetraphobia
Tetraphobia is an aversion to or fear of the number . It is a superstition most common in East Asian regions such as Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Vietnam....

 meaning.)

Han Suyin
Han Suyin
Han Suyin , is the pen name of Elizabeth Comber, born Rosalie Elisabeth Kuanghu Chow . She is a Chinese-born Eurasian author of several books on modern China, novels set in East Asia, and autobiographical works, as well as a physician...

 gives a detailed account of their overthrow:
Although not referred to as such in China because the Communist Party remained in control, this was effectively a coup d'etat. Beginning on 21 October, nationwide denunciations of the Gang began, which culminated in the December releases of files related to the Gang's alleged crimes to the public. Celebrations were prominent and not limited to the streets of Beijing and other major cities.

Aftermath


Immediately after the coup d’état, Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

, who appeared to be Mao's designated successor, Marshall Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying
Ye Jianying was a Chinese communist general and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983.-Biography:...

, and economic czars Chen Yun
Chen Yun
Chen Yun was one of the most influential leaders of the People's Republic of China during the 1980s and 90s, and one of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China for almost its entire history. He was also known as Liao Chengyun ; it's unclear whether this was his original name or a pseudonym...

 and Li Xiannian
Li Xianniàn
Li Xiannian was President of the People's Republic of China between 1983 and 1988 and then chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until his death. He was an influential political figure throughout the PRC, having been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of...

 formed the core of the next party leadership. These three, together with the newly rehabilitated Deng Xiaoping and bodyguard coup leader Wang Dongxing
Wang Dongxing
Wang Dongxing was Mao Zedong's principal bodyguard during the Cultural Revolution....

 were elected party Vice Chairmen at the August 1977 11th National Party Congress
National Congress of the Communist Party of China
The National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a party congress that is held about once every five years. The National Congress is theoretically the highest body within the Communist Party of China, but in practice important decisions are made before the meeting. Since 1987 the National...

.
At the politburo level, the membership of all four living marshals, seven other generals and at least five others with close military ties reflected the deep concern for national stability.

Trial


In 1981, the four deposed leaders were subjected to a show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

and convicted of anti-party activities. During the trial, Jiang Qing in particular was extremely defiant, protesting loudly and bursting into tears at some points. She was the only member of the Gang of Four who bothered to argue on her behalf. The defence's argument was that she obeyed the orders of Chairman Mao Zedong at all times. Zhang Chunqiao refused to admit any wrong as well. Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen expressed repentance and confessed their alleged crimes.

The prosecution separated political errors from actual crimes. Among the latter were the usurpation of state power and party leadership; the persecution of some 750,000 people, 34,375 of whom died during the period 1966-76. The official records of the trial have not yet been released.

Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years in prison, respectively. They were all later released. All members of the Gang of Four have since died; Jiang Qing committed suicide in 1991, Wang Hongwen died in 1992, and Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan died in 2005.

Supporters of the Gang of Four, including Chen Boda and Mao Yuanxin, were also sentenced.

"Little Gang of Four"


In the struggle between the conservative Hua Guofeng's clique and the one of Deng Xiaoping, a new term emerged, pointing to Hua's four closest collaborators, Wang Dongxing, Wu De, Ji Dengkui, and Chen Xilian. In 1980, they were charged with "grave errors" in the struggle against the Gang of Four and demoted from the Political Bureau to mere Central Committee membership.