Hundred flowers campaign intellectuals and thought reform
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Hundred Flowers Campaign, Intellectuals and Thought Reform. Jessica Ayano Tiffany. Intellectuals. "Intellectuals are often ignorant and have little or experience in practical matters"                                                 -Mao

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  • "Intellectuals are often ignorant and have little or experience in practical matters"


  • Mao was suspicious of intellectuals in China- often had university degrees, came from bourgeoisie families

  • e.g. scientists, engineers, doctors, writers

  • These people were, however, indispensable to China's growing economy- possessed necessary skills.

  • Nevertheless, they were seen as a threat to the Communist regime

    • educated in atmosphere of open debate and academic freedom

    • more likely to speak out against Mao and the Party- counter-revolutionary

  • Subjected to:

    • courses in "revolutionary colleges"

    • self-criticism sessions

Thought reform
Thought Reform

  • Aim: to reform the thinking of Chinese people into accepting Mao's thoughts and ideology

  • 1951-52- Zhou En Lai announces the Thought Reform Movement 

  • Done through a series of methods:

    • Struggle sessions

    • Propaganda

    •  self-criticism

      • Intellectuals who studied overseas were forced to admit that they were "implementers of the imperialist cultural invasion"

    •  Revolutionary Colleges

The hundred flowers campaign
The Hundred Flowers Campaign

  • The CCP is in full control of China - all counter revolutionaries had been eliminated

  • Targets of the 1st Five Year Plan were achieved, but with great cost of the people

    • Mao wanted to speed up the process of economic change but was facing opposition of the politburo

    • People had started to become resentful at the increasing control of the CCP 

  •  Mao feared that the greatest danger facing the CCP was the growing 'bureaucratism' 

    • Envisaged the Hundred Flowers Campaign as a way where officials would be subjected to criticism from outside the party forcing officials to mend their ways

Mao s motives
Mao's motives 

  •  Historians  have generally been divided into two schools of thought:

    • The Hundred flowers was a trap set by Mao to highlight the anti communist elements amongst the intellectuals

    •  The campaign was launched for the good of China and it was a serious error of judgement 

Historian s viewpoints
Historian's viewpoints

"Few guessed that Mao was setting a trap that he was inviting people to speak out so he could use what they said as an excuse to victimise them" - Chang and Halliday

  • C & H suggested that Mao's main intention was to trick the people and concocted a devious plan to pick out threatening intellectuals

  • Spence on the other hand suggests that Mao simply wanted the best for his people

    "... not a plot by Mao to reveal the hidden rightists in his country... At its centre was an argument about the pace and type of development that was best for China." - Spence

Mao s motives1
Mao's motives

"Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy of promoting progress" - Mao, Feb 1957

"In recent days ... democratic parties and institutions of higher education have shown themselves to be to be the most determined and most rabid... They will then end up burying themselves" - Mao, May 1957

  • Mao's intentions evolved throughout the campaign

  • By unleashing the campaign Mao would have settled his fear of bureaucratic behaviour emerging party officials >> tried to do it before with the Yan'an Ratification and the "Three Antis Campaign" 


  • Party unity was strengthened

  • Mao's position as leader of the CCP was at its peak

  • Atmosphere of fear was created

  • Intellectuals were silenced 

    • 500,000 intellectuals were killed with another 100,000 put into re education camps/ lao gai's 

    • Stasis on China's cultural development

  • Used it as a foreground for the 'Great Leap Foward'