Was the ‘Hundreds Flowers’ campaign a genuine attempt to allow more freedom or a clever ruse to trap critics of Mao?
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In 1956 Mao Zedong started a campaign to allow more freedom within his communist regime in China. However, in a year the campaign had been cancelled, and replaced by an ‘anti-rightist campaign’. Was this just a clever trap to allow Mao to see his critics? Or was it a genuine attempt to allow the Chinese people more freedom? Many historians have argued either way.
In 1956 Mao thought it was time to allow more freedom and allow great expression of thoughts. He intended to allow people to constructively criticize how well communist China was advancing. He made a speech saying how he was extremely pleased with China’s current state and hinted he would be allowing intellectuals more freedom. This was very unusual behaviour from Mao, as he was normally against intellectuals. However, did he do this for a certain reason?
Mao had been so pleased with China’s state he had sent all the Russian advisers home, as the contract was costing China heavily in resources. However, by losing the Russian advisers he needed to allow the Chinese intellectuals to have some more freedom to inspire them to continue the work the Russians were doing beforehand.
Stalin died in 1953, and when Nikita Khrushchev came to power he slammed Stalin, and when Mao saw this he could see the same happening to him in China. Therefore to stop this from happening Mao allowed criticism within his own party so he did not become like Stalin. This helped make him less like Stalin too.
Another possible reason for Mao to make a genuine attempt to give more freedom was that he was getting suspicious of a Military Coup. He had used the military in the early stages of his campaign, but after they had sorted out the country they were no longer needed. He needed to give more freedom to stop the military from deciding to take power.
However there a few potential reasons which show it could be a clever trap. In 1956 there was a nationwide revolt against the Russian communist regime. The Government fell quickly and Russia had to send in troops to regain control. Mao did not want the same happening in China, therefore allowing people to openly criticize the regime he could see the people who could be willing to start an uprising. He mainly expected this to come from the intellectuals of China.
When Mao cancelled the Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957, many thought it was a clever trap to allow Mao to find out his enemies within the state, however, after studying the evidence, I feel Mao had made a genuine attempt to give more freedom within China. However, when he saw how much people did not agree with his policies, he panicked and removed the Hundred Flowers Campaign, and decided to send the opposition to re-education centres.
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