Gang of Four

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The Gang of Four on trial
The Gang of Four on trial

The Gang of Four (Template:Zh-cp) was a group of Communist Party leaders in the People's Republic of China who were arrested and removed from their positions in 1976, following the death of Mao Zedong, and were blamed for the events of the Cultural Revolution. The group included Mao's widow Jiang Qing and three of her close associates, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen. Two other men who were already dead in 1976, Kang Sheng and Xie Fuzhi, were named as having been part of the "gang."

The removal of this group from power marked the end of the Cultural Revolution, which had been launched by Mao in 1966 as part of his power struggle with leaders such as Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Peng Zhen. Mao placed Jiang, 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 who had played leading roles in capturing that city in the Chinese Revolution. The military leader, Lin Biao, was also part of this group until his sudden death in a plane crash in 1971.

After Lin's death, the Cultural Revolution began to lose impetus. The new commanders of the People's Liberation Army demanded that order be restored in light of the dangerous situation along the border with the Soviet Union (see Sino-Soviet split). The Premier, Zhou Enlai, 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.

It is now officially claimed by Chinese propaganda agencies that Mao in his last year turned against Jiang 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 26 years 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.

In any event, upon Mao's death Hua was named Communist Party leader as well as Premier. The "Gang" had arranged for Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai's protege, to be purged in April 1976, but by early 1978, he was to become the real power of the Party. The radicals hoped that the key Army leaders Wang Dongxing and Chen Xilian would support them, but Hua seems to have won the Army over to his side. On 6 October 1976, Hua staged what amounted to a coup within the regime, arresting the four leading radicals and a number of their lesser associates. A massive media campaign was then launched against them, dubbing them the Gang of Four and blaming them for all the excesses of the Cultural Revolution.
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Gang_of_four_poster.jpg
A Chinese poster

In 1981, the four deposed leaders were subjected to a show trial and convicted of anti-party activities. During the trial, Jiang Qing in particular was extremely defiant, to the point of being hysterical. Zhang Chunqiao refused to admit any wrong as well. (Moise Modern China: A History 2nd Edition) Yao Wenyan and Wang Hongwen expressed repentance and condessed their crimes. Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen were given twenty years imprisonment. While their imprisonment was not harsh, they were all released later. Jiang Qing would later commit suicide.

See also: Cultural Revolutionde:Viererbande (China) fr:Bande des quatre it:Banda dei quattro nl:Bende van Vier ja:四人組 pl:Banda czworga sv:De fyras gng zh:四人帮

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