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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976

A social experiment aimed at suppressing counterrevolutionaries and purifying the Chinese Communist Party launched in 1966, the Cultural Revolution was a disaster for China and created chaos across the country.

  • June, 1966

    Memorandum of Conversation, between the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China, Led by Comrade Zhou Enlai, and the Leadership of the Party and Government of the People’s Republic of Albania [Excerpts]

    Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai meets with a delegation from Albania, and discusses with them Mao Zedong's 'Ten Theses on the Work in the Village.' The Albanians reaffirm their belief in the philosophical teachings of Mao, especially about opposing the dangers of revisionism. The group agrees that there were points at which Stalin was wrong, but that it would be wrong to publicly proclaim it.

  • August 14, 1966

    Note from the Conversation between Ambassador Jerzy Knothe and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai during the ambassador’s farewell visit, August 14, 1966

    Ambassador Jerzy Knothe and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai discuss ongoing Chinese class struggles.

  • September 16, 1966

    Political Report No. 24 from Hans Keller, Embassy of Switzerland in China, 'A Sad Return to Beijing'

  • October, 1966

    The Polish-Soviet Talks in Moscow: October 10-15, 1966

    Gomulka and Brezhnev discuss the Cultural Revolution in China and its implications for international communism. Also addressed is Chinese attitudes toward Vietnam.

  • November 16, 1966

    Telegram number 3725-59 from M. Lucien Paye

    Lucien Paye, upon departing China, meets with Foreign Minister Chen Yi to discuss the Red Guard movement, Sino-French relations, and the Vietnam War, among other topics.

  • December 02, 1966

    First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in North Korean Reports on Sino-Korean Relations in 1966

    A. Borunkov evaluates Sino-North Korean relations in 1966, focusing on the divergences between China and North Korea over the Vietnam War, interpretations of Marxism-Leninism, and the Cultural Revolution.

  • February 03, 1967

    Memorandum of Conversation between Chairman Mao Zedong and Comrades Hysni Kapo and Beqir Balluku

    Mao Zedong and Beqir Balluku discuss China's Cultural Revolution.

  • March 07, 1967

    The DPRK Attitude Toward the So-called 'Cultural Revolution' in China

    The Soviet Embassy reports on the deterioration of Chinese-North Korean relations as a result of the Cultural Revolution in China.

  • April 11, 1967

    Report, Embassy of Hungary in China to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry

    Kim Jae-seok reports on North Korea's stance regarding China's Cultural Revolution.

  • July 08, 1967

    Memorandum of Conversation between comrade Enver Hoxha and a Delegation of Chinese Red Guards

    Enver Hoxha announces that China's Red Guards have "risen to defend the Communist Party, Chairman Mao Zedong, and socialist China."

  • August 16, 1967

    Stenographic Note held during the Conversation between Chairman Mao Zedong and Vangjel Moisiu and Myfit Mushi in Shanghai

    Mao Zedong discusses the Cultural Revolution with a delegation from Albania.

  • January 30, 1969

    Note Gérard de la Villesbrunne to the Foreign Minister, 'New Interest of Western Diplomacy towards China: Hopes and Illusions'

    The French Consul General in Hong Kong notes a spike in China's diplomatic activities with Western Europe, Japan, and the U.S., but concludes that China, "still concerned by internal questions, does not seem to be willing to respond to the openings of non-communist countries with as much enthusiasm as hoped for in the West."

  • May 16, 1969

    Note Number 399 from Pierre Cerles to Michel Debré, 'China and Eastern Europe'

    Pierre Cerles provides an assessment of Chinese foreign policy toward Eastern Europe during the 1960s within the context of the Sino-Soviet split, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Cultural Revolution, and China's own internal leadership divisions.

  • June 26, 1969

    Letter from Mario Crema to Pietro Nenni

    Crema outlines the current trends of Chinese foreign policy as Chinese mission leaders abroad gradually return and border tensions with the USSR arise.

  • October, 1969

    Polish-Soviet Talks in Moscow

    Excerpts from Polish-Soviet talks that focus on the China question. Brezhnev posits that the Chinese were the source of ideological divergence, and more specifically that their attitude has progressed to anti-Sovietism and anti-communism. Included is a report from a meeting with Zhou Enlai, who in discussing Czechoslovakia said a "process of bourgeoisie transformation and corruption was taking place over there, which is normal for all of the socialist countries." He attributed the cultural revolution with cutting off the roots of corruption in China.

  • October 06, 1969

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Note of Asia-Oceania Department, 'Sino-French Relations'

    Following the peak of the Cultural Revolution, the French Foreign Ministry concludes that Sino-French relations "have shown signs of détente, which, in the current context, represents important progress."

  • March, 1970

    CC CPSU International Department, Note on the China Problem Following the 9th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party

    This study addresses aspects of Chinese domestic and foreign policies after the 9th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Internal party disputes and undemocratic structures are said to characterize the Chinese leadership. The document offers an analysis of the socio-political state of affairs in China and states that the delay in economic growth is due to violations of the economic principles of Socialism. As far as its foreign policy is concerned, China is strengthening its military potential; Beijing's intensified relations with Western countries are condemned.

  • August 10, 1970

    Opinions from the State Council on Correctly Administering the Korean Nationals Issue

    The State Council expresses concern over complaints of discrimination against Korean nationals in China and specifies the correct policies to administer to Korean nationals in China.

  • June 25, 1971

    Minutes of the Romanian Politburo Meeting Concerning Nicolae Ceauşescu's Visit to China, North Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam

    These are the minutes of a meeting of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party discussing Romanian leader Nicolae Ceauşescu's 1971 visit to China. Ceauşescu reports on his visits to Chinese enterprises, universities, and laboratories, and acknowledges the achievements of the Cultural Revolution. The report on China is followed by comments on his subsequent visits to North Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Finally, the discussion turns to Moscow's criticism of Ceauşescu's anti-Soviet statements during his stay in the Middle East.

  • October 11, 1973

    Meeting of Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Zhou Enlai at the State Guest House (Diaoyutai)

    Zhou Enlai offers Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau an extensive history of the Chinese Civil War and Chinese Revolution. Zhou also comments on China's foreign policy positions toward and views on the Soviet Union, nuclear war, Bangladesh, revisionism, and great power hegemony, among other topics.