Gang of Four is Gone

Yao Wenyuan, the last surviving member of the Gang of Four — the others were Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, and Zhang Chunqiao — has died (Xinhua report here).

A former propaganda official and Shanghai journalist, Yao wrote the article in 1966 that signalled the start of the Cultural Revolution. During the revolution, hundreds of thousands of people died, many of them committing suicide after being harassed by Mao’s Red Guards, the shock troops of the revolution.

A month after Mao’s death in 1976, the Gang of Four was arrested, marking the end of the Cultural Revolution. Yao was convicted of trying to gain power by persecuting officials and members of the public and spent 20 years in prison.

As for the others, Jiang reportedly committed suicide in jail in 1991, Wang died in 1992 and Zhang died in May last year.

As usual, this raises the question of the interpretation of the Mao legacy. I have yet to finish Chang/Halliday (honestly, I haven’t gotten past chapter three, because I didn’t take it with me over break) but I’ve been struggling with the question of how to handle it in the next iteration of my 20c course. If I assign it, I’m going to be spending the entire semester arguing with it. If I don’t, it’s the elephant in the living room….


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