The 1978-1981 Democracy Wall Movement and the Reformists in the Communist Party Leadership after Mao’s Death

Authors

  • Helmut Opletal University of Vienna

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.25365/jeacs.2021.2.127-167

Keywords:

Democracy Wall Movement, dazibao, Forum on Theoretical Work, Deng Xiaoping, reform faction

Abstract

In late 1978, two years after Mao’s death, a reform debate on a wide range of economic and political issues erupted under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership. Groups of young people demanded liberties and a democratisation of the political system. They published their demands on big-character posters (dazibao) and in small independent journals in a number of cities – a movement soon called the “Democracy Wall Movement” or “Spring of Peking”. Some reformers in the communist leadership were attracted by this grassroots movement of young citizens. Heated debates involved even the highest levels of the Party hierarchy. Deng Xiaoping had at first praised the role of critical opinions, but later, in his famous speech on the Four Basic Principles, the sympathisers of this grassroots movement were eventually stopped by him. Based on interviews with activists and the memoirs of some reformist party cadres, this article traces the flow of information towards the leadership, cross-relationships between reform activists inside and outside the CCP, and the evolving roles of party leaders such as Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang.

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Published

2021-12-30

How to Cite

Opletal, H. (2021). The 1978-1981 Democracy Wall Movement and the Reformists in the Communist Party Leadership after Mao’s Death. The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, 2, 127–167. https://doi.org/10.25365/jeacs.2021.2.127-167

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Section

Research Articles