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The Gang of Four () was a
Maoist Maoism, officially called Mao Zedong Thought () by the Chinese Communist Party The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's R ...
political faction A political faction is a group of individuals that share a common political purpose but differs in some respect to the rest of the entity. A faction within a group or political party may include fragmented sub-factions, "parties within a party," ...
composed of four
Communist Party of China The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC). The CCP leads List of political parties in China, eight other ...

Communist Party of China
(CPC) officials. They came to prominence during the
Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), co ...
(1966–1976) and were later charged with a series of treasonous crimes. The gang's leading figure was
Jiang Qing Jiang Qing (19 March 191414 May 1991), also known as Madame Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary, actress, and major political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). She was the fourth wife of Mao Zedong, the Chairman of t ...
(
Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the Proclamation of the ...

Mao Zedong
's last wife). The other members were
Zhang Chunqiao Zhang Chunqiao (; 1 February 1917 – 21 April 2005) was a prominent Chinese political theorist, writer, and politician. He came to the national spotlight during the late stages of the Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally ...
,
Yao Wenyuan Yao Wenyuan (January 12, 1931 – December 23, 2005) was a Chinese literary critic, a politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected legal seat, seat in government. Politicians pro ...
, and
Wang Hongwen Wang Hongwen (December 1935 – August 3, 1992) was a Chinese labour activist and politician who spent most of his career in Shanghai. He was an important political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). He was the youngest member ...
. The Gang of Four controlled the power organs of the CPC through the later stages of the Cultural Revolution, although it remains unclear which major decisions were made by Mao Zedong and carried out by the Gang, and which were the result of the Gang of Four's own planning. The Gang of Four, together with general
Lin Biao Lin Biao (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...

Lin Biao
who died in 1971, were labeled the two major "
counter-revolutionary A counter-revolutionary or an anti-revolutionary is anyone who opposes a revolution, particularly one who acts after a revolution in order to try to overturn it or reverse its course, in full or in part. The adjective, "counter-revolutionary", per ...
forces" of the Cultural Revolution and officially blamed by the Chinese government for the worst excesses of the societal chaos that ensued during the ten years of turmoil. Their downfall on October 6, 1976, a mere month after Mao's death, brought about major celebrations on the streets of Beijing and marked the end of a turbulent political era in China. Their fall did not amount to a rejection of the Cultural Revolution as such. It was organized by the new leader, Premier
Hua Guofeng Hua Guofeng (; born Su Zhu; 16 February 1921 – 20 August 2008), alternatively spelled as Hua Kuo-feng was a Chinese politician who served as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party The Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Co ...

Hua Guofeng
, and others who had risen during that period. Significant repudiation of the entire process of change came later, with the return of
Deng Xiaoping Deng Xiaoping (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997), also known by his courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in ...

Deng Xiaoping
at the 11th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and Hua's gradual loss of authority.


Formation

The group was led by
Jiang Qing Jiang Qing (19 March 191414 May 1991), also known as Madame Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary, actress, and major political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). She was the fourth wife of Mao Zedong, the Chairman of t ...
, and consisted of three of her close associates,
Zhang Chunqiao Zhang Chunqiao (; 1 February 1917 – 21 April 2005) was a prominent Chinese political theorist, writer, and politician. He came to the national spotlight during the late stages of the Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally ...
,
Yao Wenyuan Yao Wenyuan (January 12, 1931 – December 23, 2005) was a Chinese literary critic, a politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected legal seat, seat in government. Politicians pro ...
, and
Wang Hongwen Wang Hongwen (December 1935 – August 3, 1992) was a Chinese labour activist and politician who spent most of his career in Shanghai. He was an important political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). He was the youngest member ...
. Two other men who were already dead in 1976,
Kang Sheng Kang Sheng (; 1898 – 16 December 1975) was a Communist Party of China The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Republic o ...
and
Xie Fuzhi Xie Fuzhi (; 26 September 1909 – 26 March 1972) was a Communist Party of China The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Rep ...

Xie Fuzhi
, were named as having been part of the "Gang".
Chen Boda Chen Boda (; 29 July 1904 – 20 September 1989), was a Chinese Communist The Communist Party of China (CPC), commonly known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and sole governing political party of the People's Republic ...
and
Mao Yuanxin Mao Yuanxin (born 14 February 1941), also known as Li Shi (), is a former Chinese politician. As the nephew of Chairman Mao Zedong, he acted as the liaison between Mao and the Communist Party's Central Committee in Mao's ailing years, when he wa ...
, the latter being Mao's nephew, were also considered some of the Gang's closer associates. Most Western accounts consider that the actual leadership of the Cultural Revolution consisted of a wider group, referring predominantly to the members of the
Central Cultural Revolution Group The (Central) Cultural Revolution Group (CRG or CCRG; ) was formed in May 1966 as a replacement organisation to the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Central Committee Secretariat and the "Five Man Group", and was initi ...
. Most prominent was
Lin Biao Lin Biao (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...

Lin Biao
, until his purported defection from China and death in a plane crash in 1971. Chen Boda is often classed as a member of Lin's faction rather than Jiang Qing's.


Role

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, on November 10, 1965,
Yao Wenyuan Yao Wenyuan (January 12, 1931 – December 23, 2005) was a Chinese literary critic, a politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected legal seat, seat in government. Politicians pro ...
in one of his most famous pieces of writing published an article in '' Wenhuibao'' criticizing the play ''
Hai Rui Dismissed from Office ''Hai Rui Dismissed from Office'' () is a theatre play notable for its involvement in Chinese politics The politics of the People's Republic of China takes place in a framework of a socialist republic A socialist state, socialist republic, ...
''. The article argued that the opera was actually a sympathetic portrayal of the reformist efforts of the military hero
Peng Dehuai Peng Dehuai (; October 24, 1898November 29, 1974) was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader, who served as China's Defense Minister from 1954 to 1959. Peng was born into a poor peasant family, and received several years of primary ed ...

Peng Dehuai
and thus an attack on Chairman Mao's
Great Leap Forward The Great Leap Forward (Second Five Year Plan) of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Ear ...
. Mao subsequently purged Peng from power. The article is cited as the spark that launched the
Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), co ...
. Jiang Qing staged
revolutionary opera In China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the East ...

revolutionary opera
s during the Cultural Revolution and met with the
Red Guards Red Guards () was a mass student-led paramilitary social movement Mobilization, mobilized and guided by Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966 through 1967, during the first phase of the Chinese Cultural Revolutio ...

Red Guards
. The removal of this group from power is sometimes considered to have 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 Liu Shaoqi ( ; 24 November 189812 November 1969) was a Chinese revolutionary, politician, and theorist. He was Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee The chairperson (also chair, chairman, or chairwoman) is the presiding officer of an organiz ...

Liu Shaoqi
,
Deng Xiaoping Deng Xiaoping (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997), also known by his courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in ...

Deng Xiaoping
and
Peng Zhen Peng Zhen (pronounced ; October 12, 1902 – April 26, 1997) was a leading member of the Communist Party of China. He led the party organization in Beijing following the victory of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, but was p ...

Peng Zhen
. Mao placed his wife Jiang Qing, a former film actress 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 securing that city for Mao during the Cultural Revolution. Around the time of the death of Lin Biao in 1971, the Cultural Revolution began to lose momentum. The new commanders of the
People's Liberation Army The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between St ...
demanded that order be restored in light of the dangerous situation along the border with the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
(see
Sino-Soviet split The Sino-Soviet split was the breaking of political relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), caused by Doctrine, doctrinal divergences that arose from their different interpretati ...
). Premier
Zhou Enlai Zhou Enlai (; 5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China The premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, abbreviated to Premier, sometimes also referred to informally as ...

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. Near the end of Mao's life, a power struggle occurred between the Gang of Four and the alliance of Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, and
Ye Jianying Ye Jianying (; 28 April 1897 – 22 October 1986) was a Chinese communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...

Ye Jianying
.


Downfall

Zhou Enlai died in January 1976, and in the subsequent months of mourning, a power struggle occurred in the top echelons of the party. The reformist Deng was named acting premier, while the Gang of Four began using their newspapers to criticize Deng and to mobilize their urban militia groups. Much of the military and party security remained under the control of the party elders of the Central Committee, who generally took a cautious role in mediating between the reformist Deng and the radical Gang of Four. They agreed to the removal of Deng from office after the April
Tiananmen Incident The Tiananmen Incident ( or the April 5 Tiananmen Incident) was a mass gathering and protest that took place on 5 April 1976, at Tiananmen Square Tiananmen Square or Tian'anmen Square (天安门, Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often a ...
, but took steps to ensure that Deng and his allies would not be personally harmed in the process. On September 9, Chairman Mao died. For the next few weeks the Gang of Four retained control over the government media, and many articles appeared on the theme of "principles laid down" (or "established") by Mao near the end of his life. (The words "principles laid down" were themselves supposedly a quotation from Mao, but their canonical status was in dispute.) Urban militia units commanded by supporters of the radical group were placed on a heightened state of readiness. Premier Hua Guofeng attacked the radicals' media line at a Politburo meeting in late September; but Jiang Qing emphatically disagreed with Hua, and she insisted that she be named as the new party chairman. The meeting ended inconclusively. On October 4 the radical group warned, via an article in the ''
Guangming Daily The ''Guangming Daily'', also known as the ''Enlightenment Daily'', is a national Chinese-language Chinese ( or also , especially for the written language) is a group of language varieties that form the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tib ...
'', that any revisionist who interfered with the established principles would "come to no good end". The radicals hoped that the key military leaders
Wang Dongxing Wang Dongxing (; 9 January 1916 – 21 August 2015) was a Chinese military commander and politician, famous for being the chief of Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tun ...

Wang Dongxing
and
Chen Xilian Chen Xilian (pronounced ; 4 January 1915 – 10 June 1999) was a Chinese military officer and politician, general of the People's Liberation Army The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces A military, also known collect ...
would support them, but instead, Hua won the Army over to his side. On 6 October 1976, Hua had the four leading radicals and a number of their lesser associates arrested.
Han Suyin Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou () (12 September 1917 or 1916 – 2 November 2012) was a Chinese-born Eurasian (mixed ancestry), Eurasian physician and author better known by her Pseudonym, pen name Han Suyin (). She wrote in English and French on ...
gave a detailed account of their overthrow: According to historian Immanuel C.Y. Hsü, the operation was not completely bloodless – Wang Hongwen killed two of the guards trying to capture him, and was wounded himself before being subdued. Beginning on 21 October, nationwide denunciations of the Gang began, which culminated in the December release of files related to the Gang's alleged crimes to the public. The party issued a denunciation of the Gang of Four as "appearing to be leftist, but practically rightist". Government media blamed the Gang of Four and
Lin Biao Lin Biao (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...

Lin Biao
for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Celebrations were prominent and not limited to the streets of Beijing and other major cities. During the nationwide "Movement of Exposition, Criticism and Uncovering (揭批查运动)" millions of formerly "rebel faction (造反派)", red guards were publicly criticized as they were thought to be related to the Gang of Four.


Aftermath

Immediately after the arrests, Premier
Hua Guofeng Hua Guofeng (; born Su Zhu; 16 February 1921 – 20 August 2008), alternatively spelled as Hua Kuo-feng was a Chinese politician who served as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party The Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Co ...

Hua Guofeng
, Marshal
Ye Jianying Ye Jianying (; 28 April 1897 – 22 October 1986) was a Chinese communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...

Ye Jianying
, and economic czars
Chen Yun Chen Yun (, pronounced ; 13 June 1905 – 10 April 1995) was one of the most influential leaders of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia ...
and
Li Xiannian Li Xiannian (pronounced ; 23 June 1909 – 21 June 1992) was a Chinese Communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally ...

Li Xiannian
formed the core of the next party leadership. These four, together with the rehabilitated
Deng Xiaoping Deng Xiaoping (22 August 1904 – 19 February 1997), also known by his courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in ...

Deng Xiaoping
and
Wang Dongxing Wang Dongxing (; 9 January 1916 – 21 August 2015) was a Chinese military commander and politician, famous for being the chief of Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tun ...

Wang Dongxing
, were elected party Vice Chairmen at the August 1977 National Party Congress. At the politburo level, the membership of all four living marshals, seven other generals and at least five others with close military ties reflected the deep concern for national stability.


Trial

In 1981, the four deposed leaders were subjected to a trial by the Supreme People's Court of China and convicted of anti-party activities, with
Jiang Hua Jiang Hua (August 1, 1907 – December 24, 1999) was a Chinese politician and President of the Supreme People's Court of China. Biography Jiang Hua was born in Jianghua, Hunan. He was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of China in Zhe ...
presiding. During the trial, Jiang Qing in particular was extremely defiant, protesting loudly and bursting into tears at some points. She was the only member of the Gang of Four who bothered to argue on her behalf. The defence's argument was that she obeyed the orders of Chairman Mao Zedong at all times. Zhang Chunqiao refused to admit any wrongdoing. Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen expressed repentance and confessed their alleged crimes. The prosecution separated political errors from actual crimes. Among the latter were the usurpation of state power and party leadership; the persecution of some 750,000 people, 34,375 of whom died during the period 1966–1976. The official records of the trial have not yet been released. Jiang Qing and Zhang Chunqiao received death sentences that were later commuted to life imprisonment, while Wang Hongwen and Yao Wenyuan were given life and twenty years in prison, respectively. All members of the Gang of Four have since died; Jiang Qing committed suicide in 1991, Wang Hongwen died in 1992, and Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao died in 2005, having been released from prison in 1996 and 1998, respectively. Supporters of the Gang of Four, including
Chen Boda Chen Boda (; 29 July 1904 – 20 September 1989), was a Chinese Communist The Communist Party of China (CPC), commonly known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and sole governing political party of the People's Republic ...
and
Mao Yuanxin Mao Yuanxin (born 14 February 1941), also known as Li Shi (), is a former Chinese politician. As the nephew of Chairman Mao Zedong, he acted as the liaison between Mao and the Communist Party's Central Committee in Mao's ailing years, when he wa ...
, were also sentenced.


"Little Gang of Four"

In the struggle between Hua Guofeng's and Deng Xiaoping's followers, a new term emerged, pointing to Hua's four closest collaborators,
Wang Dongxing Wang Dongxing (; 9 January 1916 – 21 August 2015) was a Chinese military commander and politician, famous for being the chief of Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tun ...

Wang Dongxing
,
Wu De Wu De (; February 5, 1913 – November 29, 1995), born Li Chunhua (), was a Chinese Communist The Communist Party of China (CPC), commonly known as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is the founding and sole governing political party of the ...
,
Ji Dengkui Ji Dengkui (; 17 March 1923 – 13 July 1988) was a prominent Chinese political figure during the Cultural Revolution. He was a member of the 10th and 11th Politburos of the Communist Party and was a protégé of Mao Zedong in Mao's later yea ...
and
Chen Xilian Chen Xilian (pronounced ; 4 January 1915 – 10 June 1999) was a Chinese military officer and politician, general of the People's Liberation Army The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces A military, also known collect ...
. In 1980, they were charged with "grave errors" in the struggle against the Gang of Four and demoted from the Political Bureau to mere Central Committee membership.


Hong Kong's "Gang of Four"

In 2013, Mainland Chinese state media labelled
Anson Chan Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On-sang, GBM, GCMG The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is a British founded on 28 April 1818 by , later , while he was acting as regent for his father, . It is named in hono ...

Anson Chan
,
Martin Lee Martin Lee Chu-ming, Senior Counsel, SC, Justice of Peace, JP (; born 8 June 1938) is a Hong Kong politician and barrister. He is the founding chairman of the United Democrats of Hong Kong and its successor, the Democratic Party (Hong Kong), D ...
,
Joseph Zen Joseph Zen Ze-kiun Salesians of Don Bosco, SDB (, born 13 January 1932) is a Cardinal (Catholic Church), cardinal of the Catholic Church from Hong Kong, who served as the sixth Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, Bishop of Hong Kong. He was app ...
and
Jimmy Lai Lai Chee-ying ( zh, link=no, t=黎智英, born 8 December 1947), also known as Jimmy Lai, is a Hong Kong entrepreneur and activist. He founded Giordano, an Asian clothing retailer, Next Digital (formerly Next Media), a Hong Kong-listed media ...
as ‘Hong Kong's "Gang of Four"’ due to their alleged foreign connections. In 2019, Chinese state media labelled Anson Chan, Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai and
Albert Ho Albert Ho Chun-yan (; born 1 December 1951) is a solicitor and politician in Hong Kong. He is the former chairman (2014–2019) and current vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and former c ...

Albert Ho
as the gang of four due to their alleged collusion with foreign forces in relation to the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. The phrase has in turn been denounced by the four individuals.


Popular culture

English
post-punk Post-punk (originally called new musick) is a broad genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...
band
Gang of Four The Gang of Four () was a Maoist Maoism, officially called Mao Zedong Thought () by the Chinese Communist Party ) , anthem = "The Internationale" , seats1_title = National People's Congress (13th National People's Congre ...
are named after the faction.


See also

*Soviet Union's
Anti-Party Group The Anti-Party Group ( rus, Антипартийная группа, r=Antipartiynaya gruppa) was a group within the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that unsuccessfully attempted to depose Nikita Khrushchev as General Secretary ...
*Poland's
Natolin faction Natolin faction was a faction within the leadership of the communist Polish United Workers' Party The Polish United Workers' Party ( pl, Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza; ), commonly abbreviated to PZPR, was the communist party which rule ...


References


External links


"Trial of China's Gang of Four"
BBC {{Authority control Cultural Revolution Factions of the Chinese Communist Party Cold War history of China Maoist terminology