Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Jiang Qing (1914–1991)

Communist Chinese political leader and influential wife of Mao Zedong. Born in Zhucheng, Shandong Province, in March 1914, Jiang Qing enrolled at the Experimental Arts Academy in early 1929. To pursue an acting career, she moved to Shanghai, Jiangsu, in 1933. After the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, she fled to the Chinese communist base in Yan'an, Shaanxi. The following year she joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and became the mistress of CCP leader Mao. In the autumn of 1939 Jiang married Mao but was largely kept from public life until the 1960s.

Jiang's political ascendancy began in 1966 when Mao, now the chairman of the Central Military Commission, appointed her the chief cultural advisor of the People's Liberation Army and deputy head of the Cultural Revolution Group. Mao's intention was to revive the class struggle so as to assert his monolithic power and leadership within the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the communist bloc as a whole. This sparked the infamous Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), an ultraleftist movement aimed at rooting out the petty bourgeoisie, rank privileges, and bureaucracy from China while at the same time building Mao's cult as a true Marxist.

Under Jiang's leadership, a number of senior officials, including Deng Xiaoping, Lin Biao, and Liu Shaoqi, fell victim to political purges. During the Cultural Revolution, imposing statues and pictures of Mao were erected and ubiquitously posted throughout China, designed to foster the so-called cult of personality that Mao sought. In the cultural realm, Jiang replaced the traditional Beijing Opera with revolutionary ballet and destroyed Chinese museums that memorialized China's feudal past. Jiang's reign of terror ended in October 1976 when she was arrested by Premier Hua Guofeng, who seized control of the PRC upon Mao's death.

In January 1980 Jiang was charged with conducting a counterrevolution and put on trial. She was sentenced to the death penalty, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. Jiang died in Beijing on 14 May 1991.

Law Yuk-fun


Further Reading
Terrill, Ross. Madame Mao: The White-Boned Demon. Rev. ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.; Witke, Roxane. Comrade Chiang Ch'ing. Boston: Little, Brown, 1977.
 

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