This photo triggered China’s Cultural Revolution


In 1966, Mao Zedong had a problem. The Chinese leader who had led a peasant army
to victory in the Chinese Civil War, and established the communist People’s Republic of China
in 1949, was getting old. Worse, his radical policies had devastated
the country, and triggered the deadliest famine known to human history. By the early 1960s, Mao’s once-great influence
and public presence were at an all time low, and there were rumors that he was dying, or
even dead already. He needed to find a way to seal his legacy
as the face of Chinese communism. And a new revolution to lead. It started in a river. The Great Leap Forward was a disaster. It was Mao’s 1958 plan to quickly industrialize
China by working its massive peasant population nonstop. ARCHIVE: He promises to transform the People’s
Republic into an instant paradise through sheer force of numbers. Forcing workers in the countryside to farm
crops on government-run communes. And millions more to manufacture crude steel
in homemade blast furnaces. And even though Mao told the world that the
plan was succeeding… NARRATOR: Everywhere, the communists report,
production records are being broken. … the truth was much more desperate. ARCHIVE: They flood the fields, exhaust the
soil, and farm production instead of going up, goes down. The Chinese people were being forced to work
tirelessly on land they once owned themselves — and they were starting to lose morale. And despite reports of widespread famine,
with millions of people starving to death, Mao kept production quotas high. ARCHIVE: The pace grows more frantic. Ceaselessly, without rest, one observer writes. Mao’s Great Leap Forward ended in 1962. By that time somewhere between 23 and 55 million
people had died in the famine. Over in the Soviet Union, a different political
upheaval was happening. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who Mao modeled
himself after, was dead. And Mao watched as Nikita Krushchev, Stalin’s
successor, implemented a period known as “de-Stalinization.” Where Krushchev set out to reverse many of
Stalin’s policies and dismantle the personality cult that had formed around him. Mao saw his own legacy potentially suffering
the same fate. His Communist Revolution was long over, and
his ideas weren’t taken as seriously after the disaster of the Great Leap Forward. It was starting to look like Mao’s place
in the pantheon of powerful communist figures, like Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, was in
peril. This is where the river comes in. Mao had a reputation for being a strong swimmer. And even used it as a symbol of his ideology. In 1956, he swam across China’s biggest
river, the Yangtze, in three highly-publicized swims. To demonstrate that big things – like US
imperialism – didn’t intimidate him. 10 years later, Mao took on the Yangtze again,
to dispel rumors of his failing health. This time with cheering crowds swimming alongside
him. He brought his personal photographer, who
snapped this photo of the aging dictator in the river. And another one showing Mao waving to his
fellow swimmers, with the landmark Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge behind him. An iconic architectural achievement of the
communist government, and proof that he was at the Yangtze. The swim made the front page of China’s
state newspaper, reporting that Mao swam around 15 kilometers, a little more than 9 miles,
in a span of 65 minutes. Which meant the 72-year-old would have shattered
world speed records. A lot of people outside of China laughed at
the outlandish story, but some saw the swim for what it was: a sinister sign. Pointing out that Mao’s swims from a decade
earlier preceded the catastrophic Great Leap Forward. Experts feared that Mao was on the verge of
kicking off another disastrous period of turmoil in China. They were right. Two months before the swim, Mao had announced
the beginning of his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. A call to hunt down and eliminate the “bourgeoisie
who [had] sneaked into the party.” Basically to purge the government of anyone
who strayed from principles of Maoism. And it kicked into high gear after his historic
swim. Which prompted a craze for swimming in swept
China, but more importantly, a craze for Mao. Especially among the group that Mao wanted
to influence the most: China’s youth. Writer Liang Heng recalled that seeing Mao
as “human flesh and blood” after the Yangtze swim resolved him to “serve him with all
his heart.” Millions of Chinese youth organized into the
fanatical Red Guards, a paramilitary force concentrated mostly in Chinese cities. And, with Mao’s blessing, they wreaked havoc
in the name of Cultural Revolution. Their mission was to destroy the four olds: ARCHIVE: Old culture. Old ideology. Old customs. Old traditions. The idea was basically to tear down the vestiges
of Imperial China and rewrite history centered around Mao Zedong. Renaming buildings and streets, destroying
cultural sites, and violently humiliating, and often torturing and murdering, anyone
they accused of opposing Mao’s ideas. Which they plastered all over the cities. And carried in their pockets in the form of
Mao’s “Little Red Book” a collection of his sayings and principles. And although the violent Red Guards were basically
dissolved by 1969, the Cultural Revolution is considered to have continued until Mao’s
death in 1976. Ending a decade of destruction that had elevated
the leader to god-like levels. And resulted in over 1 million people dead. The chaos of the Cultural Revolution scarred
China for generations. But Mao basically got what he wanted. Even though the Chinese Communist Party condemned
the Cultural Revolution in 1981, and Chinese communism diverted away from Maoism, they
didn’t denounce Mao himself. The Cultural Revolution solidified Mao’s
cult of personality, and that influence has lasted. Mao’s swim, which is still commemorated
each year in China, was more than a display of strength. It was a message: to get behind Mao as he
began his last revolution.

100 Comments

  1. Vox said:

    Darkroom is back for a second season! We got a whole new batch of photos to pick apart, and you can see previous episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJ8cMiYb3G5ce8J4P5j5qOEtYR94Z3DQs

    See ya soon. -Coleman

    February 14, 2020
    Reply
  2. Cobalt360Degrees said:

    Too bad he didn't drown in that river too.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  3. Nannan Zhai said:

    Great video.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  4. g43654 said:

    Like Mao, Putin was also swimming, hunting, and riding horses. Portrayal of a strong leader is a common theme among dictatorships it seems.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  5. JULIUS BLITZARZ said:

    If you actually read a history book. You realize vox is completely wrong 🤣

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  6. LK72 said:

    He was a psychopath mass murderer and monster.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  7. yanyan zhang said:

    I hate this revolution so much. Kids forced their teachers to wear metal wires around their necks with heavy things pulling the wires down so that the metal wires cut into the teachers’ necks and hurt them. And you couldn’t publicly try and help the teachers because you’d get mobbed and attacked so people had to secretly help the teachers. Some secretly slid padding under the metal wires so that the pressure from the wires could be released a bit and the padding stopped the wires from cutting into the teachers’ necks. I love China, and I’m Chinese, but the revolution’s actions towards intellectuals make me mad.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  8. Vikas M.V. said:

    Chinese should thank Mao for dying at right time for Deng Xiaoping to emerge for forever revolutionize into prosperity.. While sadly the socialist madness continued in India for longer..

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  9. Smitomo Yasuo said:

    The days when many Good Chinese birth

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  10. sarmon terang said:

    Who see oyo ads and smile

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  11. Pitch Black said:

    Wonderful coverage

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  12. Ahmed El hosiny said:

    Not a real atheism, they worship Mao instead

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  13. Bronco 48 said:

    There are a lot chinese people more than one billion so these things didnt efect the country.And this was needed in order to make china big superpower.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  14. Raven Skywalker said:

    Very nice historical lesson its more proof why they need to stop using mao zdong ideology as foundation to run a government.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  15. mustafa çete said:

    Chine Allah sizi kahretsin, binbir bela başınızdan eksilmesin, zalimlerrrrrrr

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  16. Freddie Blake said:

    Xiexie. The west needs many more lessons on Chinese history. Keep it up.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  17. Alex said:

    Looks like he was similar to Muhammad. All Armies with his ideology who invaded foreign land tried to destroy local culture, temple, monument and history as much as possible.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  18. Alex said:

    Wao Mao

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  19. Alex said:

    Man why Wuhan has to face all the time?

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  20. Juan J Dume P said:

    Coronavirus is going to put all that to the test.

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  21. Orod Sozenchi said:

    Viva China From Iran
    🇮🇷 🇨🇳

    February 21, 2020
    Reply
  22. A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A said:

    Much as I hate Mao and Maoism, this is really bad history.

    February 22, 2020
    Reply
  23. -SpecVi- said:

    That wuhan bride has the corona virus

    February 22, 2020
    Reply
  24. deca gon said:

    china has been a habit of changing and erasing their history, i thought that was just metaphor, but when i was 10yrs old, the news about the tiananmen square massacre echoed in the whole world, today, despite everyone knows it, chinese government itself denies the event and tried to hide it to its own people, no mentioned in the chinese history textbooks, even mentioning it to the chinese internet servers gets you banned

    February 22, 2020
    Reply
  25. TeddtheTiger said:

    Minor nitpick: 6:07 "…still commemorated each year in China…"
    Shows a photo from 9 years ago
    You don't have anything more recent?

    February 22, 2020
    Reply
  26. Hunter Blackwell said:

    Great video…. Thank you for exposing the truth!

    February 22, 2020
    Reply
  27. MR. POPO said:

    Thank you

    February 23, 2020
    Reply
  28. Kono Wilhelmus said:

    Based Mao

    February 23, 2020
    Reply
  29. Taniri said:

    The cultural revolution never ended

    February 23, 2020
    Reply
  30. Pedro G. said:

    The Cultural Revolution: The biggest OK BOOMER in World History.

    February 23, 2020
    Reply
  31. Achille Besida said:

    1:37 no, peasants didn't owned land before

    February 23, 2020
    Reply
  32. Mark Bement said:

    Bernie

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  33. João Andrade said:

    Communism being communism, nothing new.

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  34. theredsmuggler 11 said:

    Them poor sick people

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  35. 亲爱的爸爸 said:

    毛泽东选集第五卷313-329

    现在再搞大民主,我也赞成。你们怕群众上街,我不怕,来他几十万也不怕。"舍得一身剐,敢把皇帝拉下马"。这是古人有言,其人叫王熙凤,又名风姐儿,就是她说的。无产阶级发动的大民主是对付阶级敌人的。民族敌人(无非是帝国主义,外国垄断资产阶级)也是阶级敌人。大民主也可以用来对付官僚主义者。我刚才讲,一万年以后还有革命,那时搞大民主还是可能的。有些人如果活得不耐烦了,搞官僚主义,见了群众一句好话没有,就是骂人,群众有问题不去解决,那就一定要被打倒。现在,这个危险是存在的。如果脱离群众,不去解决群众的问题,农民就要打扁担,工人就要上街示威,学生就要闹事。凡是出了这类事,第一要说是好事,我就是这样看的。早几年,在河南省一个地方要修飞机场,事先不给农民安排好,没有说清道理,就强迫人家搬家。那个庄的农民说,你拿根长棍子去拨树上雀儿的巢,把它搞下来,雀儿也要叫几声。邓小平你也有一个巢,我把你的巢搞烂了,你要不要叫几声?于是乎那个地方的群众布置了三道防线:第一道是小孩子,第二道是妇女,第三道是男的青壮年。到那里去测量的人都被赶走了,结果农民还是胜利了。后来,向农民好好说清楚,给他们作了安排,他们的家还是搬了,飞机场还是修了。这样的事情不少。现在,有这样一些人,好象得了天下,就高枕无忧,可以横行霸道了。这样的人,群众反对他,打石头,打锄头,我看是该当,我最欢迎。而且有些时候,只有打才能解决问题。共产党是要得到教训的。学生上街,工人上街,凡是有那样的事情,同志们要看作好事。成都有一百多学生要到北京请愿,一个列车上的学生在四川省广元车站就被阻止了,另外一个列车上的学生到了洛阳,没有能到北京来。我的意见,周总理的意见,是应当放到北京来,到有关部门去拜访。要允许工人罢工,允许群众示威。游行示威在宪法上是有根据的。以后修改宪法,我主张加一个罢工自由,要允许工人罢工。这样,有利于解决国家、厂长同群众的矛盾。无非是矛盾。世界充满着矛盾。民主革命解决了同帝国主义、封建主义、官僚资本主义这一套矛盾。现在,在所有制方面同民族资本主义和小生产的矛盾也基本上解决了,别的方面的矛盾又突出出来了,新的矛盾又发生了。县委以上的干部有几十万,国家的命运就掌握在他们手里。如果不搞好,脱离群众,不是艰苦奋斗,那末,工人、农民、学生就有理由不赞成他们。我们一定要警惕,不要滋长官僚主义

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  36. OregonHerbalist said:

    🔥😷Mao begins psychological operations at Wuhan Bridge on the Yangtze River🤯

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  37. OregonHerbalist said:

    🔥Dr. Stefan Lanka🧐No such thing as a Virus 🤪🤔🔥🤑🤢🤮🤤

    February 24, 2020
    Reply
  38. Barrios Groupie said:

    I think Mao's ideas quickly helped China start from a clean slate which is why it's so far ahead of India still held back by its Hindu culture. Likewise with the West's destructive intervention in Iraq that lead to an unintentional social disaster then, but now a society overtaking Iran in 2020. Iran will be lumbered with its archaic Islamic system for the next century.

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  39. Agent Smith said:

    Bernie's dream for America 👌🏻

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  40. AcoolGuyOnYT said:

    W U H A N Y A N G Z T E B R I D G E

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  41. Kotas Byubilieau said:

    This nightmare is now coming back by XI

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  42. Wenxiang Zhang said:

    如果你通过资本主义国家的媒体了解一个社会主义国家的历史。就好比你通过特朗普了解佩罗西一样。
    If you know the history of a socialist country through the media of a capitalist country. It's like you know Pelosi through Trump.

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  43. happy mass shooting usa said:

    good thing they destroy old thinking

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  44. En Hui Lim said:

    Japan should have done a better job to execute mao and the remaining of China…

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  45. Creative 8D said:

    Wuhan Yangtze
    WUHAN , CHINA 🇨🇳
    VIRUS 🦠
    Eww

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  46. Ken Chang said:

    photo at 4:18 was mirrored.

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  47. Dai Kevin said:

    need Chinese sub

    February 25, 2020
    Reply
  48. Fahad Butt said:

    It's very, idk, I don't see it as informative. Facts are blinded. Can sense sth is not good.

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  49. wolf 2490 said:

    Wow mao what a nice guy

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  50. Pampilo Cerbito said:

    Corona virus

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  51. Khulegu Baigalma said:

    Socialism killed many

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  52. Isaac L said:

    What if the wuhan Coronavirus outbreak happened when Mao was swimming in the river?

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  53. D Wang said:

    Some of the photo is not happen in culture revolution .

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  54. Lasha Chakhunashvili said:

    Suddenly coming across something written in my language at 2:10 was kinda surprising 🙂 LOL

    (it shows Stalin's obituary from a Georgian newspaper)

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  55. Nick's Personal said:

    Bruh 999k views

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  56. MYMINDism said:

    Red guards=sjws

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  57. Bacio Global said:

    This country is still a disaster. Thank you for the Cornaviorus!

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  58. John Wen said:

    Cultural revolution is Literally the face of absolute democracy.

    February 26, 2020
    Reply
  59. Ethan Gatenby said:

    I heard the word wuhan cough cough

    February 27, 2020
    Reply
  60. Hugh M. said:

    It’s still evil mw

    February 27, 2020
    Reply
  61. TheHorizonTries said:

    That was extremely disturbing

    February 27, 2020
    Reply
  62. yash kumar sah said:

    1963 was the year when china had attacked India without any kind of warning. That's now I think was a desperate move of Mao Jadong's to distract people's attention from outgoing famine.

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  63. Sumit Singh said:

    Why is Mao wearing a helmet all the time ?

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  64. Kirami MMO said:

    Idk why the 20th century history is sooo fascinating

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  65. Gurta said:

    About cultural revolution, Theres story about a son reporting his mother and resulting his mother death, the son regret it his whole life

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  66. Private Account said:

    Mao destroyed the culture that spanned millenia. Litterature, architecture, and history we might not have ever known existed shattered in the span of a decade.

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  67. الألحان البحرية said:

    It’s my first time to know that there was a massive famine so recently in China 😦😓

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  68. FireOccator said:

    Starts a revolution in his own regime.

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  69. johnny said:

    You need a purge 1x every decade to stabilize your lack of authority and fair use of the justice system because how do you explain actions when pple disappear and your pple getting older and wiser to the faulty political system

    February 28, 2020
    Reply
  70. Lexus said:

    Destroyes 3000 years of culture, kills 55 milion people,
    builds a bridge

    "perfectly balanced, as all things should be"

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  71. Stephen Skinner said:

    Greta is trying to get the cultural revolution going again.

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  72. Aidan Liu said:

    Yea the swim happened cause he was a famer when he was young and he was swimming there when he was a kid

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  73. 花木Joyce said:

    So sad that they destroyed so much of our cultural history its what made China great in the first place. I am glad I live I'm America where I can actually learn about china before the cultural revolution

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  74. ora et labora said:

    There are Bernie ads bracketing this video how appropriate

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  75. HQ said:

    Wow to many pointed finger at china right now

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  76. Pole Star said:

    Bunch of lies is this video

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  77. vek G said:

    *Devolution

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  78. Juan DelaCruize said:

    Corona virus brought me here

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  79. carl Nilsson Young said:

    This country is ruled by party of evil liers

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  80. Joshua Bowen said:

    So THAAAATS why they're cultureless Orwellian robots. The more you know.

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  81. Irishtradchannel said:

    Mao, the most murderous man in history.

    February 29, 2020
    Reply
  82. A J said:

    The Cultural Revolution started taking shape 5 years earlier (with the publication of the play Hai Rui Dismissed from Office in ~61) It began in earnest with subsequent criticism of said play spearheaded by Jiang Qing and Yao Wenyuan in 65. The play was read as an allusion to General Peng Dehuai's purging for criticising The Great Leap Forward at the Lushan Conference. This was the pretext for Mao to consolidate power within the party. Please don't simplify Chinese History, it's very complicated. Using US newspapers from the time sort of shows your hand

    If anyone wants an actually good account of the Cultural Revolution the go to work in English is Mao's Last Revolution by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals

    Also it's probably worth noting that although the Great Famine was the most deadly in absolute terms, there have been deadlier famines as a percentage of population, the Irish potato famine being an example of a man made famine which cost more of the countries lives.

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  83. vn1 tuitrong said:

    It's funny how both Qin Shi Huang and Mao Zedon tried to destroy china's old cuture. Imagine a china without those destructions

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  84. Kristian Mandrup said:

    In other words: "Go Woke, go BROKE"

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  85. Hyvää Syntymäpäivä said:

    China's eradicating their own culture,so tragic.

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  86. Angel Wu said:

    mao's teeth are black because he didn't believe in brushing his teeth. look it up if you dont believe me

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  87. cal2201 said:

    According to Chinese official history, Culture Revolution had never been existed, and no one had been killed in China since 1949…

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  88. Jake Ryker said:

    Reminds me of Bernie and Greta… How dare you!

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  89. Syed Ahmed said:

    Samething is happening in India with Modi.

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  90. Stopfilms 76 said:

    Yangtze infected by coronavirus and I’m also chinese so not racist

    March 1, 2020
    Reply
  91. Mr J said:

    communism sounds like paraside. i love being exploited and starving to death <3 vote bernie

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  92. George Hamilton said:

    That pronunciation though.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  93. George Hamilton said:

    I'm not making accusations, but now I understand the feeling that some people get when they associate past atrocities with current events in developed countries.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  94. lin shao said:

    Mao's cultural revolution is a pity for all the art and culture lost at that time, thats a fact.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  95. AlternateOutcome said:

    Imperialist: Takes over little islands
    China: I'll do u one better *makes own island and takes over other islands

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  96. Rajdeep Vijayaraj said:

    So much propoganda! Wow. And people consider this to be neutral? You know how many famines China faced before Mao? 7. After Mao? 0.
    Of course not everything Mao did was perfect; the backdoor industries were a bad idea. But this Western propoganda which claims Stalin and Mao to be monsters is ridiculous. And what's even more ridiculous is people from postcolonial societies readily accepting such propoganda.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  97. Z Ξ R Ξ N Λ D L I said:

    Brainwashing is a deadliest weapon of all.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  98. Da Cat said:

    China is ashorrrr

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  99. alfredzlee said:

    Founding father of new China, our great leader, the ordinary Chinese just miss him so much.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply
  100. JERRY RICHARDSON said:

    Mao was one of the great slimeballs of history. I expect Xi Jinping to take a swim like this soon with the same results.

    March 2, 2020
    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *