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5 Lin Biao: Military Man
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5
Lin Biao: Military Man

After two years of mass mobilization that almost paralyzed the formal authority of the party-state, there were three contending situational groups at the top level. One was Zhou Enlai, the leader of the government functionaries, to whom not only the surviving cadres and the beneficiaries but also the purged leaders increasingly looked for leadership. The Lin Biao and Jiang Qing groups were the initiators of the CR; the former controlled the "gun" while the latter controlled the "pen." Mao had close personal relationships with these three groups. One could even say that Mao was using Zhou Enlai to handle the administrative function of the party-state, the Gang of Four to mobilize the masses and ideologically justify the CR, and Lin Biao to control the military, on which he increasingly depended to maintain social order.

The political interests of the three groups converged and clashed. At the beginning of the CR in 1966, the Jiang Qing group and Lin Biao shared common interests. Both wanted to remove a large number of central political leaders to create vacancies within the bureaucracy for their own followers. Furthermore, cultivating Mao's personality cult served the interests of both groups, which were close to Mao.

However, the two groups had disparate support bases. The core members of Jiang Qing's group were the ideologues whose political interests lay with the mass mobilization of the disadvantaged social groups and who wanted to change the existing power structure. By contrast, Lin Biao's support came from military officers, whom he skillfully protected and then promoted to leadership positions during the CR. Although Lin's formal position was second only to Mao's, he lacked Mao's charisma, his contact with the masses was very limited, and his influence over the civilian bureaucracy was minimal. Lin Biao's political aim, therefore, was not to mobilize the masses and then modify the existing system but


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to take over the system from within. Lin used his formal authority to develop a factional network by promoting his personal followers to key positions in the military and expanding the military's influence over the civilian bureaucracy. Perceived as Mao's faithful disciple and as a close collaborator of the Gang of Four, Lin Biao had to produce a continuous flow of rhetoric.

The political interests of the two groups diverged when local mass organizations clashed with local military leaders. The Jiang Qing group, mostly composed of what the Chinese call "petty intellectuals," wanted to use the masses to seize military power at the local level, whereas Lin Biao had to be sensitive to the institutional interests of the military, particularly those of local military leaders. Lin thus found himself under opposing pressures: pressure from the Jiang Qing group to support the radical Red Guards and pressure from local military leaders to defend the PLA's interests. Caught in this dilemma, he cooperated with the Jiang Qing group against the senior leaders, at the same time competing with the radicals to fill vacancies created by the purges with his own people.[1]

Zhou Enlai must also be factored into this uneasy relationship between the Jiang Qing and Lin Biao groups. Whether it was because of a lack of personal ambition or his skillful maneuvering, Zhou succeeded in building a public image as an impartial premier honestly trying to carry out Mao's policy within objective constraints. He protected the party and government leaders as far as his power and influence allowed, but when it became impossible to do so without a serious confrontation with other elite groups, he publicly dropped his defense and acted as a conciliator and moderator rather than as an advocate of any partisan position. Apparently, he used universal criteria rather than particularistic ones in selecting targets and defending victims. Perhaps he did not need to engage in factional politics because his administration of the government was essential to the daily life of the society. The combination of political skill, a consistently moderate position, high prestige among the entire cadre corps, and Mao's trust caused


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even the Jiang Qing group to respect him, at least publicly, although privately the radicals regarded him as the "third headquarters" commanding the cadres' loyalty—a man who somehow managed to survive the CR's turbulence.

Zhou and Lin were both opposed to the Gang of Four's stragtegy of mass mobilization, and both had very practical views on policy. If they could have formed a coalition against the Gang of Four, it would have been very powerful.

Power Base

Selecting the Ninth Central Committee

The three groups clashed over the issue of who should be promoted to the Ninth Central Committee. The Gang of Four wanted to promote the CR rebels—"those who have proven themselves in the CR"—while removing "all the hidden class enemies in the party."[2] The Zhou Enlai group tried to strengthen cadre representation in the new Central Committee, whereas Lin Biao was in favor of giving a large share of political power to military leaders.

When the twelfth plenum of the Eighth Party Congress was convened in October 1968, only forty Central Committee members out of ninety-seven (ten had died), less than a quorum, were allowed to attend. The meeting, therefore, first decided to promote ten alternate members in order to reach a quorum. In addition, some leaders of the revolutionary committees and some PLA leaders also participated with voting rights.[3] The meeting expelled Liu Shaoqi as a traitor and renegade.

Since local party committees had not yet been restored, each provincial revolutionary committee selected delegates to the next National Party Congress. Tension along the border after a brief clash with the Soviet Union caused the national delegates, instead of directly attending in person, to select a presidium that would


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exercise authority in the name of the congress. The presidium first chose its own leaders and then made basic decisions on how to select new Central Committee members: it limited the number of full and alternate members to 250 and the number of Eighth CC members to be reelected to 53, and it also specified the groups whose members would be automatically "elected."[4]

Each provincial delegation nominated candidates to the CC and forwarded their names to the presidium. After collecting all the names, the presidium first voted on the lists of names, most of which had more candidates than could be elected, and then reviewed the qualifications of each candidate. The discussion developed into a heated clash among Zhou Enlai, the military, and the Gang of Four, which wanted to bring in many rebels.[5] After negotiating about each name to appear on the final list, members of the presidium each cast one vote for or against the list. It was approved unanimously. "Because there were too many nominees from the military and the mass representatives," 279 members were elected to the CC, exceeding the limit set up by the presidium. It took almost ten days for the presidium to select the CC members.[6]

As table 16 demonstrates, the PLA was the group that gained the most from the CR. Its local representation at the Ninth CC also increased substantially as a result of the loss of leaders from the central party and the government, a sign that power had become decentralized. But the gains made by local leaders did not benefit provincial party leaders, for the local leaders were PLA members who took power at the expense of their civilian counterparts. According to my preliminary estimate, out of 225 provincial party secretaries at the time of the CR, only 98 (43 percent) managed to survive. By contrast, of the 8 regional PLA leaders at the Eighth CC, only 1 was permanently purged.

Conflict over the selection of Politburo members was more intense. Mao reported to the congress:


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Table 16. Representation on the Ninth Central Committee, as of 1969

 

PLA

Cadre

Mass

Total

Membership

No .

%

No .

%

No .

%

No .

%

Full member

71

42

62

36

37

22

170

100

Alternate Member

50

46

18

16

41

38

109

100

Total

121

43

80

29

78

28

279

100

Power Weighta

192

43

142

31

115

26

449

100

Source . Compiled by the author from biographical information.

a. Calculated by giving two points to full members and one point to alternate members.

I have faith in some of my old comrades who made mistakes. Originally there was a long list of twenty people [of old cadres], and I considered it good to make all of them Politburo members. Later someone advanced a shorter list of ten people, and I thought the list was too short. Most [of the old cadres] are middle roaders, and [I] am opposed to the long and the short lists and favor a medium size list of about twenty persons.[7]

The twenty-person Politburo included eight new members. Six of them turned out to be from Lin Biao's group; the Jiang Qing group obtained four seats.[8]

Lin Biao's Followers

Tables 17–19, constructed on the basis of biographical information that I have collected, attempt to identify Lifts power base by analyzing those purged with him. Lin's political influence in the Ninth CC was quite modest: only 16 percent of its members were purged with him. Moreover, his modest political influence was largely limited to the military; forty-nine of sixty-six members purged with him were military men (constituting 40 percent of all military representatives in the committee), whereas only 5 percent of the mass representatives and 16 percent of the cadres failed to make it into


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Table 17. Impact of Lin Biao's Fall on Ninth Central Committee Members, as of 1973

 

Purged

Survived

Total

Membership

No .

%

No .

%

No .

%

Cadres

13

16

129

84

142

100

Military

49

40

72

60

121

100

Masses

4

5

115

95

119

100

Total

66

16

316

84

382

100

Source . Compiled by the author from biographical information.

 

Table 18. Impact of Lin Biao's Fall by Field Army Affiliation, as of 1973

 

Purged

Survived

Total

Field Army Affiliation

No .

%

No .

%

No .

%

4th

32

28

82

72

114

100

1st, 2d, 3d, 5th and 6th

61

19

260

81

321

100

Total

93

21

342

79

435

100

Sources . Field army information is based on data provided by W. Whitson, The Chinese Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927–71 (New York: Praeger, 1973), which includes the civilian leaders. Information on purges was compiled by the author from biographical information.

the Tenth CC. Despite his impressive array of formal titles, his political influence in the Chinese bureaucracy was rather limited. As a professional military man, he had no experience to help him as the head of a civilian bureaucracy. Nor did he possess any charismatic qualities, either physical or intellectual.

Even within the military, Lin Biao drew his supporters largely from former Fourth Field Army officers (see table 18). Moreover, as shown in table 19, most of his supporters were from the second (32 percent) and third (27 percent) generations of military leaders, whereas his influence on the first generation of senior military leaders was quite limited (18 percent).

This skewed distribution of Lin Biao's followers within the military demonstrates that his control was very tenuous, and the military was not free from factional, regional, and organizational rivalries. Furthermore, Mao, as chairman of the Military Affairs Commission, was not about to give him a free hand.


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Table 19. Impact of Lin Biao's Fall by Military Generation, as of 1973

 

Purged

Survived

Total

Generation

No .

%

No .

%

No .

%

1st

11

18

49

82

60

100

2d

27

32

57

68

84

100

3d

29

27

77

73

106

100

4th-8th

9

23

31

77

40

100

Total

76

26

214

74

290

100

Source . Field army information is based on data provided by W. Whitson, The Chinese Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927–71 (New York: Praeger, 1973), which includes the civilian leaders. Information on purges was compiled by the author from biographical information.

None of the most senior leaders (except Chen Boda) was implicated in the Lin Biao affair. Many of them apparently did not take him seriously, as indicated by Luo Ruiqing's remark: "I never though that guy would fill the position [of Defense Minister]."[9] Even during the CR, when Lin's power was rapidly increasing, many senior military leaders looked at his political maneuvers with contempt and tried to distance themselves from him and the Gang of Four. Lin could not pressure them to join his informal group because they had direct access to Mao, which they used to clarify their status.[10]

Lin Biao's most loyal followers were from the second echelon of military leaders, mostly from the former Fourth Field Army, which had been close to him for a long time. These followers were Huang Yongsheng, former commander of the Guangdong military region (who was promoted in 1968 to be chief of staff), Qiu Huizou, director of the quartermaster department, Li Zuopeng, commander of the navy, and Wu Faxian, commander of the air force. All of them helped Lin purge Lo Ruiqing by secretly collecting incriminating information against him. During the CR, Lin enhanced their dependency on him by personally protecting them at the most crucial moment—when they were criticized as powerholders by the masses. In return, these former Fourth Field Army officers de-


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veloped personal loyalties to Lin, regarding him not only as a formal superior but also as an informal leader.

In addition to these high-level leaders, Lin Biao also cultivated a group of loyal followers among junior air force officers, with whom he did not have any direct work relations. The key link between Lin and these personal followers was his twenty-one-year-old son, Lin Liguo, who was a physics student at Beijing University when the CR started. Lin Biao first asked Wu Faxian to take care of his son during the initial stages of the CR. Later he instructed Wu to make his son deputy director of the air force's management office and operational department so that Lin Biao himself could help the development of air defense strategy through his son. Wu was more than willing to oblige. He convened the party committee of the air force, which decided that "every matter in the air force should be reported to Lin Liguo, and everything should be under his control and command." In addition, the political department of the air force adopted five measures: "Think of Lin Liguo all the time, ask him about everything, protect him everywhere, take him as our leader, sincerely comply with his demands and his every command."[11] Under the protection of Wu Faxian, Lin Liguo gathered together a dozen middle-level air force officers.[12]

The Lin Biao group closely approximates an archetypical faction. First, its key membership included a few former Fourth Field Army officers and second- and third-generation military officers from other field armies who owed their promotion to him. They developed very close personal ties, which resulted in complex mutual obligations. For instance, Lin Biao protected Wu Faxian, and in return Wu accepted Lin's son into the air force, helped him get promoted into key positions, and tolerated his factional network within the air force.

Moreover, the second layer of Lin Biao's group, which consisted of ambitious air force officers, whom his son recruited through the secret channels of patronage, also approximates the typical factional model: the faction was based exclusively on personal ties, the officers were motivated by ambition, and they were dedicated to


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their patrons without much consideration for formal rules. Because they did not have their own power base, they were willing to engage in factional activities, deeply involving themselves in preparing the 571 program (wu chi yi , a Chinese homonym with armed uprising). Obviously, they expected to be rewarded if their plan succeeded.

However, Lin Biao's senior military followers—Huang Yongsheng, Li Zoupeng, Wu Faxian, and Qiu Huizuo—were not directly involved in the conspiracy, according to available data revealed during their trial. They behaved circumspectly during the critical period; although they apparently knew Lin Liguo's plan, they neither actively participated in it nor exposed the plan to an appropriate authority. At the same time they gave Lin Liguo all the support they could mobilize through their formal authority and transmitted to Lin Biao the content of the speeches that Mao made during his trip to military regions. Probably their positions were too high for them openly to participate in obvious antiparty activities.[13]

This pattern of behavior again reveals a complex and subtle mix of formal and informal ties in Chinese politics. Because of a strong tradition of formal bureaucracy, incumbents of formal organizations tend to use their discretionary powers to help their factional interests, but not so far as to jeopardize their formal authority.

Rehabilitation

At the Ninth Party Congress Mao emphatically stressed the need for unity. Lin Biao also endorsed a policy of moderation. He urged that only cadres of the three categories be purged and that "good people who made the mistake of following the capitalist road" be set free, "if they raise their determination and if the masses are willing to forgive them."[14] Thereafter, the news media began to publish articles discussing cadre rehabilitation. However, instead of urging large-scale rehabilitation, these articles simply reported some experiences of rehabilitated cadres to prove a general point.


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On the question of how to evaluate cadres, an article about an experience in Shanghai suggested that the regime should (1) consider each cadre's major characteristics and actions rather than minor ones; (2) look at the circumstances and historical conditions in which cadres made mistakes (and forgive those whose mistakes resulted from following instructions passed down through organizational channels); (3) survey the entire history and work of each cadre, not just his work during the CR; (4) evaluate each cadre's performance throughout the CR, not just during a particular period; and (5) take into account the cadre's attitude toward his own mistakes. This formula represented a clear victory for the moderates and a setback for the radicals, who insisted on using cadres' performance records from the early stages of the CR as the major criterion for rehabilitation.[15] When the entire work record was used as the principal criterion, most cadres passed the test and were consequently liberated.

A statement accompanying the liberation of Liu Bing, former deputy secretary of Qinghua University, shows how the five conditions worked in one case.

Liu Bing joined the revolution in his youth. Having investigated and researched his record after 1949, particularly after he came to Qinghua in 1956, everyone came to the following conclusion. He had a very close relationship with a handful of counterrevolutionary revisionists, but this relationship derived from his work [rather than from personal ties]. Liu Bing never took part in counterrevolutionary activities. In his work, he followed the counterrevolutionary education policy, but never with the intention of restoring capitalism or of opposing Chairman Mao's revolutionary education policy; and he never took part in any criminal activity. Because of the insufficient transformation of his bourgeois worldview, he spread rightist views, but he did not violently attack the party or socialism. By his failure to put proletarian politics first, he overemphasized "functional work" and employed a few bad persons. Yet he never surrendered to the renegades.[16]

Newspaper discussions also offered some examples of "good cadres who made mistakes." For instance, before the CR a Shanghai cadre set up three mottoes to observe personally: (1) not to be economically corrupt, (2) not to lead a decadent life, and (3)


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not to pursue fame. Despite this cadre's personal integrity, he implemented the bourgeois reactionary line during the CR.[17] Obviously this type of cadre was regarded as a "good person who had made mistakes." Another criterion used to determine whether a cadre was good or not was class background. Any cadre who came from a family who had suffered exploitation was presumed to be good.

Newspapers also addressed the subject of the masses' opposition to cadre rehabilitation. There was still strong resistance to rehabilitation from mass organizations because the masses were afraid of retaliation from cadres against whom they had once struggled.[18] And the lingering effects of CR factionalism often made those in charge of cadre rehabilitation unable to reach a consensus on a particular cadre.

Although we do not know how these model cases were applied to each individual cadre, we know that most of the cadres liberated before Lin Biao's fall were specialists whose expertise was greatly needed to help units function smoothly. A preliminary count has revealed that only thirteen provincial-level cadres, but a much larger number of government leaders, were liberated before Lin Biao's purge. Most of the 127 ministerial-level government cadres freed by June 1971 were former vice ministers.[19]

It is very likely that the Gang of Four would have opposed rehabilitating any cadres, if possible, whereas Zhou Enlai would have brought back as many cadres as possible. Documentary evidence about Lin Biao's attitude toward cadre rehabilitation is contradictory; he was accused, on the one hand, of having opposed it and, on the other, of having schemed to use the grievances of purged cadres in his own move against Mao.[20] His real position seems to have been between these two extremes; he was willing to rehabilitate lower-level cadres, but he refused to allow the return of high ranking cadres because they would have posed a threat to his position. In fact, most of the cadres at the basic production level were liberated prior to Lin Biao's fall.[21]


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Political Strategy

Although Lin Biao is known as a brilliant military strategist, he rose to power primarily because he actively encouraged the cult of Mao. He introduced Mao's approach of "politics in command" to the PLA and succeeded, to a certain extent, in restoring that body's sagging morale after the purge of Peng Dehuai. During the CR, he pushed Mao's personality cult to new heights. "Every sentence in Chairman Mao's work is a truth. One single sentence of his surpasses 10,000 of ours. . . . We must carry out not only those instructions we understand, but also those we fail to understand for the moment, and in the course of carrying them out, we must try to understand them."[22]

Lin Biao's thought pattern, aptly labeled a "barracks communism" by Lowell Dittmer, shows the traits of a military man, particularly in his penchant for reducing complex and ambiguous matters to simple propositions.[23] During the CR, he divided the leading cadres into two categories: those who paid attention to important matters and those who were preoccupied with minor matters. Although we do not know whether he undertook any serious study of Marxism-Leninism or any other theoretical literature, he left several boxes of cards containing excerpts from various Marxist writings, organized under such headings as "relations between superior and subordinates," "cadre policy," "seeking truth," and "dialectics."[24]

Although Lin Biao rose to be Mao's official successor during the CR, as vice chairman of the CCP, his real power was precarious because his influence was overshadowed by Mao, who was too powerful and unpredictable to be trusted. Lin knew about Mao's habit of using confidants and then dropping them.[25] Although he was fourteen years younger than Mao, his poor health made it doubtful that he would outlive him.[26] As defense minister he was legally subordinate to Premier Zhou Enlai, his for-


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mer teacher at Whampao Military Academy. In the propaganda field he had no reliable partners except for the Gang of Four, over whom he did not have any formal authority.

With his power base limited to military officers, largely from the Fourth Field Army and those from the second and third generations, Lin attempted, first, to strengthen the political authority of the military, second, to obtain formal authority over the bureaucracy as chairman of the state, and, third, to mobilize his factional followers for a coup attempt.

Using The Military

Although Mao had to rely on the military to restore any semblance of order after two years of chaotic mass mobilization, the elite groups' interests in the military's deep involvement in politics diverged. For Mao, who invented the phrase "the party controls the gun," military involvement was a temporary measure to control the mass movement. The Gang of Four saw that their interests lay in weakening the military's political influence while increasing that of the rebels in the newly established power organs at the local level. Zhou Enlai shared Mao's view, regarding use of the military as an expedient measure to prevent civil war.

Given Lin Biao's heavy reliance on the military for his support, it is clear that he benefited from the institution's increasing political influence during the crisis of the CR, although he did not totally control it. For example, as vice chairman in charge of the daily operations of the Military Affairs Commission, he could legitimately interfere with the operations of the military control commissions that were imposed even on some central government ministries.

The rising tension along the Sino-Soviet border in 1969 helped the military to maintain its active involvement in politics. After the armed clash in Chenbao island, Lin Biao expanded the military's control over industry at the expense of the State Council under Zhou Enlai.[27] Using the need to prepare for war as an ex-


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cuse, he extended the military's authority over many industries at the expense of the State Council.[28] He also gave the military jurisdiction over small industries that could produce small weapons, and he planned to set up an "independent and complete national defense industry" under his control. Furthermore, Lin Biao reportedly intervened in the work of the economic planning agency by ordering it to replace "balance" as the main guiding principle of economic planning with "the battle perspective." Subsequently, the military share of the national budget increased by 34 percent in 1969, by 15 percent in 1970, and by 17 percent in 1971. In these years, defense industry and science received more than 11 percent of the total reinvestment of the state (in 1968 it had received only 9 percent). The state bureaucracy under Zhou Enlai was losing its jurisdiction over a large portion of industry.

Lin Biao reportedly issued Order no. 1 on 18 October 1969 "behind the [back of] Chairman Mao." Under the pretext of "strengthening war preparation to prevent the enemy's sudden attack," this order put the entire military on alert, set up command structures, and appointed officers to command posts.[29] After Order no. 1, Lin's followers dispersed old senior leaders to different parts of China.[30] The objective was to remove them from the decision-making process at the center and to prevent them from forming a coalition against Lin. It was easy to keep close surveillance over them through the reliable local military units, and Lin took the precaution of forbidding these older leaders from communicating with one another.[31] Only on 19 October did Lin Biao report to Mao (by telephone recording), "following the practice of first beheading and then reporting," therefore forcing Mao to acquiesce in his decision. Upon hearing the report, Mao's first comment was that the order should be burned.[32]

Not surprisingly, after Lin Biao's death all his decisions made in the name of war preparations were reversed. All industry was returned to the control of the State Council. In contrast to Lin's


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strategy of preparing for war, which inevitably increased the power of the military, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai opted for the goal of overcoming China's diplomatic isolation by improving Sino-American relations. In addition, Mao attempted to limit the power of the military: he later reduced its involvement in local politics by sending soldiers back to their barracks and transferring political authority to provincial party committees. "At the moment [our military] promotes politics [wen ], but does not promote military affairs [wu ], and it has already become a cultured army [wenhua jundui ]."[33] By February 1971, the center decided to transfer the authority to investigate May 16 elements to the national committee headed by Wu De, thus depriving the local military of the chance to use this investigation to increase their political influence.[34]

Issues of State Chairmanship

Lin and his followers tried to overcome his weakness in the civilian bureaucracy by making him the formal head of the state, as chairman of the PRC, the position that was abolished with Liu Shaoqi's purge.[35] The Gang of Four apparently wanted to exploit the issue in order to weaken Zhou Enlai's position.[36] Viewing the revision of the state constitution as "an opportunity for the redistribution of power," the Gang of Four argued that the new constitution should include an article stating that "on the basis of the Central Committee of the CCP's nomination, the premier and members of the State Council will be appointed and dismissed." According to this draft, the chairman of the CCP would concurrently be "a head of the proletarian dictatorship," whereas the premier would also be a "first minister" in charge of management offices under the chairman.[37]

Mao, probably happy with the three groups conflicting and cooperating under his authority, expressed several times his objection to restoring the state chairmanship. Zhou Enlai was


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more than happy with Mao's opposition. But Lin Biao pushed the issue. He made an unauthorized move by stating "Chairman Mao is a genius," and the "chairmanship of the state should be established" in his opening speech at the second plenum of the Ninth Party Congress held in August 1970 in Lushan. Lin's followers endorsed his speech, demanding that it be distributed and studied.[38]

Mao counterattacked. Declaring "it is unprecedented for a few persons to attempt to confuse 200 Central Committee members," he personally convened a Politburo meeting, which decided to stop discussion of Lin Biao's speech, to cancel the central-north China group's report prepared by Chen Boda, and to order Chen to submit to self-criticism. A few days later, Mao wrote "My Opinion," which repudiated Lin's and Chen's theories of genius. In addition, probably alarmed at Lin's move, Mao took several additional measures to weaken Lin's position. He ordered the PLA to rectify its work style (zuofeng ) by initiating the campaign "against arrogance and complacency" and by placing Zhou Enlai in charge of the campaign. Mao also dispatched Ye Jianying to work in the management section of the Military Affairs Commission in order to let "some air in" and reorganized the Beijing military region by transferring the Thirty-eighth Field Army, which was suspected of being loyal to Lin Biao, out of Beijing—the strategy Mao himself described as "digging out Lin's wall."

Coup Attempt

After the Lushan conference Lin Biao realized not only that his plan for peaceful succession had failed but that he had also exposed his purpose so fully that he was in political trouble. He thus concluded, "Struggle by words will not do; only using weapons can work." Knowing Mao well enough to realize that he would probably move against him at the forthcoming third plenum of the Ninth Party Congress (planned for September 1971), Lin thought it


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would be better for him to move first. His son and his factional followers developed a secret contingent coup plan of the 571 program.[39]

Not sitting idly by, Mao was maneuvering to further isolate Lin Biao politically. From mid-August to 12 September 1971 Mao traveled around the south talking with leaders of the big military regions, provinces, and municipalities. In his talks, he made his displeasure with Lin Biao amply clear: "A certain person is impatient to be the state chairman; he wants to divide the party and seize power. . . . Making one's own wife the management office chief is not appropriate." With regard to his role in Lin Biao's rise, he said, "Of course, I have some responsibility."[40]

After being informed of Mao's move by means of two different sources, Lin Biao ordered the activation of the 571 program.[41] Lin Liguo's group busily discussed possible methods of assassinating Mao, ranging from using napalm and rockets to destroy Mao's train to sending assassins to murder him. Probably because he had been informed of "some abnormal action" on the part of Lin Biao's followers, Mao changed his travel schedule and immediately returned to Beijing.[42] When the Lin Liguo group discovered that Mao had left for Beijing, they changed their coup plan and decided to escape to Guangdong. In Canton, they planned to convene a meeting of cadres above the divisional level and then to use the radio broadcast system to declare the establishment of a separate regime. Reportedly, they planned to ask for help from the Soviet Union.[43]

"A comrade in the central management office" (probably Wang Dongxing) informed Zhou of Lin Biao's plan to escape to the Soviet Union.[44] Zhou ordered that no plane take off without the joint approval of Mao, Zhou, Huang, Wu, and Li Zuopeng, commander


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of the navy, who was responsible for airport security. Nonetheless, at midnight, Lin Biao, Ye Qun, and Lin Liguo decided to escape, probably because they had heard about Zhou's suspicions. Around 2 A.M. , when Lin's plane was getting close to the limits of Chinese air space, Wu Faxian asked Zhou whether or not to shoot the plane down. Zhou went to Mao for a decision. Mao said, "Heaven wants to rain, and a woman wants to marry. Let him go."[45] On the afternoon of 14 September, Zhou received a report from the Chinese embassy in Mongolia stating that the plane had crashed. We still do not know why.[46]


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