Chen Boda

Chen Boda (simplified Chinese: 陈伯达; traditional Chinese: 陳伯達; pinyin: Chén Bódá) was born in 1904 in Hui'an (Fujian province, China) and died on 20 September 1989 in Beijing.

He was a member of the Chinese Communist Party, a secretary to Mao Zedong and a prominent member of the leadership during the Cultural Revolution, chairing the Cultural Revolution Group.


Early life

Chen Boda was born Chen Shangyu in 1904 to peasant parents. During his childhood, his family moved to Jimei, likely to facilitate young Chen's enrollment at the Jimei Normal School. In 1925, Chen enrolled at Shanghai Labor University, and in 1927 he joined the Communist Party of China. After returning to Fujian, he was hired as the personal secretary of General Zhang Zhen, helping to prepare for the 1926–1927 Northern Expedition from the CCP side of the First United Front. When the Front collapsed, Chen fled and was eventually arrested in Nanjing. He was released after a month on General Zhang's recommendation. Shortly thereafter, Chen was selected to study at Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow for four years.[1]

In 1931, Chen Boda returned to China, and married Sichuan native Zhu Yuren, who had also studied in Moscow. Chen began teaching ancient Chinese history in Beijing while writing articles under the pen names Chen Zhimei and Chen Boda. Most of these articles focused on the dispute between advocates of "national defense literature" such as Lu Xun, and more nationalist authors. Chen also did underground work for the Party in Tianjin. From 1937 on, he lectured at the Central Party School in Yan'an. He soon became personal research assistant and secretary to Mao Zedong. Chen believed that dialectical materialism was the greatest cultural achievement in human history, and could be sinicized through the use of Chinese vernacular. Chen published the first collection of Mao's writings in 1937, and an official history of the Party in 1945.[1]

Role in the post-1949 government

In 1951, he wrote an article with the title Mao Zedong's theory of the Chinese Revolution is the combination of Marxism-Leninism with the Chinese Revolution and a book entitled Mao Zedong on the Chinese Revolution. These works made him one of the most important interpreters of Mao Zedong's thoughts, and in the 1950s he became Mao's personal secretary and close associate, authoring several key policy documents.[2] In 1958, he became the editor of the party journal Hongqi (The Red Flag).

During the Lushan Conference (July 1959), because Mao was no longer the president of the PRC Liu Shaoqi having taken his place (although he was still chairman of the CCP for some time), and as he didn't want to lose credibility in front of the CCP, he used Chen Boda to criticise Peng Dehuai.[3]

The Cultural Revolution

From 1966 until 1969, Chen Boda was to play an important role in the Cultural Revolution. In May 1966, he was placed at the head of the newly formed Cultural Revolution Group, a body established to oversee and direct the course of the Cultural Revolution.[4] In time, this group would rise to become the most important political body in China, surpassing even the Politburo Standing Committee in importance.[5] Furthermore, Chen Boda was also placed as head of the Communist government's propaganda machine alongside Jiang Qing when the previous leader, Lu Dingyi, was deposed in 1966.[6] He also became a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.[7]

However, as the Cultural Revolution Group began to appear too radical for the liking of the leadership in Peking, its influence began to wane, and it was formally dissolved at the CCP's Ninth Congress in the Spring of 1969.[8] This marked the end of Chen Boda's involvement in the Cultural Revolution. As the leadership became more moderate in its outlook and the initial aims of the Cultural Revolution were sidelined, Chen's radicalism caused concern, and he was condemned as a 'revisionist secret agent' by the CCP's Tenth Congress in 1973.[9]

Later life

After the Cultural Revolution, he was tried by the post-Mao government as a collaborator with the Gang of Four.[10] He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, but was released shortly afterwards due to his ill health. He died on 20 September 1989.


  1. ^ a b Leung, Pak-Wah (2002). Pak-Wah Leung. ed. Political Leaders of Modern China: A Biographical Dictionary (Illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 10–12. ISBN 9780313302169. 
  2. ^ Meisner, M; 'Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic since 1949'; Free Press (2006); p. 151
  3. ^ "The turmoil ages of China" by Wang Nianyi
  4. ^ Guillermaz, J; 'The Chinese Communist Party in Power, 1949-1976'; Westview Press (1976); p. 401
  5. ^ MacFarquhar, R and Schoenhals, M; 'Mao's Last Revolution'; Belknap Harvard (2006); p. 155
  6. ^ Meisner, M; 'Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic since 1949'; Free Press (2006); p. 332
  7. ^ Meisner, M; 'Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic since 1949'; Free Press (2006); p. 403
  8. ^ MacFarquhar, R and Schoenhals, M; 'Mao's Last Revolution'; Belknap Harvard (2006); p. 156
  9. ^ Guillermaz, J; 'The Chinese Communist Party in Power, 1949-1976'; Westview Press (1976); p. 461
  10. ^ Meisner, M; Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic since 1949; Free Press (2006); p. 461

See also

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