China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
During the late years of the Cultural Revolution decade, China experienced a kind of institutionalized political contention that had not existed before that time and has not existed since. Ever since it took power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party has suppressed the establishment of competing political parties and prevented the emergence of institutionalized factions within the party — except during the Cultural Revolution decade (1966-1976). Most scholarship has focused on the tumultuous and sometimes violent factional contention of the early years of this decade, but there has been far less investigation into how China was governed after factional fighting subsided. During this later period, political power came to be divided between two factions, one composed of “rebel” challengers who emerged out of the Cultural Revolution and the other composed of the party establishment. These factions, which extended from the Politburo down to the grassroots level, had distinct political programs and they each controlled substantial institutional resources. They also had access to the press and the capacity for mass mobilization. This paper will examine this period of institutionalized political contention, focusing on conflicts at the grassroots level — inside factories — in two provinces, Henan and Hubei. After analyzing contention for positions in new governing bodies, the paper will examine the contrasting political positions of the two factions, their bases of support and power, and the series of political battles that culminated in the demise of the rebel challengers.