(The above is a paraphrasing from Lydia H. Liu, "Invention and Intervention: The Making of a Female Tradition in Modern Chinese Literature," 149-174, in Susan Brownell and Jeffrey Wasserstrom eds., Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002])
19. The End of the Cultural Revolution
One of the events that slowed down the cultural revolutionary fervor was the death of vice chairman of the Chinese Communist Party Lin Biao, long Mao’s designated heir. Mao’s longevity made Lin Biao despair of his chance to be the next number one leader of Communist China. Mao’s tendency to purge all around him made Lin Biao suspect he could be next victim. On Sept.13, 1971, Lin Biao crashed his plane in Mongolia en route to the Soviet Union. Lin was trying to flee China after his plot against Mao was discovered. Frustrated with his frail health and Mao’s increasingly suspiciousness of every one around him, Lin Biao feared that before he was able to succeed Mao, he would become his next target of persecution. In early 1971, Lin Biao plotted to place a bomb on the railroad where Mao’s train was to cross. The plot was found out. Before Mao completely ascertained that Lin Biao was behind it all, Lin decided to run for his life. Along with his wife and son, the latter being the head of the Chinese air force, they boarded a not sufficiently fueled plane. Perhaps as a sign of magnanimity to someone who had been so close to him, Mao let him go without having the plane shot down.
The so-called “Lin Biao Incident” significantly dampened Mao’s political zeal.
One of the consequences of Mao's disillusionment was the improvement of Sino-U.S. relations. Even Mao started to question his own radical revolutionary beliefs and tactics. Thus he was ready to improve relations with his archenemy the United States. Nixon was eager to improve relations with China to prove that China was more nationalist than Communist, hence providing the rhetoric for the U.S. to evacuate her troops from Vietnam: leaving Vietnam would not leave Vietnam a power vacuum for a Communist takeover from China. Nixon visited China in Dec. 1971 and signed a Communiqué with China’s premier Zhou Enlai in Jan. 1972, paving the way for normalizing the relationship between the two countries, which eventually happened in 1979 under the Carter administration.
Another event that helped bring about the end of the Cultural Revolution was Mao’s death in Sept. 1976. The moderate elements in the Communist party that survived the CR immediately arrested Mao’s wife and three of her cohorts (together called the Gang of Four) on charges that they started the Cultural Revolution and wanted to usurp the power of the country. The arrest of the Gang of Four was followed by the reinstitution of Deng Xiaoping. He was the right-hand man to the Communist Party technocrat Liu Shaoqi before the Cultural Revolution, and he was denounced as the second biggest “capitalist-roader” in the Cultural Revolution and put under house arrest for ten years. Over the next twenty years Deng served as the number