Jun 2, 2016 12:40 AM

Key developments in China's 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution

The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) A time of massive upheaval, violence and chaos, China's 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, was launched 50 years ago by Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, who began it by purging officials considered insufficiently loyal. Over its course longstanding party officials, intellectuals and teachers came under violent attack, while traditional Chinese thought and culture were condemned along with foreign influences.

The violence largely abated in 1968 when the People's Liberation Army was brought in to impose order, but normal government functions were not restored until after Mao's death in September 1976. Below are some of the key developments in the Cultural Revolution.

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May 16, 1966 An expanded meeting of the Communist Party's decision-making Politburo is called at which four leading officials are purged and a document issued announcing the start of what was formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

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May 25, 1966 "Big character" posters denouncing all those who would oppose Mao and his revolution begin appearing, opening the flood gates to mass political movements at college campuses throughout the country. Soon after, classes in schools nationwide are suspended indefinitely.

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June 16, 1966 After swimming in the mighty Yangtze River to signal his readiness for ideological battle, Mao defeats an attempt to introduce work teams to calm the growing chaos in schools and factories.

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August 5, 1966 Mao issues his own big character poster proclaiming: "Bombard the headquarters," prompting the youthful Red Guards at the vanguard of the Cultural Revolution to step up their attacks on officials and rival factions.

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January 3, 1967 Mao's supporters led by his wife, Jiang Qing, overthrow the party apparatus in Shanghai, setting off similar uprisings in other cities and rising violence as rival Red Guard factions battle using weapons seized from People's Liberation Army armories.

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July 27, 1968 The military is dispatched to restore order and urban youth are sent down to the countryside, ostensibly to spread revolution and learn from the nation's peasantry. Over the next seven years, 12 million young Chinese are rusticated, a number equivalent to about 10 percent of the urban population.

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April 1-24, 1969 The Communist Party elevates famed general Lin Biao as Mao's heir-apparent and "closest comrade in arms." The same year, a 15-year-old Xi Jinping, China's current leader, was sent to work in a tiny village in his father's home province of Shaanxi.

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September 13, 1971 Lin dies in a plane crash in Mongolia along with close family members and aides while apparently fleeing China. Mao is left without a successor while his wife Jiang Qing exerts ever greater influence on culture and politics as leader of the "Gang of Four."

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1975 A 22-year-old Xi Jinping returns to Beijing after being recommended by his fellow commune members for a place at prestigious Tsinghua University.

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September 9, 1976 Mao dies of complications from Parkinson's disease in Beijing at the age of 82. His death sparks a power struggle in Beijing as the Gang of Four seeks to assume control, while what's left of the party establishment conspires to wrest authority back and end the turmoil of the previous decade.

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October 6, 1976 Jiang Qing and the Gang of Four are arrested in a bloodless revolt led by military commanders working with Mao's successor, Hua Guofeng, effectively ending the Cultural Revolution. All four were eventually sentenced to prison and suffer primary blame for injustices and atrocities of the Cultural Revolution that might have otherwise been attributed to Mao. At her trial, Jiang declared that she was "Chairman Mao's dog. Whomever he asked me to bite, I bit."

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