Long-term effects of the cultural revolution

Updated March 23, 2017

The Cultural Revolution was a sociocultural movement initiated by Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong in the 1960s. Its objective was to force Chinese people to change their way of thinking; it was a political action with a cultural goal. It ultimately failed, and it had substantial long-term consequences for China's educational system, industrial capacity and labour market.

Technological Stagnation

One feature of the Cultural Revolution was intense xenophobia. Propaganda was rampant during the Cultural Revolution, and China's borders were subsequently closed to imports. This meant that technologies from other countries -- which could make many industrial and agricultural processes far more efficient -- never made it to China, causing China's technological and industrial capacity to lag behind that of the rest of the world.

Industrial Decline

The Cultural Revolution was supposed to be a proletariat revolution, the rise of workers; factory managers, foremen and other supervisors were no longer welcome. So factories were taken out of the hands of their owners and put into the hands of Communist Party workers or floor workers -- neither of whom had any expertise in running a factory. This prevented China from reaching its industrial potential for years.


During the Cultural Revolution, universities were closed, and teenagers were encouraged to leave school and work in the countryside or spread Communist Party propaganda. Thus, for a decade, high school and college-age youths did not graduate. This was a profoundly negative long-term effect because it robbed future generations of educated people, such as teachers, engineers, accountants and other specialists. The result was a much less efficient economy.

Political Mindset

One of the key features of the Cultural Revolution was the engendering of a paranoid mindset in Communist Party members. Party members, many of them young, were taught to be suspicious of everything and that anything that even slightly contradicted -- or even failed to praise -- the Party was evil. This continues to affect Chinese political culture with citizens' secrecy, paranoia and refusal to adapt.

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About the Author

Sam Grover began writing in 2005, also having worked as a behavior therapist and teacher. His work has appeared in New Zealand publications "Critic" and "Logic," where he covered political and educational issues. Grover graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Arts in history.