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How did the Cultural Revolution affect China's intellectuals?

The Cultural Revolution led to the persecution and marginalisation of China's intellectuals, severely impacting their societal status and roles.

The Cultural Revolution, initiated by Mao Zedong in 1966, was a socio-political movement that aimed to purge China of its 'bourgeois' elements and traditional customs, ideas and habits. Intellectuals, who were seen as the embodiment of these elements, were targeted and suffered greatly. They were labelled as the 'Stinking Old Ninth', a derogatory term used to describe the lowest of the low in society. This marked a significant shift in their societal status, as they were previously respected and admired for their knowledge and wisdom.

Intellectuals were subjected to public humiliation, physical abuse, and even execution. They were forced to participate in 'struggle sessions', where they were criticised and condemned by their colleagues and students. Many were sent to the countryside for 're-education through labour', where they were made to perform hard physical labour and live in harsh conditions. This was a form of ideological reprogramming, designed to replace their 'bourgeois' thinking with proletarian values.

The Cultural Revolution also had a profound impact on the intellectual life of China. Universities were shut down for several years, and academic research and scholarly pursuits were largely abandoned. The education system was overhauled to emphasise political indoctrination over intellectual development. This led to a significant decline in the quality of education and a 'lost generation' of educated individuals.

Furthermore, the persecution of intellectuals led to a brain drain, as many sought to escape the hostile environment by emigrating to other countries. This deprived China of some of its most talented and educated individuals, which had long-term implications for its intellectual and technological development.

In conclusion, the Cultural Revolution had a devastating impact on China's intellectuals. They were marginalised, persecuted, and forced to abandon their intellectual pursuits. This not only affected their personal lives but also had far-reaching consequences for China's intellectual and societal development.

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