The Lushan Conference (), officially the 8th Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, began on July 2, 1959 and was an informal discussion about the Great Leap Forward. The conference's name is derived from the meeting place, a resort on Mount Lu () in the district of the same name in Jiangxi Province, southeastern China.
The original objective of the conference was to review the developments in China during 1958 and solve some practical issues brought forth by those developments. Mao Zedong also intended to use the conference to contain the "leftist tendency" elements in the Great Leap Forward.
During the conference, Peng Dehuai, then PRC's defense minister, wrote a private letter to Mao criticizing some elements of the Great Leap Forward. In the letter, he criticized elements like the "winds of exaggeration" (i.e., over-reporting of grain production), the communal dining and also the establishment of commune militia which he felt would undermine the strength of the People's Liberation Army.
For this reason, Mao extended the conference for more than ten days.
Downfall of Peng Dehuai
On July 23, Mao showed Peng's letter to his comrades and ask them to express their views on the issue. However, not long afterwards, Mao bitterly criticised Peng as being part of a group wavering in the face of difficulties and who were "only 30 kilometres away from the rightists". He was subsequently dismissed, arrested and replaced by Lin Biao. Although the criticism of Peng Dehuai resulted in a victory for Mao Zedong, it also led the leadership to conclude that he had been treated unfairly and that the party's norms had been violated.
Consequences of the conference
The Lushan Conference marked a key point of departure in Mao's rule. Criticism of party actions and policies were now equated with criticism of Mao.
Mao's speech at Lushan was incredibly passionate and bellicose. He defended himself by saying that he, like all of the great writers, Confucius, Karl Marx, and Lenin had made mistakes and that focusing on them would not help the situation. Moreover, he insisted that not one commune had collapsed yet.
His personal victory over Peng Dehuai at the Lushan Conference gave Mao confidence and led him to proceed with the Great Leap Forward. More than 3 million officials within the party were indicted and "class struggle" was brought in for the first time into the upper echelon of the Party apparatus.
- Spence, Jonathan. The Search for Modern China. W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1990.
- Yang, Dali. "Calamity and Reform in China." Stanford University Press, 1996.
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