Lin Biao

Lin Biao

Lin Biao, the son of a landowner, was born in Wuhan, China, in 1908. At the age of 18 he joined the Socialist Youth League. He attended the Whampoa Military Academy where he met Zhou Enlai. In 1926 took part in the Northern Expedition to suppress the warlords who had ruled the countryside since the collapse of the monarchy in 1911.

In 1927Chiang Kai-Shek emerged as the leader of the Kuomintang. He now carried out a purge that eliminated the communists from the organization. Those communists who survived, including Lin Biao, managed to establish the Jiangxi Soviet.

The nationalists now imposed a blockade and Mao Zedong decided to evacuate the area and establish a new stronghold in the north-west of China. In October 1934 Mao, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and some 100,000 men and their dependents headed west through mountainous areas.

The marchers experienced terrible hardships. The most notable passages included the crossing of the suspension bridge over a deep gorge at Luting (May, 1935), travelling over the Tahsueh Shan mountains (August, 1935) and the swampland of Sikang (September, 1935).

The marchers covered about fifty miles a day and reached Shensi on 20th October 1935. It is estimated that only around 30,000 survived the 8,000-mile Long March.

Lin Biao played an important role in developing the military tactic of guerrilla warfare. As soon as the Japanese surrendered, Communist forces began a war against the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek. He was seriously wounded in 1938 and received medical treatment in the Soviet Union.

Lin Biao became commander of the North West People's Liberation Army in 1945. Lin Biao's strategy was to abandon the cities to the Nationalists and to concentrate on winning the support of the peasants in the countryside. He isolated the Nationalist troops in their garrisons and gradually forced unit after unit to surrender. By 1948 his soldiers had conquered the whole of Manchuria.

Lin's Biao's army also played an important role in the capture of Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou and Hainan Island. The People's Liberation Army gradually gained control of the whole country and on 1st October, 1949, Mao Zedong announced the establishment of People's Republic of China.

Lin Biao was responsible for Chinese forces during the Korean War (1950-53) and was promoted to the rank of marshal in 1955. As Minister of Defence he worked closely with Mao Zedong during the the Cultural Revolution. On 3rd September, 1966, Lin Biao made a speech where he urged pupils in schools and colleges to criticize those party officials who had been influenced by the ideas of Nikita Khrushchev.

Mao and Lin Biao were concerned by those party leaders such as Liu Shaoqi, who favoured the introduction of piecework, greater wage differentials and measures that sought to undermine collective farms and factories. In an attempt to dislodge those in power who favoured the Soviet model of communism, Mao galvanized students and young workers as his Red Guards to attack revisionists in the party. Mao told them the revolution was in danger and that they must do all they could to stop the emergence of a privileged class in China. He argued this is what had happened in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

It was Lin Biao who compiled some of Mao's writings into the handbook, The Quotations of Chairman Mao, and arranged for a copy of what became known as the Little Red Book, to every Chinese citizen.

Zhou Enlai at first gave his support to the campaign but became concerned when fighting broke out between the Red Guards and the revisionists. In order to achieve peace at the end of 1966 he called for an end to these attacks on party officials. Mao Zedong remained in control of the Cultural Revolution and with the support of the army was able to oust the revisionists.

The Cultural Revolution came to an end when Liu Shaoqi resigned from all his posts on 13th October 1968. Lin Biao now became Mao's designated successor. He was also a supporter of the Gang of Four.

In September 1971, Lin Biao was killed in an airplane crash in Mongolia. The official explanation given at the time was that he had been involved in a failed plot to kill Mao Zedong and was killed while fleeing to the Soviet Union.

Lin Biao and Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.
Lin Biao and Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.