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The Madness of CCP Number Two Lin Biao
Following up on the tragic craziness that was Lin Biao
You can watch the video for this one below:
While doing research for this video, I came to feel quite sorry for Lin Biao. He appeared to have some profound mental illnesses. I think if you were to feed him truth serum, he would say that he wished that he never got involved in politics in the first place.
But at the same time, I had to remind myself that because of Lin’s actions, many people were prosecuted, assaulted, and at times even killed. The Cultural Revolution was a desperate, confusing time for ordinary people. We should never forget the plight of those who were affected by it.
A few other things I learned about Lin that I could not include in the video for pacing purposes, but thought were very interesting:
While Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Zhu De all lived at the CCP headquarters compound in Zhongnanhai, Lin Biao lived in a private compound connected to Zhongnanhai via private tunnel.
What is it like to be a CCP high ranking official? Mostly reading it seems. Lin Biao’s office receives hundreds of telegrams and documents each day. Each document averages 200 characters. Lin’s secretaries spent hours a day parsing through these documents. The summaries of these documents need to be given to Lin in meetings. But in contrast to other high ranking CCP officials, Lin would only sit in a meeting twice a day and just for 30 min each.
One secretary writes that during his meeting with Lin, Lin had with him a box of matches. He would light one, immediately blow it out, smell it, and then drop the once-lit match. He repeated this throughout the entire meeting, which freaked the secretary out.
Unlike other people’s residential homes, Lin did not keep any Mao Zedong posters or calligraphy on his walls. It was very sparse with just a lotus lamp, bed, sofa, table, and a couple chairs.
Lin ate mostly beans and a meat patty. He did not like salt or oil in his food, and as I mentioned below, he did not drink
On June 1967, China detonated its first hydrogen bomb. One of Lin’s secretaries rushed to tell him about this amazing and historic scientific achievement. It was a moment for all Chinese to be proud of. All Lin said was “good”, waved his hand, and walked away.
In 1969, two high-ranking Vietnamese military officials visited China to discuss matters relating to the Second Indochina War (I did a video about this as well, linked below, which mentions this specific visit). Naturally they wanted an audience with China’s military genius and second most powerful man. But Lin was distant and uninterested in the whole meeting. All he said was, “Facing the great strength of the United States, your method must be to endure. Enduring is victory.”
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As a marshal, Lin Biao helped win China for Mao Zedong. He could not help Mao run it.
In this video, I want to talk about a man on the edge. A guy who commanded vast armies and conquered the Chinese mainland, but then was placed in an impossible situation and died trying to get out.
Who was Lin Biao
Lin Biao began as a marshal of the People’s Liberation Army, one of its core early generals.
Working alongside Zhu De and Peng Dehuai, he conquered Beijing, crossed the Yangtze river into southern China, and ejected the Kuomintang from the mainland.
He is described in a 1970 Western article as:
Lin Biao is the CCP’s most successful army commander ... a strong man in his own right ... within his slight frame exists a steely determination ... to Lin Biao, life is warfare
Upon the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Lin joined politics and ascended to the highest ranks. Highly regarded by Mao Zedong, Lin would be named the Vice Premier and Mao’s designated successor.
Lin had not actually wanted this position, but Zhou Enlai cunningly withdrew from the nomination first and left Lin with no choice.
The memoirs and recollections of Lin's secretaries and assistants paint a private, intensely introverted man. Lin remained aloof from others and was often described as "passive".
He was close to his wife, Ye Qun, who ran his office and was his closest confidant. But other than that, Lin stayed far away from everyone else.
Lin Biao was known to have suffered from bad health of some sort and it greatly affected his actions as a leader of the Chinese Communist Party.
Nobody knows what precisely that ailment had been but Li Zhisui, Mao’s personal physician, thought it to be some sort of hypochondria and neurasthenia - a weakening of the nerves.
Lin Biao was still so afraid of wind and light that he rarely went outside, often missing meetings. His fear of water was so extreme that even the sound of it would give him instant diarrhea. He would not drink liquids at all. Ye Qun made sure he received liquid by dipping steamed buns in water and feeding them to her husband
Later physicians attempting a retrospective diagnosis believe it some combination of untreated social anxiety disorder and possibly something else.
Social anxiety disorder as a mental condition is best described as social phobia. Defined as:
An excessive, irrational fear of social or performance situations due to an expectation that others will scrutinize the person’s actions.
The primary way this disorder manifests itself is in the individual experiencing a dramatic fear of being exposed to a particular situation.
This leads them to having anxiety symptoms - muscle tension, sweating, blushing and others.
Lin Biao struggled on a daily basis to have positive social interactions with people. His staff meetings - when he had them - were brief. Lin preferred to stay indoors and did not like leaving his bedroom.
Mao and Zhou on the other hand labored long hours - working deep into the night. They constantly were talking to people and employed large staffs. Mao is famous for his insomnia and not sleeping ordinary hours.
Lin also struggled to attend public functions. He refused to drink alcohol. In one famous episode, Lin visited the Soviet Union in October 1950. He refused to sip even once from his drink during a toast given by Stalin himself. Stalin!
(Stalin is said to have sarcastically told Lin not to worry and that the drink did not have any poison in it.)
Another thing found in the records that is of interest has to do with Lin’s persistent sweating. He is said to have sweated profusely whenever someone saluted him. So much so that he asked his secretaries to stop doing it.
In another episode, Mao and Lin appeared together at Tiananmen for a public gathering one evening. Lin told Mao that he was sweating and needed to leave.
Mao, rather vexed, is reported to have said, “You are human, are human beings not supposed to perspire?”
Again, we will never know what Lin actually had as the records are not publicly available. We can only make guesses based on what evidence remained.
And of course, we need to point out that Lin was not your ordinary guy working an ordinary job. He was the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao’s “closest comrade in arms”. His designated number two.
And the China of the 1960s were not ordinary times.
The Cultural Revolution
Lin Biao had been one of the key players in the sparking of the Cultural Revolution, joining Mao’s wife and the rest of the Gang of Four to grow Mao’s cult of personality to the Party’s breaking point.
The general interpretation of the reasoning behind Lin’s actions is that he was trying to protect himself by associating as closely as possible with Mao Zedong, the clear Party center. This behavior is reminiscent of those around Stalin and his circle.
As the Cultural Revolution began to intensify, Lin publicly withdrew and isolated himself. He refused to talk about what was happening and became so passive as to neglect his duties of vice-chairman. In a letter to his subordinate Tao Zhu, he would admonish Tao to be “passive, passive, and passive again”.
Behind the scenes, he tried to protect himself by appointing many of his supporters into the Politburo and holding fast to his supporters within the PLA itself. At this time, he began to roll back changes to professionalize the PLA. Lin sought to turn the army into a sloganizing ideological school. Radicalism engulfed the PLA, with activists attacking veteran cadres and even generals.
No matter the intention of Lin’s actions, Mao regardless became suspicious. Mao was in general suspicious of everything but this in particular appeared to trigger him. As Li wrote:
‘There is somebody who says he wants to support me, elevate me, but what he really has in mind is supporting himself, elevating himself.’ The “somebody” was obviously Lin Biao.
Lin Biao‘s attempts to protect himself would disturb the delicate balance of power amongst the Communist Party’s many factions. Mao strove to keep himself at the very center of that power and could not brook anyone attempting to take it from him.
Slowly, Mao would make moves to rebalance away from Lin and other factions like those of Jiang Qing and Zhou Enlai. As a result, a rift developed between Mao Zedong and Lin Biao - a tension that would lead to an explosive end.
The death of Lin Biao
Lin Biao died in a plane accident fleeing China for the Soviet Union. The official Chinese record accuses him of attempting to assassinate Mao Zedong and launch a coup of the Chinese Communist Party.
When he failed to succeed, he tried to defect to the Soviet Union. But the Trident Jet aircraft crashed in Mongolia on the early morning of September 13, 1971.
The record states:
After the Lin Biao anti-Party clique failed in their plot to launch a counterrevolutionary coup d’ etat, Lin Biao, accompanied by Ye Qun, Lin Liguo, and several other diehards commandeered a plane to defect to the Soviet revisionists in betrayal of their Party and country. The plane carrying them crashed in the vicinity of Undur Khan in Mongolia
What we know publicly about "Project 571" as it was called makes it seem like an amateur's work. The outline of what was released makes it look more like a political statement than an actual military plan.
For example, the asserted coup's strength would be drawn from chiefly the air forces. This is a bit weird since during the Civil War, Lin Biao was known chiefly for being a ground forces specialist. Why would the Project 571 "plan" chiefly leave the ground forces as "auxiliary"?
The most credible theory is that Lin Biao's son Lin Liguo and his associates drew up the 571 outline. Likely without Lin Biao aware or even noticing. Lin Liguo then served as a high ranking officer in the People's Liberation Air Force. Lin Biao's generals also argued as such during special trials held in 1980.
A few other really confusing things. Why go to the Soviet Union? Lin Biao never really liked the Soviet Union. He criticized them as much if not more than the US and the Sino-Soviet Rift was in full swing then. Why not go to South China, where Lin had substantial support?
If you want to learn more than that, like what really happened and what not, then you are SOL. The whole incident is extremely political. What is left is just rumors.
Thereafter, Lin Biao has shouldered the major blame for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Traditional Party history has painted him as the main driver of the movement, working alongside the Gang of Four to aggrandize Mao Zedong for his own political gain.
This is a storyline of great convenience for the Party today. For one thing, Lin's support of the Cultural Revolution was backed by other Communist party officials like Ye Jianying, Chen Boda, and of course Mao Zedong himself. Historically, Mao is seen to be primarily responsible for starting the Cultural Revolution.
But since Mao is the Party's founder and its totem, giving him so much blame would be detrimental. Thus, Lin serves as a convenient scapegoat.