, she came down strongly in favor of the Red Guards, publicly accusing the army of being insufficiently revolutionary (Mao himself refrained from taking sides in the conflict). Soon, the Red Guards became so violent and unrestrained that they threatened to spiral the country into Civil War. After he felt the Red Guards had served their purpose, Mao ended the movement; but his cult of personality and the violent political persecutions remained.
"向文化大革命英勇旗手, 江青同志学习致敬". "Support the Great Cultural Revolution's standard bearer, study and pay respects to Comrade Jiang Qing!!"
Propaganda poster with Jiang Qing and Mao's Little Red Book, Cultural Revolution era
Following the political purges during that era, Jiang Qing gained considerable influence in the party. As Zhou Enlai (the moderate premier of the era who had survived the Cultural Revolution by going along with its excesses) grew weak with cancer, Jiang and the radical wing of the Communist Party gained outsized influence in the government. By 1974, even Mao would warn that
“She (Jiang Qing) does not represent me. She represents herself”.
Upon his deathbed, Mao selected the comparatively moderate Hua Guofeng as his successor, passing over Jiang Qing and the Gang of Four. After Mao's death in 1976, a power struggle ensued between three factions; Jiang Qing and the radicals, Hua Guofeng, Mao's designated successor, and Deng Xiaoping, who represented the moderate wing in the CCP. By then, the national mood had turned against the excesses of the Cultural Revolution symbolized by Jiang Qing, and she and her clique lost the power struggle. At her trial, she made the famous quote
I was Chairman Mao's dog. I bit whomever he asked me to bite.
She was sentenced to prison, where she died a decade later.
Even in death, she and her clique proved dangerous: the Communist Party has preserved Mao's image by shifting the blame of the Cultural Revolution away from Mao onto Jiang. Nowadays, much of the country blames her instead of him for the worst of the Cultural Revolution's excesses, even though he was the real power behind it all.
If your parents grew up in China from anytime between 1950 to 1980, they will almost certainly have been personally affected by Mao, Jiang Qing, and the Gang of Four. If you ask them what that era was like, you might be surprised at what they'll tell you.