The organization consisted of students and schoolchildren raised between 1949, when the socialist regime was founded, and 1966, and numbering perhaps 11 million in total. The aims was to advance the leftist Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China,
The Red Guards caused tremendous destruction in China. Teachers, 'intellectuals' and even government ministers were humiliated, beaten and many tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of victims suffered permanent physical disabilities, were murdered, or committed suicide; the British and Soviet embassies in Beijing were attacked; libraries and cultural artefacts were destroyed (including the majority of Buddhist monasteries in Tibet), and many thousands of people were killed in armed conflict between opposing Red Guard factions in cities across China.
After two years of near anarchy Mao called upon the army to restore order in China, and the Red Guards and other urban youth were sent to live on communes in the countryside, to 'learn from the peasants'. Future CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping was one such youth.