Although he was persecuted and distrusted by Mao and his allies first, Gao survived in the cleanings. When Mao took control of Shaanxi, he still need a local leader to appease the local CPC members. Gao became the ideal candidate for his character of being intrepid and never covering his despise of intellectual which was consistent with Mao's personality and appealed to Mao. Thus Gao turned to a favorite of Mao and went on fast track.
Being a natural born organizer, Gao turned Shaanxi into Mao's power base and made himself close political ally of Mao. During his years in Shaanxi, he held the position of Commissar of Interim Headquarter of Shaangan Frontier Red Army in 1933, Vice chairman and General Commissar of Northwest Revolution and Military Committee in 1935, General Secretary of Shaangan Frontier in 1938, Speaker of Council of Shaangan Frontier in 1939, General Secretary of Central Bureau of Shaangan Frontier and later General Secretary of Northwest Bureau in 1941. Furthermore, Gao gave Mao great support in and was one of those who got greatest benefits from this large scale purge.
After the end of Chinese anti Japanese war, he was sent to Manchuria to mobilize the occupation. At first Gao was only the No 4 next to Lin Biao, Peng Zhen and Chen Yun. But he showed his talents in logistics and economic construction, which gave great support to Lin's armies. When Lin had a power struggle with Peng, Gao backed up Lin and got his reward when Peng was transferred to other areas. Gao replaced Peng as Deputy General Secretary of Northeast Bureau and Deputy Commissar of Northeast Democratic Association Army in 1946, later became chief Party secretary of Manchuria . He also served as a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Secretary of the Northeast Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Central People's Government. However, Gao Gang's status was greatly tarnished by his sexual scandals involving numerous White Emigre women who were ardently anti-communist, though these women were just using him to get better living conditions. Moreover, Gao Gang used large public funds to pay off these Russian White Emigre women, which enraged both Lin Biao and Luo Ronghuan, as well as other lower ranking communist cadres, who refused to help in Gao Gang in his downfall near a decade later. In fact, even those former lower ranking communist cadres Lin Biao disliked had joined Lin Biao in struggling Gao Gang, and Gao's sexual scandals and using public funds for payoff were listed as his crimes. Though Lin Biao's action certainly had something to do with his attempt to clear himself in front of Mao, Gao Gang definitely had himself to blame for what he did. Though there were other high ranking communist cadres and commanders who had affairs, none of them dared to use public funds for the payoff, probably because they were not as high ranking as Gao Gang, and more importantly, all of the women in these affairs were either from the lower class or within the communist ranks, none of the women these cadres involved were ardent anti-communist Russian White Emigre. Gao Gang had simply went too far that not only caused him to lose Lin Biao's favor, but as well as that of Mao Zedong and Stalin.
When he was in Manchuria, Gao was close to Stalin, which provoked Mao's suspicion of Gao turning Manchuria into an independent autonomy or colony of Soviet Union. However, Stalin was equally suspicious to Gao Gang due to his numerous and close sexual encounters with various ardent anti-communist Russian White Emigre women, and eventually sold Gao Gang out: according to the recently declassified Chinese archive released to the public, as well as those former Soviet documents unclassified after the fall of former-USSR, Gao Gang had provided important information on Mao Zedong, Chinese communist party and Northeast China to Stalin without Mao's approval and knowledge, but Stalin turned this information to Mao during his state visit to former-USSR, thus selling out Gao Gang.
In 1952 Gao Gang was appointed as chairman of Central Planning Commission of the Central People's Government and chairman of Northeast Executive Committee. In 1953 he was transferred to Beijing and left his power base. After the establishment of People's Republic of China, CCP's principal mission changed from military operation to peaceful construction.
In Beijing, Gao got involved in a complex power-battle . One interpretation is that the bureaucrat group led by Liu Shaoqi replaced the military group led by Peng Dehuai, Lin Biao as the backbones of CCP. Gao took advantage of generals' discontent to challenge Liu's title as heir to Mao Zedong. But as the bureaucrat group consist of more CCP patriarchs inclusive of Zhou Enlai Chen Yun and Deng Xiaoping, and their influence was so deep that even Mao could not ignore it. Thus, Gao lost support from Mao.
Some sources take a different view, interpreting Gao Gang as part of a pro-Russian faction. Another interpretation - argued by Deng Xiaoping - is that that he was just personally ambitious. While Frederick Teiwes's ''Politics at Mao's Court: Gao Gang and Party Factionalism in the Early 1950s'' argues that Mao had been trying to use Gao Gang against particular policies of Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, but that Gao went further than Mao intended. This book reproduces in English some of the official document from the time, as well as subsequent comments on it. Teiwes's view appears to have some support from the recently declassified Chinese archive released to the public , and those former Soviet documents declassified after the fall of former-Soviet Union, as well as the documents. According to these documents, one of the alleged crimes of Gao Gang was that he openly advocated turning Northeast China into a Soviet Republic, arguing that doing so would deter the United States from attacking the region. Gao Gang's opinion outraged most Chinese communists and was immediately criticized heavily by Liu Shaoqi, and even Mao joined Gao's critics.
While the origins of the Gao-Rao Affair are obscure, there emerges from various accounts a sense that Gao Gang, at a minimum, was much too pro-Soviet for the likes of other senior CCP leaders. During a July 1949 trip to Moscow with Liu Shaoqi, for example, Gao is said to have suggested that Manchuria become part of the USSR, as the 17th Soviet Socialist Republic. Perhaps more plausibly, Gao is thought to have been supplying senior Soviet leaders with confidential information about CCP discussions and internal affairs.
The timing of Gao’s downfall appears to hinge on two events: the June 1950 outbreak of the Korean War, and Joseph Stalin’s death in March 1953. Gao’s grip on Manchuria was critical to the smooth supply of men and material to the war effort, and even after he was transferred to Beijing in 1952, he continued to be involved in planning and distribution. As for Stalin, Russian scholars argue that Mao Zedong did not dare touch Gao until after Stalin’s death. Mao is quoted as saying to a Soviet diplomat, ‘If you can purge Beria, we can purge Gao.’
The Gao-Rao Affair is considered by some to be the beginning of the Sino-Soviet split, although there is scant evidence in support of the notion. What is clear is that it was later used to define a turning point. An outline of Mao’s December 1959 speech about the breech between the two communist powers complains that Moscow held the CCP back in 1949, denied that the revolution was real in 1949-51 and “In 1953, Gao , Rao , Peng and Huang started a subversive movement with Moscow’s support.” The inclusion of the latter two, who were not connected to the Gao-Rao Affair, is mere historical revisionism.
Gao was a natural-born politician, but he showed more talents in economy regulation and planning, especially when he ruled Manchuria, he turned it into the most energetic and robust part of China. And in the early stage of Korean War, Gao ensure the supply and logistics of Chinese army, like a director behind the stage. But Gao was a controversial figure from the very beginning. Maybe because he seldom covered his ambition and obsession with extravagant life. Gao liked dancing with beautiful girls and had many affairs with them, which made him notorious among senior CPC leaders. The most popular story about Gao is once when he hosted a meeting of thousands people, he described people's preference to bourgeois life style was like penis, getting erection from time to time.
While Deng Xiaoping restored the reputations of Peng Dehuai, Liu Shaoqi, etc., he insisted that Gao Gang had been in the wrong and that his condemnation had been correct.