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Mao Zedong ( ) (December 26, 1893 September 9, 1976) was a Chinese revolutionary, political theorist and Communist leader. He led the People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC) from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. His theoretical contribution to Marxism-Leninism, military strategies, and his brand of Communist policies are now collectively known as Maoism.

Mao remains a controversial figure to this day, with a contentious and ever-evolving legacy. He is officially held in high regard in China as a great revolutionary, political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of the nation. Many Chinese also believe that through his policies, he laid the economic, technological and cultural foundations of modern China, transforming the country from a backward agrarian society into a major world power. Additionally, Mao is viewed by many as a poet, philosopher, and visionary, owing the latter primarily to the cult of personality fostered during his time in power. As a consequence, his portrait continues to be featured prominently on Tiananmenmarker and on all Renminbi bills.

Conversely, Mao's social-political programs, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are blamed for causing severe famine and damage to the culture, society and economy of China. Mao's policies and political purges from 1949 to 1975 are widely believed to have caused the deaths of between 50 to 70 million people. Since Deng Xiaoping assumed power in 1978, many Maoist policies have been abandoned in favour of economic reforms.

Mao is regarded as one of the most influential figures in modern world history, and named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Early life

During the Xinhai Revolution, Mao enlisted as a soldier in a local regiment in Hunanmarker, which fought on the side of the revolutionaries. Once the Qing Dynastymarker had been effectively toppled, Mao left the army and returned to school.

After graduating the First Provincial Normal School of Hunan in 1918, it is believed that Mao traveled with Professor Yang Changji, his college teacher and future father-in-law, to Beijing during the May Fourth Movement in 1919. Professor Yang died in 1920 in Peking University.

Professor Yang held a faculty position at Peking Universitymarker. As a result of Yang's recommendation, Mao worked as an assistant librarian at the University with Li Dazhao as curator. Mao registered as a part-time student at Beijing University and attended a few lectures and seminars by intellectuals, such as Chen Duxiu, Hu Shi, and Qian Xuantong. During his stay in Shanghai, he engaged himself as much as possible in reading which introduced him to Communist theories.

He married Yang Kaihui, Professor Yang's daughter and a fellow student, despite an existing marriage arranged by his father at home, which Mao never acknowledged. In October 1930, the Kuomintang (KMT) captured Yang Kaihui as well as her son, Anying . The KMT imprisoned them both, and Anying was later sent to his relatives after the KMT killed his mother . At this time, Mao was living with He Zizhen, a co-worker and 17 year old girl from Yongxing, Jiangximarker. Likely due to poor language skills (Mao never learned to speak Mandarin), he turned down an opportunity to study in Francemarker.

On 23 July 1921, Mao, age 27, attended the first session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai. Two years later, he was elected as one of the five commissars of the Central Committee of the Party during the third Congress session. Later that year, Mao returned to Hunan at the instruction of the CPC Central Committee and the Kuomintang Central Committee to organize the Hunan branch of the Kuomintang. In 1924, he was a delegate to the first National Conference of the Kuomintang, where he was elected an Alternate Executive of the Central Committee. In 1924, he became an Executive of the Shanghai branch of the Kuomintang and Secretary of the Organization Department.

For a while, Mao remained in Shanghai, an important city that the CPC emphasized for the Revolution. However, the Party encountered major difficulties organizing labor union movements and building a relationship with its nationalist ally, the Kuomintang (KMT). The Party had become poor, and Mao became disillusioned with the revolution and moved back to Shaoshan. During his stay at home, Mao's interest in the revolution was rekindled after hearing of the 1925 uprisings in Shanghai and Guangzhou. His political ambitions returned, and he then went to Guangdong, the base of the Kuomintang, to take part in the preparations for the second session of the National Congress of Kuomintang. In October 1925, Mao became acting Propaganda Director of the Kuomintang.

In early 1927, Mao returned to Hunan where, in an urgent meeting held by the Communist Party, he made a report based on his investigations of the peasant uprisings in the wake of the Northern Expedition. This is considered the initial and decisive step towards the successful application of Mao's revolutionary theories.

Political ideas

Mao as a young man.


Mao had a strong interest in the political system, encouraged by his father. His two most famous essays, both from 1937, 'On Contradiction' and 'On Practice', are concerned with the practical strategies of a revolutionary movement and stress the importance of practical, grassroots knowledge, obtained through experience.

Both essays reflect the guerrilla roots of Maoism in the need to build up support in the countryside against a Japanese occupying force and emphasise the need to win over 'hearts and minds' through 'education'. The essays, reproduced later as part of the 'Red Book', warn against the behaviour of the blindfolded man trying to catch sparrows, and the 'Imperial envoy' descending from his carriage to 'spout opinions' .

After graduating from Hunan Normal School, the highest level of schooling available in his province, Mao spent six months studying independently. Mao was first introduced to communism while working at Peking Universitymarker, and in 1921 he attended the organizational meeting of the Communist Party of China (or CPC). He first encountered Marxism while he worked as a library assistant at Peking University.

Other important influences on Mao were the Russian revolution and, according to some scholars, the Chinese literary works: Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Mao sought to subvert the alliance of imperialism and feudalism in China. He thought the Nationalists to be both economically and politically vulnerable and thus that the revolution could not be steered by Nationalists.

Throughout the 1920s, Mao led several labour struggles based upon his studies of the propagation and organization of the contemporary labour movements. However, these struggles were successfully subdued by the government, and Mao fled from Changshamarker after he was labeled a radical activist. He pondered these failures and finally realized that industrial workers were unable to lead the revolution because they made up only a small portion of China's population, and unarmed labour struggles could not resolve the problems of imperial and feudal suppression.

Mao began to depend on Chinese peasants who later became staunch supporters of his theory of violent revolution. This dependence on the rural rather than the urban proletariat to instigate violent revolution distinguished Mao from his predecessors and contemporaries. Mao himself was from a peasant family, and thus he cultivated his reputation among the farmers and peasants and introduced them to Marxism.

War

Mao in 1927
Mao in 1931


In 1927, Mao conducted the famous Autumn Harvest Uprising in Changshamarker, Hunanmarker, as commander-in-chief. Mao led an army, called the "Revolutionary Army of Workers and Peasants", which was defeated and scattered after fierce battles. Afterwards, the exhausted troops were forced to leave Hunan for Sanwan, Jiangxi, where Mao re-organized the scattered soldiers, rearranging the military division into smaller regiments.

Mao also ordered that each company must have a party branch office with a commissar as its leader who would give political instructions based upon superior mandates. This military rearrangement in Sanwan, Jiangxi initiated the CPC's absolute control over its military force and has been considered to have the most fundamental and profound impact upon the Chinese revolution. Later, they moved to the Jinggang Mountains, Jiangxi.

In the Jinggang Mountains, Mao persuaded two local insurgent leaders to pledge their allegiance to him. There, Mao joined his army with that of Zhu De, creating the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army of China, Red Army in short. Mao's tactics were strongly based on that of the Spanish Guerillas during the Napoleonic Wars.

From 1931 to 1934, Mao helped establish the Soviet Republic of China and was elected Chairman of this small republic in the mountainous areas in Jiangxi. Here, Mao was married to He Zizhen. His previous wife, Yang Kaihui, had been arrested and executed in 1930, just three years after their departure.

It was alleged that Mao orchestrated the Anti-Bolshevik League incident and the Futian incident.

In Jiangxi, Mao's authoritative domination, especially that of the military force, was challenged by the Jiangxi branch of the CPC and military officers. Mao's opponents, among whom the most prominent was Li Wenlin, the founder of the CPC's branch and Red Army in Jiangxi, were against Mao's land policies and proposals to reform the local party branch and army leadership. Mao reacted first by accusing the opponents of opportunism and kulakism and then set off a series of systematic suppressions of them. Under the direction of Mao, it is reported that horrible methods of torture took place and given names such as sitting in a sedan chair, airplane ride, toad-drinking water, and monkey pulling reins." The wives of several suspects had their breasts cut open and their genitals burned. It has been estimated that 'tens of thousands' of suspected enemies, perhaps as many as 186,000, were killed during this purge. Critics accuse Mao's authority in Jiangxi of being secured and reassured through the revolutionary terrorism, or red terrorism.

Mao, with the help of Zhu De, built a modest but effective army, undertook experiments in rural reform and government, and provided refuge for Communists fleeing the rightist purges in the cities. Mao's methods are normally referred to as Guerrilla warfare; but he himself made a distinction between guerrilla warfare (youji zhan) and Mobile Warfare (yundong zhan).

Mao's Guerrilla Warfare and Mobile Warfare was based upon the fact of the poor armament and military training of the Red Army which consisted mainly of impoverished peasants, who, however, were all encouraged by revolutionary passions and aspiring after a communist utopia.

Around 1930, there had been more than ten regions, usually entitled "soviet areas", under control of the CPC. The relative prosperity of "soviet areas" startled and worried Chiang Kai-shek, chairman of the Kuomintang government, who waged five waves of besieging campaigns against the "central soviet area." More than one million Kuomintang soldiers were involved in these five campaigns, four of which were defeated by the Red Army led by Mao. By June 1932 (the height of its power), the Red Army had no less than 45,000 soldiers, with a further 200,000 local militia acting as a subsidiary force.

Under increasing pressure from the KMT encirclement campaigns, there was a struggle for power within the Communist leadership. Mao was removed from his important positions and replaced by individuals (including Zhou Enlai) who appeared loyal to the orthodox line advocated by Moscow and represented within the CPC by a group known as the 28 Bolsheviks.
Mao in 1935


Chiang Kai-shek, who had earlier assumed nominal control of China due in part to the Northern Expedition, was determined to eliminate the Communists. By October 1934, he had them surrounded, prompting them to engage in the "Long March," a retreat from Jiangxi in the southeast to Shaanximarker in the northwest of China. It was during this 9,600 kilometer (5,965 mile), year-long journey that Mao emerged as the top Communist leader, aided by the Zunyi Conference and the defection of Zhou Enlai to Mao's side. At this Conference, Mao entered the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

According to the standard Chinese Communist Party line, from his base in Yan'anmarker, Mao led the Communist resistance against the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). However, Mao further consolidated power over the Communist Party in 1942 by launching the Shu Fan movement, or "Rectification" campaign against rival CPC members such as Wang Ming, Wang Shiwei, and Ding Ling. Also while in Yan'an, Mao divorced He Zizhen and married the actress Lan Ping, who would become known as Jiang Qing.

Mao in 1938, writing On Protracted War


During the Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong's military strategies, laid out in On Guerrilla Warfare were opposed by both Chiang Kai-shek and the United States. The US regarded Chiang as an important ally, able to help shorten the war by engaging the Japanese occupiers in China. Chiang, in contrast, sought to build the ROC army for the certain conflict with Mao's communist forces after the end of World War II. This fact was not understood well in the US, and precious lend-lease armaments continued to be allocated to the Kuomintang.

In turn, Mao spent part of the war (as to whether it was most or only a little is disputed) fighting the Kuomintang for control of certain parts of China. Both the Communists and Nationalists have been criticised for fighting amongst themselves rather than allying against the Japanese Imperial Army. Some argue, however, that the Nationalists were better equipped and fought more against Japan.

In 1944, the Americans sent a special diplomatic envoy, called the Dixie Mission, to the Communist Party of China. According to Edwin Moise, in Modern China: A History 2nd Edition:

Most of the Americans were favorably impressed. The CPC seemed less corrupt, more unified, and more vigorous in its resistance to Japanmarker than the Kuomintang. United States fliers shot down over North China...confirmed to their superiors that the CPC was both strong and popular over a broad area. In the end, the contacts with the USA developed with the CPC led to very little.


After the end of World War II, the U.S. continued to support Chiang Kai-shek, now openly against the Communist's People's Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong in the civil war for control of China. The U.S. support was part of its view to contain and defeat world communism. Likewise, the Soviet Union gave quasi-covert support to Mao (acting as a concerned neighbor more than a military ally, to avoid open conflict with the U.S.) and gave large supplies of arms to the Communist Party of China, although newer Chinese records indicate the Soviet "supplies" were not as large as previously believed, and consistently fell short of the promised amount of aid.

In 1948, the People’s Liberation Army starved out the Kuomintang forces occupying the city of Changchunmarker. At least 160,000 civilians are believed to have perished during the siege, which lasted from June until October. PLA lieutenant colonel Zhang Zhenglu, who documented the siege in his book White Snow, Red Blood, compared it to Hiroshima: “The casualties were about the same. Hiroshima took nine seconds; Changchun took five months.”

On 21 January 1949, Kuomintang forces suffered massive losses against Mao's forces. In the early morning of 10 December 1949, PLA troops laid siege to Chengdumarker, the last KMT-occupied city in mainland China, and Chiang Kai-shek evacuated from the mainland to Taiwanmarker (Formosa) that same day.

Leadership of China

The People's Republic of Chinamarker was established on October 1, 1949. It was the culmination of over two decades of civil and international war. From 1954 to 1959, Mao was the Chairman of the PRC. During this period, Mao was called Chairman Mao ( ) or the Great Leader Chairman Mao ( ).

The Communist Party assumed control of all media in the country and used it to promote the image of Mao and the Party. The Nationalists under General Chiang Kai-Shek were vilified as were countries such as the United States of America and Japan. The Chinese people were exhorted to devote themselves to build and strengthen their country through Communist ideology. In his speech declaring the foundation of the PRC, Mao is famously said to have announced: "The Chinese people have stood up" (though whether he actually said it is disputed).

Mao took up residence in Zhongnanhaimarker, a compound next to the Forbidden Citymarker in Beijing, and there he ordered the construction of an indoor swimming pool and other buildings. Mao often did his work either in bed or by the side of the pool, preferring not to wear formal clothes unless absolutely necessary, according to Dr. Li Zhisui, his personal physician. (Li's book, The Private Life of Chairman Mao, is regarded as controversial, especially by those sympathetic to Mao.)

In October 1950, Mao made the decision to send the People's Volunteer Army into Korea and fought against the United Nations forces led by the U.S. Historical records showed that Mao directed the PVA campaigns in the Korean War to the minute details.

Along with Land reform, during which significant numbers of landlords were beaten to death at mass meetings organized by the CPC as land was taken from them and given to poorer peasants, there was also the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, which involved public executions targeting mainly former Kuomintang officials, businessmen accused of "disturbing" the market, former employees of Western companies and intellectuals whose loyalty was suspect. The U.S.marker State departmentmarker in 1976 estimated that there may have been a million killed in the land reform, 800,000 killed in the counterrevolutionary campaign. Mao himself claimed that a total of 700,000 people were executed during the years 1949–53. However, because there was a policy to select "at least one landlord, and usually several, in virtually every village for public execution", the number of deaths range between 2 million and 5 million. In addition, at least 1.5 million people, perhaps as many as 4 to 6 million, were sent to "reform through labour" camps where many perished. Mao played a personal role in organizing the mass repressions and established a system of execution quotas, which were often exceeded. Nevertheless he defended these killings as necessary for the securing of power.

Starting in 1951, Mao initiated two successive movements in an effort to rid urban areas of corruption by targeting wealthy capitalists and political opponents, known as the three-anti/five-anti campaigns. A climate of raw terror developed as workers denounced their bosses, wives turned on their husbands, and children informed on their parents; the victims often being humiliated at struggle sessions, a method designed to intimidate and terrify people to the maximum. Mao insisted that minor offenders be criticized and reformed or sent to labor camps, "while the worst among them should be shot." These campaigns took several hundred thousand additional lives, the vast majority via suicide.

In Shanghai, people jumping to their deaths became so commonplace that residents avoided walking on the pavement near skyscrapers for fear that suicides might land on them. Some biographers have pointed out that driving those perceived as enemies to suicide was a common tactic during the Mao-era. For example, in his biography of Mao, Philip Short notes that in the Yan'an Rectification Movement, Mao gave explicit instructions that "no cadre is to be killed," but in practice allowed security chief Kang Sheng to drive opponents to suicide and that "this pattern was repeated throughout his leadership of the People's Republic."

Following the consolidation of power, Mao launched the First Five-Year Plan (1953-8). The plan aimed to end Chinese dependence upon agriculture in order to become a world power. With the Soviet Unionmarker's assistance, new industrial plants were built and agricultural production eventually fell to a point where industry was beginning to produce enough capital that China no longer needed the USSR's support. The success of the First Five Year Plan was to encourage Mao to instigate the Second Five Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, in 1958. Mao also launched a phase of rapid collectivization. The CPC introduced price controls as well as a Chinese character simplification aimed at increasing literacy. Large scale industrialization projects were also undertaken.

Programs pursued during this time include the Hundred Flowers Campaign, in which Mao indicated his supposed willingness to consider different opinions about how China should be governed. Given the freedom to express themselves, liberal and intellectual Chinese began opposing the Communist Party and questioning its leadership. This was initially tolerated and encouraged. After a few months, Mao's government reversed its policy and persecuted those, totalling perhaps 500,000, who criticized, as well as those who were merely alleged to have criticized, the Party in what is called the Anti-Rightist Movement. Authors such as Jung Chang have alleged that the Hundred Flowers Campaign was merely a ruse to root out "dangerous" thinking. Others such as Dr Li Zhisui have suggested that Mao had initially seen the policy as a way of weakening those within his party who opposed him, but was surprised by the extent of criticism and the fact that it began to be directed at his own leadership. It was only then that he used it as a method of identifying and subsequently persecuting those critical of his government. The Hundred Flowers movement led to the condemnation, silencing, and death of many citizens, also linked to Mao's Anti-Rightist Movement, with death tolls possibly in the millions.

Great Leap Forward

In January 1958, Mao Zedong launched the second Five-Year Plan known as the Great Leap Forward, a plan intended as an alternative model for economic growth to the Soviet model focusing on heavy industry that was advocated by others in the party. Under this economic program, the relatively small agricultural collectives which had been formed to date were rapidly merged into far larger people's communes, and many of the peasants ordered to work on massive infrastructure projects and the small-scale production of iron and steel. Some private food production was banned; livestock and farm implements were brought under collective ownership.

Under the Great Leap Forward, Mao and other party leaders ordered the implementation of a variety of unproven and unscientific new agricultural techniques by the new communes. Combined with the diversion of labor to steel production and infrastructure projects and the reduced personal incentives under a commune system this led to an approximately 15% drop in grain production in 1959 followed by further 10% reduction in 1960 and no recovery in 1961. In an effort to win favor with their superiors and avoid being purged, each layer in the party hierarchy exaggerated the amount of grain produced under them and based on the fabricated success, party cadres were ordered to requisition a disproportionately high amount of the true harvest for state use primarily in the cities and urban areas but also for export. The net result, which was compounded in some areas by drought and in others by floods, was that the rural peasants were not left enough to eat and many millions starved to death in the Great Chinese Famine. This famine was a direct cause of the death of tens of millions of Chinese peasants between 1959 and 1962. Further, many children who became emaciated and malnourished during years of hardship and struggle for survival, died shortly after the Great Leap Forward came to an end in 1962 (Spence, 553).

The extent of Mao's knowledge as to the severity of the situation has been disputed. According to some, most notably Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao was not aware of anything more than a mild food and general supply shortage until late 1959.

"But I do not think that when he spoke on 2 July 1959, he knew how bad the disaster had become, and he believed the party was doing everything it could to manage the situation"


Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, in Mao: the Unknown Story, alleged that Mao knew of the vast suffering and that he was dismissive of it, blaming bad weather or other officials for the famine.

"Although slaughter was not his purpose with the Leap, he was more than ready for myriad deaths to result, and hinted to his top echelon that they should not be too shocked if they happened (438-439)."


In Hungry Ghosts, Jasper Becker notes that Mao was dismissive of reports he received of food shortages in the countryside and refused to change course, believing that peasants were lying and that rightists and kulaks were hoarding grain. He refused to open state granaries, and instead launched a series of "anti-grain concealment" drives that resulted in numerous purges and suicides. Other violent campaigns followed in which party leaders went from village to village in search of hidden food reserves, and not only grain, as Mao issued quotas for pigs, chickens, ducks and eggs. Many peasants accused of hiding food were tortured and beaten to death.

Whatever the case, the Great Leap Forward led to millions of deaths in China. Mao lost esteem among many of the top party cadres and was eventually forced to abandon the policy in 1962, also losing some political power to moderate leaders, notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. However, Mao and national propaganda claimed that he was only partly to blame. As a result, he was able to remain Chairman of the Communist Party, with the Presidency transferred to Liu Shaoqi.

The Great Leap Forward was a disaster for China. Although the steel quotas were officially reached, almost all of it made in the countryside was useless lumps of iron, as it had been made from assorted scrap metal in home made furnaces with no reliable source of fuel such as coal. According to Zhang Rongmei, a geometry teacher in rural Shanghai during the Great Leap Forward:

"We took all the furniture, pots, and pans we had in our house, and all our neighbors did likewise. We put all everything in a big fire and melted down all the metal."


Moreover, most of the dams, canals and other infrastructure projects, which millions of peasants and prisoners had been forced to toil on and in many cases die for, proved useless as they had been built without the input of trained engineers, whom Mao had rejected on ideological grounds.

The worst of the famine was steered towards enemies of the state, much like during the 1932-33 famine in the USSRmarker. A Jasper Becker explains:

"The most vulnerable section of China's population, around five per cent, were those whom Mao called 'enemies of the people'. Anyone who had in previous campaigns of repression been labeled a 'black element' was given the lowest priority in the allocation of food. Landlords, rich peasants, former members of the nationalist regime, religious leaders, rightists, counter-revolutionaries and the families of such individuals died in the greatest numbers."




In the Party Congress at Lushan in July/August 1959, several leaders expressed concern that the Great Leap Forward was not as successful as planned. The most direct of these was Minister of Defence and Korean War General Peng Dehuai. Mao, fearing loss of his position, orchestrated a purge of Peng and his supporters, stifling criticism of the Great Leap policies. Senior officials who reported the truth of the famine to Mao were branded as "right opportunists." A campaign against right opportunism was launched and resulted in party members and ordinary peasants being sent to camps where many would subsequently die in the famine. Years later the CPC would conclude that 6 million people were wrongly punished in the campaign.

There is a great deal of controversy over the number of deaths by starvation during the Great Leap Forward. Until the mid 1980s, when official census figures were finally published by the Chinese Government, little was known about the scale of the disaster in the Chinese countryside, as the handful of Western observers allowed access during this time had been restricted to model villages where they were deceived into believing that Great Leap Forward had been a great success. There was also an assumption that the flow of individual reports of starvation that had been reaching the West, primarily through Hong Kong and Taiwan, must be localized or exaggerated as China was continuing to claim record harvests and was a net exporter of grain through the period. Because Mao wanted to pay back early to the Soviets debts totaling 1.973 billion yuan from 1960 to 1962, exports increased by 50%, and fellow Communist regimes in North Koreamarker, North Vietnam and Albania were provided grain free of charge. Censuses were carried out in China in 1953, 1964 and 1982. The first attempt to analyse this data in order to estimate the number of famine deaths was carried out by American demographer Dr Judith Banister and published in 1984. Given the lengthy gaps between the censuses and doubts over the reliability of the data, an accurate figure is difficult to ascertain. Nevertheless, Banister concluded that the official data implied that around 15 million excess deaths incurred in China during 1958-61 and that based on her modelling of Chinese demographics during the period and taking account of assumed underreporting during the famine years, the figure was around 30 million. The official statistic is 20 million deaths, as given by Hu Yaobang. Yang Jisheng, a former Xinhua News Agencymarker reporter who had privileged access and connections available to no other scholars, estimates a death toll of 36 million. Various other sources have put the figure between 20 and 72 million.

On the international front, the period was dominated by the further isolation of China, due to start of the Sino-Soviet split which resulted in Khrushchev withdrawing all Soviet technical experts and aid from the country. The split was triggered by border disputes, and arguments over the control and direction of world communism, and other disputes pertaining to foreign policy. Most of the problems regarding communist unity resulted from the death of Stalin and his replacement by Khrushchev. Stalin had established himself as the successor of "correct" Marxist thought well before Mao controlled the Communist Party of China, and therefore Mao never challenged the suitability of any Stalinist doctrine (at least while Stalin was alive). Upon the death of Stalin, Mao believed (perhaps because of seniority) that the leadership of the "correct" Marxist doctrine would fall to him. The resulting tension between Khrushchev (at the head of a politically/militarily superior government), and Mao (believing he had a superior understanding of Marxist ideology) eroded the previous patron-client relationship between the CPSU and CPC. In China, the formerly favourable Soviets were now denounced as "revisionists" and listed alongside "American imperialism" as movements to oppose.
Partly-surrounded by hostile Americanmarker military bases (reaching from South Koreamarker, Japanmarker, and Taiwanmarker), China was now confronted with a new Sovietmarker threat from the north and west. Both the internal crisis and the external threat called for extraordinary statesmanship from Mao, but as China entered the new decade the statesmen of the People's Republic were in hostile confrontation with each other.

At a large Communist Party conference in Beijing in January 1962, called the "Conference of the Seven Thousand," State President Liu Shaoqi denounced the Great Leap Forward as responsible for widespread famine. The overwhelming majority of delegates expressed agreement, but Defense Minister Lin Biao staunchly defended Mao. A brief period of liberalization followed while Mao and Lin plotted a comeback. Liu and Deng Xiaoping rescued the economy by disbanding the people's communes, introducing elements of private control of peasant smallholdings and importing grain from Canada and Australia to mitigate the worst effects of famine.

Cultural Revolution

Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping's prominence gradually became more powerful. Liu and Deng, then the State President and General Secretary, respectively, had favored the idea that Mao should be removed from actual power but maintain his ceremonial and symbolic role, with the party upholding all of his positive contributions to the revolution. They attempted to marginalize Mao by taking control of economic policy and asserting themselves politically as well.

Mao responded to Liu and Deng's movements by launching the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Believing that certain liberal "bourgeois" elements of society continued to threaten the socialist framework, groups of young people known as the Red Guards struggled against authorities at all levels of society and even set up their own tribunals. Chaos reigned over the country, and millions were persecuted, including a famous philosopher, Chen Yuen. During the Cultural Revolution, the schools in China were closed and the young intellectuals living in cities were ordered to the countryside to be "re-educated" by the peasants, where they performed hard manual labor and other work. The Revolution led to the destruction of much of China's cultural heritage and the imprisonment of a huge number of Chinese citizens, as well as creating general economic and social chaos in the country. Millions of lives were ruined during this period, as the Cultural Revolution pierced into every part of Chinese life, depicted by such Chinese films as To Live, The Blue Kite and Farewell My Concubine. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, perished in the violence of the Cultural Revolution. When Mao was informed of such losses, particularly that people had been driven to suicide, he blithely commented: "People who try to commit suicide — don't attempt to save them! . . . China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people."



It was during this period that Mao chose Lin Biao, who seemed to echo all of Mao's ideas, to become his successor. Lin was later officially named as Mao's successor. By 1971, however, a divide between the two men became apparent. Official history in China states that Lin was planning a military coup or an assassination attempt on Mao. Lin Biao died in a plane crash over the air space of Mongolia, presumably in his way to flee China, probably anticipating his arrest. The CPC declared that Lin was planning to depose Mao, and posthumously expelled Lin from the party. At this time, Mao lost trust in many of the top CPC figures. The highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa described his conversation with Nicolae Ceauşescu who told him about a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by KGBmarker.

In 1969, Mao declared the Cultural Revolution to be over, although the official history of the People's Republic of China marks the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 with Mao's death. In the last years of his life, Mao was faced with declining health due to either Parkinson's disease or, according to Li Zhisui, motor neurone disease, as well as lung ailments due to smoking and heart trouble. Some also attributed Mao's decline in health to the betrayal of Lin Biao. Mao remained passive as various factions within the Communist Party mobilized for the power struggle anticipated after his death.

During the Cultural Revolution, China exploded its first H-Bomb (1967), launched the Dong Fang Hong satellite (January 30, 1970), commissioned its first nuclear submarines and made various advances in science and technology.

Death: Mao's final week & days

At five o'clock in the afternoon of September 2, 1976, Mao suffered a heart attack, far more severe than his previous two and affecting a much larger area of his heart. X rays indicated that his lung infection had worsened, and his urine output dropped to less than 300 cc a day.

Mao was awake and alert throughout the crisis and asked several times whether he was in danger. His condition continued to fluctuate and his life hung in the balance.

Three days later, on September 5, Mao's condition was still critical, and Hua Guofeng called Jiang Qing back from her trip. She spent only a few moments in Building 202 (where Mao was staying) before returning to her own residence in the Spring Lotus Chamber.

On the afternoon of September 7, Mao took a turn for the worse. Jiang Qing went to Building 202 where she learned the news. Mao had just fallen asleep and needed the rest, but she insisted on rubbing his back and moving his limbs, and she sprinkled powder on his body. The medical team protested that the dust from the powder was not good for his lungs, but she instructed the nurses on duty to follow her example later. The next morning, September 8, she went again. She demanded the medical staff to change Mao's sleeping position, claiming that he had been lying too long on his left side. The doctor on duty objected, knowing that he could breathe only on his left side, but she had him moved nonetheless. Mao's breathing stopped and his face turned blue. Jiang Qing left the room while the medical staff put him on a respirator and performed emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Mao barely revived and Hua Guofeng urged Jiang Qing not to interfere further with the doctors' work, as her actions were detrimental to Mao's health and helped cause his death faster. Mao's organs were failing and he was taken off the life support a few minutes after midnight. September 9 was chosen because it was an easy day to remember. Mao had been in poor health for several years and had declined visibly for at least 6 months prior to his death.

His body lay in state at the Great Hall of the Peoplemarker. A memorial service was held in Tiananmen Squaremarker on 18 September 1976. There was a three minute silence observed during this service. His body was later placed into the Mausoleum of Mao Zedongmarker, even though he had wished to be cremated and had been one of the first high-ranking officials to sign the "Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death" in November 1956.

Cult of Mao

Mao's figure is largely symbolic both in China and in the global communist movement as a whole. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao's already glorified image manifested into a personality cult that influenced every aspect of Chinese life. Mao was regarded as the undisputed leader of China's working class in their 100-year struggle against imperialism, feudalism and capitalism, which were the three-evils in pre-1949 China since the Opium War. Even today, many Chinese people regard Mao as a God-like figure, who led the ailing China onto the path of an independent and powerful nation, whose pictures can expel the evil spirit and bad luck.

At the 1958 Party congress in Chengdu, Mao expressed support for the idea of personality cults if they venerated figures who were genuinely worthy of adulation:

In 1962, Mao proposed the Socialist Education Movement (SEM) in an attempt to educate the peasants to resist the temptations of feudalism and the sprouts of capitalism that he saw re-emerging in the countryside from Liu's economic reforms. Large quantities of politicized art were produced and circulated — with Mao at the center. Numerous posters, badges and musical compositions referenced Mao in the phrase "Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts" ( ) and a "Savior of the people" ( ).

The Cult of Mao proved vital in starting the Cultural Revolution. China's youth had generally been raised during the Communist era, which had taught them to idolize Mao. The youth also did not remember the immense starvation and suffering caused by Mao's Great Leap Forward, and thus their thoughts of Mao were generally positive. Thus, they were his greatest supporters. Their feelings for him were of such strength that many followed his urge to challenge all established authority.

In October 1966, Mao's Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, which was known as the Little Red Book was published. Party members were encouraged to carry a copy with them and possession was almost mandatory as a criterion for membership. Over the years, Mao's image became displayed almost everywhere, present in homes, offices and shops. His quotations were typographically emphasized by putting them in boldface or red type in even the most obscure writings. Music from the period emphasized Mao's stature, as did children's rhymes. The phrase Long Live Chairman Mao for ten thousand years was commonly heard during the era, which was traditionally a phrase reserved for the reigning Emperor.

Today, Mao is still regarded by some as the "never setting Red Sun". He has been compared to the Saint Kings of the classical China. Since 1950, over 40 million people have visited Mao's birthplace in Shaoshanmarker. Hunan

Popular culture

Mao also has a presence in China and around the world in popular culture, where his face adorns everything from t-shirts to coffee cups. Mao's granddaughter Kong Dongmei, defended the phenomenon, stating that "it shows his influence, that he exists in people's consciousness and has influenced several generations of Chinese people's way of life. Just like Che Guevara's image, his has become a symbol of revolutionary culture."

Legacy

As anticipated after Mao’s death, there was a power struggle for control of China. On one side was the left wing led by the Gang of Four, who wanted to continue the policy of revolutionary mass mobilization. On the other side was the right wing opposing these policies. Among the latter group, the restorationists, led by Chairman Hua Guofeng, advocated a return to central planning along the Soviet model, whereas the reformers, led by Deng Xiaoping, wanted to overhaul the Chinese economy based on market-oriented policies and to de-emphasize the role of Maoist ideology in determining economic and political policy. Eventually, the reformers won control of the government. Deng Xiaoping, with clear seniority over Hua Guofeng, defeated Hua in a bloodless power struggle a few years later.

Mao is regarded as a national hero of China. In 2008, China opened the Mao Zedong Square to visitors in his hometown of central Hunan Province to mark the 115th anniversary of his birth.



Supporters of Mao credit him with advancing the social and economic development of Chinese society. They point out that before 1949, for instance, the illiteracy rate in Mainland China was 80%, and life expectancy was a meager 35 years. At his death, illiteracy had declined to less than seven percent, and average life expectancy had increased to more than 70 years (alternative statistics also quote improvements, though not nearly as dramatic). In addition to these increases, the total population of China increased 57% to 700 million, from the constant 400 million mark during the span between the Opium War and the Chinese Civil War. Supporters also state that, under Mao's government, China ended its "Century of Humiliation" from Western and Japanese imperialism and regained its status as a major world power. They also state their belief that Mao also industrialized China to a considerable extent and ensured China's sovereignty during his rule. Many, including some of Mao's supporters, view the Kuomintang, which Mao drove off the mainland, as having been corrupt.

They also argue that the Maoist era improved women's rights by abolishing prostitution and foot binding, the former phenomenon returned after Deng Xiaoping and post-Maoist CPC leaders increased liberalization of the economy. Mao also created reforms that allowed women to initiate divorce and inherit property. Indeed, Mao once famously remarked that "Women hold up half the heavens". A popular slogan during the Cultural Revolution was, "Break the chains, unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!"

Skeptics observe that similar gains in literacy and life expectancy occurred after 1949 on the small neighboring island of Taiwanmarker, which was ruled by Mao's opponents, namely Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang, even though they themselves perpetrated substantial violent repression in their own right. The government that continued to rule Taiwan was composed of the same people ruling the Mainland for over 20 years when life expectancy was so low, yet life expectancy there also increased. A counterpoint, however, is that the United States helped Taiwan with aid, along with Japan and other countries, until the early 1960s when Taiwan asked that the aid cease. The mainland was under economic sanctions from the same countries for many years. The mainland also broke with the USSR after disputes, which had been aiding it. In addition, there is considerable difference in magnitude between increasing the literacy and lifespan of a nation of less than 20 million people (Taiwan) and a nation of nearly a billion people.

Another comparison has been between India and China. Noam Chomsky commented on a study by the Indian economist Amartya Sen.

He observes that India and China had "similarities that were quite striking" when development planning began 50 years ago, including death rates. "But there is little doubt that as far as morbidity, mortality and longevity are concerned, China has a large and decisive lead over India" (in education and other social indicators as well). In both cases, the outcomes have to do with the "ideological predispositions" of the political systems: for China, relatively equitable distribution of medical resources, including rural health services and public distribution of food, all lacking in India.


There continue to be disagreements on Mao's legacy. Some historians claim that Mao Zedong was a dictator comparable to Hitler and Stalin, with a death toll surpassing both. Mao was also frequently compared to China's First Emperor Qin Shi Huang, notorious for burying alive hundreds of scholars. During a speech to party cadre in 1958, Mao said: "He buried 460 scholars alive; we have buried forty-six thousand scholars alive... You [intellectuals] revile us for being Qin Shi Huangs. You are wrong. We have surpassed Qin Shi Huang a hundredfold."

Mao's English interpreter Sidney Rittenberg, who remains the only American ever to be admitted into the Chinese Communist Party, was himself imprisoned in solitary confinement for a total of 16 years during the power struggles of Mao's rule. However, in his memior The Man Who Stayed Behind, Rittenberg states that he believes Mao never intended to cause the deaths and suffering endured by people under his chairmanship. In his remarks on the matter Rittenberg has declared that Mao "was a great leader in history, and also a great criminal because, not that he wanted to, not that he intended to, but in fact, his wild fantasies led to the deaths of tens of millions of people." Li Rui, Mao's personal secretary, goes further and claims he was dismissive of the suffering and death caused by his policies: "Mao's way of thinking and governing was terrifying. He put no value on human life. The deaths of others meant nothing to him."

The United States placed a trade embargo on China as a result of its involvement in the Korean War, lasting until Richard Nixon decided that developing relations with China would be useful in also dealing with the Soviet Union.

Mao's military writings continue to have a large amount of influence both among those who seek to create an insurgency and those who seek to crush one, especially in manners of guerrilla warfare, at which Mao is popularly regarded as a genius. As an example, the Communist Party of Nepal followed Mao's examples of guerrilla warfare to considerable political and military success even in the 21st century.

However, Mao's major contribution to the military science is his theory of People's War, with not only Guerrilla warfare but more importantly, Mobile Warfare methodologies. Mao had successfully applied Mobile Warfare in the Korean War, and was able to encircle, push back and then halt the UN forces in Korea, despite the overwhelming strength of UN firepower.

Mao's poems and writings are frequently cited by both Chinese and non-Chinese. The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's inauguration speech used a famous line from one of Mao's poems. John McCain misattributed a campaign quote to Mao several times during his 2008 presidential election bid, saying "Remember the words of Chairman Mao: 'It's always darkest before it's totally black.'"

The ideology of Maoism has influenced many communists around the world, including Third World revolutionary movements such as Cambodiamarker's Khmer Rouge, Perumarker's Shining Path, and the revolutionary movement in Nepalmarker. The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA also claims Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its ideology, as do other Communist Parties around the world which are part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. China itself has moved sharply away from Maoism since Mao's death, and most people outside of China who describe themselves as Maoist regard the Deng Xiaoping reforms to be a betrayal of Maoism, in line with Mao's view of "Capitalist roaders" within the Communist Party.

As the Chinese government instituted free market economic reforms starting in the late 1970s and as later Chinese leaders took power, less recognition was given to the status of Mao. This accompanied a decline in state recognition of Mao in later years in contrast to previous years when the state organized numerous events and seminars commemorating Mao's 100th birthday. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has never officially repudiated the tactics of Mao.

In the mid-1990s, Mao Zedong's picture began to appear on all new renminbi currency from the People’s Republic of China. This was officially instituted as an anti-counterfeiting measure as Mao's face is widely recognized in contrast to the generic figures that appear in older currency. On 13 March 2006, a story in the People's Daily reported that a proposal had been made to print the portraits of Sun Yat-sen and Deng Xiaoping.

In 2006, the government in Shanghai issued a new set of high school history textbooks which omit Mao, with the exception of a single mention in a section on etiquette. Students in Shanghai now only learn about Mao in junior high school.

Genealogy

Mao Zedong had several wives who contributed to a large family. These were:
  1. Luo Yixiu (罗一秀, 1889-1910) of Shaoshanmarker: married 1907 to 1910
  2. Yang Kaihui (杨开慧, 1901-1930) of Changshamarker: married 1921 to 1927, executed by the KMT in 1930
  3. He Zizhen (贺子珍, 1910-1984) of Jiangxi: married May 1928 to 1939
  4. Jiang Qing: (江青, 1914-1991), married 1939 to Mao's death


His ancestors were:
  • Wen Qimei (文七妹, 1867-1919), mother. She was illiterate and a devout Buddhist.
  • Mao Yichang (毛贻昌, 1870-1920), father, courtesy name Mao Shunsheng (毛顺生) or also known as Mao Jen-sheng
  • Mao Enpu (毛恩普), paternal grandfather
  • Mao Zuren (毛祖人), paternal great-grandfather


He had several siblings:
  • Mao Zemin (毛泽民, 1895-1943), younger brother, executed by a warlord
  • Mao Zetan (毛泽覃, 1905-1935), younger brother, executed by the KMT
  • Mao Zejian (毛泽建, 1905-1929), adopted sister, executed by the KMT


Mao Zedong's parents altogether had six sons and two daughters. Two of the sons and both daughters died young, leaving the three brothers Mao Zedong, Mao Zemin, and Mao Zetan. Like all three of Mao Zedong's wives, Mao Zemin and Mao Zetan were communists. Like Yang Kaihui, both Zemin and Zetan were killed in warfare during Mao Zedong's lifetime.
Note that the character ze (泽) appears in all of the siblings' given names. This is a common Chinese naming convention.

From the next generation, Zemin's son, Mao Yuanxin, was raised by Mao Zedong's family. He became Mao Zedong's liaison with the Politburo in 1975. Sources like Li Zhisui (The Private Life of Chairman Mao) say that he played a role in the final power-struggles.

Mao Zedong had several children:
  • Mao Anying (毛岸英): son to Yang, married to Liu Siqi (刘思齐), who was born Liu Songlin (刘松林), killed in action during the Korean War
  • Mao Anqing (1923-2007): son to Yang, married to Shao Hua (邵华), son Mao Xinyu (毛新宇), grandson Mao Dongdong (last surviving known male line of Mao).
  • Li Min (李敏): daughter to He, married to Kong Linghua (孔令华), son Kong Ji'ning (孔继宁), daughter Kong Dongmei (孔冬梅)
  • Li Na (Chinese:李讷; Pinyin: Lĭ Nà): daughter to Jiang (whose birth given name was Li, a name also used by Mao while evading the KMT), married to Wang Jingqing (王景清), son Wang Xiaozhi (王效芝)


Sources suggest that Mao did have other children during his revolutionary days; some died, but in most of these cases the children were left with peasant families because it was difficult to take care of the children while focusing on revolution. Two English researchers who retraced the entire Long March route in 2002-2003 located a woman whom they believe might well be a missing child abandoned by Mao to peasants in 1935. Ed Jocelyn and Andrew McEwen hope a member of the Mao family will respond to requests for a DNA test. It has been confirmed that Yang Kaihui had given birth to three children while with Mao and He Zizhen had six, most probably all Mao's.

Personal life

There are few academic sources discussing Mao's private life, which was very secretive at the time of his rule. However, and particularly after Mao's death, there has been an influx of publications on his personal life, as an example The Private Life of Chairman Mao by his physician Li Zhisui. The Private Life of Chairman Mao claims he had chain smoked cigarettes, had poor dental hygiene, causing his teeth to be colored green (it was also claimed that he rubbed Green Tea on his teeth instead of more commonly used dental hygiene methods, giving his teeth a distinctly green color) and generally lived a life of deviancy and excess.

Writings and calligraphy



Mao was a prolific writer of political and philosophical literature. Mao is the attributed author of Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, known in the West as the "Little Red Book" and in Cultural-revolution China as the "Red Treasure Book" (红宝书): this is a collection of short extracts from his speeches and articles, edited by Lin Biao and ordered topically. Mao wrote several other philosophical treatises, both before and after he assumed power. These include:
  • On Guerrilla Warfare; 1937
  • On Practice (《实践论》); 1937
  • On Contradiction (《矛盾论》); 1937
  • On Protracted War (《论持久战》); 1938
  • In Memory of Norman Bethune (《纪念白求恩》); 1939
  • On New Democracy (《新民主主义论》); 1940
  • Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art (《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》); 1942
  • Serve the People (《为人民服务》); 1944
  • The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains (《愚公移山》); 1945
  • On the Correct Handling of the Contradictions Among the People (《正确处理人民内部矛盾问题》); 1957


Mao was also a skilled calligrapher with a highly personal style. In China, Mao was considered a master calligrapher during his lifetime. His calligraphy can be seen today throughout mainland China. His work gave rise to a new form of Chinese calligraphy called "Mao-style" or Maoti, which has gained increasing popularity since his death. There currently exist various competitions specializing in Mao-style calligraphy.

Literary figure

Politics aside, Mao is considered one of modern China's most influential literary figures, and was an avid poet, mainly in the classical ci and shi forms. His poems are all in the traditional Chinese verse style.

As did most Chinese intellectuals of his generation, Mao received rigorous education in Chinese classical literature. His style was deeply influenced by the great Tang Dynasty poets Li Bai and Li He. He is considered to be a romantic poet, in contrast to the realist poets represented by Du Fu.

Many of Mao's poems are still popular in China and a few are taught as a mandatory part of the elementary school curriculum. Some of his most well-known poems are: Changsha (1925), The Double Ninth (1929.10), Loushan Pass (1935), The Long March (1935), Snow (1936.02), The PLA Captures Nanjing (1949.04), Reply to Li Shuyi (1957.05.11), and Ode to the Plum Blossom (1961.12).

See also



References

Further reading



Annotated writings



External links






















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