Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong (毛澤東 or in the Wade-Giles transliteration, Mao Tse-tung) was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1935. Under his leadership it became the ruling party of China.

Mao succeeded in creating a unified China that was free of foreign domination, for the first time since the Opium War.

Mao died in 1976.

Early Life

World War II

The Revolution and Afterwards

Evaluation of Mao's Career

Mao's rule had a devastating toll on the Chinese people, with many claiming he deliberately murdered 35 million people, while his policies were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions more. From 1949-1953, during the period of consolidation of power after victory in the Chinese civil war, an estimated 8.4 million people were killed by Mao's government. However, others point out that even this staggeringly large number of deaths was small compared to the number of death caused by famine, anarchy, war, and foreign invasion in the years before the Communists took power.

Following the consolidation of power, Mao launched a phase of rapid, forced collectivization, lasting until around 1958. This included the so-called Hundred Flowers campaign, in which Mao indicated he was willing to consider different opinions about how China should be governed. Given the freedom to express themselves, many Chinese began questioning the dogmas of the Communist Party. After allowing this for a few months, Mao's government, having taken names, reversed policy, and rounded up those who criticized the Party. Another 7.4 million people were killed.

This led to a period of political retrenchment, lasting from 1959-1963, in which nearly 11 million people were killed. Also in this period, Mao decided that Chinese agriculture should be collectivized. This resulted in a massive drop in agricultural production that was so severe, 27 million people starved to death. After a few years, this policy was reversed.

Following these events, other members of the Communist Party including Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping decided that Mao should be deprived of power. They attempted to marginalize Mao, without denouncing him, allowing him to remain a figurehead, but without any real authority. Mao responded to this by launching the Cultural Revolution, in which the Communist hierarchy was circumvented by giving power directly to the Red Guards, groups of young people, often teenagers, who set up their own tribunals and ruled as a mob. In this period nearly 8 million people were killed.

See also: Genocide

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 Parkinson's disease and acted passively as various factions within the Communist Party mobilized for the power struggle that would come after his death. On one side was the Gang of Four who wanted to continue the policy of revolutionary mass mobilization. On the other side were the rightists led by Deng Xiaoping who wanted to follow more pragmatic policies emphasizing pragmatism and deemphasizing Marxist ideology.

Mao's Legacy

The ideology surrounding Mao's interpretation of Marxism-Leninism, also known as Maoism, had influence around the world among some left-wing radicals in the 1960s, and in various third world revolutionary movements such as Peru's Shining Path, most of whom regard the Deng Xiaoping reforms to be a betrayal of Mao's legacy.

The official view of the People's Republic of China is that Mao Zedong was a great revolutionary leader who made serious mistakes in his later life. In mainland China many people still considered Mao a hero in the first half of his life, but that he became a monster after he was in power. However, in an era where economic growth has caused corruption to increase in mainland China, there are those who regard Mao as a symbol of moral incorruptiblity and self-sacrific in contrast to the current leadership.