Mao Zedong, also known as Mao Tse-Tung (Shaoshan, Hunan, 26 December 1893 – Beijing, China, 9 September 1976). Military and political leader, who became the top leader of the Communist Party of China, as well as President of the People’s Republic of China, from 1949 to 1976.
He focused his ideology on Marxist-Leninist thought, adapting it to Chinese society, thus placing the peasant as the historical subject of his revolution.
Mao Zedong was the driving force behind the extension of communism to mainland China, as well as its main theorist and soldier. His revolutionary movement changed China forever, which is why he is considered one of the most important leaders in history.
Mao Zedong was born in Sahoshan Village, Hunan Province, on December 26, 1893, into a peasant family. His father was a prosperous grain trader. He received his initial education at a public school.
At the age of thirteen he was completely dedicated to the cultivation of the land. At seventeen he marched to Changsha, the capital of Hunan, in order to continue his studies. In 1911, after the outbreak of the Xinhua Revolution, Mao joined the Revolutionary Army and the Kuomintang Party, whose top leader was Sun Yat-sen, who in 1912 commanded the abolition of the monarchy and the founding of the Republic of China.
In 1918, he obtained his master’s certificate at the First Normal School in Hunan. He moved to Beijin, where he became a librarian at Beijing University. Some time later he married Yang Kaihui, a student at that university and the daughter of one of his former high school teacher.
At that time, Mao knew the ideals of the Russian Revolution. On July 23, 1921, he attended the First Congress of the Communist Party of China, becoming one of the founders of this party in China.
Beginnings of the Soviet Republic of China
Since 1923, Chinese President Sun Yat-sen worked closely with the Communist Party. Mao, meanwhile, had advanced in the party ranks, taking on the role of delegate and leader of Shanghai.
However, the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925 led to the assumption of Chiang Kai-shek’s presidency. Unlike his predecessor, the new president broke his alliance in 1927, initiating a violent process of purge and persecution of Communist Party members.
In response, Mao Zedong led an armed rebellion against the Kuomintang, in which they were defeated, fleeing to Jiangxi, where they founded the Soviet Republic of China, of which Mao was elected President.
They also formed a guerrilla army, creating a zone of resistance, which served as a refuge for the communists fleeing purges, which caused the ranks of the CCP to grow again.
Between 1931 and 1934, Kuomintang launched five military campaigns against the Red Army, which at the time had at least sixty thousand men and the support of the peasant population.
Assumption to power
However, in 1934, the Kuomintang organized an army of one million men, who defeated the Red Army, whose survivors fled into China, in what would become known as “The Great March”.
However, in 1937, Chiang Kai-shek’s forces had no choice but to ally with communist troops, in order to defend the territory from the Japanese invasion. After the expulsion of the Japanese, in 1945, Mao saw an opportunity to take control over China, beyond the insistence of the United States to establish a coalition government.
After nearly four years of civil war, on October 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek and his adepts, meanwhile, fled to Taiwan, founding the Republic of China.
The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution
Mao undertook radical land reform, advocated women’s inclusion, increased school enrolment, literacy and access to health services. However, its reforms, welcomed among the rural population, caused some displeasure in the cities.
In 1956, in the face of harsh criticism during the Hundred Flowers Campaign, a period of persecution towards dissent began, imprisoning thousands of citizens accused of right-wingers.
At the beginning of 1958, the Great Leap Forward began, which was intended for a major industrial and agricultural breakthrough, through the establishment of agricultural and productive communes. However, this plan caused, between 1960 and 1961, the largest famine recorded in Chinese history, in which at least 40 million people died.
A year later, Mao quietly retired from his command post, being replaced by his political rivals. At that time the militant Lin Biao collected some of the famous writings of this leader in a work historically known as the Little Red Book.
However, in 1966, Mao returned to the public stage. His new political proposal consisted of the Cultural Revolution, addressing it especially to young people, whom he called for mass demonstrations, forming the Red Guard, which was aimed at capitalists and right-wingers.
Mao took over the side. On this occasion he closed the schools and sent the intellectuals to the field, to take on the work of the land as a method for their social re-education. Large heritage assets were destroyed and great socio-economic chaos was created.
In 1972, Mao met with U.S. President Richard Nixon. After a few years of Parkinson’s disease, Mao Zedong died on September 18, 1976, in Beijin, China, at the age of eighty-two.
His legacy remains ambiguous, for if on the one hand it eventually translated into the industrialization of China, persecutions, shootings and millions of deaths mean that it cannot be considered entirely positive.
Image source: deviantart.com
July 31, 2019