Great Personalities » Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong or Chairman Mao was a political revolutionary. He was a Chinese Communist who founded and ruled the People’s Republic of China until his death in 1976. He took leaves out the books of Marx and Lenin and his own theories on politics and a strategy, ‘Maoism’, is still associated with the two other great revolutionaries. Mao turned China into one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Mao Tse-tung was born on December 26 1893 to farmers in a place named Shaoshan, Hunan. He received little education but as he grew, so did his ambitions. He refused an arranged marriage at the tender age of 14 and went on to pursue education in a secondary school in the capital of Hunan at the age of17. Not many imagined that a person with such humble beginnings would turn around the fate of the worn out and neglected China that only had the name of being a superpower but was actually only a shell. He brought about many changes to the country.

Influenced by the Xinhai Revolution (1911) and the May Fourth Movement (1919), Chairman Mao developed an affinity for China during his early years. This began in 1918 when Mao Tse-tung graduated from the Hunan First Normal School, becoming a certified teacher. In the same year, his mother died, and he had absolutely no desire to return to his home in Shaoshan. He travelled to Beijing, but was unsuccessful in finding a job.

He finally took up a job as an assistant in a library at Beijing University and attended a few classes. It was somewhere during this period that he became aware of the positive outcome of the Russian Revolution, which went on to create the communist Soviet Union.

It was sometime during 1921, Mao became one of the founding members of the Communist Party of China. This then led to a belief in Marxism-Leninism while he was working at Peking University. In 1923, the Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist party had teamed with the Communist Party to overthrow the guerrilla leaders who controlled most of northern China. It was during 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek, the KMT leader, began an anti-communist attack. After much struggle, Mao’s people tasted victory after overpowering the nationalists. Thus, he was the founder of the CPC or Communist Party of China and the co-founder of the Red Army during the Chinese Civil War.

The Communists and KMT were again temporarily teamed up during World War 2, only to break up after the end of the war. Then, a civil war broke out between them, in which the Communists were victorious. On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao founded the People's Republic of China (PRC), and subsequently, Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island of Taiwan.

The People’s Republic of China or PRC was under the singlehanded rule of the CPC (Communist Party of China) headed my Mr Mao. Chairman Mao created many land reforms and restructurings. In 1957, he launched the ‘Great Leap Forward,’ with the intention of industrialising the Chinese economy. The program created large agricultural cooperatives with close to 75,000 people working in the fields. Each family not only received a share of the profit, but also got a small plot of land.

However, theorists believed that Chairman Mao had set unrealistic, if not impractical objectives for both the agriculture and industrial sectors, believing the country could make a century's worth of advancement in a few decades. However, this scheme backfired since there was not enough food and a famine struck China. This was his attempt at mass mobilisation of labour to improve agricultural and industrial production. The result, instead, was an enormous drop in agricultural output, combined with poor harvests, which led to famine and the deaths of millions. As a result, the policy had to be discarded, following which Chairman Mao's position also weakened.

The 10 years from 1966 onwards saw many changes where Mao introduced many reforms in order to break the anti-revolutionary culture that was being developed. One of the prominent ones was the 1966 - Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Mao also tried a launch of the 'Cultural Revolution' in 1966, aiming to cleanse the nation of its 'impure' elements and resuscitate the revolutionary spirit. Over one-and-a-half, million people perished and a great amount of the country's cultural heritage was ruined. Facing anarchy, Chairman Mao had no option, but to bring in the army and restore order.

The welcoming of the then US President, Richard Nixon, which happened in 1972, was an event of significance since it displayed the opening up of China as a country. This went further under the rule of Deng Xiaoping.

In 1976, Mao gave his life to a series of heart attacks and was succeeded by Hua Guofeng but since the latter could not hold up the show and handle the resistance, the control went to Xiaoping.

Today Maoism relates to ‘the communist principles of Mao Zedong as practised in China in the past, stressing the importance of the labourer, agricultural collectivization, and the small-scale industry. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is very much a Maoist rebellious uprising, with objectives to bring about a change in the government through people's war.

Chairman Mao passed away on September 18, 1976 due to complications of Parkinson's disease, at the age of 82, Not only did he leave a controversial legacy as a political genius, but also as a genocidal monster. However, officially, in China, he is held in high regard as a military mastermind, a great political strategist and the saviour of the nation.

The history of the world cannot go without the mention of Chairman Mao since he has been a great influence on China and played a major role in its transformation. His measures improved the standard of living in terms of education and healthcare. The life expectancy and the population grew tremendously. Though he was criticised and compared with destructors of the Chinese culture, he put up a brave fight. His unrelenting quality and resilience makes him a famous person whom we can all look up to.

Image courtesy:

International Short Story Writing Contest for School Children