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The Most Terrible Villains of the Past One Hundred Years: Part 3 of 5 - Mao Zedong

Updated on April 18, 2015
Missing Link profile image

Missing Link is originally from rural Ohio. He currently lives in Hillsboro, OR. with his Wife and two Sons.

Chairman Mao
Chairman Mao

Mao Zedong, also known as Mao Tse-tung, was the founder and first leader of communist China. He ruled from 1943 to 1976. He was known affectionately as Chairman Mao---how sweet. This bloodthirsty maniac, like Hitler and Stalin, led many millions to their graves.

Mao came to power largely as a result of his engagement in violent revolution a la civil war. Amongst the common folk, he was able to inspire revolutionary fervor and aspirations for a communist utopia. The existing party, the Nationalists, were the target of his campaign. The leader of the Nationalists was Chiang Kai-shek. During this time, Mao greatly persecuted and oppressed those he considered a threat. Tens of thousands of suspected enemies were killed.

Mao derived inspiration and knowledge for his goals from studying Soviet communism. During the Chinese revolution and civil war, it should thus be no surprise that the Soviets backed Mao while the USA favored the Nationalists.

Over time, Mao's forces made many gains. In 1948, under Mao's orders, the People's Liberation Army was able to surround and "starve out" many Nationalist forces occupying a city called Changchun. Many thousands of civilians are believed to have perished during the siege which lasted from June until October. All throughout 1949, Kuomintang-Nationalist forces suffered great losses in battles against Mao's forces. In December of 1949, Mao's troops laid siege to the last Nationalist stronghold forcing the remaining Nationalists to flee to Formosa...which is modern day Taiwan.

Mao established the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Mao instituted "land reform" whereby landlords and well to do peasants were beaten to death at mass meetings organized by the Communist Party. The confiscated land was taken and given to poorer peasants. How can there be a well to do peasant?

There was also a campaign to suppress "counter-revolutionaries" via public executions. Those most targeted were former Nationalist officials, businessmen accused of disturbing the market, former employees of Western companies and, intellectuals whose loyalty was suspect.

The U.S. State Department estimates there may have been a million killed via the land reforms and 800,000 killed in the counter revolutionary campaign. Some estimate the number killed in the land reform campaign as being much higher. There was a policy to select at least one landlord in virtually every village for public execution so the number of deaths was more likely 2-5 million. Mao himself claimed that a total of 700,000 people were executed during the years 1949-53. In addition, at least 1.5 million people, and as many as 4 to 6 million, perished as a result of "reform". This entailed being worked and starved to death at a labor camp.

Mao played a personal role in organizing the mass repressions and established a system of execution quotas, which were often exceeded. He defended these killings as necessary for the securing of power.

Ah, but the murderous maniac wasn't finished. In 1951, he initiated two movements in an effort to rid urban areas of corruption. He did so by targeting wealthy capitalists and political opponents. A climate of raw terror developed as workers denounced their bosses, spouses turned on their spouses, and children informed on their parents. The victims were humiliated at "struggle sessions" which were meetings designed to intimidate and terrify people to the maximum. Mao insisted that minor offenders be reformed at labor camps and the worst offenders shot.

These campaigns led many to commit suicide rather than be a victim of a struggle session. In Shanghai, suicide by jumping from tall buildings was so commonplace that residents avoided walking on the pavement near skyscrapers for fear that "jumpers" might land on them.

Some of Mao's idiot policies led to famines which killed yet more millions. Communist party officials confiscated most food from farmers for the good of the state. Party leaders would also sometimes go from village to village to search for any food reserves that a farmer may have hidden. Peasants accused of hiding food were tortured and beaten to death. Most of these deaths took place under a campaign called The Great Leap Forward---thank god for progress.

After Joseph Stalin died, the USSR and China "fell out". The split was triggered by arguments over the control and direction of world communism and other disputes pertaining to foreign policy. The new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, withdrew all technical experts and aid from China. As a result, China found itself further isolated.

In Mao's completely insane mind, he later came to believe that a revolution of culture was needed. He wished to unsettle the "ruling class"; to keep China in a state of revolution that would serve the interests of the majority and not the minority elite. Wait a minute---wasn't Mao himself part of the ruling class and elite? Well, let's overlook that pesky, inconvenient fact.

This campaign, known as the Cultural Revolution, led to the destruction of much of China's traditional cultural heritage. A huge number of Chinese citizens were imprisoned and economic and social chaos reigned. Millions of lives were ruined during this period as the Cultural Revolution pierced into every aspect of Chinese life,

Believing that certain elements of society continued to threaten the socialist framework, groups of young people known as the Red Guards were encouraged to struggle against authority at all levels of society. The communist party allowed the Red Guards to abuse and kill opponents of the regime. Schools in China were closed and young "intellectuals" living in cities were ordered to the countryside to be "re-educated" via hard labor by the peasants.

In 1969, Mao declared the Cultural Revolution to be over. Mao died in 1976.

Mao at Stalin's 70th Birthday party.   I hope they had a nice time.
Mao at Stalin's 70th Birthday party. I hope they had a nice time.

As with Stalin, Mao was able to form a huge and pervasive cult of personality. His Image was placed on currency and within politicized art. His image became displayed almost everywhere, present in homes, offices and shops.

The Little Red Book, the name of a book filled with Mao's quotations, was widely distributed during his reign. Party members were encouraged to carry a copy with them; possession was almost mandatory as a criterion for communist party membership. People were compelled to memorize and recite his quotations. As a result of this indoctrination, the ability to think independently was largely destroyed.

Children were mis-educated from a very young age. 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.

After his death, Mao's personal physician claimed Mao never bathed or brushed his teeth, rarely got out of bed, was addicted to sleeping pills and had a large number of sexual partners from whom he contracted venereal disease.

Mao was deeply involved per the Korean War and many died as a result. It was in China's interest to keep North Korea communist. To this day, North Korea remains the biggest pariah nation on the planet. The North Korean people have been hopelessly brainwashed and indoctrinated by their government...and China wants it to stay that way.

Incredibly, Mao is revered in modern day China---they love him---images of him are still pervasive. The fact that he led at least 20,000,000 Chinese to their graves is overlooked. The fact that he destroyed much of China's culture heritage is no big deal to most of the current members of the communist party.

Yes, China is still communist and mis-education is still widespread. For example, many Chinese have been made to believe that the Dalai Lama is an evil slave master and compare him to Osama Bin Laden...believe it or not.

The Chinese communist party controls the army, police, courts and media and does not permit multi-party elections at the national or local level except in Hong Kong.

There is hope for China however. With the advent of the internet and social media, information from the outside world has been seeping in for some time. Many who have not been rendered cognitively disabled as a result of indoctrination are waking up to realize how big a liar the communist party is. The communist party has spent billions censoring all information but their efforts are failing. There are multiple signs communism in China is under stress and hopefully another revolution is on the horizon. The Chinese people deserve so much more.

*wikipedia was used as a source for this hub

The following is a link to a related hub that I created:


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    • Nick DeGeorge profile image

      Nick 2 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      I guess there is a difference between the most destructive people and villains. For example Napoleon vs. a Hitler. Stalin has to rate number one for longevity and his actions against both his own people and other countries. Hitler rates number two as his ideology called for the mass extermination of other people's and races. Stalin just picked the right side in WWII otherwise he should have been universally vilified.

      Mao is an interesting figure and his enduring has more to do with Chinese Culture than anything he did. The Chinese don't like to admit they made a mistake in deifying him and the power of the current regime is based on his legacy. They seem very reluctant to say he was a villain and dispose of his image.

      The fact his successors declared the Cultural Revolution a national calamity and threw everyone who supported him in jail is a strong testimony.

      China has changed so much and although Mao is remembered in the classroom the events are glossed over. The current generation sees him as we see George Washington just someone who made the country and he is on the money.

      Everyone who lived through the Cultural Revolution does not believe he brought any positive benefit . In fact, today's China is so far from his vision it does testimony to rejecting him and his policies. Although people never talk about it.

      Today's China is the vision of Deng Xiao Ping and the work of Zhang, Zemin. Who knows what history will judge. The First Emperor of China is now a romantic figure who united the country, never mind he had untold number of people executed or died slaving on the great wall. He was so hated numerous attempts were made to assassinate him and when he actually died his Empire dissolved quickly. Yet here today are countless movies and television shows portraying him as a hero.

      Then again Genghis Khan one of the greatest Mass Murderers of all time is deified in Mongolia and Vlad Tepes aka Dracula is vilified as a fiend who ate babies yet in truth he was a patriot fighting against the Turks.

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 2 years ago from Oregon

      Hi Nick,

      You are not the first to suggest to me that Stalin should have been number 1--a man I dined with awhile back had the same opinion.

      Would you place Hitler number 3 under Mao?

      Had the Nationalists won I think China's rise would have come much sooner...and yes millions more Chinese would have lived to see it -- those not killed by Mao.

      You say no one currently holds Mao in high esteem - so then why all the images of him in China -- on flags, sculptures, and many other places, etc.?

      I greatly appreciate your valuable input and first hand experience!

    • Nick DeGeorge profile image

      Nick 2 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      I would not have placed Hitler as number one but Joseph Stalin as he not only was a cruel villiain who's people repudiated him after his death he is the mentor of Mao. It should be noted Hitler was extremely loyal to his friends and colleagues whereas Mao and Stalin had many of their closest associates tortured and executed.

      All I can say for Mao is he had better PR than the others but the fact after his death everything he did was tossed away and his wife imprisoned till she died says something about the view of Mao .

      Paul you consider Mao a brilliant military leader? Is this the same Mao that marched most of his followers to their deaths during the long march? The Nationalists were not defeated by Mao they were undermined by a devastated economy and run away inflation . Considering the aftermath of communist takeover the people of China would have been better off had the nationalists been victorious . No one loves Mao you need read Jung Chang's book and visit China

    • Nick DeGeorge profile image

      Nick 2 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      Paul if you look at before Japan invaded China even the Communists agreed Chiang Kai Shek was the legitimate leader of China. There is no defense for Mao be was an evil man in Jung Chang's book she disputes the myth. He is responsible for more deaths than any other of these villians.

      There is a great quote in a book I read about Chiang. The author asked his guide what would China be like today if Mao had been defeated? His reply " China would be the prosperous nation it is today only 40 million people would have lived to see it. "

      The Nationalists are neither wicked nor evil the free prosperous democratic nation of Taiwan proves that. If you can say the Nationalists were corrupt not any more than the officials in China are today . Chiang took the blame for the devastation of World War 2 and his real enemy was inflation not the Communists.

      I spent the last twenty years working and living in China and I promise you no one holds Mao in esteem the new generation only knows he is the guy on the money.

      Please check out my Hub on Hong Kong I listed the legacy of Mao and his party.

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 3 years ago from Oregon

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments!

      I will try to get around to reading that book--it sounds like quite a good read!

      Take care!

    • profile image

      Peter 3 years ago

      Great article. It summarizes the atrocities committed by this monster for his own power and gratification. I have great respect for the Chinese people and what they have been through, those that survived that is. If you read 'Mao, the unknown story' by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, you will see that Mao wasn't a 'great leader' at all. Mao always had his own selfish and cruel interests in mind, and was counter productive to Chiang Kai Sheks' goal of defeating Japan and uniting the country.

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 5 years ago from Oregon

      Thanks Ken,

      Yes it is from years of indoctrination and mis-education that starts from birth---too bad. Thanks again!

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Another informative hub from Missing Link. Yeap, this figure is worshipped like God even till nowaday. Take a look at China today. One of the thing he has said is, "Religion poisons the mind."

    • Missing Link profile image

      Missing Link 5 years ago from Oregon


      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments! Yes I've heard Chang Kai-shek was also tyrannical but was he as bad as Mao? Without Mao I think China would have seen improvements much sooner. In other words, per China's recent rise on the world stage---I think it would have happened much sooner under the Nationalists. Taiwan, where the Nationalists fled to, was flourishing long before the communist mainland.

      Yes, this is also very interesting to me. Of course I'm just laying things out here as I see it...

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very interesting hub and I do agree that Chairman Mao while in power did do a lot of wrong things like the Great Cultural Revolution. A lot of innocent people died and many had their lives ruined. In this hub you ask why Mao is still revered in modern China. Let me offer my thoughts on this matter. From the fall of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1911 until 1949, China was locked in a bitter civil war between the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists led by Mao. One must remember that Chiang Kai-Shek was no angel. He was at times a ruthless dictator, and if you were a Communist, he would hunt you down and kill you. I think the Chinese people are still so in love with Mao because he led the revolution against the Nationalists and persevered after the Long March while being pursued by the KMT armies. Without Mao's brilliant leadership in guerrilla tactics, it's possible the Communists would not have been able to defeat the Nationalists and establish the PRC on October 1, 1949. Voted up as interesting and sharing.