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Who is Mao Zedong

Updated on June 8, 2016

Dr. Sun Yat-sen was known as the father of the modern China for his effort in overthrowing the monarchy of the Qing dynasty and establishing the Republic China. Mao Zedong was regarded as the father of the modern Communist China for toppling the Nationalist government after the 2nd World War. Today, the Communist China has become a world political and economical power feared and respected by the other countries. It was not long ago that the helpless China was invaded and partially occupied by foreign powers seeking its wealth and natural resources.

 1893 – 1920

Mao was born on 1893, in the Hunan Province, China of a well-to-do peasant family. Disliking his father’s strictness, at the age of 16, he continued his study far from home. At this time, Mao learned about the Russian revolution, progressive ideas about class struggles, and the Marxist ideology.


1921 – 1936

In 1921, Mao joined the fledging Communist party and became its secretary at the Hunan branch. After the breakup of the Communist party from the Nationalist party, Mao began to take charge one of the small communist enclaves established in the mountains of Jiangxi Province. After the persistent efforts to eliminate the soviet-backed communist insurgents, the Nationalist army was successful in forcing them out of Jiangxi Province. Mao and the surviving members started the escaping journey known as the Long March to their new hideout 6000 miles away in the Shaanxi Province in the northwest of China. It was at Shaanxi in the caves of Yan'an that Mao solidified his power as the top leader of the then disarrayed Communist party. Mao also started to put his ideals into writings, taught the importance of the peasant power in china’s class struggles, and plotting desperately to use the then anti-Japan invasion sentiment to divert the aggression of the Nationalist army toward his party.

1937 – 1945

When the war with Japan finally broke out in 1937, Mao seized the occasion to enlarge his army and extend his territories by leaving most of the fighting to the Nationalist government. There were even evidences that Mao had ordered secret corporations with the Japanese invading forces to sabotage and impede the Nationalist government’s army and fighting abilities. There were also open skirmishes between the Nationalist and the Communist armies to gain control of strategy locations. Most importantly, Mao began to preach his Marxist ideology to the peasant population which was the majority and lived in dire poverty. Mao promised better life, education, and equal opportunity not only for men but also for the long oppressed women.

However, the fact remained that before the war, Mao had only few thousand regular soldiers and almost no popular support occupying a small village in the mountain of the Shaanxi Province. After the war, Mao had a regular army of a million strong and the support of another million of peasant forces controlling most of the northern and part of the central China while the Nationalist army had incurred a loss of more than 3 million soldiers.

1946 – 1949

After the Japanese surrendered, the civil war between the Nationalist and the Communist started. Even though the Nationalist army with a force of 4 million strong was well equipped, they were tired after 8 years of resistance against the powerful Japanese forces and no longer had the motivation to fight against their own people. The communist army with a force of 1 million soldiers was well rest, firmed in ideological belief, and had the support of most of the peasant population. As a result, in a short 3 years, the Nationalist army was no match to the Communist force. After an initial strong effort putting up by the Nationalist army in the Northern campaign failed, total annihilation and defection followed. In the Fall of 1949, Mao declared victory and established the new government of the People Republic of China as its first authoritarian ruler.


1950 – 1965

Mao inherited a vast and poor country after a hundred years of external invasions and the internal conflicts. The country was in urgent need of rebuilding both militarily to fight off outside influences and economically to feed the 1 billion people. At this time, all the liberals and intellectuals started to make suggestions as well as criticisms as to how the government should be run. Mao quickly suppressed the dissents by persecuting the outspoken. Hastily, Mao initiated the infamous Great Leap Forward – the industrial and agricultural rapid advancement policy. By setting unrealistic goals and mass mobilization of hundreds of millions of the populace into collective farms, at the same time, without proper supervision and careful planning, the Great Leap Forward was met with catastrophic failure after three years. Wide spread starvation ensued causing death to the tens of millions.

Under criticism and feeling apologetic, Mao relinquished his control and let the capitalistic minded Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping to run the country. Their more liberal and incremental economical reforms were successful and the country was on the recovery path. People started to sing the praise of Liu and Deng. Mao felt forgotten and unappreciated.

 1966 – 1976

To regain his power and the status as the undisputed ruler of China, Mao conjured up the Culture Revolution. Relying on the help of his wife’s Gang of Four, the innocent and idealistic students to whom Mao was revered as a god, and most crucially, on the backing of the country’s military, Mao instigated the destruction of ideas and things that represented antiquity, capitalistic and feudal values which included old books, teachers, parents, party officials, temples, paintings, artworks, etc. Behind the charade, Mao targeted and eliminated his political rivals which consisted of anyone who had criticized him and was considered as a threat to his power. All schools were closed and the students were summoned to the capitol to be personally entrusted with the duty to carry out Mao’s wishes. After the necessary damaged were done, the students along with persons of questionable background were ordered to leave the cities and worked in the rural area to learn the rudimentary means of life.

Overall, millions of people were tortured, raped, and imprisoned. Liu was persecuted to death and Deng was under house arrest. Mao regained his power and popularity. In later years, he lived a life of decadence with a health problem probably due to his overweight and over-indulgence. He died of a heart attack at the age of 83 in 1976 with the country in economic stagnation.


Like any ruthless ruler, Mao would not hesitate to use any means to attain power. Despite the unimaginable sufferings and countless deaths he caused, Mao changed the course and the life of a billion people through his unique brand of Marxist indoctrination and transformed a despised weakling to one of the superpower in the world. During his watch, the country developed the atomic weapons with a strong arm forces to lay rest the fear of ever to be invaded again by the foreigners. Upon his departure, the country was in unification with a strong political ideology and direction which enabled the coming generations to embark on a path to prosperity.


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    • chenjdw profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      I appreciate you guys interest and views. I have more information:

      1) 5000 years of Chinese History at a Glance, Part 1

      2) The Voyages of Zheng He

      3) A Bomb, a Missile, and a Satellite That Changed China Forever

      4) The Plight of Chiang Kai-shek

      5) How Is China Doing

      6) How Is Taiwan Doing

    • Nick DeGeorge profile image


      6 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      I am sorry your view of actual history is so inaccurate and biased by your sentiments against the United States further discussion is pointless. I refer you to

      Mao the unknown story by June Chang or to China in revolution the Mao years:

      Or to

      Or to the hub the greatest villians of the past hundred years there is an excellent article on Mao :

      China is more capitalistic than any other country so your ideas are without basis Mao is considered a villain by most Chinese and if not for the Taiwanese the Chinese economy would have never developed .

      Your comments the United States abandoned Taiwan is also nonsensical . The United Stated defends the island today as it did from the beginning all these so called US puppets Taiwan , South Korea and Japan are super prosperous free societies .

      I am happy you were there to see Kissinger laugh but your history is filled with errors Mao destroyed China's economy with his insanity of the Cultural Revolution it was China who reached out to the USA.

      I finally note not a single disciple of Mao survived his passing all were arrested and removed from power for crimes against the Chinese people.

      In China today it is a crime to support Mao 's theories and policies.

      No more be said .

    • conradofontanilla profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      USA allied with Mao, courtesy of the internationalist businessmen brokered by Henry Kissinger. USA abandoned Chiang and Taiwan. Chiang called USA and Mao bandits on which Mao and Kissinger had a good laugh during their secret negotiations. China and USA differ in their systems that are enumerated in their rapprochement treaty. China has peoples' corporations which US businessmen want privatized so that they can come in to control. China snubs these imperialists.

    • Nick DeGeorge profile image


      6 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      Do you idolize Adolf hitler as well. I don't know what history or world you live in but Mao was an evil monster who tortured millions. China was not strong when he died it was devastated did you ever hear of the Cultural Revolution? Perhaps you should read the Book to Live and Die in Shanghai.

      I am sorry your view of Mao is shared by no one but you. A man who had all his comrades tortured to death and kills millions of his own people is not a hero. Did you ever even visit China? China is a modern society and world power because they abandoned every idea Mao had. China would have been like North Korea today if they followed him.

      His wife was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment along with her gang of four only months after Mao died. The Cultural Revolution was officially declared a national castrophe. My wife is from Sichuan where millions starved to death during the stupidity of the Great Leap Forward.

      As for Chiang I see today a free modern Taiwan that has a prospering economy and political freedom. Mao only won the civil war because he received massive help from Stalin and because China after fighting Japan for a decade was bankrupt. Had the United States supported Chiang as he deserved Mao would have never won.

      Chiang was the recognized leader of China he united the country and saved China from being over run by Japan . Inflation not military victory destroyered the Nationialists had they not had war with Japan Mao would have never even seen the light of day .

      Finally Mao won support by making promises to the peopke which he reneged upon a few years later taking way all their land . Mao did not make China strong it was almost destroyed by his insanity even the chinese government does not align with your comments.

      There is a hub Villians of the past hundred years Mao ranks number three behind Hitler and Stalin perhaps start your reading there !

      Look above its on the list of relaed hubs

    • conradofontanilla profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      Two people wearing different glasses would see things differently. Those who perished were casualties of a revolution. Mao's army grew in size because many who were with Chiang joined Mao. A lot of arms of Mao's army were arms the US supplied to Chiang's forces. If Chiang won, he would be largely a dummy of the USA. Mao's formula was a simple one. Annihilate the local collaborators to drive away the imperialists. If Chiang won, China would not be the world power it is today. USA would be toying with China. It was Mao's ideology that made China strong militarily. It is Deng's and Zemin's ideas that modernized China. China had to be strong to modernize the way it wanted.

    • Nick DeGeorge profile image


      6 years ago from Gilbert Arizona

      Your view of Mao is unique. Read June Chang's Mao the Untold Story.

      Mao was responsible for tens of millions of deaths. he contributed nothing to China but anarchy and suffering. The modern China that exists today was never part of his vision and China would be poor and isolated if the country followed his doctrine.

      Today's China is a result of Deng, Xiao Ping and more importantly Zhang, Zemin. Mao would have had both thrown in prison.

      Chiang Kai Shek was the legitimate leader of China just compare Taiwan's transformation to a modern democracy vs. China's suffering. Chiang was a victim of his western allies and inflation when a tour guide was asked "If the nationalist won the revolution how would China be today?" He replied exactly the same but sixty million victims of Mao would have lived.

      Also watch China a hundred years of revolution.. The Mao Years

      I lived in China for the past two decades if you even ask the current generation who he is all they know is his picture is on the money his vision and world were gratefully buried with him.

    • conradofontanilla profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      It took half a century for China to rise from humiliation at the hands of the westerners. WE need alternative cultures, diversity, not hegemony.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Lovely overview!

    • chenjdw profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from California

      I am a citzen who reads a lot.

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      9 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Are you a Citizen of China and the UNITEDSTATES?


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