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Who is Mao Tse Tung?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mao Tse-tung, alternately spelled Mao Zedung, was born in Hunan Province in South China on 26 December 1893. He is regarded as one of the leading communists of the last century. His theories on communism, warfare and revolution have been extremely influential. He was also responsible for a revolutionary program called The Great Leap Forward that cost the lives of 20 to 30 million people.

Although Mao's parents were farmers, they were by no means poor, and he received a good education. Around the age of 16, Mao began to develop a political consciousness. He joined a local army unit in 1911 and became part of the republican revolution.

In 1911, while working at a Beijing University, 3,000 students held a government protest in Tiananmen Square. Mao soon began to develop a Marxist-Leninist form of thinking. He believed that by using the potential of the peasant workers, the revolution in China would succeed.

By 1920, Mao was head of a primary school in Changsha. His efforts to bring education to the people were suppressed. He soon formed a small communist group.

The Chinese Communist Party had the backing of the Soviet Union and held its first meeting in 1921, with Mao acting as recording secretary. He was soon appointed to general secretary for Hunan Province and quickly set about organizing labor unions and strike actions. In 1927, Mao was thrown out of the party after organizing a disastrous protest in Hunan called the Harvest Uprising. From 1928 onwards, Mao began forming The Red Army. In 1931, he was elected chairman of the newly formed Soviet Republic of China.

During this time, war was raging between the Red Army and its opposition, the Guomindang. Mao was revolutionary in his guerrilla warfare tactics. In 1934, after the fifth attempt of the Guomindang to encircle Mao's camps, the legendary Long Walk began. Eighty thousand communists started on the trek to Yan'an, a distance of 6,000 miles (9,656 km). Only 8,000 were to reach the destination 12 months later.

After the second Sino-Japanese war ended, battle between the communists and their opposition continued. Eventually, Mao succeeded in becoming chairman of the People's Republic of China. During his reign, Mao broke with the traditional form of Soviet Communism, which led to the disastrous Great Leap Forward. Mao was replaced as leader by Liu Shaoqi.

Mao once again fought for his right to party leadership using the ideal of Cultural Revolution. He succeeded in removing Liu from power and was named as supreme commander of the nation and the army until his death in 1976.

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Discussion Comments
By anon186896 — On Jun 16, 2011

20-30 million did not die because of mao. they died because of embargoes and sanctions imposed by capitalist countries such as the u.s. and britain. of course, this part of history will never be mentioned in the corporate media. god knows how many are dying now because of the same style of sanctions imposed on iran, and north korea. the u.s. and europe also executed millions through sanctions on iraq. thank you capitalism.

By JavaGhoul — On Jan 06, 2011

Mao was a brilliant and well-educated guerilla warrior who knew how to ruthlessly flaunt his force and keep people under his thumb. He was a horrible leader of a nation, however, and thrived on mere bombast. If any of his policies were brought up to a sane government in the modern era he would be laughed out town, but his fierce yelling and violent manipulative tactics left little room for his enemies to escape his schemes.

By BostonIrish — On Jan 03, 2011

It could easily be argued that Mao was paranoid and sadistic. His measures in the Harvest Uprising portended a reign of bizarre disaster which baited and tortured millions of people for ever even implying that he had any leadership flaws. Mao is said to have taken handfulls of sleeping pills to get sleep at night and apparently had major psychological problems. Such an strong and menacing character attracted other psychologically disturbed people to participate in his "Red Guard" which ultimately overthrew all ancient Chinese morals.

By anon8496 — On Feb 14, 2008

I'd say another 20-30 million or more people perished in "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976). Mao not only removed Liu Shaoqi, he also wiped out millions of ordinary people from the earth. He created a bizarre society where people turned against people, neighbors against neighbors, children against parents, students against teachers, wives against husbands and vice versa. Chinese' precious heritage was destroyed. Ancient architectures, treasures we inherited from our ancestors with a history of hundreds or thousands of years were also destroyed all in the name of "destroying the four olds".

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