1893 – 1976
Founder of the People’s Republic of Chinaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Chinese
For Mao Zedong that step was taken at Tongado (on the Long March of 1934) where Mao’s proposal for the Communist army’s route was accepted for the first time since his dismissal from military command in 1932. At the next meeting of the top Communist officials Mao gained power and support and soon after became the unchallenged leader of the Communists forces. Mao Zedong became the founder of the People’s Republic of China, the ruler of China and one of the most powerful people in the world. Not only did he set himself up against the other powerful world leaders; he also set himself up against God.
As a young man, the Marxist philosophy was unknown to Mao. In fact, it wasn’t till 1920 that Mao converted to Marxism. Born a peasant in Shaoshan, a village in the Hunan Province of China, his family was well off enough to send him to school where he was trained in the Chinese classics and Confucianism. When he was fifteen, Mao enrolled in a junior middle school, which provided him with a more ‘modern’ education. In 1911 Mao went to the provincial capital, Changsha, to pursue his studies. While there, he served in the Republican army during the revolution against the Qing dynasty. Successfully graduated from the Hunan Teachers College in Changsha, Mao went to Beijing and worked at the University under the head librarian, Li Dazhao, whom he joined in studying Marxism. On New Year’s Day 1921 the New People’s Study Society, of which Mao was a member, decided to pursue Bolshevism as the society’s goal for China.
Over the next few years Mao’s position in the Communist Party changed dramatically. In 1921 Mao and 10 other men founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Following the advice of Stalin the CCP allied with the Kuomintang (KMT), the largest revolutionary group in China. Mao became an active member of both parties and was nominated director of the Peasant Commissions for both the CCP and KMT in 1926. In 1927 Mao became convinced that the peasants would be the main force in a revolution. His ideas were however rejected because they would alienate the KMT. Later that year the CCP and KMT split when Chiang Kai-shek took control of the party and began a purge against the communists. The two parties declared war on each other and Mao formed the Red Army, made up of peasants, to fight against Chiang’s army. Using his newly developed guerilla warfare techniques, the Red Army was very successful. The leaders of the CCP became concerned when Mao refused to follow their orders and continued using his own tactics. They attempted to seize his power several times, but always had to call him back when their own plans failed. Thus Mao became an essential member of the party, although unwanted.
In 1929 the Communists were faced with a new problem, which completely changed the party. An anti-Bolshevik League, known as the AB-tuan had mysteriously infiltrated the Red-Army. Mao became one of the key players in the purge that followed; interrogating, torturing and killing tens of thousand of men allegedly members of the AB-tuan. It was at this point when the CCP was transformed from a group of well-meaning intellectuals into hardened Bolshevik group that ordered the merciless slaughter of thousands of men and women.
In 1931 Mao had led many victories against Chiang Kai-shek and the party leaders began to think that Mao’s leadership was unnecessary, but they soon found they were wrong. Bo Gu, the new party leader, stripped Mao of his power by appointing him chairman of the Republic, a prestigious position with no military power, responsible only for the civil administration of the base area. In 1934 the Red Army abandoned their base area in their last attempt to avoid total defeat by Chiang Kai-shek. They started on a march that became celebrated as the Long March. It was on that march that Mao was recognized as having been right all along and the Red Army came under his power. At that point Japan invaded China and the CCP was forced to ally with the KMT in order to defend China, recognizing the party’s national role and paving the way for Mao’s rise to power.
In 1949, after definitively defeating the KMT, Mao declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China of which he was chairman. Mao directed the reconstruction of China following the model of the USSR, launching massive campaigns to root out “counterrevolutionaries”. Many Chinese citizens were imprisoned, exiled, tortured or executed in the ‘Three Antis’, Five Antis’, the anti-Rightist Campaign, the movement against ‘Right opportunism’, the Socialist Education Movement, the Cultural Revolution, the campaign against the ‘May 16’ elements and the ‘cleansing of class ranks’. In 1958 Mao led China in the Great Leap Forward to transform the economy, instead, as a result of several poor harvests there was a massive famine with 20 million Chinese starving to death in 1959 and 1960 alone. He had failed to consider man’s sin nature. People had lied about their grain production numbers to impress their superiors. As a result, the large grain harvest that was recorded in numbers did not exist in reality. Mao’s policies had failed. The people kept returning to capitalism, and though he tried, he could not get the people of China to make socialism a goal.
In 1966 Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to attack his political rivals and establish a personality cult around himself. The ‘Red Guard’ was formed to hunt down those who opposed Mao. They also set Mao up as their god. In the People’s Daily they wrote: “Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts. Mao Zedong Thought is the source of our life…Whosoever dares to oppose him shall be hunted down and obliterated”. The Chinese people were forced to bow three times, morning and evening, before an image of Mao in their workplaces. At railway stations passengers had to perform the ‘loyalty dance’ before they were permitted to board. Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’ of aphorisms was credited the power to work miracles and Mao was even said to have raised a man from the dead. The people of China and Mao broke the first commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:3-5). As it says in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.”
On September 2, 1976 Mao died of a heart attack. His wife, who had for years been trying to take over as head of state when he died, was arrested. She was blamed for much of what had gone wrong and the new regime quickly took over and began reversing many of Mao’s policies. China became nominally socialist, but capitalist in everything else. Mao became a part of the pantheon of gods and folk-heroes of China. During his lifetime Mao had profoundly affected China and the rest of the world. He led the Chinese in the formation of the People’s Republic of China, transforming it into one of the world’s most powerful countries. Although criticized for his brutality, many Chinese admire him for his power and role as one of the most influential men of the 20th century. His policies and ideas, however, did not survive long after his death.
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Spence, Jonathan. "Mao Zedong. Time 100. 23 Sept. 2003