Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong (Traditional Chinese: 毛澤東; Simplified Chinese: 毛泽东; Hanyu Pinyin: Máo Zédōng; Wade-Giles: Mao Tse-tung) lived from December 26, 1893, to September 9, 1976. He was a Communist atheist and an early member of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. In 1935, Mao was elected to the Executive Committee of the Comintern in Moscow and remained on this committee until it was publicly disbanded in 1943.[1]

Mao was the author of Quotations from Chairman Mao, published in 1966, informally known as "the little red book." During his lifetime, almost everyone in the People's Republic of China was expected to have a copy. One of his most well known statements was that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun".

During the Cultural Revolution, it was required for every Chinese citizen to own, read, and carry at all times Quotations from Chairman Mao, popularly known as "the little red book".

Edgar Snow introduced Mao and Zhou Enlai to American readers in 1937 in his book, Red Star Over China, shortly after the Chinese Red Army’s rout by Chiang Kai-shek in 1934 and their year long retreat to Yenan known as the Long March. Snow wrote, "The political ideology, tactical line and theoretical leadership of the Chinese Communists have been under the close guidance, if not positive detailed direction, of the Communist International, which during the last decade has become virtually a bureau of the Russian Communist Party." And he further declared that the CCP had to subordinate itself to the "strategic requirements of Soviet Russia, under the leadership of Stalin."[2]

Mao defeated Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, taking control of the Chinese mainland and establishing the People's Republic of China. As the leader of China, Mao initiated the Great Leap Forward, an economic plan intended[Citation Needed] to rapidly industrialize China's then largely rural economy. In the end it proved a ruinous failure, preventing the peasants from producing needed food and causing massive famines; up to 38 million starved to death or were killed for opposing against the economic plan. In 1966, Mao instigated the Cultural Revolution, in which those disloyal to the Chairman were killed or humiliated in order to solidify Mao's control. Richard Nixon was the first United States president to meet with Mao, and thus the first to acknowledge the existence of the People's Republic of China, as opposed to Taiwan's Republic of China.

Overall, historians believe that around 43 million people died under Mao's rule, due mostly to starvation from disastrous socialist economic policies such as the Great Leap Forward. This is 7 times the common figure given for the Holocaust but it is much less known.


While often portrayed negatively, Mao Zedong made many undeniable contributions to China. Before 1949, for instance, the illiteracy rate in Mainland China was 80 percent, and life expectancy was a meager 35 years.[Citation Needed] At his death, illiteracy had declined to less than seven percent, and average life expectancy had increased to more than 70 years (alternative statistics also quote improvements, though not nearly as dramatic).[Citation Needed] In addition to these increases, the total population of China increased 57% to 700 million, from the constant 400 million mark during the span between the Opium War and the Chinese Civil War. Also, under Mao's government, China ended its "Century of Humiliation" from Western and Japanese imperialism and regained its status as a major world power. Mao also industrialized China to a considerable extent and ensured China's sovereignty during his rule. Many, including some of Mao's supporters, view the Kuomintang, which Mao drove off the mainland, as having been corrupt.

The Maoist era also improved women's rights by abolishing prostitution, a phenomenon that was to return after Deng Xiaoping and post-Maoist CPC leaders increased liberalization of the economy. Indeed, Mao once famously remarked that "Women hold up half the heavens". A popular slogan during the Cultural Revolution was, "Break the chains, unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution!" Mao was clearly an advocate for womens' rights, and worked towards equality.


  1. While You Slept : Our Tragedy in Asia and Who Made It, John T. Flynn, New York : The Devin - Adair Company, 1951, pgs. 21 - 22 pdf.
  2. Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow, New York, 1937.