Born in Hunan Province
on December 26, 1893, Mao Zedong grew up in a normal peasant family. Official Communist Party
historians suggest that Mao was born into a family entirely destitute, but the fact is, that his father had made quite a decent living with which to support the Mao family. Mao grew up a normal child. It is said he loved to swim. This was a habit he would keep throughout his life, especially when he had access to the Party's official swimming pools.
At age 17, Mao managed to leave his village and enter school at Hunan
's capital city, Changsha
. Unfortunately, his studies there would be short lived. That year, 1911, the imperial government was overthrown by the revolution led by Sun Yat-Sen
. Mao immediately left school and joined one of the many revolutionary brigades. After the chaos of revolution finally settled, Mao did not return to school, but instead began an intensive period of independent study at a Hunan
library. There he read all sorts of books by scholars from all over the world. Eventually, he exhausted his resources and money and registered in a course to become a teacher.
In 1918, Mao completed his course and was certified as a teacher. However, he decided not to pursue this career and instead went to Beijing
, where he got a poorly paying job in the university's library. Little did Mao know at the time, this menial job at the university would put him into contact with some very influential people. It was at this university where Mao would meet and befriend his boss Li Ta Chao
, and literature professor Chen Tu Hsui
. These men were the co-founders of the Chinese Communist Party
In May of 1919, Mao participated in the May 4th Uprising, which, according to CCP history, was the birth of the Party. The protests were against imperialism
, namely that of the Japanese
In 1920, Mao obtained a job as a school principal back in Changsha
. While there, he worked to help organize the Hunan chapter of the communist
party. Because of his hard work and dedication to this cause, he was eventually named the Party's General Secretary for Hunan Province. In 1925, the communists were still a very small party, and so they allied themselves with Sun Yat Sen's Kuomintang
party. Plans were made to bring all of China
into Kuomintang control. Soon after, Sun died, leaving a power vacuum
within the party which was filled by Chiang Kai-Shek
. As the Kuomintang conquest of China progressed, there were of course questions of doctrine
between the commmunists and nationalists. Mao actually saw good and bad aspects in both parties. However his decision was made since he was supportive of peasant revolt against landowners. Many of these landowners he wished to rid China
of were members of the Kuomintang. With the support of the peasants
, Mao figured he could conquer the Kuomintang.
The problem was, Chiang also saw what was happening. In 1927 Chiang ordered mass executions of communists in all of China's cities. Membership in the CCP dropped rapidly due to these killings and the fear instilled in the surviving members. This action allowed for Mao to gain even more support from the peasants, as it showed the Kuomintang as a ruthless regime. It also freed Mao of any disputes he had with CCP officials from the cities.
retreated to the mountains and managed to raise a rather large armed force. The Autumn Harvest Uprising in Changshan, however, was put down by the Kuomintang forces, leaving Mao's forces in shambles. Mao quickly retreated back to the mountains where he worked on one village
at a time, systematically trying and executing the opressive landowners. He promised sweeping social reforms for the peasants and won them over. Mao was able to establish his own government in the territories his forces controlled in the south of China.
With the ever growing communist forces, the temptation to expand into Kuomintang territory was unbearable. The communist forces began a series on assaults on the Kuomintang, lasting from 1930 to 1934, all of which were disasters. These failures spawned the infamous "Long March
", a massive retreat of nearly 100,000 troops and party officials. Crossing 11 provinces and covering some 6,000 miles, only 20,000 men (many of which joined up along the way) were able to reach Yenan
a year later. In 1935, after a sucessful victory against the Kuomintang, Mao was named Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. For the next two years, skirmishes between the CCP and Kuomintang were common, and Mao appeared to be losing ground. Indeed, he eventually may have been defeated totally had it not been for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria
in 1937. Chiang was not very quick to react to the Japanese
aggression, focusing instead on the Mao problem. One day, one of Chiang's soldiers arrested him for ignoring Japan
's invasion of Chinese
territory. Mao heard of this news and sent Chou En Lai
, his right hand man, to bargain for Chinag's life. Thus, Chiang was indebted to Mao and was forced to accept a new alliance with the CCP in order to rid China of the Japanese
While the second world war raged in Asia
, Chiang had to focus on not only fighting the Japanese, but preventing Mao from gaining the upper hand. The Japanese
were nowhere to be found in the areas where Mao's forces were, so Mao just trained and amassed an even larger army. With the surrender of Japan in 1945, Chiang could now turn back to focusing on Mao full time. However, Mao had raised a Red Army
of 1 million men and a "People's Militia" of nearly 2 million. Plus, Mao had recieved captured Russian
equipment from the war to aid him in his quest.
In 1946, after several attempts to negotiate, China
fell into civil war. The Kuomintang at the outset looked like the favored army, but corruption within eventually led to their downfall. In 1949, Mao captured Beijing and the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan. The People's Republic of China
was declared on the 1st of October, 1949.
As Mao gained power, and the communists were the ruling party, so began the killings. Estimates put the number at 3-5 million anti-communist Chinese
killed for opposing the party's control. Aside from the killings, Mao brought in agrarian reform and sought to develop industry further. For the first few years, things seemed to be running smoothly. The agragian reform
had narrowly averted a nationwide famine, and the world was watching a brand new China. This success didn't last long however, as Mao was not happy with the results.
In 1955, in the middle of the Five Year Plan, Mao collectivized farm labor.
Over the next few years, differences in philosophy
caused Sino-Soviet relations to deteriorate. In what was essentially an argument over who is more Marxist
, the two nations strived to outdo each other. Rather than continue with his five year plans, Mao suggested his "Great Leap Forward
" in which he would prove that China
was the better Marxist power. In this great leap, nearly everything was socialized, and the entire population was collectivized, and put into actual communes. The obvious failure of this led to Mao's being demoted from Chairman, replaced by Liu Shao Chi
. Everything went back to the old ways of collectivization and the third five year plan was started in 1962.
In 1964, a book of Mao's writings and teachings was compiled and published by Lin Piao
. This book became the bible for those involved in what was about to become the Cultural Revolution
. Suddenly a renewed feeling of Marxist revolution swept through China, and in 1969, Mao was reinstated after Liu suddenly 'admitted' to anti-Marxist tendencies.
In the early 1970s, Mao was aging yet still very active. He and US President Nixon
were working towards better relations, even going so far as to have US policy on Taiwan changed.
Mao died on the 9th of December 1976. After his death, the party had an internal power struggle, with Deng Xiaoping
succeeding in obtaining the Chairman position.
Whether viewed as good or evil, the fact of the matter is that Mao Zedong
was one of the most important people in not just Chinese history, but the world's history as well.