The Cult of Mao
was an excellent example of Machiavellian
scheming and the manipulation
of an entire nation
to one man's will.
Mao was an acknowledged master of propaganda, subterfuge and misinformation, his actions in the Great Leap Forward were testament to that. The entire nation was in a state of doublethink; Mao managed to use his God-like status to initiate a campaign against "rightists", a move eerily resembling the witch-hunt that took place in America under Joseph McCarthy. In fact, he was so effective, he even got rid of some of his allies that were beginning to show signs of dissent. Mao was only stopped by the deaths of 30 million peasant Chinese.
The cult itself really started in 1964, in a period of reformer insurgency. Mao came out of his old haunts and presented a rather innocent looking social reform plan, the now infamous "Lei Feng" campaign. Lei Feng turned out to be a superlative propaganda success for Mao, for underneath every single mention of Lei Feng, Mao Zedong would be credited. The ravages of the famine forgotten, Mao began to return to power. The installation of his wife, Jiang Qing, into the propaganda department proved useful.
The Chinese have dreamed of peace and stability for three millenia, and by giving them that Mao achieved God-Emperor status doing this. After Lei Feng came a flurry of propaganda designed to invoke anger at the past under the imperial dynasties, the juxtaposition between emperor and Mao wasn't too different, but to the Chinese Mao was their savior. The Little Red Book was published to further cement his power.
What came next was all too well-known to the rest of the world, the Cultural Revolution. At this point, the Cult of Mao was absolute. In the chaos, Mao discreetly purged his entire Politburo, Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai. In fact, he even managed to turn the Red Guards against the People's Liberation Army, two factions formerly in unison.
Just like much propaganda today, the entirety of the Cult of Mao was focused on the youth, the Red Guards, the schoolchildren. Mao's opponents appealed to the intellectuals, and for that they were purged. There is no arguing with a pack of fanatical young murderers. Warping culture begins with the gullible youth. Just like Pol Pot, and to a degree, America today.
"Father is close, Mother is close, but neither is as close as Chairman Mao."
Chinese Nursery Rhyme