Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong
Official 1967 portrait of the chariman. This portrait also hangs up at the Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing.
2nd Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party
In office
March 1943 – 9 September 1976
Preceded by Chen Dixiu
Succeeded by Hua Guofeng
Chairman of the People's Republic of China
In office
1954–1959
Succeeded by Liu Shaoqi

Mao Zedong (December 26, 1893September 9, 1976) was a Chinese Communist leader. He was the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. People have different opinions about Mao. The reasons people have called him bad are because they blame him for millions of Chinese deaths, and say that he was not skilled at running the government. They also say that he was impatient and would not wait for things he wanted to achieve. But people who agreed with Mao's Chinese Communist group say that he was a hero, who helped women and peasants gain rights. They also say that he saved China from foreign rule.

Name[change | change source]

Mao Zedong is the most common (used by the most people) version of Mao's name. His name used to be spelt "Mao Tse-Tung". "Mao" is his surname - in China, surnames are placed first. Mao is also called Chairman Mao, a nickname, because he was the Chairman of the Communist Party.

Beginning[change | change source]

Mao was born on December 26, 1893 in the Hunan province of China. He grew up in a farming family, and became a Communist while working at a library. Throughout the 1920's, his power increased, or became larger, in the Communist Party of China, and by 1933, he was its leader. During the 1920s, the group began to fight with rival Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and his group, the Kuomintang. This fight was called the Chinese Civil War. Mao said that Chiang was corrupt and unfit to rule China. Mao also wanted to make China follow communism, a way of thinking that opposed private property and supported common ownership.

Chiang Kai-shek's group, the Nationalists, had more fighters in 1935. They beat Mao's Communists and made them move out of the country. The Communists left to a fort that they owned. This move was called the Long March. Mao escaped from the Nationalists with other Communists to a part of China called Yenan. By this time, in 1935, the Chinese Civil War caused 500,000 deaths.

When Japan invaded China in 1937, Mao and Chiang stopped fighting. The United States defeated Japan in 1945 and made the Japanese Army leave China. The Chinese Civil War had been stopped during World War II, but after the war it became very violent. Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists had supporters in the cities and among the middle class. Mao and the Communists had many supporters in the farms and the countryside. In those days in China there were more farmers than city people, so Mao had more supporters than Chiang, and others supported Mao because they thought Chiang's government was bad.

By 1949, Mao had chased the Nationalists to an island called Taiwan, and told the people that China would be Communist, with him as leader. Mao named the new China the People's Republic of China.

Actions[change | change source]

Mao met the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, in 1972.

In the 1950s, Mao had many plans for how China could move forward in technology very fast and catch up with countries like the United Kingdom and United States. Mao was responsible for the First Five Year Plan and also, The Second Five Year Plan. The Second Five Year Plan had some ideas that did not work the way that Mao had wanted them to. Farms could not produce, or make, much food because of bad farming plans, and cities did not make many things like clothes and machines. Because of the lack of food, many people died of starvation.

In the 1960s, Mao wanted to change everything about China, such as the way Chinese people thought about China, and the way they remembered history. Because of this, he forced people to change things very fast, even if they did not want to. These changes were called The "Cultural Revolution". Mao and his supporters, the Red Guards, did not like it if someone talked about his ideas a bad way, but many people in Chinese cities did not like Mao's ideas because of the food problems. There was also no freedom to do many different things when the Red Guards were running the country. To keep people from saying bad things about Mao and trying to rid of him, Mao told all of China's best and brightest people to quit their jobs, and go into the farms. China became poorer and weaker because of this.

About the same time Mao became the leader in China, Nikita Khrushchev became the leader in the Soviet Union. Before this, Joseph Stalin was the leader in the Soviet Union, and Mao liked Stalin and respected his way to lead, and China and Russia were allies with each other. Khrushchev thought Stalin was a criminal dictator, and led the country very differently. Mao and Krushchev did not like each other, so the Soviet Union was no longer allies with China. China now had only a few allies like Albania, North Korea, Democratic Kampuchea, and Pakistan. This change of friends was called the Sino-Soviet Split. "Sino" is another way to say "Chinese".


During the 1970s, Mao became more friendly with the United States. In 1972, American president Richard Nixon visited China and met Mao. Mao died in 1976, and the "Cultural Revolution" ended that year. Mao's supporters were jailed, and Deng Xiaoping, who followed Mao, changed Mao's policies so that Chinese people could have more private ownership.

Legacy[change | change source]

Some Chinese mainlanders still believe Mao Zedong was a great leader, but they also knew that he did many unwise and bad things. According to Deng Xiaoping, Mao was "seven parts right and three parts wrong", and his "contributions are primary and his mistakes secondary." Some people think Mao made China lose its important ally, or friend, the Soviet Union, in the Sino-Soviet Split. The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were two of the things that Mao did that many people disliked. Most historians, people who study history, think that about tens of millions of people died because of Mao's bad ideas and neglect. That is the biggest number of people to ever die without a war. Some people disliked Mao because he did not support family planning, and this caused too many babies to be born, making too many people in too small places. Leaders of China after Mao had to make a new rule called one child policy.

Mao also made several changes to the Chinese language, such as switching from the Wade Giles system of Romanization to Pinyin, which is different. For this reason, Nanking is now called Nanjing on modern maps. Taiwan still uses Wade Giles, so its capital is called Taipei instead of the pinyin Taibei. He also simplified the Chinese characters, in theory it would make them easier to read and write so that more people would be literate.

Liu Shaoqi[change | change source]

Mao Zedong disliked Shaoqi because he was afraid that Liu Shaoqi would overthrow him, and take over the CCP. As in the result, Mao blamed Liu Shaoqi for being a capitalist, and placed him in jail. As in the result, Liu Shaoqi died in prison from brutal treatments, hunger, and the terrible conditions.

Mao's death[change | change source]

Mao had been in poorer health for several years and had declined visibly for at least six months prior to his death. There are unconfirmed reports that he possibly had ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Mao's last public appearance was on May 27, 1976, where he met the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the latter's one-day visit to Beijing.

At around 5:00 pm on September 2, 1976, Mao suffered a heart attack, far more severe than his previous two and affecting a much larger area of his heart. X-rays indicated that his current lung infection had worsened, and his urine output dropped to less than 300 cc a day.[citation needed] Mao was awake and alert throughout the crisis and asked his team of doctors, several times, whether he was in danger. His condition continued to fluctuate and his life hung in the balance. Three days later, on September 5, Mao's condition was still critical, and Hua Guofeng called Jiang Qing back from her trip. She spent only a few minutes visiting him in Building 202 (where Mao was staying) before returning to her own residence in the Spring Lotus Chamber.[citation needed] On the afternoon of September 7, Mao's condition took a turn for the worse. Jiang Qing went to Building 202 where she learned the news. Mao had just fallen asleep and needed the rest, but she insisted on rubbing his back and moving his limbs, and she sprinkled powder on his body. The medical team protested that the dust from the powder was not good for his lungs, but she instructed the nurses on duty to follow her example later. The next morning, September 8, she went again. She demanded the medical staff to change Mao's sleeping position, claiming that he had been lying too long on his left side.[citation needed] The doctor on duty objected, knowing that he could breathe only on his left side, but she had him moved nonetheless.[citation needed] Mao's breathing stopped and his face turned blue.[citation needed] Jiang Qing left the room while the medical staff put him on a respirator and performed emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Mao barely revived and Hua Guofeng urged Jiang Qing not to interfere further with the doctors' work, as her actions were detrimental to Mao's health and helped cause his death faster.[citation needed] Mao's organs failed quickly and he fell into a coma shortly before noon where he was put on life support machines. He was taken off life support over 12 hours later quarter to midnight and was pronounced dead at 12:10 am on September 9, 1976. September 9 was chosen as the day to let Mao die because it was seen as an easy day to remember, being the ninth day of the ninth month of the calendar.[citation needed]

His body lay in state at the Great Hall of the People. There was a three-minute silence observed during this service. His body was later placed into the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, even though he had wished to be cremated and had been one of the first high-ranking officials to sign the "Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death" in November 1956.

Sources and other websites[change | change source]

  1. [1] Washington State University.