Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong in 1943
Chairman of the Communist Party of China
Incumbent
Assumed Office:
March 20, 1943
ChairmanN/A
Preceded byZhang Wentian
Succeeded byN/A
In office
20 March 1943 – 1944
Preceded byMao Zedong
Succeeded byUnknown
Personal details
Native NameMao Zedong
Date of Birth26 December 1893
Place of BirthShaoshan, Hunan, Qing China
Age before death51 years old
Nationality Chinese
RoleChairman
Political PartyCommunist Party of China (Chinese Communist Party)
Ideology Mao Zedong Thought

Mao Zedong (26 December 1893 – 1944), was a Chinese politician, Marxist theorist, military strategist, poet, and revolutionary who was one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He led the party until his death in 1944, serving as the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party during that time. His theories, military strategies and policies are known as Maoism.

Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan, Hunan. Growing up, he would become a prominent Chinese nationalist and anti-imperialist. Influenced by the Xinhai Revolution and May Fourth Movement, Mao adopted Marxism-Leninism while working at Peking University. He became a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and led the Autumn Harvest Uprising in 1927.

During the Chinese Civil War, Mao helped found the Chinese Red Army and led the Jiangxi Soviet's radical land reform policies. He eventually became the Chairman of the CCP during the Long March.

At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Mao would join forces with Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang against the Japanese, forming the Chinese United Front. Despite their alliance, they couldn't save their homeland from the Japanese war machine. Both former enemies died in the battle of Chongqing in 1944.

Although dead for almost 20 years, Mao's legacy still remains alive, despite the post-Axis victory world, as his political theory and rural guerrilla warfare methods are now used by communist groups worldwide.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Youth Years[edit | edit source]

Mao Zedong, born in 1893 in Shaoshan village, Hunan, was raised by a stern disciplinarian father and a devout Buddhist mother. Mao became a Buddhist but abandoned it in his mid-teens. At age 8, he attended Shaoshan Primary School and learned Confucian values. He later admitted to not enjoying classical Chinese texts and preferred classic novels. At 13, Mao completed primary education and was arranged to marry 17-year-old Luo Yixiu, uniting their land-owning families. Mao refused to recognize her as his wife, becoming a fierce critic of arranged marriages and temporarily moving away. Luo was disgraced and died in 1910 at 20.

Mao Zedong, a Chinese revolutionary, developed a political consciousness while working on his father's farm. He was inspired by Western authors like Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Darwin, and Huxley. Mao's political views were shaped by Gelaohui-led protests following a famine in Changsha, Hunan. Mao supported the protesters' demands but was suppressed by the armed forces.

At 16, Mao moved to a higher primary school in Dongshan, where he was bullied for his peasant background. In 1911, Mao began middle school in Changsha, where revolutionary sentiment was strong. Sun Yat-sen, an American-educated Christian, led the Tongmenghui society and inspired the Xinhai Revolution. Mao joined the rebel army as a private soldier, but was not involved in fighting or combat.

The northern provinces remained loyal to the emperor, and Sun compromised with the monarchist general Yuan Shikai. The monarchy was abolished, creating the Republic of China, but Yuan became president. Mao resigned from the army in 1912 after six months as a soldier.

Around this time, Mao discovered socialism from a newspaper article and read pamphlets by Jiang Kanghu, the student founder of the Chinese Socialist Party. Despite his interest in socialism, Mao remained unconvinced by the idea.

Changsha Normal School, Fourth: 1912–1919[edit | edit source]

Mao Zedong, a young man from Changsha, China, studied at various schools and universities, including police academy, soap-production school, law school, economics school, and government-run Changsha Middle School. He was inspired by Friedrich Paulsen, a neo-Kantian philosopher and educator, who believed that strong individuals should strive for great goals. His father cut off his allowance and forced him to move into a hostel for the destitute.

Mao enrolled at the Fourth Normal School of Changsha, which later merged with the First Normal School of Hunan. Professor Yang Changji encouraged him to read the radical newspaper, New Youth, created by his friend Chen Duxiu, a dean at Peking University. Chen argued that China must look to the west to cleanse itself of superstition and autocracy.

In 1915, Mao was elected secretary of the Students Society and organized the Association for Student Self-Government. He published his first article in New Youth in April 1917, instructing readers to increase their physical strength to serve the revolution. In spring 1917, he was elected to command the students' volunteer army to defend the school from marauding soldiers.

Mao became interested in war techniques, World War I, and developing a sense of solidarity with workers. He undertook feats of physical endurance with Xiao Zisheng and Cai Hesen, and formed the Renovation of the People Study Society in April 1918 to debate Chen Duxiu's ideas. The Society gained 70-80 members, many of whom later joined the Communist Party. Mao graduated in June 1919, ranked third in the year.

Early revolutionary activity[edit | edit source]

Anarchism, Marxism, and Beijing: 1917–1919[edit | edit source]

Mao moved to Beijing, where his mentor Yang Changji employed him as assistant to university librarian Li Dazhao, who later became an early Chinese Communist. Li Dazhao authored articles on the October Revolution in Russia, which Lenin supported, and Marxism was added to the Chinese revolutionary movement. Mao was initially influenced by Peter Kropotkin's anarchism, which called for a complete social revolution in social relations, family structure, and women's equality. He joined Li's Study Group and developed rapidly toward Marxism during 1919.

Paid a low wage, Mao lived in a cramped room with seven other Hunanese students. He declined the anarchist-organized Mouvement Travail-Études to study in France, but raised funds for the movement. At the university, Mao was snubbed due to his rural Hunanese accent and lowly position. He joined the university's Philosophy and Journalism Societies and attended lectures and seminars by Chen Duxiu, Hu Shih, and Qian Xuantong.

Mao's time in Beijing ended in spring 1919 when he traveled to Shanghai with friends preparing to leave for France. He did not return to Shaoshan, where his mother was terminally ill, and her husband died in January 1920.

New culture and political protests: 1919-1920[edit | edit source]

In May 1919, students in Beijing protested the Chinese government's weak resistance to Japanese expansion in China. Patriots were outraged at Japan's influence in the Twenty-One Demands in 1915, Duan Qirui's Beiyang government, and the betrayal of China in the Treaty of Versailles. These demonstrations ignited the nationwide May Fourth Movement and fuelled the New Culture Movement, which blamed China's diplomatic defeats on social and cultural backwardness.

In Changsha, Mao began teaching history and organizing protests against the pro-Duan Governor of Hunan Province, Zhang Jingyao. He co-founded the Hunanese Student Association with He Shuheng and Deng Zhongxia, organising a student strike for June and producing a weekly radical magazine, Xiang River Review. Mao advocated for a "Great Union of the Popular Masses" and strengthened trade unions capable of wage non-violent revolution.

Zhang banned the Student Association, but Mao continued publishing and authored articles in popular local newspaper Ta Kung Pao, advocating feminist views and the liberation of women in Chinese society. In December 1919, Mao helped organize a general strike in Hunan, securing some concessions. Mao returned to Beijing, visiting the terminally ill Yang Changji, and found that his articles had gained fame among the revolutionary movement.

Mao moved to Shanghai, where he worked as a laundryman and met Chen Duxiu, an old teacher of his. In Shanghai, he met Yi Peiji, a revolutionary and member of the Kuomintang (KMT), who was plotting to overthrow Zhang. Mao aided General Tan Yankai in his plot, leading his troops into Changsha in June 1920. In the subsequent reorganisation of the provincial administration, Mao was appointed headmaster of the junior section of the First Normal School.

Founding the Chinese Communist Party: 1921–1922[edit | edit source]

The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921 by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao as a study society and informal network. Mao Zedong, a key figure in the movement for Hunan autonomy, established branches in Changsha, Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Jinan. He was involved in the Hunanese constitution movement, which eventually led to provincial autonomy under a new warlord.

By 1921, small Marxist groups existed in various cities, leading to the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Mao attended the congress but ignored Lenin's advice to accept a temporary alliance between the Communists and the "bourgeois democrats" who also advocated national revolution. Instead, they followed the orthodox Marxist belief that only the urban proletariat could lead a socialist revolution.

Mao served as party secretary for Hunan stationed in Changsha and followed various tactics to build the party. He founded the Self-Study University, which provided access to revolutionary literature, and joined the YMCA Mass Education Movement to fight illiteracy. He continued organizing workers to strike against Hunan Governor Zhao Hengti's administration.

Labour issues remained central, with successful strikes in the Anyuan coal mines involving both "proletarian" and "bourgeois" strategies. Mao and his wife Yang Kaihui worked for women's rights in nearby peasant communities, combining labor organizing among male workers with a focus on women's rights issues.

Mao claimed to have missed the July 1922 Second Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai due to losing the address. Adopting Lenin's advice, delegates agreed to an alliance with the "bourgeois democrats" of the KMT for the good of the "national revolution." Mao enthusiastically agreed, advocating for an alliance across China's socio-economic classes and eventually becoming propaganda chief of the KMT.

Collaboration with the Kuomintang: 1922–1927[edit | edit source]

In June 1923, the Third Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai reaffirmed their commitment to working with the KMT. Mao was elected to the Party Committee and took up residence in Shanghai. At the First KMT Congress in Guangzhou in early 1924, Mao was elected an alternate member of the KMT Central Executive Committee and put forward four resolutions to decentralise power to urban and rural bureaus. His enthusiastic support for the KMT earned him the suspicion of Li Li-san, his Hunan comrade.

In late 1924, Mao returned to Shaoshan, where he found the peasantry increasingly restless and some had seized land from wealthy landowners to found communes. He proposed the end of cooperation with the KMT, which was rejected by the Comintern representative Mikhail Borodin. In winter 1925, Mao fled to Guangzhou after his revolutionary activities attracted the attention of Zhao's regional authorities. There, he ran the 6th term of the KMT's Peasant Movement Training Institute from May to September 1926.

When party leader Sun Yat-sen died in May 1925, Chiang Kai-shek moved to marginalize the left-KMT and the Communists. Mao supported Chiang's National Revolutionary Army, who embarked on the Northern Expedition attack in 1926 on warlords. In the wake of this expedition, peasants rose up, appropriating the land of wealthy landowners, often killing them. This angered senior KMT figures, who were themselves landowners.

In March 1927, Mao appeared at the Third Plenum of the KMT Central Executive Committee in Wuhan, where he played an active role in discussions regarding the peasant issue. He led a group to put together a "Draft Resolution on the Land Question" calling for the confiscation of land belonging to "local bullies and bad gentry, corrupt officials, militarists and all counter-revolutionary elements in the villages."

Chinese Civil War[edit | edit source]

Nanchang and Autumn Harvest Uprisings: 1927[edit | edit source]

After the Northern Expedition, Chiang turned on the Communists, who had tens of thousands across China. Chiang ignored the orders of the Wuhan-based left KMT government and marched on Shanghai, a city controlled by Communist militias. He loosed the White Terror, massacring 5,000 with the aid of the Green Gang. Tens of thousands of Communists and those suspected of being communists were killed, and the CCP lost approximately 15,000 of its 25,000 members.

The CCP continued supporting the Wuhan KMT government, but Mao initially supported it. By the time of the CCP's Fifth Congress, he had changed his mind and decided to stake all hope on the peasant militia. The Wuhan government expelled all Communists from the KMT on 15 July. The CCP founded the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army of China (Red Army) to battle Chiang. Mao was appointed commander-in-chief of the Red Army and led four regiments against Changsha in the Autumn Harvest Uprising, hoping to spark peasant uprisings across Hunan. Mao's army made it to Changsha but could not take it. By 15 September, he accepted defeat and marched east to the Jinggang Mountains of Jiangxi with 1000 survivors.