Mao Zedong (also Mao Tse-Tung)

Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung)

Mao Zedong (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) (also Mao Tse-Tung in Wade-Giles transliteration) was a Chinese Marxist theorist, soldier, and statesman who led China's communist revolution after decades of foreign occupation and civil war in the 20th century. Following the Communist Party of China’s military victory over the nationalist Kuomintang in the Chinese Civil War, Mao announced the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, in the culturally-significant Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

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Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) Quotes

An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.

Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated. Such is history; such is the history of civilization for thousands of years.

I have witnessed the tremendous energy of the masses. On this foundation it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever.

If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.

Let a hundred flowers bloom.

Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting the progress of the arts and the sciences and a flourishing culture in our land.

Our attitude towards ourselves should be "to be satiable in learning" and towards others "to be tireless in teaching."

The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.

There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. Proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause.

To read too many books is harmful.

War can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.

Quotes originally compiled by

Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) Chronological Biography

1893 MAO Zedong was born on December 26 in the small village of Shaoshan in the province of Hunan (Southeast China). While Mao spent much of his childhood working on the family farm, he developed a passion for learning during his brief primary education. At the age of sixteen, Mao left Shaoshan and traveled to the city of Changsha, the provincial capital, where he enrolled in middle school.
Mao was born at a time of great social, political, and cultural change. China was feeling the pressure of imperialism and many scholars, government officials, and others were pushing for modernizing reforms.

1911 Mao, now seventeen, watched as the Revolution of 1911 erupted in China. As Euro-American imperialism debilitated an already weak Qing government, widespread discontent with the dynastic system spread. Those frustrated with the Qing government joined under the leadership of the anti-Qing activist SUN Yat-sen to stage a revolution. The revolution began with a military revolt in Wuhan against the Qing and quickly spread throughout China, forcing the Qing to formally abdicate in 1912. While Mao did not participate in the fighting, he was an avid supporter of the revolution and its aims of social and political reform.

1912 After the Qing formally abdicated, Mao served briefly in the Republican army and then quit to resume his studies. He re-enrolled in middle school in Changsha, where he studied world history, literature, and Chinese and European philosophy.
Meanwhile, the Republic established by the revolutionary government was already crumbling. SUN Yat-sen and his party, the Guomindang, were driven underground by political opponents. The Republican government, disorganized and rife with corrupt officials, failed to establish central authority in China, allowing local military strongmen to seize power in the provinces.

1918 Mao graduated from middle school and traveled to Beijing. There he became actively involved in the May Fourth Movement and began publishing articles in local journals promoting cultural reform. By 1920, Mao had once again settled in Changsha where he opened a small radical bookstore and continued to write for local journals about the “new culture” arising in China.

1921 Mao became one of the first members of the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP.) He began working in his home province of Hunan to organize labor unions and activist groups and became an important figure in local politics.

1923 Under encouragement from the Comintern and the CCP, Mao became a member of the Guomingdang (GMD), or Nationalist Party. In an alliance known as the First United Front, members of the CCP were instructed by the Comintern to work with the GMD to bring China under a single nationalist government. With organizational aid and funding from the Comintern, the GMD grew in size and military power. Mao became an influential member of both the GMD and CCP and worked to solidify the alliance between the two parties.

1926 Mao became involved in peasant mobilization in his work as a propagandist for the United Front and as an instructor for the United Front’s Peasant Training Institute. When the United Front was preparing to undertake a large military campaign to retake the provinces from local military leaders, Mao was charged with preparing peasant forces. Under the leadership of GMD general CHIANG Kai-shek, United Front forces, in a campaign known as the Northern Expedition, overthrew many of the provincial warlords. By the end of the campaign, the United Front had succeeded in uniting more than half of China under a Nationalist government.

1927 Fearful of the growing influence of the CCP, right-wing elements of the GMD led by CHIANG Kai-shek conspired with their provincial warlord allies to carry out a crackdown on Communists, organized labor, and peasant associations. Beginning in Shanghai and spreading to other regions under GMD control, the GMD and its allies had hundreds of left-wing leaders imprisoned or executed. This purge marked the end of the First United Front and the beginning of a bitter rivalry between the CCP and the GMD.
When Chiang assumed official leadership of the GMD, succeeding SUN Yat-sen who had died two years earlier, he established Nanjing as the new national capital. Mao received Comintern instructions to organize peasant uprisings in areas under GMD control. Mao’s forces were too small in number and too poorly trained to challenge the GMD’s seasoned army, and the uprisings were easily crushed. Mao fled with his remaining forces to Jiangxi province (Southeast China, bordering Hunan to the east) where he established a stronghold in the mountains.

1928 Hedged in by enemy forces in the mountains, Mao was largely cut off from CCP and Comintern contact for nearly a year. In the mountains, Mao experimented with collective agriculture and built a peasant army trained in guerrilla tactics.

1929 Mao descended from the mountains and joined other CCP leaders to establish a major Communist base in Jiangxi province, known as the Jiangxi Soviet.

1931 The GMD initiated a major campaign to completely stamp out Communist influence in China. The Jiangxi Soviet where Mao was stationed became one of the major targets of this campaign and sustained repeated attacks over the next three years.
In the same year, radical junior officers in the Japanese military planted a bomb on a railway in Manchuria. The incident was engineered to appear as an attack by Chinese forces and was used to justify a full-scale invasion of Manchuria, which was quickly transformed into a Japanese colony.

1934 Worn down by four years of relentless GMD assault, the CCP leadership agreed to abandon its base in Jiangxi and to establish a new stronghold in a less vulnerable location. With no clear destination, an army of 80,000 CCP loyalists marched from the Jiangxi Soviet in search of a new home. Although Mao was not one of the initial organizers of the march, he took command of the Communist forces after the first three months of the journey and set the army’s destination for a distant communist base in Shaanxi province (North-Central China). Sustaining heavy losses from disease, famine, and enemy attack, Mao led his Red Army through some six thousand miles of rivers, swamps, forests, and mountains to reach its new base in the city of Yan’an in Shaanxi province. It was this journey, known as the “Long March,” that elevated Mao to the upper ranks of the CCP.

1936 Throughout the early 1930s, popular opinion shifted from fighting the Chinese Communists to fighting Japanese aggression. By 1936, this feeling was shared by the CCP and even some within the GMD. Very late in the year, CHIANG Kai-shek was kidnapped by one of his own generals (in what became known as the “Xi’an Incident”). Chiang was released after two weeks when he agreed to ally with the Communists against the Japanese. This alliance became known as the Second United Front.

1937 Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China, which marked the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The Japanese were initially successful in the North, and within months had captured the GMD capital city of Nanjing. Here, in an episode known as the “Rape of Nanjing,” the Japanese army turned on the civilian population committing countless acts of rape and torture in an apparent effort to force the Chinese into submission. Meanwhile, Japanese forces were also pushing into the provinces surrounding Mao’s Shaanxi base, where they were met with effective resistance by CCP forces.

1943 Mao received the title of “Chairman” of the Communist Central Committee — a title that heretofore had not existed — and Chairman of the Politburo, making him the unchallenged leader of the CCP.

1945 The final surrender of Japan after the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Sino-Japanese War to a close. As the Japanese evacuated China, the conflict between the CCP under Mao and the GMD under Chiang reemerged. Within a year, full-scale war had erupted between the two parties.

1947 The GMD was initially successful in the north, surrounding and capturing the Yan’an base Mao had established after the Long March. However, the CCP had already established a foothold in Manchuria, which their Russian allies had allowed them to occupy after the Sino-Japanese War. The CCP used this base to begin an aggressive military campaign that started to drive the GMD armies south.

1949 With the GMD on the eve of its defeat, Mao announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1. CCP forces had completely overwhelmed GMD armies by December. CHIANG Kai-shek fled with his remaining forces to Taiwan, where he installed the remnants of his GMD administration, claiming to be the legitimate government of China. (To this day, the GMD remains active, and the official name of the government on Taiwan is the “Republic of China.” The PRC government on the mainland does not recognize this government and continues to claim Taiwan as its territory.)

1950 North Korean forces launched an offensive on South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War (1950-53). By the fall of 1950, the South Koreans, backed by American-led UN forces, had driven the invading North Korean army from South Korea. UN forces then launched an invasion of North Korea, taking North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang and pushing farther north. Alarmed by the UN victories and fearful of the US securing a foothold in North Korea, Mao ordered PRC troops to reinforce the North Koreans. The united communist forces executed a successful counterattack, forcing UN troops to retreat. The war came to an end in 1953 with the Treaty of Panmunjom, which split the peninsula into the communist north and the capitalist south.

1956 Mao delivered his famous “hundred flowers” speech, in which he encouraged Chinese to express their opinions about the government openly. Many intellectuals and writers responded with critiques of party policy. In a massive crackdown in 1957, those who had followed Mao’s encouragement to ”let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend” were arrested and either imprisoned or sent to labor camps.

1958 In an attempt to revitalize the Chinese economy and break from the Soviet model of Communism that Mao believed was not suited to China’s predominantly agricultural economy, Mao launched a new economic program he called “The Great Leap Forward.” In industry, Mao’s program promoted labor-intensive production that was less reliant on technology and expensive machinery in order to capitalize on China’s huge labor supply. In agriculture, Mao’s program promoted collective farming organized in peasant communes. The goal was to increase output at all levels through a program suited to China’s unique economic and social structure. Poor organization, unrealistic planning, poor harvests, and a lack of communication between rural areas and urban centers led to widespread famine and a drastic drop in production. The abysmal failure of Mao’s program further strained relations between China and the Soviet Union and resulted in a permanent break between the two powers. Mao ceded party leadership to other prominent members of the CCP, most notably LIU Shaoqi, who took up Mao’s position as chairman of the governing council, and DENG Xiaoping. Mao remained a prominent member of the CCP but withdrew from immediate participation in policy making.

1966 In part an effort to regain power and in part as a way to renew the revolutionary spirit of the people, Mao launched the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Mao mobilized students and young adults from throughout China to serve as “Red Guards,” or agents of the Revolution. The Red Guards sought to extinguish old traditions and root out “counterrevolutionaries.” The movement resulted in political disorder, terror, and violence, as the country was thrown into chaos. (See also the ExEAS unit “China’s Cultural Revolution,” especially the “Instructor’s Introduction” section:

1972 Mao made one of his last and boldest political moves — he invited President Richard NIXON of the United States to visit China. After decades of poor Sino-American relations, it was a shocking gesture on the part of Mao.

1973 Mao allowed DENG Xiaoping, one of the reformers removed from party leadership during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, to reenter politics, incurring the criticism of the revolutionary purists within the party.

1976 On September 9, MAO Zedong died at the age of 81.

China after Mao
After a brief power struggle, the reformers who had survived the Cultural Revolution, led by Deng Xiaoping, regained control of the government. The reformers spent the next years working to undo many of the policies instituted under Mao. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the PRC began to decollectivize agriculture and open its markets to international trade. In the 1990s, the government began to remodel China’s economy, incorporating elements of a free market system. The CCP continues to maintain tight controls over China’s citizens. The press and media are strictly censored, party dissenters continue to be imprisoned and held without trial, and human rights violations regularly raise concerns abroad.
Today, Mao is remembered both for his positive and negative contributions to China’s development as a nation. On the one hand, Mao is remembered as the great revolutionary hero whose conviction and tenacity inspired millions to rebuild the Chinese nation. On the other hand, Mao is also remembered for his costly policy blunders — most infamously the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — which resulted in the death and suffering of tens of millions of Chinese.

“Maoism” after Mao
Although Maoist thought or “Maoism” had a large impact on third world resistance movements in the early to mid twentieth century, today there are only a handful of groups that follow Mao’s principles. Many revolutionary groups after Mao, for example, the well-known Viet Minh of Vietnam, were influenced by Mao’s model of revolution, which emphasized that revolution could be achieved through mass mobilization of the rural peasantry — rather than the urban proletariat as argued by Marx. Although the influence of Maoism is fading, Mao is still remembered as one of the most important revolutionary leaders in history.

Original chronology compiled by Expanding East Asian Studies

Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) Biography

Mao Tse-tung founded the People's Republic of China in 1949. He had also been one of the founders of the Chinese Communist party in 1921, and he is regarded, along with Karl Marx and V. I. Lenin, as one of the three great theorists of Marxian communism.
Mao Tse-tung was born on Dec. 26, 1893, into a well-to-do peasant family in Shao-shan, Hunan province. As a child he worked in the fields and attended a local primary school, where he studied the traditional Confucian classics. He was frequently in conflict with his strict father, whom Mao learned successfully to confront--with the support of his gentle and devoutly Buddhist mother. Beginning in 1911, the year that the republican forces of Sun Yat-Sen launched the overthrow of the Ch'ing (or Manchu) dynasty, Mao spent most of 10 years in Chang-sha, the provincial capital. He was exposed to the tides of rapid political change and the new culture movement then sweeping the country. He served briefly in the republican army and then spent half a year studying alone in the provincial library--an experience that confirmed him in the habit ofindependent study.

By 1918, Mao had graduated from the Hunan First Normal School and had gone to Peking, the national capital, where he worked briefly as a library assistant at Peking University. Mao lacked the funds to support a regular student status and, unlike many of his classmates, mastered no foreign language and did not go abroad to study. It may be partly due to his relative poverty during his student years that he never identified completely with the cosmopolitan bourgeois intellectuals who dominated Chinese university life. He did establish contact with intellectual radicals who later figured prominently in the Chinese Communist party. In 1919, Mao returned to Hunan, where he engaged in radical political activity, organizing groups and publishing a political review, while supporting himself as a primary-school principal.

In 1920, Mao married Yang K'ai-hui, the daughter of one of his teachers. Yang K'ai-hui was executed by the Chinese Nationalists in 1930. In that year Mao married Ho Tzu-chen, who accompanied him on the Long March. Mao divorced her (1937), and in 1939 he married Chiang Ch'ing.

When the Chinese Communist party (CCP) was organized in Shanghai in 1921, Mao was a founding member and leader of the Hunan branch. At this stage the new party formed a united front with the Koumintang, the party of the republican followers of Sun Yat-sen. Mao worked within the united front in Shanghai, Hunan, and Canton, concentrating variously on labor organization, party organization, propaganda, and the Peasant Movement Training Institute. His 1927 "Report on the Peasant Movement in Hunan" expressed his view of the revolutionary potential of the peasantry--although this view was not yet phrased in a proper Marxian form.

In 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek, who had gained control of the Kuomintang after the death of Sun Yat-sen, reversed that party's policy of cooperation with the Communists. By the next year, when he had control of the Nationalist armies as well as the Nationalist government, Chiang purged all Communists from the movement. As a result, Mao was forced to flee to the countryside. In the mountains of south China he established with Chu Teh a rural base defended by a guerrilla army. It was this almost accidental innovation--the fusion of Communist leadership with a guerrilla force operating in rural areas with peasant support--that was to make Mao the leader of the CCP. Because of their growing military power, Mao and Chu were able by 1930 to defy orders of the Russian-controlled CCP leadership that directed them to try to capture cities. In the following year, despite the fact that his position in the party was weak and his policies were criticized, a Chinese soviet was founded in Juichin, Kiangsi province, with Mao as chairman. A series of extermination campaigns by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government forced the CCP to abandon Juichin in October 1934 and to commence the Long March. At Tsun-i in Kweichow, Mao for the first time gained effective control over the CCP, ending the era of Russian direction of party leadership. Remnants of the Communist forces reached Shensi in October 1935, after a march of 10,000 km (6,000 mi). They then established a new party headquarters at Yen-an.

When the Japanese invasion of 1937 forced the CCP and the Kuomintang once again to form a united front, the Communists gained legitimacy as defenders of the Chinese homeland, and Mao rose in stature as a national leader. During this period he established himself as a military theorist and, through the publication in 1937 of such essays as "On Contradiction" and "On Practice," laid claim to recognition as an important Marxist thinker. Mao's essay "On New Democracy" (1940) outlined a unique national form of Marxism appropriate to China; his "Talks at the Yen-an Forum on Literature and Art" (1942) provided a basis for party control over cultural affairs.

The soundness of Mao's self-reliance and rural guerrilla strategies was proved by the CCP's rapid growth during the Yen-an period--from 40,000 members in 1937 to 1,200,000 members in 1945. The shaky truce between the Communists and Nationalists was broken at the end of the war. Efforts were made--by the United States, in particular--to forge a coalition government. Civil war erupted, however, and the following 3 years (1946-49) saw the rapid defeat of the Kuomintang. Chiang's government was forced to flee to Taiwan, leaving the People's Republic of China, formed by the Communists in late 1949, in control of the entire Chinese mainland.

When Mao's efforts to open relations with the United States in the late 1940s were rebuffed, he concluded that China would have to "lean to one side," and a period of close alliance with the USSR followed. Hostility to the United States was deepened by the Korean War. During the early 1950s, Mao served as chairman of the Communist party, chief of state, and chairman of the military commission. His international status as a Marxist leader rose after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953.

Mao's uniqueness as a leader is evident from his commitment to continued class struggle under socialism--a view confirmed in his theoretical treatise "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People" (1957). Dissatisfaction with the slowness of development, the loss of revolutionary momentum in the countryside, and the tendency for CCP members to behave like a privileged class led Mao to take a number of unusual initiatives in the late 1950s. In the Hundred Flowers movement of 1956-57 he encouraged intellectuals to make constructive criticism of the party's stewardship. When the criticism came, it revealed deep hostility to CCP leadership. At about the same time, Mao accelerated the transformation of rural ownership by calling for the elimination of the last vestiges of rural private property and the formation of people's communes, and for the initiation of rapid industrial growth through a program known as the Great Leap Forward. The suddenness of these moves led to administrative confusion and popular resistance. Furthermore, adverse weather conditions resulted in disastrous crop shortfalls and severe food shortages. As a consequence of all these reverses, Mao lost his position as chief of state and found his influence over the party severely curtailed. It was also during the late 1950s that Mao's government began to reveal its deep-seated differences with the USSR.

During the 1960s, Mao made a comeback, attacking the party leadership and the new chief of state, Liu Shao-Ch'i, through a Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which peaked from 1966 to 1969. The Cultural Revolution was largely orchestrated by Mao's wife, Chiang Ch'ing. It was perhaps Mao's greatest innovation and was essentially an ideological struggle for public opinion carried out in the form of a frantic national debate. Mao proved to be a master tactician. When he could not get his ideas across in the Peking press, he used the Shanghai press to attack the Peking leadership. Students, mobilized as "Red Guards," became his most avid supporters. As tensions mounted and events threatened to get out of hand, Mao was obliged to rely increasingly on the military, under the leadership of Lin Piao. In return for this military support, the party named Lin as Mao's successor in its 1969 constitution. By 1971, however, Lin was reported to have died in a plane crash after having plotted to assassinate Mao, and Mao was once more firmly in control.

On the popular level the thrust of the Cultural Revolution was to teach the Chinese masses that it was "right to revolt"--that it was their privilege to criticize those in positions of authority and to take an active part in decision making. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao's sayings, printed in a little red book, and buttons bearing his image were distributed to the masses; his word was treated as an ultimate authority, and his person the subject of ecstatic adulation. Despite this temporary assumption of an authority higher than the CCP, Mao continued to state his belief in the Leninist notion of collective party leadership. He showed his opposition to the "personality cult" by explicitly asking that the number of statues of him be reduced.

Toward the end of his life, Mao put forward a new analysis of the international situation in which the world's states are divided into three groups: the underdeveloped nations, the developed nations, and the two superpowers (the United States and the USSR), both of which seek worldwide hegemony. This analysis underscored China's position as a leader of the Third World (i.e., the underdeveloped group) and helped to rationalize a rapprochement with the United States. The fostering of closer relations with the United States was looked upon as a way to lessen the influence of the USSR, whose relations with China had continued to deteriorate. In 1972, Mao lent his prestige to this policy change by receiving U.S. president Richard M. Nixon in Peking.

Mao died in Peking on Sept. 9, 1976. The following month Chiang Ch'ing and her radical associates, known as the "Gang of Four", were arrested. Mao's chosen successor, Hua Kuo-Feng, was stripped of his influential posts as the party came under the control of moderates led by Teng Hsio-P'ing. In 1981 the party criticized the excesses of the Cultural Revolution while praising Mao for his leadership in earlier years. The Constitution of 1982 stated that economic cooperation and progress were more important than class struggle and banned all forms of personality cults. During the early and late 1980s, a general movement away from Mao's beliefs was noted, and his statue was removed from a number of sites throughout China. In February 1989, a member of the Central Advisory Commission to the Communist party wrote in an official Peking newspaper, the Guangming Daily, that "Mao was a great man who embodied the calamities of the Chinese people, but in his later years he made big mistakes over a long period, and the result was great disaster for the people and the country. He created a historical tragedy."

Along with the founders of the Han and Ming dynasties, Mao Tse-tung was one of only three peasants who rose to rule all of China in a single lifetime. Mao's greatest achievements were the unification of China through the destruction of Nationalist power, the creation of a unified People's Republic, and the leadership of the greatest social revolution in human history. This revolution involved collectivization of most land and property, the destruction of the landlord class, the weakening of the urban bourgeoisie, and the elevation of the status of peasants and industrial workers. As a Marxist thinker and the leader of a socialist state, Mao gave theoretical legitimacy to the continuation of class struggle in the socialist and communist stages of development. He stressed the importance of land redistribution for the benefit of the rural peasantry, and his theories have strongly influenced the nonindustrialized Third World.

Original biography compiled by College of Liberal Arts

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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