- Category : Political
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- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
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- Incarnation Cross : RAX Service 4
Mao Zedong, commonly referred to as Chairman Mao (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), was a Chinese communist revolutionary, and political theorist. The founding father of the People's Republic of China from its establishment in 1949, he governed the country as Chairman of the Communist Party of China until his death.
In this position he converted China into a single-party socialist state, with industry and business being nationalized under state ownership and socialist reforms implemented in all areas of society. Politically a Marxist-Leninist, his theoretical contribution to the ideology along with his military strategies and brand of policies are collectively known as Maoism.
Born the son of a wealthy farmer in Shaoshan, Hunan, Mao adopted a Chinese nationalist and anti-imperialist outlook in early life, particularly influenced by the events of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and May Fourth Movement of 1919. Coming to adopt Marxism-Leninism, he became an early member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), soon rising to a senior position. In 1922, the Communists agreed to an alliance with the larger Kuomintang (KMT), a nationalist revolutionary party, whom Mao aided in creating a revolutionary peasant army and organizing rural land reform. In 1927 the KMT's military leader Chiang Kai-shek broke the alliance and set about on an anti-communist purge; in turn, the CPC formed an army of peasant militia, and the two sides clashed in the Chinese Civil War. Mao was responsible for commanding a part of the CPC's Red Army, and after several setbacks, rose to power in the party by leading the Long March. When the Empire of Japan invaded China in 1937, sparking the Second Sino-Japanese War, Mao agreed to a united front with the KMT, resulting in a CPC-KMT victory in 1945. The Chinese Civil War then resumed, in which Mao led the Red Army to victory as Chiang and his supporters fled to Taiwan.
In 1949 Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China, a one-party socialist state controlled by the Communist Party. After solidifying the reunification of China through his Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, Mao enacted sweeping land reform, overthrowing the feudal landlords before seizing their large estates and dividing the land into people's communes. He proceeded to lead a nationwide political campaign known as the Great Leap Forward from 1958 through to 1961, designed to modernize and industrialize the country, however agrarian problems worsened by his policies led to widespread famine. In 1966, he initiated the Cultural Revolution, a program to weed out counter-revolutionary elements in Chinese society, which continued until his death.
A deeply controversial figure, Mao is regarded as one of the most important individuals in modern world history. Supporters praise him for modernizing China and building it into a world power, through promoting the status of women, improving education and health care, providing universal housing and raising life expectancy. In addition, China's population almost doubled during the period of Mao's leadership, from around 550 to over 900 million. As a result, Mao is still officially held in high regard by many Chinese as a great political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of the nation. Maoists furthermore promote his role as a theorist, statesman, poet, and visionary, who has inspired revolutionary movements across the globe. In contrast, critics have labeled him a dictator whose administration oversaw systematic human rights abuses, and whose rule is estimated to have caused the deaths of between 40−70 million people mainly through starvation, forced labor and executions, placing his rule at the top of the list of most people killed by democide in human history.
Mao was born on December 26, 1893 in the rural village of Shaoshanchong in Shaoshan, Hunan Province. His father, Mao Yichang, had been born a poverty-stricken peasant, and had gained two years of education before joining the army. Returning to agriculture, he became a moneylender and grain merchant, buying up local grain and selling it in the city for a higher price, becoming one of the wealthiest farmers in Shaoshan, with 20 acres of land. Zedong described his father as a stern disciplinarian, punishing his four children — the boys Zedong, Zemin and Zetan, and an adopted girl, Zejian — for perceived wrongdoings, sometimes by beating them. His wife, Wen Qimei, was a devout Buddhist who tried to temper her husband's strict attitude. Zedong became a Buddhist, venerating a bronze statue of the Buddha, but abandoned this faith in his mid-teenage years. His father was largely irreligious, although after surviving an encounter with a tiger, gave offerings to the gods in thanks. The family lived with Yichang's father, Mao Enpu, who died when Zedong was ten.
Mao's father recognised the financial value of a basic education, sending the 8-year old Mao to the local Shaoshan Primary School. Learning the value systems of Confucianism, one of the dominant moral ideologies in China, Mao later admitted that he didn't enjoy the classical Chinese texts preaching Confucian morals, instead favouring popular novels like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin. Reacting against his Confucian upbringing, aged 11 Mao ran away from home, heading for what he believed was a nearby town, but his father found him and brought him home.
At the age of 13, Mao finished primary education, and his father had him married to the 17-year old Luo Yigu, uniting their land-owning families. Never living together, Mao refused to recognise her as his wife, becoming a fierce critic of arranged marriage and temporarily moving away to live with an unemployed student. Luo was locally disgraced and eventually died in 1910. Working on his father's farm, Mao read voraciously in his spare time, developing a "political consciousness" from Zheng Guanying's Sheng-shih Wei-yen (Words of Warning to an Affluent Age), a booklet which lamented the deterioration of Chinese power in East Asia, arguing for technological, economic and political reform, modelling China on the representative democracies of the western world. Influenced by Great Heroes of the World, Mao was inspired by the military prowess and nationalistic fervour of American George Washington and French Napoleon Bonaparte.
His political views were shaped by Gelaohui-led protests which erupted following a famine in Hunanese capital Changsha; Mao supported the protester's demands, but the armed forces suppressed the dissenters and executed their leaders. The famine spread to Shaoshan, where starving peasants seized his father's grain; disapproving of their actions as morally wrong, Mao nevertheless claimed sympathy for their situation. Aged 16, Mao moved to a higher primary school in nearby Dongshan. Here, he was taught alongside younger students of a higher social standing, and was bullied for his scruffy appearance and peasant background.
The Xinhai Revolution: 1911–1912
In 1911, Mao convinced his father to allow him to attend middle school in Changsha. The city was "a revolutionary hotbed", with widespread animosity towards the absolute monarchy of Emperor Puyi. While some advocated a reformist transition to a constitutional monarchy, most revolutionaries advocated republicanism, arguing for an elected presidency. The primary figurehead behind the republican movement was Sun Yat-sen, an American-educated Christian who led a secret society known as the Tongmenghui. At Changsha, Mao came under the influence of Sun's newspaper, The People's Strength (Min-lin-pao), penning his first political essay, which he stuck to the school wall; later admitting it was "somewhat muddled", it involved the creation of a republic governed by Sun, but with concessions made to the moderates by having Kang Youwei as premier and Liang Qichao as minister of foreign affairs. As a symbol of rebellion against the Manchu monarch, he and a friend cut off their queue pigtails – a sign of subservience to the emperor – before forcibly cutting off those of several classmates. Mao discovered socialism from a newspaper article; proceeding to read pamphlets by Jiang Kanghu, the student founder of the Chinese Socialist Party, Mao remained interested yet unconvinced by the idea.
Inspired by Sun's republicanism, the army rose up against the emperor across southern China, sparking the Xinhai Revolution. Changsha initially remained under monarchist control, with the governor proclaiming martial law to quell protest. When the infantry brigade guarding the city defected to the revolution, the governor fled, leaving the city in republican hands. Supporting the revolution, Mao joined the rebel army as a private soldier, but was not involved in the fighting. The northern provinces remained loyal to the emperor, and hoping to avoid a civil war, Sun Yat-sen – proclaimed "provisional president" by his supporters – compromised with the monarchist general Yuan Shikai. The monarchy would be abolished, creating the Republic of China, but the monarchist Yuan would become president. The Xinhai Revolution over, Mao resigned from the army in 1912, after six months of being a soldier.
Fourth Normal School of Changsha: 1912–1917
Returning to education, Mao enrolled and dropped out of a police academy, a soap-production school, a law school and an economics school. His father only approved of the latter, but the lectures were in English, which Mao didn't understand, and so Mao abandoned it for the government-run Changsha Middle School; he soon dropped out of this too, finding it rooted in Confucianism. Undertaking his studies independently, he spent much time in the Changsha public library, reading core works of classical liberalism such as Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws, as well as the works of western scientists and philosophers such as Charles Darwin, J.S. Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Herbert Spencer. Seeing no use in his son's intellectual pursuits, Mao's father cut off his allowance, forcing Mao to move into a hostel for the destitute.
Desiring to become a teacher, Mao enrolled at a teacher training college, the Fourth Normal School of Changsha, which had high standards, yet low fees, and cheap accommodation. Several months later, it merged with the First Normal School of Changsha, widely seen as the best school in Hunan. Professor of Ethics Yang Changji urged Mao to read a radical newspaper, New Youth (Hsien Ch'ing-nien), the creation of his friend Chen Duxiu, Dean of the Faculty of Letters at Peking University. Although a Chinese nationalist, Chen argued that China must look to the west, adopting "Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science" in order to cleanse itself of superstition and autocracy. Mao published his first article, "A Study of Physical Culture", in New Youth in April 1917, instructing readers to increase their physical strength to serve the revolution. He joined The Society for the Study of Wang Fuzhi (Chuan-shan Hsüeh-she), a revolutionary group founded by Changsha literati who wished to emulate Wang Fuzhi, a philosopher who symbolized Han resistance to Manchu invasion.
In his first school year, Mao befriended an older student, Xiao Yu; together they went on a walking tour of Hunan, begging and writing literary couplets to obtain food. Mao remained active in school politics, and in 1915 was elected to the position of secretary of the Students Society. He used his position to forge an Association for Student Self-Government, leading protests against school rules. In spring 1917, he was elected to command the students' volunteer army, set up to defend the school from marauding warlord soldiers, getting students to sharpen young bamboos to spear any soldiers who tried to climb over the school walls. Mao undertook feats of physical endurance with Xiao Yu and Cai Hesen, who later became one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party. They described themselves as the "Three Heroes," a sobriquet taken from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and with other young revolutionaries formed the New People's Study Society to debate Chen Duxiu's ideas. Mao graduated in the spring of 1918, ranking number three after Cai and Xiao. In October he returned to Shaoshan for his mother's funeral.
Early revolutionary activity
Peking and Marxism: 1917–1919
Mao moved to the capital city of Peking, where his mentor Yang Changji had recently taken a job at Peking University. Yang wrote in his journal that "it is truly difficult to imagine someone so intelligent and handsome" as Mao, securing him a job at the university library, where Mao became assistant to the librarian Li Dazhao, an early Chinese communist. Li authored a series of articles in New Youth on the October Revolution which had just occurred in Russia, during which the communist Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin had seized power. Lenin was an advocate of the socio-political theory of Marxism, first developed by the German sociologists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century, and Li's articles brought an understanding of Marxism to the Chinese revolutionary movement.
Mao claimed he was initially influenced by anarchism and became "more and more radical" as the months went on. Reading and discussing Marx's work with Li and other members of a Marxist Study Group, he "developed rapidly toward Marxism" under Li's tutelage during the winter of 1918–19, looking for ways to combine it with ancient Chinese philosophies that would be applicable to modern China. Adopting an orthodox Marxist-Leninist position by accepting not only Marx's ideas but also those of Lenin, he viewed Chinese nationalism as a powerful tool in the national liberation struggle against western and Japanese dominance, but unlike orthodox Marxist-Leninists, viewed nationalism as intrinsically valuable in itself.
Paid a low wage, Mao lived in a cramped room with seven other Hunanese students, but believed that Peking's beauty offered "vivid and living compensation." A number of his friends took advantage of the Mouvement Travail-Études to study in France, but Mao turned down the opportunity, perhaps because of a lack of ability to learn languages. Remaining at the university, he tried to strike up conversations with senior academics, but most snubbed him because of his rural Hunanese accent and lowly position. By joining the university's Philosophy and Journalism Societies, he attended lectures and seminars by the likes of Chen Duxiu, Hu Shi, and Qian Xuantong, but various lecturers still treated him with contempt and refused to answer his questions. Mao's time in Peking ended in the spring of 1919, when he traveled to Shanghai with friends departing for France. On the way visiting historic sites like Qufu, he traveled much of the journey on foot.
Student rebellions: 1919–1920
China had fallen victim to the expansionist policies of the Empire of Japan, who had conquered large areas of Chinese-controlled territory with the support of France, the U.K. and the U.S. at the Treaty of Versailles. Under the control of the warlord Duan Qirui, the Chinese Beiyang Government had accepted Japanese dominance, agreeing to their Twenty-One Demands despite popular opposition. In May 1919, the May Fourth Movement erupted in Peking, with Chinese patriots rallying against the Japanese and Duan's government. Duan's troops were sent in to crush the protests, but unrest spread throughout China In Changsha, Mao helped organize protests against the pro-Duan Governor of Hunan Province, Zhang Jinghui. Mao was a founding member of the United Student Association and in July 1919 began production of a weekly radical magazine, Hsiang River Review (Hsiang-chiang P'ing-lun). Using vernacular language that would be understandable to the majority of China's populace, he advocated revolutionary socialist views; in one notable article, he proclaimed the need for a "Great Union of the Popular Masses", but failed to present a Marxist analysis of how the revolution should proceed.
Zhang ordered the United Student Association and its associated weekly shut down, but Mao continued publishing after assuming editorship of student magazine New Hunan (Hsin Hunan). When this too was shut down by Zhang, Mao began publishing in popular local newspaper Ta Kung Po. Several of these articles advocated feminist views, calling for the liberation of women in Chinese society; alongside his early experiences with forced arranged marriage, this was possibly influenced by the recent death of his mother and his romantic involvement with Yang Kaihui, daughter of the recently deceased Yang Changji. In November 1919, Mao took a leading role in the re-organization of the banned United Student Association, and in December helped organize a student strike in Changsha. The strike secured some concessions, but Mao and other student leaders felt threatened by Zhang, and were sent as representatives to China's provincial centers; thus, Mao returned to Peking.
In Peking, Mao found that his articles had achieved a level of fame among the revolutionary movement, and set about soliciting support in overthrowing Zhang. Coming across newly translated Marxist literature such as Thomas Kirkup's A History of Socialism, Karl Kautsky's Karl Marx's Ökonomische Lehren and Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto, he was further committed to communism. Moving to Shanghai, he worked as a laundryman and met Chen Duxiu, noting that Chen's adoption of Marxism "deeply impressed me at what was probably a critical period in my life." In Shanghai, Mao met an old teacher of his, Yi Peiji, a revolutionary and member of the Kuomintang (KMT), or Chinese Nationalist Party, which was gaining increasing support and influence. Yi introduced Mao to General Tan Yankai, a senior KMT member who held the loyalty of troops stationed along the Hunanese border with Kwantung. Tan was plotting to overthrow Zhang, and Mao aided him by organizing the Changsha students. In June 1920, Tan led his troops into Changsha, while Zhang fled. In the subsequent reorganization of the provincial administration, Mao was appointed headmaster of the junior section of the First Normal School.Now receiving a large income, he married Yang Kaihui in the winter of 1920.
Founding the Communist Party of China: 1921–1922
The Communist Party of China was founded by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in the French concession of Shanghai in 1921 as a study society and informal network. Mao set up a Changsha branch, also establishing a branch of the Socialist Youth Corps. Opening a bookstore under the control of his new Cultural Book Society, its purpose was to propagate revolutionary literature throughout Hunan. Helping to organize workers' strikes in the winter of 1920–1921, he was involved in the movement for Hunan autonomy, hoping that a Hunanese constitution would increase civil liberties in the province, making his revolutionary activity easier; although the movement was successful, in later life, he denied any involvement.
By 1921, small Marxist groups existed in Shanghai, Peking, Changsha, Wuhan, Canton and Tsinan, and it was decided to hold a central meeting, which began in Shanghai on July 23, 1921. The first session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China was attended by 13 delegates, Mao included, and initially met in a girls' school that had been closed for the summer. After the authorities sent a police spy to the congress, the delegates moved to a boat on South Lake near Chiahsing to escape detection. Although Soviet and Comintern delegates attended, the first congress ignored Lenin's advice to accept a temporary alliance between the Communists and the "bourgeois democrats" who also advocated national revolution; instead they stuck to the orthodox Marxist belief that only the urban proletariat could lead a socialist revolution.
Now party secretary for Hunan, Mao was stationed in Changsha, from which he went on a Communist recruitment drive. In August 1921, he founded the Self-Study University, through which readers could gain access to revolutionary literature, housed in the premises of the Society for the Study of Wang Fuzhi. Taking part in the YMCA mass education movement to fight illiteracy, he opened a Changsha branch, though replaced the usual textbooks with revolutionary tracts in order to spread Marxism among the students. He continued organizing the labor movement to strike against the administration of Hunan Governor Zhao Hengti, particularly following the execution of two anarchists. In July 1922, the Second Congress of the Communist Party took place in Shanghai, though Mao lost the address and couldn't attend. Adopting Lenin's advice, the delegates agreed to an alliance with the "bourgeois democrats" of the KMT for the good of the "national revolution." Communist Party members joined the KMT, hoping to push its politics leftward. Mao enthusiastically agreed with this decision, arguing for an alliance across China's socio-economic classes; a vocal anti-imperialist, in his writings he lambasted the governments of Japan, Great Britain and the United States, describing the latter as "the most murderous of hangmen." Mao's strategy for the successful and famous Anyuan coal mines strikes (contrary to later Party historians) depended on both "proletarian" and "bourgeois" strategies. The success depended on innovative organizing by Liu Shaoqi and Li Lisan who not only mobilized the miners, but formed schools and cooperatives. They also engaged local intellectuals, gentry, military officers, merchants, Red Gang dragon heads, and church clergy in support.
Collaboration with the Kuomintang: 1922–1927
At the Third Congress of the Communist Party in Shanghai in June 1923, the delegates reaffirmed their commitment to working with the KMT against the Beiyang government and imperialists. Supporting this position, Mao was elected to the Party Committee, taking up residence in Shanghai.  Attending the First KMT Congress, held in Canton during January and February 1924, Mao was elected an alternate member of the KMT Central Executive Committee, in February 1924 putting forward four resolutions to decentralize power to urban and rural bureaus. His enthusiastic support for the KMT earned him the suspicion of some Communists. In late 1924, Mao returned to Shaoshan to recuperate from an illness. Discovering that the peasantry were increasingly restless due to the upheaval of the past decade, some had seized land from wealthy landowners to found communes; this convinced him of the revolutionary potential of the peasantry, an idea advocated by the KMT but not the Communists. As a result, he was appointed to run the KMT's Peasant Movement Training Institute, also becoming Director of the Party's Propaganda Department, editing KMT newsletter, the Political Weekly (Zhengzhi zhoubao). Through the Peasant Movement Training Institute, Mao took an active role in organizing the revolutionary Hunanese peasants and preparing them for militant activity, taking them through military training exercises and getting them to study various left-wing texts. In the winter of 1925, Mao fled to Canton after his revolutionary activities attracted the attention of Zhao's regional authorities.
The Communists dominated the left wing of the KMT, struggling for power with the party's right wing. When party leader Sun Yat-sen died in May 1925, he was succeeded by a rightist, Chiang Kai-shek, who initiated moves to marginalize the position of the Communists Mao nevertheless supported Chiang's decision to overthrow the Beiyang government and their foreign imperialist allies using the National Revolutionary Army, who embarked on the Northern Expedition in 1926. In the wake of the Northern Expedition, peasants rose up, appropriating the land of the wealthy land-owners, whom were in many cases killed. Such peasant uprisings angered senior KMT figures and generals, who were themselves wealthy land-owners, emphasizing the growing class and ideological divide within the revolutionary movement.
"Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another."
In March 1927, Mao appeared at the Third Plenum of the KMT Central Executive Committee in Wuhan, which sought to strip General Chiang of his power by appointing Wang Jingwei leader. At the Third Plenum, Mao played an active role in the discussions regarding the peasant issue, defending a set of "Regulations for the Repression of Local Bullies and Bad Gentry", which advocated the death penalty or life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of counter-revolutionary activity, arguing that in a revolutionary situation, "peaceful methods cannot suffice". In April 1927, Mao was appointed to the five-member Central Land Committee of the KMT, urging peasants to refuse to pay rent. Mao led another group to put together a "Draft Resolution on the Land Question", which called for the confiscation of land belonging to "local bullies and bad gentry, corrupt officials, militarists and all counter-revolutionary elements in the villages." Proceeding to carry out a "Land Survey", he stated that anyone owning over 30 mou (four and a half acres), constituting 13% of the population, were uniformly counter-revolutionary. He accepted that there was great variation in revolutionary enthusiasm across the country, and that a flexible policy of land redistribution was necessary. Presenting his conclusions at the Enlarged Land Committee meeting on 22 April, many expressed reservations, some believing that it went too far, and others not far enough. Ultimately, his suggestions were only partially implemented.
The Nanchang and Autumn Harvest Uprisings: 1927
Fresh from the success of the Northern Expedition to overthrow the warlords, Chiang turned on the communists, who by now numbered in the tens of thousands across China. Ignoring the orders of the Wuhan-based KMT government, he marched on Shanghai, a city controlled by communist militias. Although the communists welcomed Chiang's arrival, he turned on them, massacring 5000 with the aid of the Green Gang. Chiang's army then marched on Wuhan, but was prevented from taking the city by communist General Ye Ting and his troops. Chiang's allies also attacked communists; in Peking, 19 leading communists were killed by Zhang Zuolin, while in Changsha, Ho Chien's forces machine gunned hundreds of peasant militiamen. That May, tens of thousands of communists and their sympathisers were killed by nationalists, with the CPC losing approximately 15,000 of its 25,000 members.
"'Eagles cleave the air,
Fish glide in the limpid deep;
Under freezing skies a million
creatures contend in freedom.
Brooding over this immensity,
I ask, on this boundless land
Who rules over man's destiny?"
— Excerpt from Mao's
poem "Changsha", September 1927.
The CPC continued supporting the Wuhan KMT government, a position Mao initially supported, but he had changed his mind by the time of the CPC's Fifth Congress, deciding to stake all hope on the peasant militia. The question was rendered moot when the Wuhan government expelled all communists from the KMT on 15 July. The CMT founded the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army of China, better known as the "Red Army", to battle Chiang. A battalion led by General Zhu De was ordered to take the city of Nanchang on 1 August 1927 in what became known as the Nanchang Uprising; initially successful, they were forced into retreat after five days, marching south to Swatow, and from there being driven into the wilderness of Fujian. Appointed commander-in-chief of the Red Army, Mao led four regiments against Changsha in the Autumn Harvest Uprising, hoping to spark peasant uprisings across Hunan. On the eve of the attack, Mao composed a poem — the earliest of his to survive — titled "Changsha". His plan was to attack the KMT-held city from three directions on 9 September, but the Fourth Regiment deserted to the KMT cause, attacking the Third Regiment. Mao's army made it to Changsha, but could not take it; by 15 September, he accepted defeat, with 1000 survivors marching east to the Jinggang Mountains of Jiangxi.
Base in Jinggangshan: 1927−1928
Hiding in Shanghai, the CPC Central Committee expelled Mao from their rank and from the Hunan Provincial Committee, punishment for his "military opportunism", for his focus on rural activity, and for being too lenient with "bad gentry". They nevertheless adopted three policies he had long championed: the immediate formation of soviets, the confiscation of all land without exemption, and the rejection of the KMT. Mao's response was to ignore them. Setting up base in Jinggangshan City, an area of the Jinggang Mountains, Mao united five villages as a self-governing state, supporting the confiscation of land from rich landlords, who were "re-educated" and sometimes executed. He ensured that no massacres took place in the region, pursuing a more lenient approach than that advocated by the Central Committee. Proclaiming that "Even the lame, the deaf and the blind could all come in useful for the revolutionary struggle", he boosted the army's numbers, incorporating two groups of bandits into his army, building a force of around 1,800 troops. He laid down rules for his soldiers: prompt obedience to orders, all confiscations were to be turned over to the government, and nothing was to be confiscated from poorer peasants. In doing so, he molded his men into a disciplined, efficient fighting force.
"When the enemy advances, we retreat.
When the enemy retreats, we advance.
When the enemy rests, we harass him.
When the enemy avoids a battle, we attack."
Mao's advice in combating the Kuomintang, 1928.
In spring 1928, the Central Committee ordered Mao's troops to southern Hunan, hoping to spark peasant uprisings. Mao was skeptical, but complied. Reaching Hunan, they were attacked by the KMT and fled after heavy losses. Meanwhile, KMT troops had invaded Jinggangshan, leaving them without a base. Wandering the countryside, Mao's forces came across a CPC regiment led by General Zhu De and Lin Biao; they united, attempting to retake Jinggangshan. Initially successful, the KMT counter-attacked, pushing the CPC back; over the next few weeks, they fought an entrenched guerrilla war in the mountains. Central Committee again ordered Mao to march to south Hunan, but he refused, remaining at his base. Contrastingly, Zhu complied, leading his armies away; the KMT attacked Mao's base, and although his troops fended them off for 25 days, Mao left the camp at night to find reinforcements. Reuniting with the decimated Zhu's army, they returned to Jinggangshan and retook the base. Joined by a defecting KMT regiment and Peng Dehuai's Fifth Red Army, the mountainous area was unable to grow enough crops to feed everyone, leading to food shortages throughout the winter.
Jiangxi Soviet Republic of China: 1929−1934
In January 1929, Mao and Zhu evacuated the base and took their armies south, to the area around Tonggu and Xinfeng in Jiangxi, which they consolidated as a new base. Together having 2000 men, with a further 800 provided by Peng, the evacuation led to a drop in morale, and many troops became disobedient and began thieving; this worried Li Lisan and the Central Committee, who saw Mao's army as lumpenproletariat unable to share in proletariat class consciousness. In keeping with orthodox Marxist thought, Li believed that only the urban proletariat could lead a successful revolution, and saw little need for Mao's peasant guerrillas; he ordered Mao to disband his army into units to be sent out to spread the revolutionary message. Mao replied that while concurring with Li's theoretical position, he would not disband his army or abandon his base. Both Li and Mao saw the Chinese revolution as the key to world revolution, believing that a CPC victory would spark the overthrow of global imperialism and capitalism. In this, they disagreed with the official line of the Soviet government and Comintern. Officials in Moscow desired greater control over the CPC, removing Li from power by calling him to Russia for an inquest into his errors. They replaced him with Soviet-educated Chinese communists, known as the "28 Bolsheviks", two of whom, Bo Gu and Zhang Wentian, took control of the Central Committee. Mao disagreed with the new leadership, believing they grasped little of the Chinese situation, and soon emerged as their key rival.
In February 1930, Mao created the Southwest Jiangxi Provincial Soviet Government in the region under his control, in November suffering emotional trauma after his wife and sister were captured and beheaded by KMT general He Jian. He then married He Zizhen, an 18-year old revolutionary who bore him 5 children over the following 9 years. Facing internal problems, members of the Kiangsi Soviet accused him of being too moderate, and hence anti-revolutionary. In December, they tried to overthrow Mao, resulting in the Futian incident; putting down the rebels, Mao's loyalists tortured many and executed between 2000 and 3000 dissenters. Seeing it as a secure area, the CPC Central Committee moved to Jiangxi, which in November was proclaimed to be the Soviet Republic of China, an independent Communist-governed state. Although proclaimed Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Mao's power was diminished, with control of the Red Army being allocated to Zhou Enlai; Mao meanwhile recovered from tuberculosis.
Attempting to defeat the Communists, the KMT armies adopted a policy of encirclement and annihilation; outnumbered, Mao responded with guerrilla tactics influenced by the works of ancient military strategists like Sun Tzu, but Zhou and the new leadership replaced this approach with a policy of open confrontation and conventional warfare. In doing so the Red Army successfully defeated the first and second encirclements. Angered at his armies' failure, Chiang Kaishek personally arrived to lead the operation; also facing setbacks, he retreated to deal with the further Japanese incursions into China. Victorious, the Red Army expanded its area of control, eventually encompassing a population of 3 million. Mao proceeded with his land reform program, in November 1931 announcing the start of a "land verification project" which was expanded in June 1933, also orchestrating education programs and implementing measures to increase female political participation. Viewing the Communists as a greater threat than the Japanese, Chiang returned to Jiangxi, initiating the fifth encirclement campaign, involving the construction of a concrete and barbed wire "wall of fire" around the state, accompanied by aerial bombardment, to which Zhou's tactics proved ineffective. Trapped inside, morale among the Red Army dropped as food and medicine became scarce, and the leadership decided to evacuate.
The Long March: 1934−1935
On 14 October 1934, the Red Army struck out at the KMT line on the Jiangxi Soviet's north-east corner. 85,000 soldiers and 15,000 party cadres broke through the encirclement at Hsinfeng and set out on the "Long March". In order to make the escape viable, many of the wounded and the ill, as well as women and children, were left behind, defended by a group of guerrilla fighters whom the KMT massacred. The 100,000 who escaped headed to Northern Jiangxi, first crossing the Xiang River after heavy fighting, and then the Wu River, where they took Zunyi, Guizhou in January 1935. Temporarily resting in the city, they held a conference; here, Mao was elected to a position of leadership, becoming Chairman of the Politburo, and de facto leader of both Party and Red Army, in part because his candidacy was supported by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Insisting that they operate as a guerrilla force, he laid out a destination: the Shenshi Soviet in Shaanxi, Northern China, from where the Communists could focus on fighting the Japanese. Mao believed that in focusing on the anti-imperialist struggle, the Communists would earn the trust of the Chinese people, who in turn would renounce the KMT.
From Zunyi, Mao led his troops to Loushan Pass, where they faced armed opposition but successfully crossed the river. Chiang flew into the area to lead his armies against Mao, but the Communists outmanoeuvred him and crossed the Jinsha River. Faced with the more difficult task of crossing the Tatu River, they managed it by fighting a battle over the Luding Bridge in May, taking Luding. Marching through the mountain ranges around Ma'anshan, in Moukung, Western Szechuan they encountered the 50,000-strong CPC Fourth Front Army of Zhang Guotao, together proceeding to Maoerhkai and then Gansu. However, Zhang and Mao disagreed over what to do; the latter wished to proceed to Shaanxi, while Zhang wanted to flee east to Tibet or Sikkim, far from the KMT threat. It was agreed that they would go their separate ways, with Zhu De joining Zhang. Mao's forces proceeded north, through hundreds of miles of Grasslands, an area of quagmire where they were attacked by Manchu tribesman and where many soldiers succumbed to famine and disease. Finally reaching Shaanxi, they fought off both the KMT and an Islamic cavalry militia before crossing over the Min Mountains and Mount Liupan and reaching the Shenshi Soviet; only 7-8000 had survived.
Alliance with the Kuomintang: 1935−1940
Arriving at the Yan'an Soviet during October 1935, Mao's troops settled in Pao An. Remaining there till spring 1936, they developed links with local communities, redistributed and farmed the land, offered medical treatment and began literacy programs. Mao now commanded 15,000 soldiers, boosted by the arrival of He Long's men from Hunan and the armies of Zhu Den and Zhang Guotao, returning from Tibet. In February 1936 they established the North West Anti-Japanese Red Army University in Yan'an, through which they trained increasing numbers of new recruits. In January 1937 they began the "anti-Japanese expedition", sending groups of guerrilla fighters into Japanese-controlled territory to undertake sporadic attacks, while in May 1937, a Communist Conference was held in Yan'an to discuss the situation. Western reporters also arrived in the "Border Region" (as the Soviet had been renamed); most notable were Edgar Snow, who used his experiences as a basis for Red Star Over China, and Agnes Smedley, whose accounts brought international attention to Mao's cause.
On the Long March, Mao's wife He Zizen had been injured from a shrapnel wound to the head, and so traveled to Moscow for medical treatment; Mao proceeded to divorce her and marry an actress, Jiang Qing. Mao moved in to a cave-house and spent much of his time reading, tending his garden and theorizing. He came to believe that the Red Army alone was unable to defeating the Japanese, and that a Communist-led "government of national defense" should be formed with the KMT and other "bourgeois nationalist" elements to achieve this goal. Although despising Chiang Kaishek as a "traitor to the nation", on May 5 he telegrammed the Military Council of the Nanking National Government proposing a military alliance, a course of action advocated by Stalin. Although Chiang intended to ignore Mao's message and continue the civil war, he was arrested by one of his own generals, Zhang Xueliang, in Xi'an, leading to the Xi'an Incident; Zhang forced Chiang to discuss the issue with the Communists, resulting in the formation of a United Front with concessions on both sides on December 25, 1937.
The Japanese had taken both Shanghai and Nanking — resulting in the Nanking Massacre — pushing the Kuomintang government inland to Chongqing. The Japanese's brutality led increasing numbers of Chinese joining the fight, with the Red Army growing from 50,000 to 500,000. In August 1938, the Red Army formed the New Fourth Army and the Eighth Route Army, which were nominally under the command of Chiang's National Revolutionary Army. In August 1940, the Red Army initiated the Hundred Regiments Campaign, in which 400,000 troops attacked the Japanese simultaneously in five provinces; a military success, it resulted in the death of 20,000 Japanese, the disruption of railways and the loss of a coal mine. From his base in Yan'an, Mao authored several texts for his troops, including Philosophy of Revolution, which offered an introduction to the Marxist theory of knowledge, Protracted Warfare, which dealt with guerrilla and mobile military tactics, and New Democracy, which laid forward ideas for China's future.
Resuming civil war: 1940−1949
In 1944, the Americans sent a special diplomatic envoy, called the Dixie Mission, to the Communist Party of China. According to Edwin Moise, in Modern China: A History 2nd Edition:
Most of the Americans were favourably impressed. The CPC seemed less corrupt, more unified, and more vigorous in its resistance to Japan than the KMT. United States fliers shot down over North China ... confirmed to their superiors that the CPC was both strong and popular over a broad area. In the end, the contacts with the USA developed with the CPC led to very little.
After the end of World War II, the U.S. continued their military assistance to Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT government forces against the People's Liberation Army (PLA) led by Mao Zedong in the civil war for control of China. Likewise, the Soviet Union gave quasi-covert support to Mao by their occupation of north east China, which allowed the PLA to move in en masse and took large supplies of arms left by the Japanese's Kwantung Army.
In 1948, under direct orders from Mao, the People's Liberation Army starved out the Kuomintang forces occupying the city of Changchun. At least 160,000 civilians are believed to have perished during the siege, which lasted from June until October. PLA lieutenant colonel Zhang Zhenglu, who documented the siege in his book White Snow, Red Blood, compared it to Hiroshima: "The casualties were about the same. Hiroshima took nine seconds; Changchun took five months." On January 21, 1949, Kuomintang forces suffered great losses in battles against Mao's forces. In the early morning of December 10, 1949, PLA troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT-held city in mainland China, and Chiang Kai-shek evacuated from the mainland to Taiwan.
Leadership of China
The People's Republic of China was established on October 1, 1949. It was the culmination of over two decades of civil and international wars. From 1943 to 1976, Mao was the Chairman of the Communist Party of China. During this period, Mao was called Chairman Mao (???, Máo Zh?xí) or the Great Leader Chairman Mao (???????, W?idà L?ngxiù Máo Zh?xí). Mao famously announced: "The Chinese people have stood up."
Mao took up residence in Zhongnanhai, a compound next to the Forbidden City in Beijing, and there he ordered the construction of an indoor swimming pool and other buildings. Mao's physician Li Zhisui described him as conducting business either in bed or by the side of the pool, preferring not to wear formal clothes unless absolutely necessary. Li's book, The Private Life of Chairman Mao, is regarded as controversial, especially by those sympathetic to Mao.
In October 1950, Mao made the decision to send the People's Volunteer Army into Korea and fight against the United Nations forces led by the U.S. Historical records showed that Mao directed the PVA campaigns in the Korean War to the minute details.
Along with land reform, during which significant numbers of landlords and well-to-do peasants were beaten to death at mass meetings organized by the Communist Party as land was taken from them and given to poorer peasants, there was also the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, which involved public executions targeting mainly former Kuomintang officials, businessmen accused of "disturbing" the market, former employees of Western companies and intellectuals whose loyalty was suspect. The U.S. State department in 1976 estimated that there may have been a million killed in the land reform, and 800,000 killed in the counterrevolutionary campaign.
Mao himself claimed that a total of 700,000 people were killed in attacks on "counter-revolutionaries" during the years 1950–52. However, because there was a policy to select "at least one landlord, and usually several, in virtually every village for public execution", the number of deaths range between 2 million and 5 million. In addition, at least 1.5 million people, perhaps as many as 4 to 6 million, were sent to "reform through labour" camps where many perished. Mao played a personal role in organizing the mass repressions and established a system of execution quotas, which were often exceeded. He defended these killings as necessary for the securing of power.
Starting in 1951, Mao initiated two successive movements in an effort to rid urban areas of corruption by targeting wealthy capitalists and political opponents, known as the three-anti/five-anti campaigns. A climate of raw terror developed as workers denounced their bosses, spouses turned on their spouses, and children informed on their parents; the victims often were humiliated at struggle sessions, a method designed to intimidate and terrify people to the maximum. Mao insisted that minor offenders be criticized and reformed or sent to labor camps, "while the worst among them should be shot." These campaigns took several hundred thousand additional lives, the vast majority via suicide.
In Shanghai, suicide by jumping from tall buildings became so commonplace that residents avoided walking on the pavement near skyscrapers for fear that suicides might land on them. Some biographers have pointed out that driving those perceived as enemies to suicide was a common tactic during the Mao-era. For example, in his biography of Mao, Philip Short notes that in the Yan'an Rectification Movement, Mao gave explicit instructions that "no cadre is to be killed," but in practice allowed security chief Kang Sheng to drive opponents to suicide and that "this pattern was repeated throughout his leadership of the People's Republic."
Following the consolidation of power, Mao launched the First Five-Year Plan (1953–58). The plan aimed to end Chinese dependence upon agriculture in order to become a world power. With the Soviet Union's assistance, new industrial plants were built and agricultural production eventually fell to a point where industry was beginning to produce enough capital that China no longer needed the USSR's support. The success of the First-Five Year Plan was to encourage Mao to instigate the Second Five-Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, in 1958. Mao also launched a phase of rapid collectivization. The CPC introduced price controls as well as a Chinese character simplification aimed at increasing literacy. Large-scale industrialization projects were also undertaken.
Programs pursued during this time include the Hundred Flowers Campaign, in which Mao indicated his supposed willingness to consider different opinions about how China should be governed. Given the freedom to express themselves, liberal and intellectual Chinese began opposing the Communist Party and questioning its leadership. This was initially tolerated and encouraged. After a few months, Mao's government reversed its policy and persecuted those, totalling perhaps 500,000, who criticized, as well as those who were merely alleged to have criticized, the party in what is called the Anti-Rightist Movement. Authors such as Jung Chang have alleged that the Hundred Flowers Campaign was merely a ruse to root out "dangerous" thinking.
Li Zhisui, Mao's physician, suggested that Mao had initially seen the policy as a way of weakening those within his party who opposed him and was surprised by the extent of criticism and the fact that it began to be directed at his own leadership. It was only then that he used it as a method of identifying and subsequently persecuting those critical of his government. The Hundred Flowers movement led to the condemnation, silencing, and death of many citizens, also linked to Mao's Anti-Rightist Movement, with death tolls possibly in the millions.
Great Leap Forward
In January 1958, Mao Zedong launched the second Five-Year Plan, known as the Great Leap Forward, a plan intended as an alternative model for economic growth to the Soviet model focusing on heavy industry that was advocated by others in the party. Under this economic program, the relatively small agricultural collectives which had been formed to date were rapidly merged into far larger people's communes, and many of the peasants were ordered to work on massive infrastructure projects and on the production of iron and steel. Some private food production was banned; livestock and farm implements were brought under collective ownership.
Under the Great Leap Forward, Mao and other party leaders ordered the implementation of a variety of unproven and unscientific new agricultural techniques by the new communes. Combined with the diversion of labor to steel production and infrastructure projects, these projects combined with cyclical natural disasters led to an approximately 15% drop in grain production in 1959 followed by a further 10% decline in 1960 and no recovery in 1961.
In an effort to win favor with their superiors and avoid being purged, each layer in the party hierarchy exaggerated the amount of grain produced under them. Based upon the fabricated success, party cadres were ordered to requisition a disproportionately high amount of the true harvest for state use, primarily in the cities and urban areas but also for export. The net result, which was compounded in some areas by drought and in others by floods, left rural peasants with little food for themselves and many millions starved to death in the largest famine known as the Great Chinese Famine. This famine was a direct cause of the death of some 30 million Chinese peasants between 1959 and 1962 and about the same number of births were lost or postponed. Further, many children who became emaciated and malnourished during years of hardship and struggle for survival died shortly after the Great Leap Forward came to an end in 1962.
The extent of Mao's knowledge of the severity of the situation has been disputed. Mao's physician believed he may have been unaware about the extent of the famine, partly due to a reluctance to criticize his policies and decisions and the willingness of his staff to exaggerate or outright fake reports regarding food production. Upon finding out the extent of the starvation, Mao vowed to stop eating meat, an action followed by his staff.
In the beginning, commune members were able to eat for free at the commune canteens. This changed when food production slowed to a halt.
Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikötter, who conducted extensive archival research on the Great Leap Forward in local and regional Chinese government archives, challenged the notion that Mao did not know about the famine until it was too late:
"The idea that the state mistakenly took too much grain from the countryside because it assumed that the harvest was much larger than it was is largely a myth – at most partially true for the autumn of 1958 only. In most cases the party knew very well that it was starving its own people to death. At a secret meeting in the Jinjiang Hotel in Shanghai dated March 25, 1959, Mao specifically ordered the party to procure up to one third of all the grain, much more than had ever been the case. At the meeting he announced that 'When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.'"
In Hungry Ghosts, Jasper Becker notes that Mao was dismissive of reports he received of food shortages in the countryside and refused to change course, believing that peasants were lying and that rightists and kulaks were hoarding grain. He refused to open state granaries, and instead launched a series of "anti-grain concealment" drives that resulted in numerous purges and suicides. Other violent campaigns followed in which party leaders went from village to village in search of hidden food reserves, and not only grain, as Mao issued quotas for pigs, chickens, ducks and eggs. Many peasants accused of hiding food were tortured and beaten to death.
In contrast, journals such as the Monthly Review have disputed the reliability of the figures commonly cited, the qualitative evidence of a "massive death toll", and Mao's complicity in those deaths which occurred.
Whatever the case, the Great Leap Forward caused Mao to lose esteem among many of the top party cadres and was eventually forced to abandon the policy in 1962, while losing some political power to moderate leaders, perhaps most notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping in the process. However, Mao, supported by national propaganda, claimed that he was only partly to blame. As a result, he was able to remain Chairman of the Communist Party, with the Presidency transferred to Liu Shaoqi.
The Great Leap Forward was a tragedy for the vast majority of the Chinese. Although the steel quotas were officially reached, almost all of the supposed steel made in the countryside was iron, as it had been made from assorted scrap metal in home-made furnaces with no reliable source of fuel such as coal. This meant that proper smelting conditions could not be achieved. According to Zhang Rongmei, a geometry teacher in rural Shanghai during the Great Leap Forward:
"We took all the furniture, pots, and pans we had in our house, and all our neighbors did likewise. We put everything in a big fire and melted down all the metal."
The worst of the famine was steered towards enemies of the state. As Jasper Becker explains:
"The most vulnerable section of China's population, around five per cent, were those whom Mao called 'enemies of the people'. Anyone who had in previous campaigns of repression been labeled a 'black element' was given the lowest priority in the allocation of food. Landlords, rich peasants, former members of the nationalist regime, religious leaders, rightists, counter-revolutionaries and the families of such individuals died in the greatest numbers."
At the Lushan Conference in July/August 1959, several leaders expressed concern that the Great Leap Forward had not proved as successful as planned. The most direct of these was Minister of Defence and Korean War General Peng Dehuai. Mao, fearing loss of his position, orchestrated a purge of Peng and his supporters, stifling criticism of the Great Leap policies. Senior officials who reported the truth of the famine to Mao were branded as "right opportunists." A campaign against right opportunism was launched and resulted in party members and ordinary peasants being sent to camps where many would subsequently die in the famine. Years later the CPC would conclude that 6 million people were wrongly punished in the campaign.
The number of deaths by starvation during the Great Leap Forward is deeply controversial. Until the mid-1980s, when official census figures were finally published by the Chinese Government, little was known about the scale of the disaster in the Chinese countryside, as the handful of Western observers allowed access during this time had been restricted to model villages where they were deceived into believing that the Great Leap Forward had been a great success. There was also an assumption that the flow of individual reports of starvation that had been reaching the West, primarily through Hong Kong and Taiwan, must be localized or exaggerated as China was continuing to claim record harvests and was a net exporter of grain through the period. Because Mao wanted to pay back early to the Soviets debts totaling 1.973 billion yuan from 1960 to 1962, exports increased by 50%, and fellow Communist regimes in North Korea, North Vietnam and Albania were provided grain free of charge.
Censuses were carried out in China in 1953, 1964 and 1982. The first attempt to analyse this data in order to estimate the number of famine deaths was carried out by American demographer Dr. Judith Banister and published in 1984. Given the lengthy gaps between the censuses and doubts over the reliability of the data, an accurate figure is difficult to ascertain. Nevertheless, Banister concluded that the official data implied that around 15 million excess deaths incurred in China during 1958–61, and that based on her modelling of Chinese demographics during the period and taking account of assumed under-reporting during the famine years, the figure was around 30 million. The official statistic is 20 million deaths, as given by Hu Yaobang. Yang Jisheng, a former Xinhua News Agency reporter who had privileged access and connections available to no other scholars, estimates a death toll of 36 million. Frank Dikötter estimates that there were at least 45 million premature deaths attributable to the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962. Various other sources have put the figure at between 20 and 46 million.
On the international front, the period was dominated by the further isolation of China. The Sino-Soviet split resulted in Nikita Khrushchev's withdrawal of all Soviet technical experts and aid from the country. The split was triggered by arguments over the control and direction of world communism and other disputes pertaining to foreign policy. Most of the problems regarding communist unity resulted from the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953 and his replacement by Khrushchev. Only Albania under the leadership of Enver Hoxha openly sided with China against the Soviets, which began an alliance between the two countries which would last until the Sino-Albanian split after Mao's death in 1976.
Stalin had established himself as the successor of "correct" Marxist thought well before Mao controlled the Communist Party of China, and therefore Mao never challenged the suitability of any Stalinist doctrine (at least while Stalin was alive). Upon the death of Stalin, Mao believed (perhaps because of seniority) that the leadership of the "correct" Marxist doctrine would fall to him. The resulting tension between Khrushchev (at the head of a politically and militarily superior government), and Mao (believing he had a superior understanding of Marxist ideology) eroded the previous patron-client relationship between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the CPC. In China, the formerly favorable Soviets were now denounced as "revisionists" and listed alongside "American imperialism" as movements to oppose.
Partly surrounded by hostile American military bases (in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan), China was now confronted with a new Soviet threat from the north and west. Both the internal crisis and the external threat called for extraordinary statesmanship from Mao, but as China entered the new decade the statesmen of the People's Republic were in hostile confrontation with each other.
At a large Communist Party conference in Beijing in January 1962, called the "Conference of the Seven Thousand," State Chairman Liu Shaoqi denounced the Great Leap Forward as responsible for widespread famine. The overwhelming majority of delegates expressed agreement, but Defense Minister Lin Biao staunchly defended Mao. A brief period of liberalization followed while Mao and Lin plotted a comeback. Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping rescued the economy by disbanding the people's communes, introducing elements of private control of peasant smallholdings and importing grain from Canada and Australia to mitigate the worst effects of famine.
Chinese propaganda poster from the Cultural Revolution: "Destroy the old world. Forge the new world." A Red Guard crushes the crucifix, Buddha, and classical Chinese texts with a hammer; 1967.
Mao was concerned with the nature of post-1959 China. He saw that the revolution had replaced the old elite with a new one. He was concerned that those in power were becoming estranged from the people they were supposed to serve.
Mao believed that a revolution of culture would unseat and unsettle the "ruling class" and keep China in a state of "perpetual revolution" that, theoretically, would serve the interests of the majority, not a tiny elite. Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, then the State Chairman and General Secretary, respectively, had favored the idea that Mao should be removed from actual power but maintain his ceremonial and symbolic role, with the party upholding all of his positive contributions to the revolution. They attempted to marginalize Mao by taking control of economic policy and asserting themselves politically as well. Many claim that Mao responded to Liu and Deng's movements by launching the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Some scholars, such as Mobo Gao, claim the case for this is perhaps overstated. Others, such as Frank Dikötter, hold that Mao launched the Cultural Revolution to wreak revenge on those who had dared to challenge him over the Great Leap Forward.
Believing that certain liberal bourgeois elements of society continued to threaten the socialist framework, groups of young people known as the Red Guards struggled against authorities at all levels of society and even set up their own tribunals. Chaos reigned in much of the nation, and millions were persecuted, including a famous philosopher, Chen Yuen. During the Cultural Revolution, the schools in China were closed and the young intellectuals living in cities were ordered to the countryside to be "re-educated" by the peasants, where they performed hard manual labor and other work.
The Revolution led to the destruction of much of China's traditional cultural heritage and the imprisonment of a huge number of Chinese citizens, as well as creating general economic and social chaos in the country. Millions of lives were ruined during this period, as the Cultural Revolution pierced into every part of Chinese life, depicted by such Chinese films as To Live, The Blue Kite and Farewell My Concubine. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, perished in the violence of the Cultural Revolution.
When Mao was informed of such losses, particularly that people had been driven to suicide, he is alleged to have commented: "People who try to commit suicide — don't attempt to save them! . . . China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people." The authorities allowed the Red Guards to abuse and kill opponents of the regime. Said Xie Fuzhi, national police chief: "Don't say it is wrong of them to beat up bad persons: if in anger they beat someone to death, then so be it." As a result, in August and September 1966, there were 1,772 people murdered in Beijing alone.
It was during this period that Mao chose Lin Biao, who seemed to echo all of Mao's ideas, to become his successor. Lin was later officially named as Mao's successor. By 1971, however, a divide between the two men became apparent. Official history in China states that Lin was planning a military coup or an assassination attempt on Mao. Lin Biao died in a plane crash over the air space of Mongolia, presumably on his way to flee China, probably anticipating his arrest. The CPC declared that Lin was planning to depose Mao, and posthumously expelled Lin from the party. At this time, Mao lost trust in many of the top CPC figures. The highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa described his conversation with Nicolae Ceau?escu who told him about a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by the KGB.
In 1969, Mao declared the Cultural Revolution to be over, although the official history of the People's Republic of China marks the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 with Mao's death.