Mao Zedong(Mao Tse-Tung)

Mao Zedong(Mao Tse-Tung)

(1893-1976)

The leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong won the Chinese Civil War. His truly drastic policies decisively shaped China during the 20th century.During his youth and adolescence, China had thrown off the rule of the Manchu (Ch’ing) Dynasty and created a republic.

Mao joined the Chinese Marxist Party in 1920. He and 11 others founded the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. For several years, Mao and his followers cooperated with the Chinese Nationalists, led by General Chiang Kai-shek (see no. 92). In 1927, Chiang car¬ ried out a sudden coup against the Communists.

Mao quickly became a military leader out of necessity. For the next 22 years, Mao would focus on rural China and the common peasants as the bulwark of the Communist Party.

Mao commanded perhaps 10,000 men in 1928, but by the early 1930s, that figure had risen to nearly 300,000. However, Mao and his followers were under constant attack from Chiang’s Nationalist forces.

Mao’s response was to initiate and lead the “Long March.” Commencing on October 16, 1934, Mao led 86,000 Chinese Communists on a daring, apparently suicidal, retreat from the Jin Giang Mountains north through the Hunan, Kweichow, and Szechwan provinces.

The Communists crossed 18 mountain ranges — six of them snow-covered — 24 rivers, and vast swamps on their march north. They also eluded Chiang’s forces.

It is believed that only 4,000 of the original 86,000 troops reached their destination in northern Shensai province in October 1935; many others dropped out along the way.

However, the march brought national and international attention to the Communists, and their numbers were soon swollen by recruits. The epic journey made Mao the indelible leader of Chinese Communism.

Mao stayed on the sidelines during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). He per¬ ceived Chiang and the Nationalists as his true enemy. After the conclusion of World War II, and the eviction of the Japanese from China, the Communists and Nationalists continued their conflict. Chiang and the Nationalists held on to the cities, but Mao and the Communists gained control of the entire countryside.

Chiang fled to Taiwan, and in 1949, Mao marched into Peking as the leader of a new Communist nation.Mao led China through the “Cold War.” He signed a treaty with the Soviet Union in 1950 and sent his troops across the Yalu River into the Korean War later that year.

Mao directed the start of the “Great Leap Forward” (1958) and the Cultural Revolution (1966—1969). He reversed an old policy in 1971 and welcomed President Richard Nixon of the United States to China. At the time of his death, Mao was the most revered leader in the Communist world.