Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mao Zedong and His Rise to Power

Mao at his apex of power (8)

            Mao Zedong also known as Chairman Mao or simply Mao was born on December 26, 1893 and died on September 9, 1976.  Mao was a man of many faces; he was a revolutionary, head of state, poet, political scientist, and the father of modern day China among other things.  Mao was the chief architect of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and held its top seat of power from its conception in 1949 till his death in 1976.  Mao is considered a Marxist by some but others would contend that the changes he brought to Marxist theory classify his theories as a separate branch of Marxism.  Those who feel this way consider the Communism of Mao “Maoism;” similar to Marxism but different.  Mao had different theories on revolution among other things than Marx; some of those differences will be confronted later when discussing some of Mao’s writings.
The focus of this essay will be how Mao rose to power in the Communist power and eventually all of China.  To understand his story one must first understand his eary years.  The common man and woman in China identified with Mao and the reason for this was because he came from them, he was one of them in their eyes.  Mao was born in Shaoshan, China the son of a poor peasant who later became a prosperous famer and grain dealer.  In Mao’s early life he bounced in between school and working on the farm; when Mao was 18 the Xinhai Revolution broke out against Qing rule in China.  Mao joined the Revolutionary Army in Hunan.  A year later the war was over and Mao left the army and eventually returned to school.  By 1921 Mao was in and out of school, moving and taking odd jobs, identified himself as a Marxist in theory and to some extent in action and was one of the members of a small group that founded the Chinese Communist Party. 

Mao in 1931 (5)

The late 1920’sas well as the 1930’s was a busy time for Mao as well as everyone else involved with the Chinese Revolution.  In 1927 Mao led the Autumn Harvest Uprising which was a rebellion that took place in Hunan and established the short lived Hunan Soviet.  The uprising was defeated by Kuomintang forces and Mao was forced to retreat to the Jinggang Mountains on the border between Hunan and Jiangxi province, where he then assembled an army of miners. This was the first armed uprising by the Communists, and it marked a significant change in their strategy. Mao and Red Army founder Zhu De went on to develop a rural based strategy that centered on guerrilla tactics, paving the way to the Long March of 1934.

The Long March was an almost mythical journey which catapulted him into fame in China.  The Long March started in southern China when Mao’s Red Army was surrounded.  Estimates of around 80,000 (1) men under Mao’s control tried to escape through enemy lines and reform in the north and in the process 8,500 men survived the Long March to the north and establish their base in Yan’an.  This event was used as inspiration for those who survived and those who would fight for Mao in the future.  The following is a poem Mao wrote about the long march:  

The Long March, October 1935

The Red Army fears not the trials of the Long March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan's thousand li* of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing. (2)

Mao at this time not only became infamous as a leader in the communist movement in China, but as a writer as well.  In 1937 Mao wrote two of his most popular essays entitled “On Contradiction” (3) and “On Practice.”(4)  These two essays are concerned with the practical strategies of a revolutionary movement and stress the importance of practical, grass-roots knowledge, obtained through experience.  In both essays he speaks of how to gain support and who is the best people to recruit for this revolution.  Mao’s theories on revolution are considered by some to be the most impressive of his theories.

Soviet Republic of China Flag Picture (6)

From 1931 to 1934, Mao helped establish the Soviet Republic of China and was elected Chairman of this small republic in the mountainous areas in Jiangxi.  Shortly after Mao’s ascension to power dissension in the ranks began occur.  Some that were in power at this time like Li Wenlin were against Mao's land policies and proposals to reform the local party branch and army leadership.  Mao reacted to this dissension by claiming his opponents were opportunists and then over time systematically suppressed them.  After the fall of the Japanese Empire in World War II the region then became an interest of the West, Russia and the United States particularly.  The Cold War was in its infancy and the battle of Communism vs. Democratic Capitalism was in full swing figuring out who would be under whose sphere of influence.  The U.S. continued to support Chiang Kai-shek, now openly against the People's Liberation Army led by Mao Zedong causing an escalation in the Civil War for control of China.  The Soviet’s on the other hand supported Mao with supplies, but not as much as the U.S. supplied their allies.  The truth of the matter is that although Russia wanted to encourage the spread of Communism, they also didn’t want China become too strong because Russia still had ambitions in the area and a strong China would keep that in check.  In 1948, the People’s Liberation Army starved out the Kuomintang forces occupying the city of Changchun in which at least 160,000 civilians are believed to have perished during the siege.   On January 21, 1949, Kuomintang forces suffered massive losses against Mao's forces. In the early morning of December 10, 1949, PLA troops laid siege to Chengdu, the last KMT-occupied city in mainland China, and Chiang Kai-shek evacuated from the mainland to Taiwan that same day.

Over the several decades Mao came into line with other Communist leaders of the time.  Controls of many different economies were brought under the control of the Chinese government.  U.S / Chinese relations improved over time and eventually in 197o’s under the tutelage of President Nixon and Sec. of State Kissinger the Chinese and the U.S started to warm up to each other and normalized relations.  At this same exact time through no coincidence the Chinese had a long contested border dispute with the Soviets which surely strained relations between Beijing and Moscow.  The very shaky ground on which modern U.S / Chinese relations were started on has continued until today even though both economies are becoming more intertwined.

Picture of Mao with Nixon in 1972 (7)

Works Cited

1.      "The Long March 1934 to 1935." History Learning Site. History Learning Site. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

2.      "The Long March | A New Long March." Morning Sun. Long Bow Group, Inc. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

3.      Tse-tung, Mao. "ON CONTRADICTION." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

4.      Tse-tung, Mao. "ON PRACTICE." Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

5.      "File:Mao1931.jpg." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

6.      "File:Flag of the Chinese Soviet Republic.svg." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

7.      "File:Nixon Mao 1972-02-29.png." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Apr. 2011. <>.

8.      Dryden, Samantha. "JACKIE CHAN TO SEEK CONTROL OF ALL CHINESE PEOPLE." Scrape TV. Scrape TV, 19 Apr. 2009. Web. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Good job, Dude. Glad to see you are still posting to your blog. I see much improvement over time. Keep it up.