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Mao Zedong 1893-1976

Born on December 26, 1893, in Shaoshan, Hunan province, China, Mao Tse-tung was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party from 1935 until his death and chairman of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to 1959. Mao's Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution were ill-conceived and had disastrous consequences, but many of his goals, such as stressing China's self-reliance, were generally laudable.

In the late 19th century, China was a shell of its once glorious past, led by the decrepit Qing Dynasty. In the farming community of Shaoshan, Mao Tse-tung was born on December 26, 1893, to a peasant family that had tilled their three acres of land for several generations. Life was difficult for many Chinese, but Mao’s family was better off than most. His authoritarian father, Mao Zedong, was a prosperous grain dealer, and his mother, Wen Qimei, was a nurturing parent. When he turned eight years old, Mao attended the little village school but received little education. By 13, he was working full-time in the fields. But Mao grew increasingly restless and ambitious.
At age 14, Mao Tse-tung’s father arranged a marriage for him, but he never accepted it. When he turned 17, he left home to enroll in a secondary school in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. In 1911, the Xinhua Revolution began against the monarchy, and Mao joined the Revolutionary Army and the Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party. Led by Chinese statesman Sun Yat-sen, the Kuomintang overthrew the monarchy in 1912 and founded the Republic of China. Spurred on by the promise of a new future for China and himself, Mao reveled in the political and cultural change sweeping the country.

In 1918, Mao Tse-tung graduated from the Hunan First Normal School, certified as a teacher. That same year, his mother died, and he had no desire to return home. He traveled to Beijing, but was unsuccessful in finding a job. He finally found a position as a librarian assistant at Beijing University and attended a few classes. At about this time, he heard of the successful Russian Revolution, which established the communist Soviet Union. In 1921, he became one of the inaugural members of the Chinese Communist Party.

In 1923, Chinese leader Sun Yat-sen began a policy of active cooperation with the Chinese Communists, who had grown in strength and number. Mao Tse-tung had supported both the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, but over the next few years, he adopted Leninist ideas and believed that appealing to the farming peasants was the key to establishing communism in Asia. He rose up through the ranks of the party as a delegate assemblyman and then executive to the Shanghai branch of the party.

In March 1925, Chinese President Sun Yat-sen died, and his successor, Chiang Kai-shek, became the chairman of the Kuomintang. Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang was more conservative and traditional. In April 1927, he broke the alliance and began a violent purge of the Communists, imprisoning or killing many.


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