Updated: 2010-09-14 15:46:17
Mao Zedong (1893-1976) was a great Marxist, proletarian revolutionary, strategist and theorist, and the main founder and leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Republic of China.
He was born into a peasant family on December 26, 1893, in Xiangtan, Hunan Province. First, he served in the insurgent Republican Army for half a year following the outbreak of the Revolution of 1911. Then he studied at Hunan First Teachers College from 1914 to 1918 and established the revolutionary Society of the New Masses in collaboration with Cai Hesen and others shortly before his graduation from the college. He first started studying and believing in Marxism around the May 4th Movement in 1919 and founded a communist organization in Hunan Province in 1920.
In July 1921, Mao Zedong attended the First National Congress of the CPC, which marked its inauguration. Later on, he became Secretary of the CPC Hunan Committee and led the workers' movement in Changsha, Anyuan and other cities. In 1923, he attended the Third CPC National Congress at which he was elected into the Central Executive Committee of the CPC, thus becoming involved in the central leadership. Following the establishment of the Kuomintang-Communist cooperation in 1924, he was elected alternate member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang at both its first and second national congresses. He was the acting head of the Central Propaganda Department of the Kuomintang in Guangzhou and the chief editor of the Political Weekly. He also directed the Sixth Class at the Peasant Movement Institute. In November 1926, he became Secretary of the CPC Central Committee's Peasant Movement Commission.
In his works "Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society" and "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan" published between the winter of 1925 and the spring of 1927, he underlined the important role of the peasant issue in the Chinese revolution and the paramount significance of the leadership of the proletariat over the peasant struggle and criticized the Right deviationist thinking of Chen Duxiu.
At an emergency meeting of the CPC Central Committee in August 1927 following the total breakdown of the Kuomintang-Communist cooperation, Mao Zedong presented the idea that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." By this he meant that political power must be seized by the means of the revolutionary armed forces. He was elected alternate member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee at the meeting. After the meeting, he went to the Hunan-Jiangxi border to lead the Autumn Harvest Uprising . Then he led the insurgent troops to the Jinggang Maintains to launch an agrarian revolution and set up the first rural revolutionary base area of the CPC.
In 1928, his troops joined forces with the insurgent troops of Zhu De to form the Fourth Army of the Workers' and Peasants' Revolutionary Army (later renamed the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army), with Mao Zedong as Party representative and Secretary of the Front Committee, and Zhu De as Army Commander. Proceeding from the reality of China, the Chinese Communists with Mao Zedong as their chief representative developed armed struggle in rural areas where the forces of the Kuomintang rule were weak, and opened up the road to the final seizure of the country's political power by encircling the cities from the rural areas and then capturing them.
Mao Zedong expounded this issue theoretically in his works such as "Why Is It That Red Political Power Can Exist in China?" and "A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire." In his "Oppose Book Worship" written in May 1930, he made the famous assertion "no investigation no right to speak." In August of the same year, the First Front Army of the Red Army was established with Mao Zedong as general political commissar. In 1931, the Provisional Central Government of the Chinese Soviet Republic was established in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province, and Mao Zedong was elected its Chairman.
In a by-election in 1933, he was elected into the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. Beginning from the end of 1930, Mao Zedong and Zhu De led the First Front Army of the Red Army in defeating Kuomintang campaigns of encirclement and suppression. Arriving in the Central Revolutionary Base Area, the "Left" deviationist leadership collective represented by Wang Ming deprived Mao Zedong of his leadership in the Party and the Red Army and adopted different strategies and policies, leading to the failure in the fight against the fifth Kuomintang campaign of encirclement and suppression. In October 1934, Mao Zedong joined the First Front Army of the Red Army in the Long March. In January 1935, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee held an enlarged meeting (known as the Zunyi Meeting) on the way of the Long March, at which the new central leadership represented by Mao Zedong was established. In October of the same year, the CPC Central Committee and the First Front Army of the Red Army arrived in northern Shaanxi, and the Long March ended.
In December 1935, Mao Zedong delivered the report "On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism" to expound the policy of national united front against Japanese aggression. In October 1936, the Fourth and Second Front Armies of the Red Army completed the Long March and reached Gansu to join forces successively with the First Front Army. Working together with Zhou Enlai and others in December of the same year, Mao Zedong brought about the peaceful settlement of the Xi'an Incident. This was crucial for a shift in the national situation from the civil war to the second period of Kuomintang-Communist cooperation against Japanese aggression. In December 1936, Mao Zedong wrote "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War." He wrote "On Practice" and "On Contradiction" in the summer of 1937.
After the outbreak of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), the CPC Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong upheld the principle of independence and initiative within the united front. They worked to mobilize the masses, carried out guerrilla war behind enemy lines, and established many large anti-Japanese base areas. Most of these base areas were located in the mountainous areas in North China, though some of them were situated on the Hebei Plain and the North Jiangsu Plain. In October 1938, Mao Zedong put forward the guiding principle of adapting Marxism-Leninism to Chinese conditions at the Enlarged Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth CPC Central Committee. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, he published important works such as "On Protracted War," "Introducing The Communist" and "On New Democracy."
In 1942, he led the whole Party in the rectification movement aimed at subjectivism and sectarianism. This helped the whole Party better understand the basic direction of integrating the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete practice in the Chinese revolution and laid the ideological foundation for victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and in the revolution throughout the country. In 1943, he led the army and the people of the base areas in the production movement, which helped overcome the severe economic difficulties. In March of the same year, he was elected Chairman of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
In 1945,he presided over the Seventh CPC National Congress and delivered the report "On Coalition Government." At the congress the Party formulated the strategy of boldly mobilizing the masses, expanding the people's forces and leading them in defeating Japanese aggressors, liberating all the people of China and establishing a new democratic China. Mao Zedong Thought was established as the guiding ideology of the CPC at the congress. He was Chairman of the CPC Central Committee from the First Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC National Congress till his death in 1976.
In response to Chiang Kai-shek's attempt to destroy the CPC and its armed forces following the victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, Mao Zedong put forward the policy of giving tit for tat for the struggle against the Kuomintang. In August 1945, he traveled to Chongqing for negotiations with Chiang Kai-shek, which demonstrated the CPC's desire for nationwide peace.
After Chiang Kai-shek started the total civil war in the summer of 1946, Mao Zedong worked with Zhu De and Zhou Enlai in directing the People's Liberation Army to employ active defense and concentrate a superior force to destroy the enemy forces one by one. Fighting the Kuomintang forces in one place after another in northern Shaanxi together with Zhou Enlai and Ren Bishi, Mao Zedong directed the northwest theatre of war and the War of Liberation throughout the country from March 1947 through March 1948.
In the summer of 1947, the PLA shifted from the strategic defensive to the strategic offensive. Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong, the PLA overthrew the Kuomintang government after launching the three campaigns of Liaoxi-Shenyang, Huai-Hai and Beiping-Tianjin and carrying out operations after crossing the Yangtze River in April 1949. In March 1949, Mao Zedong chaired the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee and delivered an important report. The Session decided to shift the focus of the Party's work from rural to urban areas, defined the basic policies the Party should adopt after the countrywide victory and called on the whole Party to remain modest, prudent and free from arrogance and rashness in its style of work and to preserve the style of plain living and hard work. On July 1 of the same year, Mao Zedong published "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship," defining the nature of the political system of the People's Republic and its basic domestic and foreign policies.
On October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed, and Mao Zedong was elected Chairman of the Central People's Government. In June 1950, he presided over the Third Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee and set forth the general task of working for a fundamental turn for the better in the nation's financial and economic situation. In October of the same year, in response to the US military invasion of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the US threat to the security of Northeast China, the CPC Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong decided to launch the war to resist US aggression and aid Korea.
From 1950 through 1952, China under Mao Zedong's leadership carried out the agrarian reform, the suppression of counterrevolutionaries and other democratic reforms. It also launched the movements against the "three evils" of corruption, waste and bureaucracy and against the "five evils" of bribery, tax evasion, theft of state property, cheating on government contracts and stealing of economic information. At the suggestion of Mao Zedong in 1953, the CPC Central Committee announced the Party's general line for the transition period and started systematic socialist industrialization and the socialist transformation of private ownership of the means of production. In 1954 the Constitution of the People's Republic of China that was drafted under Mao Zedong's leadership was adopted at the First Session of the First National People's Congress, and he was elected the first President of the People's Republic and had a tenure till 1959.
In April 1956, he delivered a speech "On the Ten Major Relationships," which was a tentative discussion of the road to building socialism in light of China's particular conditions. Before long he put forward the principle of letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
In 1956, the socialist transformation of private ownership of the means of production was in the main completed. In September of the same year, the CPC convened its Eighth National Congress and pointed out that the chief task of the whole nation had a changeover to concentrating on developing the productive forces. But this policy was not well implemented afterwards, leading to a series of subsequent mistakes and setbacks in the Party's guidance. In February 1957, Mao Zedong delivered a speech "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People," formulating the theory of correctly distinguishing and handling the two types of contradictions in socialist society that are different in nature - those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people.
In July of the same year, Mao Zedong called on the Party "to create a political situation in which there are both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness." In 1958, he launched "the Great Leap Forward" and the movement to establish people's communes in rural areas. In 1959 he presided over the Lushan Meeting. Originally he wanted to correct the mistakes that had been found, but in the later stage of the meeting, he erred in initiating the criticism of Peng Dehuai and in launching a Party-wide struggle "against Right opportunism" after the meeting.
From the winter of 1960 through 1965, the CPC Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong followed the national economic principle of "adjustment, consolidation, filling out and raising standards" and preliminarily corrected the mistakes of "the Great Leap Forward" and the movement to establish people's communes. As a result, the national economy recovered and developed rapidly. During the period, he put forward a number of measures and preliminarily corrected the "Left" mistakes in rural work and other mistakes. However, at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth CPC Central Committee in September 1962, he overestimated, in absolute terms, the scope of class struggle that existed only within certain limits in socialist society and further developed the idea he put forward after the anti-Rightist campaign in 1957 that the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie remained the principal contradiction in Chinese society.
Between 1963 and 1965, Mao Zedong carried out the socialist education movement in the rural and urban areas and pointed out that the main target of the movement should be "those Party persons in power taking the capitalist road." From the 1950s, he led the CPC in firmly combating the great-power chauvinism advocated by leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and their attempts to interfere in China's affairs and bring the country under their control.
Going to extremes in his judgment of the class struggle situation in China in 1966, Mao Zedong launched the "cultural revolution." Manipulated by the two counterrevolutionary cliques under Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, the movement became especially rampant and went beyond Mao Zedong's expectation and control so that it lasted for ten years and incurred staggering damage and losses in many aspects of China. During the "cultural revolution," Mao Zedong did stop and correct a number of specific mistakes. He led the struggle to smash the Lin Biao counterrevolutionary clique and foiled the attempt of Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao and others to usurp the supreme power of China. In foreign policy, he set forth the "three worlds" strategy and the important principle that China would never seek hegemony, began to enter a new phase in foreign work and created favorable international conditions for China's modernization drive. Mao Zedong died in Beijing on September 9, 1976.
It is true that Mao Zedong made gross mistakes in his later years, but when his life is judged as a whole, his indisputable contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes, and his merits are primary and his errors secondary. He is still held in great respect by the Chinese people. The CPC gave an all-round evaluation of all his revolutionary activities and thought in a resolution adopted by its Central Committee five years after his death. Mao Zedong Thought, the development of Marxism in China, is still the guiding ideology of the CPC. Mao Zedong's main works are included in the Selected Works of Mao Zedong (in four volumes) and Collected Works of Mao Zedong (in eight volumes).