The Complex Legacy of China's Chairman Mao Zedong

The Complex Legacy of China's Chairman Mao Zedong
Table Of Content

The Legacy of Comrade Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong, often referred to as Chairman Mao, led the Communist Party of China and was the founding father of the People's Republic of China, which he governed as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. Highly controversial and divisive, Comrade Mao's legacy is complex, with supporters highlighting his revolutionary credentials and economic and social policies that rapidly industrialized China, while critics point to disastrous reform efforts that led to famine and widespread suffering.

Rise to Power

Mao Zedong began his political career in the May Fourth Movement in 1919, which called for more progressive and populist policies in China after years of decline under imperial rule. He went on to help found the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 and in 1927 led the Autumn Harvest Uprising, one of the first major peasant revolts. Though unsuccessful, this cemented Mao's leadership in the party and the peasant revolution movement.

Mao then led his followers on the epic Long March between 1934-1935, traversing over 6,000 miles around China to evade the ruling Kuomintang party. This further elevated his status and enabled the Communists to gain support among peasants across China. The struggles of the Long March would go on to become mythical in Communist party lore.

Leading the Communist Party

After Japan surrendered at the end of WWII in 1945, civil war broke out once again between the Communists and Nationalists. Mao rallied peasants in the countryside while also building urban support, surrounding cities with his People's Liberation Army. By 1949, the Communists had definitive control and the People's Republic of China was established, with Mao at the helm.

Comrade Mao sought to rapidly transform China into an industrialized socialist state. His Great Leap Forward from 1958-1962 pursued collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrialization through aggressive state planning, aiming to catapult China ahead of other nations. However, these initiatives led to one history’s worst famines, with over 30 million deaths. Mao gradually lost support and retreated from his leadership role.

Cultural Revolution

By 1966 Mao had regained enough political capital to launch the Cultural Revolution, aiming to renew the spirit of Communist revolution by empowering the peasantry while eliminating capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society. However, this mass movement quickly turned chaotic as students formed paramilitary groups called the Red Guards that attacked intellectuals and political enemies.

The Cultural Revolution expanded until Mao officially ended it in 1969, but its destabilizing effects continued throughout the 1970s. Much of the Communist party leadership was purged and millions were persecuted in violent class struggle that caused China’s education system and economy to suffer greatly.

Analysis of Mao's Legacy

Comrade Mao is remembered as a towering historical figure - a revolutionary peasant leader who defeated the Nationalists in a long civil war to unite China under his vision of socialism after centuries of decline and exploitation by foreign powers. His supporters portray him as a legendary figure who should be revered for these achievements.

However, his critics see his reign as a disastrous period of tyrannical rule. Despite defeating the Nationalists and ending foreign domination, Mao is blamed for economic failures, brutal political purges, and tens of millions of deaths from violent class struggle and disastrous policies like the Great Leap Forward.


There were some notable achievements during Mao’s rule. Literacy greatly improved as basic education was emphasized for peasants previously denied such opportunities. Equal rights and participation in politics were given to women for the first time. Health care also expanded into rural areas.

Industry was established across China through state planning initiatives. Although inefficient, factories sprung up under Mao where very little industry had existed before. Infrastructure like railroads, dams, bridges and electricity were built up connecting China’s vast interior regions.


However politically and economically, most historians regard Mao’s policies as colossal failures. Forced collectivization led to declining agricultural production so that China experienced devastating famines while exports dropped sharply. Draconian industrial planning also wasted resources so that consumers faced shortages of basic goods.

Politically, open debate and civic institutions were non-existent. Security agencies like the "Red Guards" spied on citizens and purge campaigns killed or imprisoned millions. Instead of rule of law, governance was arbitrary according to Mao’s political initiatives like the disastrous Cultural Revolution which left society in chaos.

The Complex Legacy

Ultimately Comrade Mao’s legacy is complex. He is revered by Communist party loyalists as a revolutionary hero, and celebrated by them with grandeur like his iconic portrait overlooking Tiananmen Square. They credit his defiant spirit for casting off China's past weaknesses and humiliation at the hands of foreigners. The spectacular economic rise of China in recent decades is seen as vindication of Mao’s efforts to strengthen China.

But critics counter that China’s rebirth only occurred after market-based reforms reversed some of Mao’s policies after his death. To them, Mao was an autocratic despot who brought suffering to millions of Chinese peasants through destructive campaigns and disastrous policies. His political repression left China institutionally crippled and vulnerable to the whims of dictators like himself. For these reasons, Mao remains a controversial figure inside China and globally.


Why is Mao Zedong known as Chairman Mao?

Mao Zedong was the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1943 until his death in 1976. He led the Communists to victory in the Chinese civil war and established the People's Republic of China in 1949, serving as the nation's first Communist leader. His position as Chairman of the Communist Party gave him supreme control of China's government and economy.

What were some of Mao's main policies and initiatives?

Some of Mao's most notable policies included land reform and collectivization programs for peasants, the Great Leap Forward which aimed to rapidly industrialize China's economy through state planning, and the Cultural Revolution during which Mao encouraged Chinese youths to challenge traditional elements of society that were deemed capitalist or bourgeoisie.

Why was the Great Leap Forward considered a failure?

The Great Leap Forward from 1958-1962 sought to reshape China's agrarian economy into an industrialized socialist society through aggressive quotas and reorganization of farms and labor into agricultural collectives. However, this disruption of China's economy along with natural disasters led food production to plummet, causing the Great Chinese Famine with over 30 million deaths.

What impact did Mao's rule have on China?

Mao imposed authoritarian control for nearly 30 years. His supporters credit him with strengthening China while critics blame his policies for economic disasters leading to millions of deaths. After his death, reforms reversed some socialist policies which then enabled China's rapid economic growth, so his legacy remains widely disputed between those who view him as an iconic revolutionary leader versus an oppressive dictator.

Advertisement 1

Advertisement 2

More from Society

Lexxi: An Inside Look at Life as a Transgender Hair Stylist

Lexxi: An Inside Look at Life as a Transgender Hair Stylist

An interview with Lexxi Ts, a transgender hair stylist who navigates daily life and the challenges of being visibly trans through candid social media posts, offering hope and representation for other trans people.

Unmasking the D'lucky Experience Scam

Unmasking the D'lucky Experience Scam

An informative piece dissecting the D'lucky Slot Machine Experience in the lights of Vegas. Is it a scam or a legitimate form of entertainment? Read on to uncover the truth.

Miami Hennessy Controversy: A Deep Dive into the Drama

Miami Hennessy Controversy: A Deep Dive into the Drama

A comprehensive analysis of the recent controversial revelations by Miami Hennessy, a transgender woman, exploring the implications for the entertainment industry and the wider community.

Xposed Magazine Pacho Muerte - The mysterious death of Puerto Rican gang leader Pacho Muert

Xposed Magazine Pacho Muerte - The mysterious death of Puerto Rican gang leader Pacho Muert

This article analyzes the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Puerto Rican gang leader Pacho Muerte as reported in Xposed Magazine. Who was behind his killing and what fueled the gang violence in Puerto Rico?

The Heartbreaking Story of the Brannin Family and Their Ongoing Recovery

The Heartbreaking Story of the Brannin Family and Their Ongoing Recovery

A detailed look into the tragic car accident that left three children seriously injured and their mother dead. Follow their journey of healing physically and emotionally as their father Kyle faces the challenges of caring for them alone.