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Mao Tse-tung was the principal Chinese Marxist theorist, soldier and statesman who led his nation's Cultural Revolution.
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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 Tse Tung ruled a quarter of the world's population for twenty five years and made China one of the most powerful countries in the world. But behind the scenes he was responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese people.
While China was caught up in the proletariat Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse Tung was creating this controversy in order to gain control over the country.
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But Mao's reforms and support were less successful in the cities, and he sensed the discontent. In 1956, he launched the "Hundred Flowers Campaign" and, in democratic fashion, allowed others to express their concerns. Mao hoped for a wide range of useful ideas, expecting only mild criticism of his policies. Instead, he received a harsh rebuke and was shaken by the intense rejection by the urban intelligentsia. Fearing a loss of control,
he ruthlessly crushed any further dissent. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese were labeled "rightists," and thousands were imprisoned.
In January 1958, Mao Tse-tung launched the "Great Leap Forward," attempting to increase agricultural and industrial production. The program established large agricultural communes with as many as 75,000 people working the fields. Each family received a share of the profits and a small plot of land. Mao had set idealistic, some would say improbable, expectations for both agriculture and industrial production, believing the country could make a century's worth of advancement in a few decades.
At first, reports were promising, with accounts of overwhelming advancement. However, three years of floods and bad harvests told a different story. Agricultural production had not come close to expectations, and reports of massive steel production proved to be false. Within a year, an appalling famine set in and entire villages died of starvation. In the worst manmade famine in human history, an estimated 40 million people died of hunger between 1959 and 1961. It became clear that Mao knew how to organize a revolution, but was totally inept at running a country. The scale of the disaster was hidden from the nation and the world. Only high-level Communist Party leaders knew, and Mao's protective inner circle kept many of the famine's details from him.
As a result of the Great Leap Forward's failure, in 1962 Mao Tse-tung was quietly pushed to the sidelines and his rivals took control of the country. For the first time in 25 years, Mao was not a central figure in leadership. While he waited for his time to return, an ardent supporter, Lin Biao, compiled some of Mao's writings into a handbook entitled Quotations from Chairman Mao. Known as the "Little Red Book," copies were made available to all Chinese.
In 1966, Mao Tse-tung made his return and launched the Cultural Revolution. Appearing at a gathering at the Yangtze River in May, the 73-year-old Mao swam for several minutes in the river, looking fit and energetic. The message to his rivals was, "Look, I'm back!" Later, he and his closest aides choreographed a series of public rallies involving thousands of young supporters. He calculated correctly that the young wouldn't remember much about the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent famine.
In a classic autocratic method to gain control, Mao Tse-tung manufactured a crisis that only he could solve. Mao told his followers that bourgeois elements in China were aiming to restore capitalism, and declared these elements must be removed from society.
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