September 9, 1976
The world as we know it always revolves around the people and events that proceeded the present. Nowhere is this more true than China which is the product of the Chinese Communist Party which was made triumphant by one man, a peasant named Mao Zedong, who died in 1976 after having recently opened up to the Americans and began the path of opening Communist China up to the rest of the world.
Mao Zedong was born in 1893 into a China that was still ruled by kings. He father was a moderately wealthy farmer and his mother was a Buddhist. Mao rebelled against his parents and his arranged marriage. His wife, rejected by Mao, died early. She was an early casualty in the many periods in which Mao would change his mind about things and throw over whatever was in his way, regardless the price paid by others.
Mao was of peasant background, a fact that would be determinative in the future of China, and he was a voracious reader. He joined the nationalists who decried the loss of Chinese power under the royal rule of the child king Puyi, the last in the Qing dynasty. He and his friends all cut off their long hair to show a break with the dynasty. In the period past 1911, when the monarchy fell, Mao could have been converted to a supporter of republican democracy, and he read of George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte, plus many others of Western liberalism and democracy.
But, it was not to be. He fell under the sway of many Communists in his educational circles in Peking. Both the nationalist and the communists knew that China had to look abroad to cleanse itself of its many accretions of superstition and despotism, but they looked at different writers and ideas. Mao eventually came to know of the Russian revolution which occurred in 1917 and he became an acolyte of full communistic control of all authority.
Mao was caught between many worlds in the long period of instability that engulfed China after the fall of the monarchy, during the era of foreign invasion, and before his triumph in the civil wars after World War 2. His rural accent and peasant background made him to source of ridicule on the part of other revolutionaries, and this fueled a lasting resentment that would come to see the death of millions once he rose to power.
Mao was present at the formation of the Chinse Communalist party, the CCP, in the early 1920s, and he participated in the 20 plus years of war that followed. There was war with the Japanese, and then war with the nationalists, who were pushed back to Taiwan. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was declared by Mao and his victorious followers, and this ushered in more decades of privation for millions of Chinese, but this new murderous chaos was at least authored by a genuine member of the Chinses peasant class, and not a monarch or foreign power.
Under Mao, millions died of disease, war, and starvation. He was an awful administrator who’s pronouncements were considered law. He named his ideas things like ‘the Great Leap Forward’ and ‘the Cultural Revolution’ but the result was always the same; death for millions who had no say in the way the Chinese state was administered. He was as abusive as any monarch and the government he built was as oppressively deadly as any others. He became an early example of the communist’s ‘cult of personality’ fetish in their leadership which is still in evidence today in North Korea, and to a lessor degree, China and Russia. He was also exploitative to Chinese women who he would procure at a young age, keep around as sexual objects, and then banish.
In 1976, he mercifully died and his successors set about altering many aspects of Chinse society to make things better for average Chinese. They opened up the economy and set lose the energies of the Chinese people, who had a long history of innovation and industry. Sadly, the government he established, one with no traditional of respect for individual rights, is still with us, and his intolerance and appetite for conquest, is also still with us.