Mao Zedong Essay

1431 words - 6 pages

Mao Zedong is considered to be one of the most controversial political leaders of the twentieth century. He has been known both as a savior and a tyrant to the Chinese people. From his strategic success of the Long March, to his humiliating failure of the Great Leap Forward, to the Cultural Revolution that shocked the country and took countless lives, Mao has significantly influenced the result of what China is today. From humble origins, Mao Zedong rose to absolute power, unifying with an iron fist a vast country torn apart by years of weak leadership, imperialism, and war. This astute and insightful account by Jonathan D. Spence brings to life this modern-day ruler and the tumultuous era ...view middle of the document...

Mao had organized a group of Communists in Changsha and in 1921when he went to Shanghai to participate in the First National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. He rose to absolute power when he survived the Long March, a military retreat undertaken by the Red Army to escape the attacks ordered by Chiang Kai-Shek. This began his ascent to power because of the leadership displayed during the retreat. It gained him the support of many members of the party. Through the years Mao had many successes as well as failures as a leader. He put into actions two 5 year plans, established the Hundred Flower Movement, launched the Great Leap Forward, and set the groundwork for the Cultural Revolution, forever leaving his mark in Chinese history.
The Great Leap Forward, what was supposed to be one of Mao Zedong’s greatest achievements, in turn actually became his most prominent failure. By 1957, to Mao at least, following the Soviet Union example no longer seemed sufficient. Growth was too slow, too reliant on technical experts, and too controlled. He believed that China had to find a way to use their labor power to revolutionize more rapidly. Mao began to introduce the idea of the Great Leap Forward. In Mao’s mind the Great Leap “would combine the imperativeness of large-scale cooperative agriculture with a close-to-utopian vision of the ending of distinctions between occupations, sexes, ages, and levels of education” (Mao 143). Through the concentrated work of hundreds of millions of people laboring together, China would convert itself from a poverty stricken nation into a mighty one. Mao believed that China as a whole would procure the “benefits of scale and of flexibility” (Mao, 143).
The peasants and workers performed large amounts of labor, working with “almost no respite in the fields” (Mao, 144). Trusting Mao, the Chinese Communist party, as well as the people of China got caught up in the idea of a “utopian” type society and fully supported the plan. This ideal however, did not transfer over to reality. The Great Leap became one of Mao’s biggest failures as the ruler of China. Many officials were surprised at Mao's naivety, especially since Mao used to be a farmer himself. Some Great Leap projects were successes, although all too often they were disasters. These projects were undertaken with too much haste and with so little methodical knowledge that serious mistakes were made. After Mao had realized that his plan was deteriorating he quickly called for a slower pace and more attainable goals. Mao’s faulty economics ended up creating a famine of massive proportions. The Great Leap Forward ended up killing approximately 30 million people as a result of starvation and diseases related to poor supplies and dearth of food, this time period is known as the Three Hard Years. Not surprisingly the Great Leap Forward strained the connection between China and the Soviet Union. Mao was never partial to Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, their...

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