Mao Zedong

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"Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed."

Mao Zedong is the first head of state of the People's Republic of China, leading the communist revolution from 1935 to his victory over Chiang Kai Shek in the mainland in 1949, establishing communist rule in China, ruling it until his death in 1976.

Mao was born in Hunan Province in December 26, 1893. He was quite a rebellious lad, and had Abusive Parents. He later scraped enough money from working in his family farm to enable him to go to high school. However, the 1911 revolution happened, and he joined the revolutionary forces in his home province for a time, then returned to high school to graduate. He later got a librarian job at the Beijing University library and also studied there, where he later came in contact with Chinese Marxists that would later influence him.

Mao later married Yang Kaihui, who was the daughter of his favorite professor, despite the fact that Mao was already married. It didn't end well for Yang, who was killed by Chiang's regime (the Kuomintang) in 1930.

Mao later attended in 1921 a session of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai. He later became one of the top leaders of the party, and he developed further his own theory of communism from there.

He later led uprisings against the Kuomintang like those in Changsha in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, but they proved to be quite abortive. He founded a Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi province, fleeing with his troops, but later, the KMT pounded them out of that province and the Chinese Communists had to trek northwest in what was called the Long March. Mao built up his army, and ascended to the position of leader of the Chinese Communist Party in the Zunyi Conference in 1935. He scored a big domestic political victory when he secured a deal with Chiang to defend China against Japan, establishing a 'united front'. In practice this treaty was more or less ignored by both sides and when Japan surrendered in 1945, Mao and Chiang swiftly moved to resume their civil war. Mao, with his better motivated troops and control of the Chinese countryside, eventually won the day by October 1, 1949.

Mao Zedong proceeded to revolutionize Chinese society, at the same time, ruthlessly purging his opponents. Fearing that the North Koreans would lose in the Korean War when the US troops curb stomped their way through the Korean peninsula, Mao in 1951 unleashed a Zerg Rush of 'Chinese People's Volunteers' against the US troops there, perhaps saving the North Korean regime as well as himself.

Although China's economy was growing admirably in the first several years after the war (industrial production was growing 19% per year and national income 9% per year), this wasn't enough for Mao, who decided that China must surpass the Western industrial production in 15 years or less. He embarked on a mission to strengthen the Chinese economy, declaring the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961. Because of poor management, anywhere from fifteen to forty million Chinese died in about 1959 to 1963 (the exact number will remain unknown until China's archives are made available to researchers).

Having lost most of his power due the Great Leap Forward (he was, in his own words, a "dead ancestor", praised but never consulted), Mao then unleashed the Cultural Revolution in 1966. He blamed the Great Leap on the moderates like Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, kicking them out of their positions in the hierarchy, then used the Red Guards, leftist extremist students who were indeed more violent than their western counterparts, besides being assured of Mao's support. Thousands, many Misblamed for the failures of the Cultural Revolution, were imprisoned or killed.

Knowing that these Red Guards became Ax Crazy, he then accused his successor Lin Biao of plotting to overthrow Mao, and had him purged in 1971.

Mao then was ill by the 1970s, and his wife Jiang Qing and three of her associates later took powers for Mao until he died in 1976. Jiang and her associates were later purged as the 'Gang of Four'. Deng Xiaoping, who was later re-habilitated, was unable to criticize Mao in his failures until 1981, mainly because the Chinese people still loved Mao despite his errors and murders of political opponents, not to mention millions who died in famines because Mao failed to understand even a good socialist economy.


Mao Zedong provides examples of the following tropes:
  • A Million Is a Statistic: "Let us imagine how many people would die if war breaks out. There are 2.7 billion people in the world, and a third could be lost. If it is a little higher it could be half ... I say that if the worst came to the worst and one-half dies, there will still be one-half left, but imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist. After a few years there would be 2.7 billion people again"
    • Note that historians still debate whether he was serious when he said this, or if it was just sabre-rattling (see Deadpan Snarker below)
  • Badass Bookworm: Mao was quite well-read in the classics of both traditional Chinese and Marxist philosophy, and his military thinking was clearly influenced by Sun Tzu.
  • Bad Boss: His treatment of Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, among others, both of whom died of illnesses Mao forbade doctors to treat.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Let's just say that he had a very, very unusual approach to ethics. Even his personal physician, when interviewed after Mao's death, said that Mao simply didn't think like other people.
  • Cult of Personality: Allegedly discouraged the cult which grew around him, although there is some disagreement to how much he actually did this, and how much is historical revisionism. See Egopolis below for more details.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He had a sarcastic sense of humor, to the point that it can sometimes be very difficult to tell whether he was advocating extreme measures or merely being snarky.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Many people, especially in China, still try to forget Mao's purges and excesses in the Cultural Revolution. He's hot anyway!
    • Official line can be summed up as describing Mao being "%70 good, %30 bad".
    • Many in the West tend to forget that besides the cruelties of the Cultural Revolution, the other part of history Mao is best known for is leading the army during the Japanese invasion. In which his leadership was essential for the Chinese resistance and Mao himself was rightfully worshipped as a hero by the people.
      • This version of history has now been revealed to be almost completely propaganda.
  • Egopolis: While he personally discouraged the personality cult, his hometown in Hunan as well as Beijing and Shanghai became essentially monuments to Mao till his death despite not one city in China was renamed as Mao Zedong City like in the case of his Vietnamese counterpart Ho Chi Minh (this renaming occured after Ho's death).
    • The whole "discouraged the personality cult" claim was more than a little bit fabricated after the fact in an attempt to save his reputation. While he had fairly slight reservations about the extent of the personality cult, he was quite happy with it right until the "Cultural Revolution" meant it devastated China even further, and even then he resumed it to a fairly hearty degree after the chaos of the 60's had died down.
  • Epic Fail: The Great Leap Forward would have been more aptly described as the Great Leap Backward. Mao's entire campaign could be seen as this--he was a revolutionary hero and a master at gaining and maintaining political power over the world's biggest population, in other words, a good war leader. But quite imcompetent in actually ruling the population, this isn't helped by him becoming increasingly paranoid and possibly insane during the later years of his life.
    • Then again, as stated later on this page, the Great Leap Forward started off well, being based on successful 1930s industrialization of the Soviet Union, but a number of factors caused it to crash and burn.
    • It also didn't help that many of the agricultural "innovations" used for the Great Leap were based on the ideas of the now discredited Soviet biologist Trofim Lysenko.
    • The Hundred Flowers Movement: Sometime after the establishment of the People's Republic, Mao felt that free expression of complaints and criticisms was part of a Socialist utopia and declared complete freedom on the matter. It...didn't go well. The movement was aborted and many people found themselves subjected to exile or re-education. That said, there is still debate on whether Mao genuinely wanted to "let the thousand flowers bloom" or if it was simply a trick to expose people who were critical of the regime. For all we know, it went Just As Planned.
  • Farm Boy: He was born a peasants son.
  • Freudian Excuse: As noted, he had abusive parents. Also, ALL of his brothers and sisters either died young or were executed by the Kuomintang or local warlords.
  • Just Following Orders: Jiang Qing, Mao's wife, claimed this after he died.

"I was Chairman Mao's dog. I bit whomever he asked me to bite."

  • Kavorka Man: He's not exactly ugly, but he had horrible personal hygiene.
    • Maybe. There are some reports that he used to take a daily morning swim in one of China's major rivers. Even when he got old and gouty.
    • According to his personal doctor, however, he didn't believe in brushing teeth, and gargled with tea instead. Reportedly, this caused his teeth to turn green.
  • Never My Fault: Quite similar to Stalin when it came down to this, Mao is one of those leaders who would never admit to their own error for fear of damaging their authority. But because the people needed someone to blame, it is usually the other government officials who gets framed.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Officials deny the numbers of death caused by Mao's later policies.
  • The Pig Pen: Mao had notoriously poor hygiene
  • Rebel Leader
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: the Cultural Revolution he initiated.
    • He provides the page quote for that trope.
  • The Starscream: Attempted China's displacement of Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union as the most powerful Communist country.
    • Mao also had a tendency to regard his successors as this (and after Krushchev's secret speech denouncing Joseph Stalin after the latter's death, feared the same would happen to him as well), hence his Bad Boss treatment of some party members unfortunate enough to become his Number Two.
  • You Fail Economics Forever: the Great Leap Forward was intended to surpass Britain's industrial capacity at that time for a period of 15 years. It actually started well and had the right idea - initially. (Josef Stalin had, after all, managed a similarly rapid industrialization at a huge human cost). But numerous factors soon ruined the whole thing. Local officials inflating numbers and not reporting failures caused negative results to not be seen until too late. Mao getting overconfident and pushing production quotas upwards meant that farmers ended up abandoning their crops or melting their farming tools to meet the quotas. And the unchecked (but low quality) industrialisation destroyed rivers or woods that fed the local ecosystem, destroying China's agricultural productivity and ultimately causing the starvation deaths of tens of millions of people.
    • Made even worse after you realize that, after Mao was made aware of the problem, he still decided to keep it going for several years.
  • Warrior Poet: Mao wrote quite a few poems during the war against the Nationalists and Japan. The poems are generally considered to be of good literary quality. He was also a skilled calligrapher.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: Continuous Revolution was Mao's answer to everything. People getting comfortable? Revolution. People criticising government policy? Revolution! Figures within the party getting too powerful? Revolution!! Decline in industrial and agricultural output? REVOLUTION, DAMNIT!

In Fiction[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Forrest Gump (the book) saved him from drowning.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan" had the Simpson family go to China, and on the way they visit Mao's mausoleum. When Homer came up to Mao's body, he said to it quietly: "Aww, look at him. He's like a little angel that killed 50 million people. Yes you are! Yes you are!" This episode was Banned in China.
    • Note that in Real Life you cannot approach Mao's corpse, you have to march past reverently. There are so many people who come to see him that you really can't stop. Rumor is because the embalmer did a very poor job, and they don't want anyone to find out.
  • In a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch, Mao appears on a quiz show along with Karl Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara.
  • In one of the early Spider-Man comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Harry Osborn tells Peter Parker that he's about as popular at Empire State University as Mao.
  • In the OVA of The Legend of Koizumi, Koizumi's aura is so powerful, it actually causes Mao to rise from the grave so he and Koizumi can engage in a Mahjong battle. Mao teams up with Pol Pot for the match. Mao loses the match, but earns Koizumi's respect as a Worthy Opponent.
  • Z.G. Li and Joy meet him in Dreams of Joy, which takes place in China during the 1950s.
  • Playable in Civilization I to IV. One of the more peaceful leaders, but he's quick to take offense if you ally with anyone he doesn't like. Tends to sink to the bottom of the list near the endgame.
  • The modern Opera Nixon in China naturally features Mao (along with Jiang Qing, Zhou Enlai, and of course Richard and Pat Nixon).