Remembering Mao Zedong
Let a thousand flower bloom
– Mao Zedong
China never imagined that a new name would soon bloom and blossom along its great terrains. The country never had the slightest idea that aside from its culture-rich history will it give birth to a man whose legacies and contributions would be forever remembered. While it is true that politics has been shaped by western thoughts and orientations, China chose to be different. The powerful region showed that even the greatest political thoughts can be developed in the East. Indeed, China is one of history’s most formidable pillars and foundations of history. Yet, China’s influence cannot be readily felt if not for the existence of one man—a man who has always championed the rights of the oppressed—a man who had been very much involved in promoting the underlying ideology of class struggle and success of the proletariat—Mao Zedong.
Mao Zedong was born in 1893 (Stence 1). During this time, China was experiencing a total decline in its political structure. For over a hundred years, Qing Dynasty, which exercised its rule and control over the land, was on the verge of collapsing (Stence 1). The political needs and demands of the country can no longer be satisfied and met by the said dynasty. Despite of the fact that there were attempts to address this issue, the formulated solutions were no longer applicable. The strategies and techniques that were implemented cannot readily resolve the problems that showered the country. This of course, has created an effect on the lives of many Chinese. When the government is unable to lead efficiently, it will have an impact on other aspects of society. The social conditions and political turmoil that were happening in China was readily experienced by Mao Zedong. However, if not for his father who encouraged him to go to school, Zedong’s awareness would never materialize (Stence 2). Although his family was struggling because of the impending collapse of the Qing Dynasty, Zedong’s father knew the importance of education (Stence 2). In addition to that, this has exposed Mao Zedong to different works and insights as he is a well-known book lover. Somehow, it can be argued that Zedong’s exposure did not only make him aware about the societal mishaps of China, it also prompted him to be involve and later on formulate his own means and ways on how to regain the country’s prowess and dignity.
One of Mao Zedong’s initial encounter in politics occurred in 1911 wherein he took part in the revolution that eventually overthrew the Qing Dynastay (Weir 219). But then again, it was not until he became a librarian in Peking University did he become more interested in the Marxist school of thought (Weir 219). Later on he saw himself actively participating in Marxist groups and totally embraced Marxism (Weir 219). Zedong’ involvement in the group inspired him to envision a new China (Weir 219). He was particularly critical about the uneven and unjust relationship between the peasants and the landlords. If one has to examine the situation, China during that time was a feudal society wherein land ownership determines the acquisition of wealth and societal hierarchy. Moreover, the presence of foreign dominance in China made social and economic gaps even worse (Weir 219).
In 1921, Zedong became Hunan’s representative in the Congress which later on founded the Chinese Communist Party (Weir 219). The Chinese Communist Party then joined forces with the nationalist group, Kuomintang or KMT. KMT’s main founder or proponent was no other than Sun Yat Sen who aspired for the creation of a democratic China. However, the period of long struggle and social inequality seem to prohibit the latter from achieving this particular vision (Kopsetein & Lichbach 260). Unfortunately, although the KMT and the CCP is united in bringing down warlord domination, internal conflicts, to be more specific, between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek lead to a disappointing break-up. KMT then conducted a series of operations to track down the members of the Chinese Communist Party (Kopsetein & Lichbach 260). Zedong then formed an army in the rural areas and started mobilizing the group. From a critical perspective, these actions imply two things.
One of this is that Mao Zedong needed to protect themselves from the KMT. Secondly and the most important part of it, was that Mao Zedong was able to garner the support of the peasantry. Since he thoroughly immersed in the rural region, basically, this gave him a better understanding of the rural life. He became more exposed to the experiences of those individuals who are experiencing from extreme poverty. The succeeding years eventually saw Chiang Kai Shek’s collapse and the existence of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 (Kopsetein & Lichbach 260).
Mao Zedong was popularly known as Chairman Mao of his respective subordinates. The moment that Zedong was able to show his full control over China, he began to make his vision and goals materialized. Ever since Zedong joined the Chinese Communist Party, his main aim was centered on land reform. However, he cannot easily articulate his socialist perspectives since he still needed the support of wealthy businessmen and well-off farmers Twitchett, Fairbank & Feuerwerker 363). But the universe is on Zedong’s side and the CCP was welcomed by the peasants. By the time that he came into power, his socialist reservations were now openly discussed and implemented. The pure and untarnished support of the peasants further encouraged Zedong to continue with his land reform plans.
One of Mao Zedong’s most notable strategy was the implementation of the Great Leap Forward or GLF (Albert & Hahnel 127). Albert and Hahnel described the said strategy as something that is readily socialist in nature (127). There are several characteristics of the GLF that greatly emphasizes its socialist orientation. Once and for all, there is the intention to attain an egalitarian society (Albert & Hahnel 127). In addition to that, there is alsothe “collectivization of agriculture (Albert & Hahnel 127).” The last but not the least is that there is the so-called “deemphasis on the expert” in contrast with the red (Albert & Hahnel 127). However, although the socialist perspective served as the guiding light of the GLF, Mao Zedong reconstructed it in such a way that it would increase production and make China as one of the global leaders (Twitchett, Fairbank & Feuerwerker 363).
Mao Zedong firmly believed that agricultural power would raise China’s economic status (Twitchett, Fairbank & Feuerwerker 363). Moreover, Zedong had high confidence that the mobilization of resources from the rural area would eventually restore China’s economic strength and stability (Twitchett, Fairbank & Feuerwerker 363). Since there is a large concentration on the agricultural sector, irrigation systems became the main priority under Zedong’s rule. But aside from agricultural production, the Great Leap Forward also placed heavy importance on increasing the growth of steel production.
It cannot be denied that the focus on agricultural sector also produced good results. However, the country was not able to sustain its development. The emphasis on steel making also proved to be futile. Once and for all, the workers lack the necessary skills to increase the production. It also adds to the fact that China is still yet to recover from the damages and hazards brought by the previous political and social turmoil.
When the economic reform fails to meet the needs of the people, the support for the government slowly diminished. Basically, how can individuals support something that does not really address their needs? This is something that would be too hard to achieve. Consequently, Mao Zedong’s appeal gradually disappeared. Many began to question his authority and ability to lead a nation. Indeed Mao Zedong is a brilliant military man, but can his military tactics supply the needs of the people? These questions were often thrown at mao Zedong’s government. This has also paved the way for the rise of counter-revolutionaries which aim to overthrow Mao Zedong’s rule.
In times wherein confusion and lack of trust and confidence occur, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966 (“Cultural Revolution”). The primary aim of the Cultural Revolution is to retain the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist approach that Zedong has propagated. The Cultural Revolution also served as a propaganda tool for the government. The Cultural Revolution saw the rise of radical articles that still believe in Mao Zedong’s idealism and ideology. But more than anything else, the Cultural Revolution saw the rise of the Red Guards (“Cultural Revolution”). The Red Guards serve as Mao Zedong’s most trustworthy and loyal ally during those times. The existence of the Red Guards came into life, when a student activist accused a university rector of being a counter-revolutionary. However, the accusation was expressed via creating a poster. Immediately, Zedong allowed the publication and distribution of the said poster (“Cultural Revolution”).
In that same year, the Red Guards encouraged Zedong to perform “mass purges” which will ensure that counter-reactionaries were placed under total control. Since Zedong’s powers is placed in very uncompromising situation, he agreed to the idea. As a matter of fact, the Red Guards who were mostly comprised of student had more authority than some of the respected groups of the Chinese Communist Party. The red book is also one of the most famous symbols of the Cultural Revolution wherein it contains some of the most important philosophies that Mao Zedong developed.
There is no doubt that the Mao Zedong’s aim for a new China is indeed very noble. However, the latter has readily failed to anticipate the impending barriers to his socialist approach. Perhaps it is safe to say that some of Mao Zedong’s policy, during his reign was still inappropriate and therefore not applicable to China. Basically, the aim for an egalitarian society materialized only in dreams simply because the gap between the dominant and ruling class became even wider as each and every individual aim to survive.
Albert, Michael and Robert Hahnel. Socialism Today and Tomorrow. Franklin Lakes, New Jersey: South End Press, 2007
“Cultural Revolution” China and Mongolia China, Marshall Cavendfish, 2007
Kopsetin, Jeffrey and Mark Irving Lichbach. Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities and Institutions in a Changing. Cambridge University Press, 2000
Stence, Jonathan. Mao Zedong. New York: Penguin Lives, 1999
Twitchett, Dennis; John Fairbank and Albert Feuerwerker. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge University Press, 1987
Weir, William. 50 Military Leaders Who Changed The World. Career Press, 2007