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According to Chinese astrology, Mao was born in the year of the snake. Tradition held that his life would therefore be dominated by concern over financial matters, that he would be a nocturnal person given to working late at night, unconventional but politically minded, adept at befriending strangers, and preferring a quiet home life without disturbances. Was the son of a peasant farmer and went on to become the ruler of the world’s most populous nation.

Mao came to manifest all these characteristics although, as a good communist, he set no store by superstition. Relatively well off by local standards. As a farmer’s son, Mao grew up with an immediate, innate appreciation of a truth that better-off communist scholars would have to learn: land is a means of production. He was expected to lend a hand as soon as he was able. His leadership of the communist revolution and the establishment of the people’s republic of China in 1949 earned him the title of Chairman Mao and the Great Leader.

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His launch of rapid and extensive collectivisation and industrialisation in his second Five Year Plan, known as the Great Leap Forward, had catastrophic repercussions for millions in rural China, and the Cultural Revolution that he instigated in the sixties lead directly to the destruction of a large part of the country’s cultural heritage. He remained untouched by the turmoil around him, protected by the formidable cult he had created and by his ruthless elimination of political rivals. Alternately glorified and demonised, not only in the West but also in the China he once ruled, his influence persists to this day.

For many hundreds of years, China was a feudal society. This means that people were ranked in different levels. At its very top was the emperor, who claimed to be appointed by heaven. Was able to educate himself, being influenced by many revolutionary writings of the time. The ‘new youth’ magazine and ‘the communist manifesto’ were particularly influential, and he became a communist in 1920. Rising slowly through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party and participating in the Long March, he became increasingly powerful. Mao altered the standard deology of communism to conform it to a format that would work in China. Eventually elected Chairman of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and is now seen as a national icon. RESEARCH REPORT – Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893, in the village Shaoshan in Hunan. His father was a farmer who was able to amass enough land and money to hire workers. Mao was educated enough to read the classics, but his father forbid him to read other books. He eventually defied his father and paid his own way to continue his studies. His mother was a typical rural farm wife who was illiterate and performed household chores.

Mao had two younger brothers and a sister, all who were later involved in the communist party, two of whom were killed for their participation. After the 1911 Revolution, Mao joined the army for a brief time, but after Yuan Shikai became the new president, he returned to his studies. He was strongly influenced by the New Youth magazine and began writing against the Qing, the subordination of women, and other political interests. In 1918, Mao graduated from Hunan First Normal School and began working in Peking University. 1920 was a year of great activity for Mao Zedong.

For the first time he read the Communist Manifesto which had just recently been translated into Chinese. He met Chen Duxiu, the editor of the New Youth, and for the first time began forming a communist group. Also in 1920 he was able to secure a job as the head of a primary school, giving him enough prestige to marry Yang Kaihui, the daughter of his former teacher. After the formation of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao began travelling about the country, spreading communism to small working communities. He began a school to educate farmers and workers who wanted to Chinese and arithmetic.

Mao also organised unions for workers who were being ignored, and encourage strikes when demands were not met. This labour movement was very successful locally, but as in tradition of the Chinese, there was no centralised leadership for it to become a strong force to revolutionise the country. Mao continued to be an active supporter for the peasants, encouraging them to rise up. As the largest demographic, he realised their potential to be a leading force in the rise of communism in China. In 1927 he began planning for a huge uprising of what he estimated to be ten million peasants.

Meanwhile, Chiang Kai-Shek, the most powerful man in China at the time and leader of the army, realised the peasants could rise up with the communists and the time had come to expel the communists from China. What followed was the White Terror on April 12, 1927, killing thousands of communists and preventing the impending peasant uprising. Mao was able to escape the slaughter. That same year, his wife, Yang Kaihui, was killed for her associations with Mao, and in 1928 Mao began living with another woman, Ho Zizhen, who gave him six children in addition to the four by Yang.

Mao divorced Ho Zizhen in 1937, and in 1939 he married Chiang Ch’ing, who became very influential in the communist party late in Mao’s life. Mao then began working on a planned peasant uprising in Hunan and Kiangsi. The ensuing Autumn Uprising failed because of a lack of military supplies. The peasants, too, were becoming disheartened at their lack of progress to close the gap between them and the warlords. The army which remained became known as the Red Army, with Mao as its commander. The Jiangxi Soviet was formed and had become the home of the Chinese Communist Party from 1927-1934.

It was situated in the mountains in south-eastern China and Mao was named as its chairman. The CCP was forced to abandon the Jiangxi Soviet in 1934 by the Guomindang, the Chinese Nationalist Party, once allies of the CCP, but had since broken away and was now in opposition with the communists. This led to the Long March. On October 16, 1934, the Long March began as the CCP abandoned the Jiangxi Soviet. The march lasted for 368 days as the communists made their way to Yanan, many not surviving the journey.

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