What is your opinion on Mao Zedong

26.12.1893 - 09.09.1976 Who Was Mao Zedong?

Mao Zedong was born in southern China in 1893. His parents are farmers who have achieved some wealth. They hope that their son will have a career in Beijing one day and call him "Zedong", which translates as "Eastern splendor". The boy shows himself to be very talented but is also very rebellious.

At this time, the "Middle Kingdom" is past its prime. Since the middle of the 19th century there have been repeated bloody uprisings and severe famines in China. Arch enemy Japan and also the European colonial powers exploit the weakness and exploit China unrestrainedly. In 1912, China finally becomes a republic - the last emperor, then just five years old, abdicates.

From empire to republic

But the new China is also sinking into chaos: the military is breaking up into groups that are at war with one another. Warlords found their own empires in the provinces. Nationalists fight against communists. This civil war has a big impact on the young Mao. He watches how rebels torture and massacre their prisoners - and he takes pleasure in this terror. A reign of terror appears to him to be the most effective form of rule.

How Mao is learning

Mao is downright hungry for education, he reads the writings of Chinese reformers, but also those of Charles Darwin and Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and is training to be a teacher. With a degree in his pocket, 25-year-old Mao goes to Beijing and works in the university library, as a bookseller and writes newspaper articles. He quickly made contact with communist circles, reads Lenin and Marx and, like many other students, is enthusiastic about the revolution in Russia. The Soviet Union is the great model that Mao envisions for China. When the Communist Party was founded here, he was there and soon rose to the highest ranks.

At the head of the Republic of China is the Chinese People's Party - the Kuomintang. This soon begins a cruel hunt for communists. They are persecuted and murdered by the thousands. However, Mao can escape. He fled to the mountains with his supporters and founded a kind of small Soviet Union there. Here he acts extremely brutally against his opponents. Companions describe him as devious and devious, but not without admiration attest to a sure instinct for power. In 1934 the rebels can no longer hold their republic - the Kuomintang troops are too strong. 86,000 men make their way north. In two years they cover more than 10,000 km - permanently involved in fighting - and only a fraction survives the hardships. This deprivation and sometimes panic retreat is later glorified as the "Long March" - it becomes the founding myth of the Chinese revolution. He is paving the way for Mao himself to the top: At 41, he is number one in the Chinese Communist Party.

1949 - Mao calls on the People's Republic of China

After the Second World War, in which the whole country once again fought together against Japan, the fronts break open again. But this time the communists win against the government troops weakened by the war. They have to withdraw to Taiwan - Mao, on the other hand, moves into Beijing in March 1949. Six months later he proclaims the People's Republic of China from the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

The "Chinese Way" and the Socialist Man

The country that Mao now rules has been destroyed by war and civil war. China is one of the poorest countries in the world. Three quarters of the population are landless farmers, day laborers and migrant workers. Mao wants to shape a socialist society out of this country and the simple Chinese peasant into the new socialist man.

Mao has long since finished the theory for this. He wants a Chinese way - that connects communist ideas with the country's traditions. For him, for example, it is not the workers but the peasants who are the nucleus of the revolution. The individual counts for nothing, only as part of the community is he worth something. For Mao man is absolutely educable. Soon a network of hundreds of prisoner camps covers the country, whose inmates are to be reeducated.

Initially, Mao was quite successful in building his People's Republic - the gross national product rose, inflation fell. Farmers children can go to school and women can vote. A health campaign successfully combats rampant epidemics. the slump comes with the "land reform". Even during the civil war, Mao's cadre incited the peasants against alleged "big landowners". Now the party is officially calling for land to be seized by force and revenge on the former owners. This is how Mao kindles and directs popular anger. The result: A wave of violence sweeps the country and around five million people die.

Mao Zedong and the seductive power

In 1954 the "great helmsman" Mao becomes president. He only held the office for four years, but even after that he continued to direct the fate of the country as party leader. He sees himself on a par with Genghis Khan and other great rulers of the past, or even above: Mao is complacent and ruthless, like Stalin, he gives completely arbitrary prison quotas for certain groups. In 1957, for example, he had a tenth of intellectuals arrested.

Mao wants to reshape the world - including everyday life for ordinary people, with sometimes absurd campaigns. People no longer eat at home, but in popular kitchens. Private pots and pans need to be melted down. In people's communes, men and women sleep separately, the children live in educational institutions. Even the animal world should obey: Because sparrows would eat too much grain, hundreds of thousands of Chinese have to make noise for hours: the birds that do not dare to land eventually fall dead from the sky.

"The big jump" - the greatest disaster

Probably the greatest catastrophe is triggered by a campaign by Mao called "The Great Leap". China is expected to become a major industrial power in the shortest possible time and even overtake Great Britain. Mao orders the farmers to leave their fields as fields and instead to produce steel in self-made blast furnaces. The result is fatal: Inferior iron is produced, there are bad harvests and the greatest famine in human history. Mao is exacerbating the situation with grain exports to the Soviet Union: an estimated 30 to 40 million Chinese are losing their lives. There are even reports of cannibalism from different provinces. Foreign countries hardly notice the misery. Only in 1982, when China published another census, did it become apparent that millions of people were missing.

How Mao fights the "Four Elders"

Mao's support in the party is beginning to crumble. Nevertheless, he strikes for the last big blow, so to speak. He is still in command of the army and knows that China's youth are successfully "educated" in his sense of the word.

He used it in 1966 for his last campaign: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. With an unparalleled personality cult, he swears the young Chinese to his leadership. They form "Red Guards" and, supported by the police, are supposed to take action against the so-called "Four Olds": the old ideas, the old culture, the old customs, the old habits.

The lists of the names of the delinquents after which the Red Guards roam the country are drawn up by Mao's staff. In the collective madness, students and pupils mercilessly hunt down all suspicious elements. Children denounce their parents, friends extradite each other, teachers are tortured to death by schoolgirls. The exact number of victims is still not known. Estimates range from a few hundred thousand to ten million.

After three years of violent orgy, all opposition has been destroyed. Now Mao is showing his true colors - the young Red Guards have done their part. He sends his army against the cultural revolutionaries and the young fighters to the countryside for re-education.

Mao's end

In 1971 Mao fell seriously ill. If he has pneumonia from which he does not recover, doctors diagnose a nervous disorder. When Chancellor Schmidt traveled to China in 1975, he came across a wreck. Mao Zedong died of a heart attack on September 9, 1976.

China after Mao?

Mao broke the backbone of China for decades. He created a people in which victims and perpetrators of his campaigns are still forced to live next door to one another. An imposing mausoleum was built for Mao himself, and the "great helmsman" is still revered by many Chinese to this day. Even abroad, where Maoism had many fans among the left, Mao has long been recognized as a great statesman. It was not until the late 1980s that the full extent of his crimes became known.