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It is true that Comrade Mao Tse-tung made gross mistakes during the 'Cultural Revolution', but his contributions to the Chinese revolution far outweigh his mistakes.'[Resolution on some questions in CCP history, CCP Central Committee, June 1981]Discuss


Mao Tse-tung is one of the most disputed persons in Chinese history. He was the acknowledged leader of the greatest and most popular revolutions and remained the dominant figure in the post revolutionary regime for near 30 years, presiding over not only the industrial but also the cultural transformation of People's Republic of China. He influenced profoundly on Chinese by his power, policies, personality and thoughts. He contributed a lot to China and also brought China to chaos and made millions of people lost their lives during the Cultural Revolution. That makes him a mysterious and controversial figure. In this essay, I will discuss the above statement of Mao by examining the biography of Mao Tse-tung and the contemporary Chinese history in order to have a proper evaluation towards him and help make in-depth comprehension of Modern China.

Mao's revolution life

Mao Tse-tung was the son of a rich peasant, he was born in Xiangtan in Hunan province on 26 December 1893. During his early years, the old imperial Chinese order was rapidly changing, the radical reformist and revolutionary movements were rising, and Western ideas and ideologies were introduced to undermine faith in traditional values and beliefs. Although the young Mao was affected by the traditional Chinese culture especially on poems and novels, he soon joined in the radical political and iconoclastic intellectual movements that swept Chinese cities. Mao published his first article in New Youth in 1917, A Study of Physical Culture, which is an attack on the Confucian It was a uniquely modern Chinese combination of nationalism and cultural iconoclasm that very much reflected the radical spirit of the times and one that was to remain a prominent feature of the Maoist vision. (Short 1999:pp19-81)

In late 1918, Mao Tse-tung left Changsha for Beijing. He worked as an assistant librarian at the Beijing University which had then become the center of radical Chinese intellectual and political life. Under the influence of radical intellectuals and their activist student followers, Mao became increasingly politicized. Finally He became one of the most activists in the Chinese Communist Party. And he was given higher position as time went by. By 1924, he had already become deeply involved in politics in Canton, a major city in South China (Spence1999: P66). In 1926, he had gained stature in the Communist movement for his positive view on the revolutionary potentials of the Chinese peasants (Spence 1999:P71). Then in 1931, he was elected Chairman of the Communist Party, a position which lasted until his death (Spence 1999:P81). He led and won the War against the Japanese invaders and the Civil War against the Nationalists , gained much respect from the people. Around 1936, Mao was also given the title of Chairman of the Military Council (Spence 1999:P89). When he became Chairman of the Politburo which was a created position for him in the Central Committee in 1943, from Party leaders to common civilians, all started to follow and praise him for his leadership skills. At the Zunyi Conference in 1935, he was called "helmsman of the Chinese revolution". From 1949 to 1959, he was the Chairman of the People's Republic of China and remained Chairman of the Communist Party until his death in 1976 (Spence 1999:P100-108). I will give some details of his brilliant life as follows:

Mao could be viewed as a philosopher .Mao had envisioned a wealthy, powerful, socialist China (Wilson 1977:P72). Mao's adaptation of Marxist-Leninist ideas to Chinese conditions became known as "Mao Tse-tung Thought" or "Maoism" (Spence 1999:P101). Mao not only accepted their ideas but also united this Marxist-Leninist philosophy with the practice of the Chinese revolution, using it as an ultimate guide for the Communist movement. (Spence 1999:P 94).

To serve the people and self-reliant are two of Mao's principles in his philosophy .Because Mao believed that if China was self-reliant, then it would grow stronger, giving the people a sense of pride. In sum, the "continuing renewal of revolutionary consciousness and continuing guard against divorce from the reality of manual labor and the life of the masses" were needed (Tuchman 1972:P34). These were the philosophies that helped China through many of its troubles.

Mao's main goal during his life was to strengthen China and get rid of imperialism . On reading the humiliated history of China, Mao once said, "I felt depressed about the future of my country and began to realize that it was the duty of all the people to help save it" (Karnow 1972:P32). When Japanese invaded China in the 1930s and 1940s , Mao and the Communists gained support from the peasants; Then, the CCP's army increased from 50,000 in 1937 to about 500,000 in 1945. They defeated Japan and also provided China with a pride (Karnow 1972:P50).

Then ,the Civil War between the KMT and CCP bagan. Under Mao's leadership, the Communists won the war. The Army was enlarged. Thus, under his leadership, the army as well as the Party went from being weak to strong. In 1949, Mao's forces conquered Nanjing, the Nationalist capital, and Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. On October 1, 1949, Mao went to Beijing and proclaimed the People's Republic of China in Tiananmen square.(Karnow 1972:P54).

Mao also did lots of help to other Communist nations. It can strengthen the Communist's power and gain and offer support to each other. For example, Mao ordered the Chinese Army to interfere in the Korean War. In1950, the Korean War broke out. Then America got involved in the War in name of the UN. For China's border is threatened by the war and Mao also wanted to rescue the North Korea from the Americans. (Spence 1999:P116-118).The Chinese army that had almost no tanks, artillery, or transport facilities defeated the US who owns the latest modern weapons in the world. Mao, however, stood up to the Americans and fought (Karnow 1972:P70)In judging the Korean War, Mao once said, "After defeating Chiang Kai-shek, Japanese imperialism, and American imperialism, our experience is much richer than that of the Soviet Union, and it is wrong to regard it as worthless" (Karnow1972:P 73). This is a very significant point that China as a new-born and weak country defeated the most strongest country in the world. Thus, under Mao's leadership, the People's Republic can gain power and respect.

Considering the thought and policies of Mao Tse-tung over "the Mao era"(1949-1976),we could find many brilliant themes. First, it is a period animated by the notion of "permanent revolution." This theory of permanent revolution was not clearly set forth as part of "Mao Tse-tung Thought" until 1958, but the essential components of were present from the outset-an impatience with history that expressed itself in an ambivalent attitude toward the Marxist assumption that socialism presupposed capitalism; a burning determination to pass through the Marxian-defined "stages" of history in the most rapid possible fashion; The latter notion was to find its most extreme expression in Mao's celebration of the alleged Chinese virtues of being "poor and blank."( Meisner 2001)

Meisner pointed that Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the post-revolutionary Mao Tse-tung was his historically unique attempt to reconcile the means of modern economic development with the ends of socialism. Rejecting the inherited Stalinist orthodoxy that the combination of rapid industrialization with state ownership of the means of production would more or less automatically guarantee ever higher stages of socialism and eventually communism, Mao emphasized that the continuous socialist transformation of human beings and their social relations was essential if the process of modern economic development were to have a socialist outcome. This social radicalism was responsible, in part, for the adventures of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution-and Mao Tse-tung must bear the historical and moral responsibility for the enormous toll of death and suffering that resulted from these extraordinary events, however unintended those results may have been. But Maoist social radicalism also served to forestall the fully Stalinist institutionalization of the post-revolutionary order in China and perhaps served to keep alive, among some, the hope for the eventual realization of the ultimate socialist goals that the revolution promised. It certainly kept the post-revolutionary order in flux, providing Mao's successors, including Deng Xiaoping, with considerable flexibility for charting a new course of development.(Meisner 2001)

The actual historical record of the era suggests that Mao was more successful as an economic modernizer than as a builder of socialism. Over the Mao era (1949-1976), China significantly changed from a primarily agrarian nation to a relatively industrialized one, the ratio of the value of industrial production to total production increasing from 30 to 72 percent. From 1952 (when industrial output was restored to its highest prewar levels) until the close of the Mao era, Chinese industry grew at an average annual rate of 11 percent, the most rapid pace of industrialization achieved by any major nation (developed or developing) during that time. Indeed, Maoist industrialization, however crude the process was in many respects, compares favorably with comparable decades in the industrialization of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union, hitherto generally regarded as the three most successful cases of modernization among major "latecomers" on the world industrial scene. It is during the Mao era as the time when the basic foundations for China's modern industrialism were laid. (Meisner2001)

Meisner believed that Mao's status as a modernizer is his reputation rather than as the creator of a socialist society. " For what is most strikingly absent in both Maoist theory and practice is the elemental Marxist principle that socialism must be a system whereby the immediate producers themselves democratically control the products and conditions of their labor. In the Maoist system, by contrast, the control of labor and its fruits was left in the hands of an ever larger and more alien bureaucratic apparatus. Mao, to be sure, repeatedly conducted anti-bureaucratic campaigns, and there is no reason to doubt the genuineness of his antipathy to bureaucracy. But from those campaigns, he time and again failed to devise any viable means of popular democratic control over the powerful bureaucratic apparatus over which he uneasily presided. And if Mao broke, at least in some significant ways, with the Stalinist strategy of socioeconomic development, in the political realm the Maoist regime retained essentially Stalinist methods of bureaucratic rule and consistently suppressed all forms of intellectual and political dissent in Stalinist fashion. The Mao era was thus marked by a deep incongruity between its progressive socioeconomic accomplishments and its retrogressive political features, an incongruity that precluded any genuine socialist reorganization of Chinese society."(Meisner2001)

The Mao era in the history of the People's Republic was one of the most unstable and controversial periods in modern world history. Based on Meisner's view,Mao will be considered as" modern China's greatest nationalist, the leader of a revolution whose enduring achievement was to bring national unification and independence to China-after a century of repeated internal political failures and grave external impingements." Mao will also be seen as " a great modernizer who, despite monumental post-revolutionary blunders, presided over the initial modern industrial transformation of one of the world's most economically backward lands, inaugurating a lengthy process destined eventually to make China a great world power." He was a nationalist modernizer rather than a pioneer of socialism modernizer.(Meisner 2001)

Mao's contributions in different aspects

Sociologist Yu Ping said Mao's great contribution to the development of China could never be denied, and that his military philosophy and literary talents still influenced Chinese society.(Yu 2003)He was viewed as the philosopher, Marxist, soldier, political leader, teacher, economist, patriot ,and innovator of China.

As a Marxist: Mao's Marxism was of the Leninist school, but it was modified by contact with Chinese realities, and enriched by a philosophical dimension which to some extent paralleled the thought of Marx, and to some extent diverged from it. Mao was likewise wholly Leninist in his view that a "proletarian" dictatorship, led by the Party, could guide and control the evolution of a largely pre-capitalist society, through a series of transitional stages, to lay the foundations for socialism and then proceed to build socialism and communism. He was a Marxist is certain ,for he drew extensively on both Marx and Lenin, whatever the other elements that went into the making of his thought. "Did he make a contribution to Marxism?"----it depends on the answer we may give to another question----Does a system of thought as important and as influential as Marxism belong to its author, or to history?---if the former, Mao can not be regarded as having contributed to the development of Marxism, for there is little doubt that Marx would have rejected him as a disciple. If, Marxism is what those who seed to follow Marx make of it in every era, then Mao must be counted among the major Marxist theoreticians of our own day.

Mao's Marxism it is not simple a method but something which, though open and undogmatic, was already more like a system.

As a political leader:His major objective was to commit his people and succeeding generations to continue the quest for a wealthy, powerful, socialist China. He summarized his goals on several occasions, including this one in 1954:

Our general task is to unite the people of the whole country, win the support of all international friends, fight for building a great socialist country, and fight for defending international peace and developing the progressive undertaking of mankind...We should be prepared to build within the period of a number of five year plans our country, which presently is economically and culturally backward, into a great industrialized nation with a high degree of modern culture.

Mao's career can be written in terms of the successive cleavages he used in pursuit of his quest(1)from 1935 to 1945,between the entire Chinese people and the Japanese invaders;(2)from1945 to 1953,between the dispossessed and deprived within China(the rural and the urban poor)and the privileged;(3)from 1954 to 1965,between the Chinese eager to build a new society and the vestige groups who had enjoyed privilege in pre-1949 China(4)from 1965 to his death in 1976,between the less privileged sectors under the new system and the emerging new ruling bureaucratic class in China. He urged the the Hunan peasants against the landlords and local warlords in preparation for the Northern Expedition in 1926;he called for national resistance to the Japanese invasion, through his pursuit of land reform in the late 1940s and early 1950s; his campaign against remnant 'capitalist' and 'rightists'in1957-1958 which played a crucial role in establishing the mood for the Great Leap and ending with the arousal of youth to attack the bureaucracy during the Cultural Revolution.

1949-1955,it is the time to establish the New Order-----land reform, the resist-America aid-Korea campaign, "Three-Anti, Five-Anti" campaigns, the patriotic health campaign, the local election campaign and the related national census, the campaign for the new marriage law and numerous others. This was an era of consolidating power and creating viable institutions.(Wilson 1977:P112)

1955-1959,Mao in command. An increasing state budget yielded sufficient revenues to undertake new economic development and welfare programmes...The bureaucracies were in place, centralized planning got underway and a state statistical network was grinding out reliable data on which Mao's associates and their bureaucratic subordinates made informed decisions .To bar over reliance on bureaucratic modes of policy implementation, Mao balanced the enhanced strength of the bureaucracies by continually launching campaigns in various realms.

1960-1965,weakened Time. The failure of the Great Leap, the creation of viable local institutions and the emergence of an entrenched bureaucracy rather swiftly altered the political landscape. Mao's associated fromYenan days began to move away from him---the ties between Mao hand his policy-specifiers weakened while the ties between them and the bureaucratic arenas became stronger. The fact is Mao's power was being curtailed through the emergence of a stable society.

1966-1969,the Cultural Revolution. Mao's intention Mao had a rational but audacious purpose: no firm answer, just left random scattered remarks and there are arguments on whether Mao wanted it to be a real revolution or it was just a mere purge? The writer believes Mao did intend it to be a real revolutionary movement-----He spoke of CCP had degenerated into a new ruling class as a real future possibility. He also forced his fellow leaders to accept the 16 points of 8,8 1966.he was the supreme leader in China and it was not difficult for him to purge some leaders such as Liu Deng in Party.

His measures: First, Purge many policy-making associates and the elimination of several policy-specifying bodies within Party. Second, Tap the tensions between generations and encourage movements of the Red Guards. Third, use the Red Guard to disrupt bureaucratic routine and drag the 'corrupt' officer into the streets. Forth, use the army to undertake the necessary unifying and coordinating functions previously performed by the Party and government. Fifth, created new organizations such as the democratic local communities to urge the young carders who are loyal to Mao to take power .

Mao failed to approximate his goal. The Red Guard escaped his control and led the whole country to chaos. The power struggle happened in each level of the hierarchy and the whole country approached in a state of Civil War.

For Mao, the keys to power were knowledge and popular support derived from the people's faith in the essential goodness and virtue of their rulers:

He wrote in 'On Protracted War' May 1938:The army must become one with the people so that they see it as their own army. Such an army will be invincible.

In 'On Coalition Government' April 1945,he argued that every comrade must be helped to understand that as long as we rely on the people, believe firmly in the inexhaustible creative power of the masses and hence trust and identify ourselves with them, we can surmount any difficulty, and no enemy can crush us while we can crush any enemy.

Mao as a soldier :Mao Tse-tung was the first among the great Marxist leaders to develop a comprehensive and complete Marxist military line and system of thought on military affairs. Mao led the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese people and the armed forces under the Communist Party's leadership in the different war eras -----against the warlords, against the reactionary regime of Chiang Kai-shek, then in the united front against Japan in the anti-Japanese war, and at last in the war of liberation against Chiang Kai-shek ,which resulted in the liberation of China in 1949.

His development of Marxism-Leninism with regard to warfare was closely linked with the character of the Chinese revolution.(Avakian1979:.P41)

It was on the basis that correctly analyze the character of Chinese society of the Chinese revolution in general that Mao developed the strategy of establishing the base areas, waging protracted war to surround the cities from the countryside and finally capture the cities and win nationwide political power, the correct road on which Mao led the Chinese masses in waging the successful revolutionary struggle in China.(Avakian 1979:P43)

In Jacques Guillermaz's article the writer thinks that Mao was imbued with the spirit of rebellion at a very early stage .All Chinese schoolchildren of his age read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Water Margin. He was deeply influenced and sought in the these books models for his youthful ambitions. During the Northern Expedition(1926-1927),he considered the conquest of power as attainable primarily through widespread peasant uprisings.

1927,the break of KMT and CCP. The CCP changed its urban and working class character to become a rural and peasant Party. The starting point of Mao's military experience is the Autumn Harvest Uprising in September 1927.It failed because it is badly prepared and organized Then Mao reassembled the remaining handful of insurgents at the foot of the Chingkangshan. He had only a few hundred poorly armed men but then the Chingkangshan become the capital that he was to build the military fortune of his Party.

1928,the two texts "Why is it that Red Political Power Can Exist in China?"(5 October,1928) and "Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains" demonstrated the remarkable extent to which Mao had already grasped and assimilated the essential

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