Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) was the official first leader to The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and no other name in the history of modern China has a more synonymous connotation with the total practice of communism and collectivism than Mao. Born on December 28, 1893, Mao was brought up in a predominantly non-industrialized, agrarian society that had gone through little social change in centuries. The country suffered from extreme poverty, isolationism, illiteracy, disease and infighting among various political figures.
A natural born charismatic leader, Mao had an insightful view into the feelings of his countrymen. Beginning in the 1920s and through the 1940s, his communist lead revolution was able to out fight and maneuver an invading Japanese army and effectually push out his Nationalist Party rival, Chaing Kai-shek. While the Marxist theory of communism focused more on a working class party, Mao was able to take the men and women of China’s farming class and bring about a far-reaching revolutionary change.
The beginnings of Mao’s leadership lent great promise but his actions after the revolution in regards to the “Great Leap Forwards” resulted in seeing millions of his countrymen die, than a change for the better. During Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward campaign, it seemed to be his genuine intention to bring China into a new age and “walk on two legs”, as he like to refer to it. The analogy was the understanding that one leg cannot propel a man forward, and it takes two entities working together for the need of the body as a whole.
Mao simultaneously wanted to boost farm production and modernize industry like others had done. However, his hasty idea of turning farmers into an industrial working class of people to advance China was an utter disaster. In historian, Frank Dikotter’s work, “Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s most devastating catastrophe, 1958-62” we learn in detail about the effects of Mao’s Great Leap Forward campaign. We read in part, Signs of famine had appeared in 1958. In the first half of 1959 starvation became widespread, as villagers were hit by increased procurements ordered by the state.
Evan a zealot like Tan Zhenlin estimated that as early as January some 5 million people were suffering from famine oedema, 750,000 having starved to death. Zhou Enlai put the letter figure at 120,000. Both men were far below the mark, but had little incentive to investigate further. Mao was aware of the famine but downplayed it by circulating reports showing that villages in distressed regions were getting enough food, up to half a kilo per day in model province Henan. On the ground, local cadres were unsure how to respond, bewildered by the shifting and contradictory signals emerging from Beijing.
At the top of the leadership was taken aback by Mao’s outburst in Shanghai; it was an omen of things to come (Dikotter, P. 89). It has been stated that when Mao died after his 30-year reign, his only legacy was the political and economic devastation of China. In my research I will attempt to explain why the policies of Mao propelled China into a regressed state rather than a progressive one. I will explain why Mao’s policies failed along with comparing them, to a lesser degree, to his successful field campaigns before his role as Chairman.