In the millennia across which China has existed relatively few forms of political and economic systems have dominated the scene. For nearly all but the last fifty-two years, China was ruled by a feudal system under an Emperor, the Son of Heaven. In the late 19th century, the feudal warlords had usurped nearly all of the actual power of the Emperor and had led the country into an age of decadence, economic chaos, and a class system that consistently denied the majority of the population any real control over its destiny. In 1949, Mao Tse Tung, with Deng Hsiao Ping at his side, arrived in Tiananmen at the head of their Red armies ending, perhaps forever, the era of the Emperors, the Forbidden City, and the feudal controls. Though they certainly would not have predicted a return to capitalism, Mao created a communist political and economic system unequalled in the world. Though both were dedicated to the communist ideology, as each had their time at the helm as Emperors in their own right. Mao Tse Tung was the high priest of Chinese communism, charismatic, energetic, calculating, and a true personal power. Mao led ideologically with great slogans and focused on what should be rather than what was, he actively shunned the West, and maintained an archaic absolutism based upon a cult of personality that resulted in the failures of the Great Leap Forward, the Famine of 1959-1960, and eventually to the Cultural Revolution. It is the purpose of this paper to examine the impact of Mao Tse Tung’s ideology upon the form and function of China.
As a child, Mao grew up in the country, developing from that time a deep affinity for the people of China’s vast rural expanses. Mao’s grandparents had been poor and his father had fought hard to reach some amount of prosperity. Gradually the his family’s landholdings expanded under the, “illiterate, tough, grasping, mean-spirited, and domineering,” patriarch. Mao grew up hating his father and the capitalistic hunger which drove him. He idolized his mother and found honor in his peasant mannerisms and preferences.
Mao spent time as an adult in the Soviet Union, learning of Marxism, and came to be leader of a local communist group back home in China. Mao spent a great deal of time learning of Marxism from the Soviet model and from Lenin himself. Mao approached communism and his leadership role from the standpoint of history. He intended to be a leader in the company of the ancient Emperors. His mastery of Chinese history, and of the wisdom of past rulers, led to the development of a concept that by tapping into the glorious past of China could he bring together all of the diverse people in his nation and return to them a sense of their past in the present. Through his devotion to Marxism and his powerful sense of the people, Mao developed the cult of personality. His was a singular party with a singularly unique head. What follows is a discussion not only of the leadership styles and political / economic policies of the man, but a close look at one of the twentieth century’s most influential leaders and how he wrested China from the hands of warlords and gave it back to the people.
Communism is, like capitalism, an economic concept. At its core is the idea that through the termination of traditional forms of ownership in which the very few own the very most, that the destruction of class systems and their company of wealth and power would give a people the chance to redistribute such things so that no one person or group of people would have any more than what they were truly worth. Though overly simplified for the purposes of this discourse, such a definition is useful for understanding where Mao and Deng differed so strongly. From the very beginning of communist rule in China, Mao sought to create a strong centralized government which would be able to dictate economic and political policy to the entire nation. The solution to the economic depression that years of war had left was...
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