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China has a history that spans thousands of years. Many leaders have contributed to the positioning of the country to its present position on the global front. Every century has been marked by a revolution. Each of these centuries is linked with the death of a portion of the population. In the recent revolutions, leaders developed a doctrine that they followed and required the citizens to follow.
In most countries around the world, there is an important figure that can be associated with the changes that occurred at a particular time (Bernstein 421). Some of the changes have come through revolts, social movements, war, and some through peaceful transitions. One of the most influential leaders in China is Mao who caused fortune and suffering in equal measure to the citizens.
Some historians have claimed that he is the greatest Chinese who ever lived while others claim that he led to the death of many Chinese people and hence one of their worst leaders. This essay looks Mao Zedong and the changes he brought to China in an effort to find out whether they were beneficial or harmful to the Chinese people. Specifically, the paper will prove that he was a blessing or a curse to the people.
Birth and Rise to Power
Mao Tse-tung (also known as Mao Zedong) had control over China for a long time. He became one of the most influential and feared leaders until his death. Mao was born to a peasant family in rural China in 1893. He briefly attended school before leaving to become a librarian in 1918 (Terrill 23). At the time he left school, he was greatly interested in political ideas. He had a passion for communism. He joined a communist movement in the following year. The movement of his choice was the ‘May the Fourth’ movement.
Mao worked for the movement with passion while recruiting many members and getting promotions in the party ranks. By 1924, he had started many communist groups in the city of Shanghai. This agenda led to his promotion to membership of the central committee of the Chinese Communist party (Terrill 15). He was then arrested and put in prison three years later. However, unfortunately, he managed to escape the prison.
However, Mao was unlucky as the same people that had imprisoned him killed his wife. One of the most important events that propelled him to the national political front was the ‘Long March’ where he led the march of over 100,000 communists. During this event, he was chosen to be the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. He retained this position until he died in 1976.
Changes in China under Mao
Under Mao’s rule, China underwent a series of transformations that many researchers and historians have recorded as his legacy. Some of the most important of these transformations include the ‘Long March’ that took place before his leadership, development of the Five-Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution that is the subject of this paper.
These transformations were important influences to the Chinese political, social, and economic fields. Although Mao developed and supervised the development of many policies, historians have evaluated how well he lived to the promise. The short and long-term effects of Mao’s policies are important indicators of the success or failures of his administration. In the evaluation of some of the works of Mao, researchers have stated that, although he was a gifted mobilizer of the masses and had significant support, his leadership was a failure.
Before the leadership of Mao, Kai-shek was the legitimate leader. However, Mao and his communist followers defeated his army. Mao managed to establish communist rule over mainland China (Terrill 32). The leadership of Mao declared dictatorship over China in 1949, with people being subjective to their leader whom they viewed as a savior.
China is currently experiencing massive economic growth, which can be attributed in part to the measures that Mao put in place to ensure that the country improved economically. The main strategy that he used was the ‘Five-Year Plan’, which was borrowed from the Soviet Union along with other forms of aid (Terrill 26).
Despite putting in place measures that are aimed at ensuring that the country improved in industry, Mao made the mistake of focusing more on agriculture while maintaining the economy as a largely agrarian one (Blanco 50). His eventual breakaway from the Soviet Union was because of the different ideologies that they had.
However, the economy was affected by this move. Mao had to devise a way to ensure that he countered any failures. The strategy that he formulated is the Great Leap Forward (GLF), which intended to catch up with the Western powers economically while ensuring that the Republic of China was the leading communist country.
The Great Leap Forward was greatly regarded as a failure. The many peasant farmers in the country were major losers. In this plan, Mao made the population increase productivity through communing with the aim of causing industrialization at a greater scale. The only weakness that proved decisive for this policy was that China did not have enough natural resources.
This resulted in famine for the peasants. The economy was also affected. There were reported losses. The failure of GLF saw the development of enemies for Mao, hence attracting great criticism on many fronts with the threat of the country turning towards capitalism, which Mao feared most.
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The Socialist Education Movement that he led drove the agricultural reforms under Mao. This was greatly criticized by many individuals and the media. The response to critics that Mao provided was the ‘Cultural Revolution’, which is among the most discussed topics under Mao’s leadership. The revolution was a series of changes that Mao introduced to the Chinese way of life. They encompassed political, social, and economic changes. The aim of Mao was to change the Chinese hierarchical bureaucracy (Gao 13).
The means used to achieve the changes that Mao envisioned for the country led to the eruption of violence. Mao had used the youth as the main people to carry out the revolution. The Red Guard, as they were called, caused violence on the ordinary citizens and other people in the country besides causing destruction of property (Gao 13). The intention of the revolution was to abolish the inequality that was created through higher education.
Many universities and schools were closed. The country erupted into violence after the enforcement of policies that were deemed too oppressive. Moreover, many people died in the violence (Su 11).One of the events that in the history of China that was orchestrated by Mao is the Cultural Revolution. Many have described this period as having a significant effect on the population. Therefore, it is important to look at this revolution to determine what effects it had on the people during and after its end.
Mao and the Cultural Revolution
As earlier stated, the ‘Cultural Revolution’ was one of the most significant events that happened under Mao’s leadership over China (Gao 13). After his resignation 1959 as the president of China, Mao retained his influence on the country where he was the chairperson of the Chinese Communist Party.
During this period, he observed a change in the country where the peasants were increasingly becoming poor while the middle class accumulated more wealth for themselves. Through this observation, Mao started a revolution within the country. He did this revolution through the production of materials such as posters and small books that reminded the people of his works. They (materials) also reminded them to rid the country of anti-communists and people within the communist party that were not devoted to the course.
The main target of this revolution was elite political class. The young stars were the main tool that was used to bring about the change. According to Gao, most people were optimistic at the start of the revolution that the country was to rid itself of the enemies of development and that the economy was to improve because of this move.
However, the effects of this revolution were contrary to expectations. People were constantly accused of being against the revolutionary ideas that the communist party upheld. China went into a crisis that was characterized by infighting and killings. Many of the intellectuals were beaten and tortured while others were being forced to commit suicide because of victimization and mistreatment along with false accusations.
The ‘Cultural Revolution’ was considered by the communist party leaders as being influential in terms of modeling of the values and beliefs of the Chinese people. They intended to make the country a leader in the international front through first engaging on the promotion of togetherness and equality. The main goals that the revolution was meant to achieve are the main ones that it did not (Su 8). With the many murders, suicides and peasant farmers in the countryside could not engage in agricultural production.
Industries in some of the cities closed because of harassment of managers and the workers. Most of the Chinese businesspersons had to endure their businesses being taken away from them as demonstrated in the movie “Hibiscus Town”. Some of these businesspersons even resulted in suicide, as Li Guigui did in the movie, thus leaving their women to experience the wrath of the gangs.
China was undergoing a violent transformation that could not be controlled by the communist party. The weapons that the army had provided to the Red Guards were turned onto the innocent citizens. There were constant battles between the Red Guard and peasants, managers, and the party officials who had previously been accused of betraying the communist beliefs (Blanco 160).
The Red Guard also split into rival factions, which formed militias that constantly fought in streets, thus causing destruction to life and property. The period was one of the bloodiest in the history of the Chinese civilization, with aggression coming from within the country.
The ‘Cultural Revolution’ ended after the violence became uncontrollable when the army disarmed the Red Guard in the period after 1968. The end of the revolution saw the country counting losses in terms of economic, social, and political status. A major effect that the revolution had is the change in the opinion for citizens on the communist party.
Before the revolution, most of the citizens were staunch supporters of the party. They saw it as the vehicle that would propel them to the next generation of economic and social performance (Gao 22). The negative effects of the revolution such as the mass killings and destruction of property meant that more people were displeased.
The Red Guard was encouraged to move to the countryside after the end of the revolution, although most of its people had forfeited formal educational higher levels (Su 11). The peasants whose welfare the revolution had fought to improve were still present in large numbers in the countryside.
Many of them were still poor and living in poor conditions. The observations by the Red Guard meant that the revolution had little effect on the livelihood of these individuals. The destruction of learning institutions that followed the onset of the revolution meant that a large number of the young generation could not access formal education for a long time. This was a bad influence on the performance of the economy.
Effects of Mao’s Cultural Revolution on China
The most important effect of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ is the diminishing of support for the communist party, with the previous high number of supporters declining. However, the revolution managed to create a new breed of supporters for the communist party that was willing to go to extra miles to protect the party and spread its ideologies. Most of these individuals were the Red Guard members who had forfeited higher education on the promise of having a China that is free of hierarchical bureaucracy.
The effects of the Cultural Revolution in China are currently being experienced, with many historians stating that the growth in Chinese economy is reminiscent of the measures put in place by Mao Zedong during his reign over the country. In some of the movies that are based on the revolution on China and the changes that have taken place, it is easy to appreciate the existing cultural, political, and economic events as being products of the revolution (Bernstein 423).
The Tiananmen Movement of 1989 is one of the events that followed the Cultural Revolution. Many researchers and scholars have described it as being a result of the changes in the population that occurred after the Cultural Revolution (Black, and Munro 15).
The movie “Hibiscus Town” demonstrates the hardships of living in China during the period that it was going through the Cultural Revolution. It shows the hardships that the population went through during this period. The effects are still being felt today. Therefore, it can be deduced that Mao was both a blessing and a curse for the Chinese people.
China continues to be one of the fastest developing countries in the world. It is set to overtake the United States as a global superpower. The country has undergone social, political, and economic changes over the last century, with one of the most influential individuals being Mao Zedong. This essay has established the effects that Mao’s leadership had on China and the Cultural Revolution that he engineered.
It can be inferred that Mao was a great diplomat who was concerned about the welfare of his citizens, and hence the many projects that he undertook to improve their lives. However, these people were only successful to some point, with most of them further impoverishing his subjects. Therefore, the essay has established that Mao Zedong was both a curse and a blessing to the Chinese people.
Bernstein, Thomas. “Mao Zedong and the Famine of 1959–1960: A Study in Willfulness”. The China Quarterly186.1(2006): 421–445. Print.
Black, George, and Robin Munro. Black hands of Beijing: lives of defiance in China’s democracy movement, New York: John Wiley, 1993. Print.
Blanco, Lucien. Origins of the Chinese revolution, 1915-1949, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1971. Print.
Gao, Yuan. Born red: a chronicle of the Cultural Revolution, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987. Print.
Su, Yang. Collective killings in rural China during the cultural revolution, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.
Terrill, Ross. Mao: a biography, New York: Harper & Row, 1980. Print.