Sample History Essay Paper on Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

One of the most renowned people in China, Mao Zedong, was the leader of Communist China from 1949 until his death in 1976. Mao is considered the founding father of modern China with his influence felt to this day. Mao was a communist revolutionary and spearheaded the Cultural Revolution, which negatively and positively changed many aspects of China. There have been accounts that have documented the life of Chairman Mao including a personal biography(Zhisui 7). However, none of the works document the extensive view of Mao Zedong’s personal life than Dr. Li Li’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao. Li was appointed Mao’s physician during the tumultuous period of the Great Leap Forward when Mao enacted policies that would make China an industrial and economic giant within five years. He experienced all the ups and downs of Mao’s ambitions through the Chinese Famine of 1958-1961. This discovery text will explore the revelations of Li’s biography of Mao Zedong focusing on the years from 1958-1961.

According to Li’s book, the public depicted Mao Zedong was in stark contrast to the private life of Mao Zedong. Mao was publicly depicted as a strong, kind and healthy whereas in private he was struggling with health issues and ruled with an iron fist. At the beginning of his book, Li reveals how even keeping notes of the leaders private and public life was dangerous and could lead to persecution or even execution. Mao regularly raided his ministers’ houses for fear they would be against him in secret. In the book, Li reasserts that Mao was a dictator and a tyrant who considered everybody a subject of his rule despite the easy-going nature of his outside appearances.

Li indicates several instances where Mao showed his true self. For example, a speech Mao gave on June 8, 1957, was changed through his authority when he discovered it encouraged the intellectuals to speak out. Such scenarios indicate Mao’s personal ambitions to be dominant and in control(Zhisui 114). The persona he displayed in the public was simply crafted to endear his image to the people of ChinaMao. It is also an indicator of how Mao transformed as Li indicates the change he was in Mao Zedong in 1958. Mao’s ambitions to create a new China are easily witnessed when he encouraged subordinates to take more responsibilities. Mao was infuriated by the rigid Chinese system that required all decisions to be made by superiors.(Zhisui 192)

According to Li, during the late 1950s, the years of the “anti-rightist” movement, Chairman Mao was at the peak of his powers and was trying to establish his influence by trying to sign a treaty with the Russian leader, Stalin. Socialism to Mao was the most powerful ideology and most suited for China. During the period of the Great Leap Forward, Mao unearthed an ambitious five-year plan that would propel Chinese economy to the top of World’s economies. Mao based his plan on the Soviet economy(Gao 1). The goals of Mao for China were to create equality and a self-sustaining economy. He initiated the ideology of collectivization in China. He uprooted people from the rural areas and gave them jobs in steel industries; this is considered the main cause of the Chinese famine which killed millions of people.

Another goal Mao wanted to accomplish for China was socialist orthodoxy. Mao’s goal was to modernize by eradicating the allegedly primitive traditions. Such thoughts inspired Chairman Mao to initiate the Great Leap Forward. It was a strategy to lift the Chinese from Abyss of poverty and primitive to the heights of the world’s developed nations. An excerpt in Li’s book explains how Mao was an admirer of the great Chinese Emperor Zhou. Zhou expanded China’s territories through the unification of the people and by abolishing his enemies(Zhisui 106). Mao’s ambitions bordered those of Emperor Zhou, and his five-year plan was a way of implementing those ambitions. 

All these campaigns from the anti-rightist campaigns to the repercussions of the Great Leap Forward resulted in untold sufferings of the Chinese. According to Li, Mao was a tyrant who manipulated the people by pretending to be a man of citizens. An estimated 70 million died during his reign as chairman, education and transport systems in China stagnated leading to an unprecedented period of suffering in the country. During these years when Mao was establishing his strategic plan, an era of terror has established his compatriots with his authority. Any individual that was considered to be against Maoist ideals was imprisoned and executed.

According to Li, Mao’s personal goals went hand-in-hand with his goals for China. His tyrannical rule means he wanted to be the dominant leader. Li claims Mao wanted to be in control; his goal was to change to China and thus establish himself as the strongest Chinese leader in history. Despite the official doctrines claiming that Mao favored Russia over the USA, his goal was to create a better relationship between China and the US. According to Li, Mao learned English while he instructed his people to learn Russia. Also, Mao wanted to gain control of Asia which often led to conflicts with other Asian nations like Vietnam.

Works Cited

Gao, Mobo. The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and Cultural Revolution. London: Pluto Press, 2008.

Zhisui, Li. The Private Life of Chairman Mao. New York: Random House, 1994.