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Mao Zedong

(1893—1976) Chinese statesman


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(1893–1976)

Chinese statesman, chairman of the Communist Party of the Chinese People's Republic (1949–76) and head of state (1949–59). After studying Marxism as a student he was among the founders of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, becoming its effective leader following the Long March (the withdrawal of the Communists from SE to NW China, 1934–35). He eventually defeated both the occupying Japanese and rival Kuomintang nationalist forces to form the People's Republic of China, becoming its first head of state (1949). Although he initially adopted the Soviet Communist model, following Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin (1956) Mao began to introduce his own measures, central to which were the concepts of permanent revolution, the importance of the peasantry, and agricultural collectivization. A brief period of freedom of expression (the Hundred Flowers) ended with the introduction of the economically disastrous Great Leap Forward (1958–60). Mao resigned as head of state in 1959 but retained his position as chairman of the Communist Party, and as such remained China's most powerful politician. He was the instigator of the Cultural Revolution (1966–68), which was intended to effect a return to revolutionary Maoist beliefs; during this time he became the focus of a powerful personality cult, which lasted until his death.

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