Was Mao a great leader of China?
Mao Zedong became leader of China in 1949, following the CCP victory in the Chinese Civil War. China was economically behind the leading nations. The country had been ravaged by war for two decades. Government had been unstable and China had seen foreign powers exerting influence and power over her lands. By his death, China was an established world power with nuclear capability. China had an organised economy. Literacy levels had risen. Infant mortality rates had plumutted. Was China significantly better off? Was Mao responsible for these improvements?
Mao became leader of China at a time when the country was in turmoil. There had been decades of war and the nation was economically devastated as a result. Likewise there was little political stability as a consequence of the years of fighting. Under Mao’s leadership China became more stable, there were no civil wars and civil unrest was limited in duration. Industry developed as a result of the Five Year Plans and the vast majority of farming was conducted in Communes by the time of Mao’s death. Huge changes had taken place in terms of the way that both agriculture and Industry were organised. There were huge public works that aided economic growth and China was acknowledged on the world stage as a significant military, economic and political power. Mao is largely responsible for these achievements.
Criticisms of Mao:
Many of the achievements came at a great human cost. Many died as a result of the Cultural Revolution and that policy poured funds into statues and pictures when economic investment was perhaps more important. Mao never really had total control of the party. There were several occasions when his views were challenged within the Politburo and when he was seen to be losing power. There was no clear succession plan in place. The Hundred Flowers Movement can be criticised for enabling discussion but then repressing thoughts that were overly critical.
Wikipedia – overview of Mao’s life and leadership.
Experience Festival – a series of links to articles about Mao’s leadership.
Cultural China – an account of Mao’s time as leader of China.
Time magazine – Mao’s health and China’s leadership.