On September 9th 1976 came the death of perhaps the most influential and feared leader in the history of the modern world. As visionary and well regarded as any Pope, and as reviled and hated as much as Hitler, there is no questioning the enormous influence that Chairman Mao has had on China.
Chairman Mao, or Mao Zedong, was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party for over 40 years, and was responsible for some of the biggest changes within the country's history. It is nearly 30 years since his death, yet his influence is still felt in all areas of modern Chinese life. Despite this, unless you have studied communism or Chinese history, you probably know little about him, or the events that occurred under his reign. Mao's life is one of historical significance, great endeavour, and tragic mistakes.
[...] The idea was to mobilize the peasant masses to increase crop production by collectivising the farms and use the excess labour to produce steel. What ended up happening was the greatest man-made famine in human history. From 1958 to 1960, poor planning and bad management managed to starve 30 million people to death. Officially, the government blamed it on "bad weather." Mao was forced to move away from the public spotlight, and over the next 5 years was less involved in the split from Russian communism, as the country attempted to recover from the disastrous ‘Great Leap Forward'. [...]
[...] In terms of the chaos, blood, and destruction, it was comparable to the French Revolution, though it lacked the same political impact. At one point, Red Guards were fighting pitched battles with Government troops outside of the Foreign Ministry building. Later on in the Cultural Revolution, Red Guard units ended up fighting each other for supremacy. In the summer of 1967, there were massive riots in both Hong Kong and Macau. You may wonder how or why Mao would or could do such a thing. [...]
[...] The most important piece of the exhibition is a set of bright red acrylic panels embedded with brand new Chinese banknotes totalling 10,000 RMB in cut-out characters that read Zhuxi Wan or “Long Live Chairman In Huang Rui's words, “This is China today” a society where Mao's socialist legacy is being replaced by an unquestioning faith in the cult of cash. Perhaps ironically, Mao became what he thought other ‘reactionaries' were just a paper tiger: reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. [...]
[...] While the Cultural Revolution 'officially' ended in 1969, and the worst abuses stopped then, the politically charged atmosphere was maintained until Mao's death in 1976. To many, Mao's death came as great relief. It is clear that he was an evil man, and that he was responsible for the death of countless millions. It is also clear he was a hypocrite, in that despite wanting to purge capitalism and ideas of ‘greed' from Chinese culture, he himself was a man greedy for wealth and power. [...]
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