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UNIT 23: People Shape the World

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Mao Zedong (Revolution and Resistance in China)

This segment explores the extent to which Mao Zedong personally shaped the course of China's communist revolution. Although Mao was born into a peasant family, as a teenager his education exposed him to many Western ideas. Mao was attracted to communist ideology, and in the 1920s he joined the newly-created Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP was heavily influenced by Russian communism, and thus sought to build its support within the urban working classes. Mao, however, believed that the peasantry was the real revolutionary force in China, and he shifted the focus of the CCP to that group.

In 1934, in response to pressures from the competing Nationalist Party and from invading Japanese forces, Mao and a hundred thousand CCP members made an arduous march from Jiangxi to a remote northwestern province. By the time this "Long March" was over, Mao had become the undisputed leader of the CCP. From then on, his ideas and policies dominated the party. From its base in the northwest, Mao's Red Army successfully overcame both the Japanese and the Nationalist Party, and in 1949 Mao declared China a communist nation.

From then until his death in 1976, Mao used the force of his personality to transform Chinese society by collectivizing agriculture, promoting heavy industry, and discarding ancient Chinese traditions. Although his policies cost the lives of millions of people, he was able to create around himself a frenzied "cult of Mao" that inspired millions of people to do his bidding. As a result, it seems clear that Mao himself was an important agent of change in twentieth-century Chinese society.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous Chinese, THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION IN CHINA (1966). Courtesy of AP/ Wide World Photos.

Anonymous, PORTRAIT OF MAO TSE-TUNG (ca. 1970). Courtesy of Library of Congress.



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