The worship of Mao Zedong's personality

Mao Zedong (a name premonitory meaning "Born to direct the East") undoubtedly remains one of the most known and most controversial characters of the XXth century and of China's history. Cofounder of the Chinese Communist Party, he became its supreme leader on the occasion of the famous episode of the "Long Walk". But Mao was especially the founder of the People's Republic of China, which it proclaimed on October 1, 1949 and directed until his death in Beijing on September 9, 1976.

After his accession to power, Mao restored a national unity which was weakened for several decades, while allowing China to develop its independence with the neighboring countries. Taking example on the Soviet model, Mao founded a single Party dictatorship, later to impose on the chinese population collectivism - based on a communist dogma.

Portrait of Mao in front of Beijing's Forbidden City - China.

Thus, in the name of a purely Chinese socialism, Mao broke with his ally, the USSR, and was the direct inspirer of the "Great Leap ahead", a movement of industrial reforms which was to allow, according to his statements, "to catch up with the steel production level of England" in only 15 years.

Statue of Mao - Kashgar, China  

The Chinese population is thus summoned to contribute its share, in particular the country's working class of farmers. The peasants must indeed continue their harvests while producing an imposed iron and steel quota. This policy was a incredible failure which ended up by the widest and most fatal famine of the XXth century.

After having, for a long time, been unaware of the disaster or having rejected the fault on external elements, Mao Zedong finds himself in minority with the Party whereas the people's confidence in his ideology is strongly shaken. He then raises the Chinese students against the Party and delivers China to the unrestrained violence of the Red Guards during the Cultural revolution in the late Sixties.

Lastly, restoring the order to its profit, he eliminates its principal rivals and establishes a true worship of his personality, which reaches its paroxysm in the Seventies. While he sets up statues and portraits of him in the entire country, the People's Republic of China falls in the darkness of totalitarianism.

  Mao ont he People square - Kashgar, China

The worship around Mao Zedong's personality takes its roots in the "Long Walk", an episode during which Mao asserted himself as a truly charismatic leader. Like Stalin, the style of his realistic-Socialist propaganda evolves quickly to become a complete deification of Mao.

Soldier and portrait of Mao- Forbidden City, Beijing.   Statue in Chengdu, Chine.

Contrary to the first representations where Mao appears at the sides of the peasants and workmen, in a relation of equal to equal, it is only from the Cultural revolution, going back to its return to power, that his effigy is idealized, often located in the sky, detached from the common run of people.

Propaganda posters   Chairman Mao propaganda posters

On the Tian An'men square in Beijing, the innumerable groups of Chinese tourists still come with devotion to discover with admiration the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong, truly one of the most important symbol of XXth century China. Pose in front of the portrait, salutations as taught in school: the ritual to approach the mythical photography is undoubtedly awaited and prepared for.

Mao in Beijing.

Opposite, the mausoleum of the Chairman sees thousands of visitors every day. After a long wait in a queue, the visit is done at racing speed. It is indeed formally forbidden to stop in front of the glass sarcophagus protecting the body of one of the most important tyrant of the post-war period.

Future facing Mao's statue in Chengdu, Chine.

Nevertheless, for the majority of Chinese, Mao remains the liberator and manufacturer of modern China. In spite of the catastrophic consequences of his spectacular reforms, he will have left the souvenir of a period of unity and remains revered by most of the people like the last Chinese emperor.

However, the image of Mao Zedong is not limited any more to its 30 years of political dictatorship. Indeed, the business generated by the worship of his personality is also important. In addition to the posters, photographs, postcards and paraphernalia of all kinds, the little red book and the image of a young Mao without wrinkles and always smiling, can be added to banknotes to its effigy. Ironically, billions of monetary transactions are taking place each day in China : the truly beneficial contribution of Chairman Mao in the Chinese economy never was so strong then since its death.

Propaganda paraphenelia  
Propaganda paraphenelia
  Little red book
Chinese soldiers in front of Mao's mausoleum in Beijing  
Nowadays, although always respected in an official way, he's not a reference anymore - in spite of the Maoist political parties throughout the world which continue to revere Mao as a revolutionist. But more historians try to dismantle the legend and insist on the unfortunate choices of the dictator, having caused the death of several million Chinese…
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