The History that Drove Mao’s Decisions as China’s Leader: Part 1 of 2

Why did Mao cause so much suffering with his failed Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution? Yes, many of us have heard that power corrupts and no country is without its examples. And, for sure, the power Mao held was a factor in the decisions he made, but fear of repeating history may have been a bigger factor in his decisions.

For example, how many millions of Chinese were addicted to Western opium forced on China by Great Britain; France and for a short period even the United States during the Opium Wars [1st: 1839-1842; 2nd: 1856-1860]? To the credit of the U.S., the Congress eventually voted to pull America’s troops out of the 2nd Opium War and gave back the reparations China was forced to pay its invaders after losing that war.

“During the nineteenth century, Britain fought two wars of choice with China to force it to import opium. The opium grown in India and shipped to China first by the British East India Company and after 1857 by the government of India, helped Britain finance much of its military and colonial budgets in South and Southeast Asia. The Australian scholar Carl A. Trocki concludes that, given the huge profits from the sale of opium, “without the drug, there probably would have been no British empire.” Source: 5th

In addition, historians think that 20 to 100 million may have died due to the Taiping Rebellion (1850 – 1864). The Taiping Rebellion was led by a failed Confusion scholar who converted to Christianity and then claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Chris. He even wrote his own gospel and added it to the Bible.

If Christian missionaries had not been forced on China at the conclusion of the 1st Opium War, would that rebellion have taken place?

More than 100,000 Chinese were killed during the Boxer Rebellion (1899 – 1901), which was a popular peasant uprising against Christian missionaries, and the meddling and exploitation of foreigners in China to make money.

Could these wars and rebellions all linked to Christianity and opium sold by Western countries have motivated Mao to declare war on religion in China?

After 1911, when the Qing Dynasty collapsed, chaos and anarchy ruled China, while foreigners—Americans included—lived in luxury in the treaty ports that were the result of the Opium Wars and these foreign enclaves were protected by modern, foreign military forces on Chinese soil. A Century of Madness chronicles this time.

Continued on November 27, 2013 in The History that Drove Mao’s Decisions as China’s Leader: Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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9 Responses to The History that Drove Mao’s Decisions as China’s Leader: Part 1 of 2

  1. […] The History that Drove Mao’s Decisions as China’s Leader: Part 1 of 2 ( […]

  2. Teepee12 says:

    I believe most politicians are readers of history. Certainly our presidents have been and are. I’m not sure those statistics accurately represent the reading people do. Not everything people read is purchased — much is borrowed. And I know from personal experience, I get much of the history I read for free (review copies) or second hand — so statistically, a lot of what I read never makes it into the statistical base. It’s bad, but not quite THAT bad.

    • You’re right. I didn’t consider libraries and people loaning books to friends. Our local library has a large nonfiction history section. That would expand the number of people who read nonfiction history quite a bit. I once knew someone who seldom bought a book. He was an avid reader who often used the library but he read mostly science fiction and fantasy and not much history, which may explain why he became a rabid tea party person. I read somewhere that science fiction tends to attract conservatives more than any other genre.

  3. I recently read Anchee Min’s novel, Empress Orchid. It sheds light on some of the problems China faced from both internal and external sources before Mao’s rise to power, some of which you mention above. Certainly history would have influenced Mao. And yet, the drastic changes that took place in China during his time were truly shocking.

    • Yes, the things that were going on in China during Mao’s last decade were truly shocking. I’ve read some papers written by Australian academics who study China and they say that what Mao did was not unusual for the time. He wasn’t the only one who was obsessed with changing the very foundation of the culture because many at the time believed that China fell victim to the West because of a culture that valued poets and artists more than it valued generals and successful businessmen and women.

      The term political correctness—a madness in the US that is threatening to destroy the public schools today—might help explain the madness that swept through China at the time took place. Many place the blame for what happened on Mao’s shoulders without considering that if the people had not supported him, most of what happened would not have happened. When the Cultural Revolution got underway in 1966, many powerful voices in the Chinese Communist Party spoke out that this was wrong; this was madness. To silence them, they were denounced by young Chinese—many in their teens—and punished by those same people.

      And Mao was guilty of doing nothing to stop it. The Red Army stayed in its barracks and let the madness spread like a cultural cancer eating at the core of China’s ancient foundation. Eventually the Red Army had to step in to protect some of China’s historical treasures to keep the unruly and out of control—the politically correct mob—from destroying everything it could reach. Even the Forbidden City had to be protected from the people by the Red Army or it would have been torched by teens and Mao was living in the Forbidden City at the time.

      Mao lit the match and then sat back and watched the fire spread without sending in the Red Army to stop the madness.

      We should take this as a lesson and learn from it. When political correctness takes charge, madness often follows on its heals. Most of the destruction and lost lives during the Cultural Revolution were not caused by members of the CCP but by young people who were not members of the CCP. What we know of as the Red Guard were not members of the Red Army or the CCP. They were just common, ordinary people who allowed themselves to get caught up in the movement of reform and then turned on each other like an out of control mob of vigilantes.

      If you want a better idea of what it was like to live in the middle of this politically correct madness, I suggest reading Anchee’s “Wild Ginger”. If you click on the cover for “Wild Ginger” you will find more info on this book on the publishers website.

      • Thank you. Yes, I’ve also read and enjoyed “Wild Ginger.” You site political correctness as leading to madness, which is true. We might also call it mob mentality.

      • political correctness = mob mentality and madness.

        Out of curiosity I Googled the topic and that led me to this on Wiki:

        The phrase “tyranny of the majority” was used by John Adams in 1788.[3] The phrase gained prominence after its appearance in 1835 in Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville, where it is the title of a section.[4] It was further popularised by John Stuart Mill, who cites Tocqueville, in On Liberty (1859). The Federalist Papers refer to the broad concept, as in Federalist 10, first published in 1787, which speaks of “the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

        Lord Acton also used this term, saying:

        The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
        —The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877

        I think the last one says it best, and I’m thinking of the tea party people and the movement led by billionaires in America against the public schools and the teachers: Koch brothers; Walton family; Bill Gates, etc. Lots of force and fraud going on there.

  4. Teepee12 says:

    And people keep saying history isn’t relevant. Ha.

    • We can learn from history! Too bad so many people don’t read history. I’ve always been fascinated with it. And too bad so many Americans, who are eligible to vote, don’t read. I’ve read that eighty percent of American adults who do not go to college never read a book again after leaving high school. Scary. Where do these potential voters get their information? I think many of these non readers rely on talk shows like Rush Limbaugh who tells his fans that he will do their thinking for them and he calls or called them ditto heads.

      But the most popular genre is fiction with 8 out of every 10 books sold. And mystery, thriller and crime was the #1 genre (at 48%). Science fiction ccame in 2nd with 26%. Literature was 3rd with 24%. Romance—and I must admit that I thought this genre would be #1 because it seems more authors write Romance but Romance only grabbed 21% of the fiction genre market. Maybe romance readers just read more books.

      And what about the 2 out of 10 readers who read nonfiction—only 31% of nonfiction buys are history books; 29% is biography.

      In at attempt to put a number to these percentages, I will use the number of avid readers. I’ve seen reports that there are 65 million avid readers in the United States and this group reads an average of 10 books a year. Two percent of 65 million is 1.3 million and 31% of that is 403,000. Therefore, out of a population of 316 million only 403,000 Americans may read books from the nonfiction history genre. I wonder if any of our elected leaders reads history.

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