Imagine how Americans would have felt if China had deployed several of its army divisions in the United States to protect the Chinese living in America after the racist and discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law by U.S. President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1886—this law would not be repealed until 1943.
Then there was Mao surviving Chiang Kai-shek‘s crack down on the labor movement led by the Communist Party. During World War II, Mao’s army not only fought Chiang Kai-shek’s troops but also the Japanese, who killed between 10 to 20 million Chinese in their attempt to conquer China.
The peasants trusted Mao’s troops but did not trust Chiang Kai-shek’s army. Do you know why?
Then there was the West’s wars in Korea (1950 – 1953: with an estimated 2.5 million killed/wounded) and Vietnam (1955 – 1975: with an estimated 3.8 million killed/wounded) in addition to America’s necklace of military basses surrounding China to this day. Source: Foreign Policy.com
Mao believed that socialism would create a better life for the Chinese. His failures were attempts to make China strong enough to defend his country against the foreign meddling and invasions that had plagued China since the 1850s.
Regardless of all the horrible facts the Western media keeps reminding the world about, there are a few facts that are not well known in the West about Mao and China—when Mao became the leader of mainland China in 1949, the average lifespan in China was age 35. When Mao died in 1976, the average lifespan had increased by twenty years to age 55—today the average life expectancy is almost age 75. In addition, the population of China was 400 million in 1949. Twenty-seven years later at the time of Mao’s death, China’s population had increased to 700 million.
These two facts alone call into question many of the alleged and inflated claims of deaths and suffering caused by the mistakes of the Great Leap Forward famine and the national insanity of the Cultural Revolution that are often trumpeted by China’s critics—some are quite rabid and idealistic and are more than willing to inflate and exaggerate the facts that are known.
Mao was not perfect by any means but even the Chinese—after his death—credited his leadership as 70% good and only 30% bad. You may not agree with this assessment, but did you live in China during and before the Mao era? Have you any idea how horrible life was for most Chinese before 1949?
Return to or Start with The History that Drove Mao’s Decisions as China’s Leader: Part 1
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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True, but Mao was also a politician. He had good motivations. He also had a personal agenda. I’m not ready to confer sainthood quite yet.
I don’t think we could ever confer sainthood on Mao, and I’m not interested in making him look like a saint. I’m interested in the cause and effect—what caused him to become a man who could be so easily demonized without explaining the why. And I’m convinced that if it hadn’t been him, someone else just as ruthless would have ruled China in his place. Chiang Kai-shek was no saint either. Both men were products of the same era; the same history; the same insanity.
As a young man in the 1920s there is no evidence that Mao was mad for power with the makings of a brutal dictator. In fact, he was a minor functionary in the Communist Party and if Chiang Kai-Shek hadn’t attempted to slaughter all of the members of the CCP starting in Shanghai in the 1920s after Sun Yat-Sen’s death, Mao would have never had a chance to rise into the position to lead the CCP in 1949.
Mao may have started out with good intentions in the 1920s when he was a young idealistic poet, but by the time he ruled China in 1949, anything good he started out to do had been swept aside by the tide of history and the insanity and turmoil of that era. Imagine what the White Terror in Shanghai did to him when Chang Kai-shek allied himself with the Chinese mob in Shanghai and set out to execute all the Communists and labor union leaders and members of the unions. Mao barely escaped that slaughter. In fact, he was arrested and due to a fluke was released while everyone else that was rounded up was executed and his first wife was one of the victims. Then there was Mao’s Long March in 1934 where Mao led an army of 86,000 on what even today would be considered an impossible trek. At the end about 10,000 finished the march when they reached Zunyi. That was 1935. Then in 1937, the Japanese invaded China. By the time World War II ended, 17 – 22 million Chinese civilians were dead in addition to 1.3 – 1.8 million Nationalist troops killed and a half million Communists troops.
Mao has been quoted saying if the Japanese had not invaded China, the Communists would have never won the civil war in 1949. The Nationalists were too powerful for the CCP to defeat before World War II but they took most of the causalities during the war leaving the Red Army in a much better position to win.
All that violence; all that war; the killings, the deaths, the suffering, his own loses, must have twisted Mao into a man willing to support the madness of the Cultural Revolution to make China strong enough to survive what was happening. And I’m sure that the Korean War; America’s embargo against China from 1949 – 1963; The Vietnam War; the carpet bombing of Laos and Cambodia; the huge US military presence in Thailand during the Vietnam War, the Philippians and Thailand all contributed to Mao’s madness; his paranoia and his support of the Cultural Revolution.
For example, the US embargo and the suffering in China from that: “the disastrous Great Leap Forward and Anti-Rightist campaign were in part prompted by the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. Finally, though the embargo created difficulties within the Western alliance, Beijing was driven to press the USSR for much greater economic assistance than Moscow thought feasible, and the ensuing disagreements between them contributed to the collapse of the Sino-Soviet alliance.” (http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=1704)
If the same tide of history that plagued China from the 1st Opium War to the end of the Vietnam War were to sweep across America for a century, would America end up with its own Mao; its own madness? Imagine what America would be like if the tea party people ended up the majority in both houses of Congress and had their own man in the White House.
The reason the peasants trusted the soldiers of Mao, not Chiang, was because was an incompetent leader that had no regard for his soldiers or even the peasants. He was hell-bent on eliminating the communists so much, that he would even have innocent people killed. He also didn’t do much on attacking Japan when they were slowly taking over China. Even during the Second-Sino Japanese War (1937-1945) he spent his military aid money that was given to him, on himself. Finally, he forced people into the army with little or no training whatsoever.
What you say about Chiang is what I’ve also read about him. He was a member of the elite from a wealthy family and he did nothing to win the trust of the common Chinese. The elite in China at the time, on average, thought of the peasants as animals to serve their needs and were often treated worse than animals. Chiang’s actions show that he cared little to nothing for the common man.
With that mindset, I think that if Chiang had won the Civil War, China would look more like India today with a huge segment of the population illiterate and living in extreme poverty with famines killing millions on an annual basis while starving slave labor worked in factories churning out cheap goods for the rest of the world at lower pay than they ever earned under the CCP.
Poverty in India is widespread. It’s estimated that a third of the world’s poor live in India. In 2010, the World Bank reported that 32.7% of the total population of India fell below the international poverty line of US $1.25 per day. Compare those numbers to China where the World Bank estimates 13.1% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Then there is literacy. In India 60 – 70% are literate but in China that number is 90-96%.
I’ve read that several thousand children die of starvation and malnutrition in India every day and yet India has been ruled by a democratic government for more than 60 years.
Would China be worse off today than India if Chiang won the Civil War instead of the CCP? We might find a possible answer to that question if we compare India to China.
Look at the improvement of life expectancy from 1960 to 1970 comparing China to India. Under Mao, China added 25.4 years while India only added seven. When Mao died, life expectancy in China was 61.7 years but in India it was 49.3.
It’s obvious that even though millions suffered and died under some of Mao’s policies, many more prospered. The last famine that hit China was in 1958 – 1960 [and the West blames that on Mao] but prior to that famine history shows that China was known as the land of famines and historical records going back more than two thousand years clearly shows that China was hit by one or more famines annually that caused many Chinese to die of starvation. After 1960, there has been not even a hint of a famine in China.
Is India’s democratic government worth a shorter life span and the risk of death from starvation and malnutrition? This is taking the old battle cry of give me liberty or death to the extreme.
Do you know what emotionally affected Mao? Did you know he had a son in the Korean war? Everyone blamed America for his son’s death, but my friend in Hangzhou that studied at West Point read some of the analyst’s reports from Korea that claimed his son was murdered by a group of Chinese. People claim Mao changed and began hunting people in his party like a mad dog. What was probably never reported in western media was the reason.
I did know that he had a son who died in the Korean War. I also know that in his later years, he became more and more paranoid—which could have been caused by PTSD although that doesn’t excuse what he did but may only explain what drove him to such madness in his later years—that one of the other powerful party leaders was out to replace him so he decided to get rid of them first.