Did Mao Zedong have Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)? – Part 2 of 2

Mao born in 1893 grew up during a period of madness in China’s history. To learn more, I suggest reading The Roots of Madness.

The Chinese Civil War lasted from 1926 to 1949 with a few years out to fight the horrors of the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

The horrors of Mao’s Long March by itself was enough to cause PTSD in all 6,000 of its survivors from the more than 80,000 troops that started the year-long journey of retreat, battle, and severe suffering that was threatened by death on a daily basis.

After Mao was China’s leader, there was an assassination attempt by one of his most trusted generals, Lin Biao, a man Mao had named as his successor after he died.  In addition, during China’s Civil WarChiang Kai-shek ordered more than one failed assassination attempt on Mao.

However, the threats and violence that shaped Mao’s life began before The Long March and before he was a leader in the Chinese Communist Party.

As a child, he grew up among farmers and peasants with an average expected life span in China of 35 years. In the 1920s, as an idealist and a sensitive poet, he believed in helping the worker and led several labor movements that were brutally subdued by the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek.

Once, Mao barely escaped with his life.

In 1930, Yang Kaihu, his wife at the time — Mao was married four times — was arrested and executed. In addition, Mao had two younger brothers and an adopted sister executed by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

If you had several close calls with death; lost a wife, two younger brothers and an adopted sister in this way, how would that affect you?

To judge Mao by today’s Politically Correct Western values is wrong, because he grew up in a world ruled by a completely different set of values that shaped him to be tough enough to survive.

Anyone that survived and went on to rule China at that time would have been judged as brutal by today’s Politically Correct Western values. In fact, Chiang Kai-shek was a brutal dictator who ruled Taiwan — after he fled mainland China in 1949 — under military marshal law until his death in 1976. But Chiang didn’t have as many people to rule over so the death count he caused was smaller but no less significant.

The History of Humanitarianism shows us that this concept was born and nurtured in the West and developed slowly over centuries with the result that the individual was made more important than the whole.

However, in China, the whole is still more important than one person as it was during Mao’s time. If you were to click on the link to the History of Humanitarianism and read it, you would discover that China was not part of this movement while Mao lived. (Discover more about China’s Collective Culture)

PTSD as a war wound and a trauma was not recognized or treated until well after America’s Vietnam War.  Prior to its discovery, it was known as shell shock. The diagnosis of PTSD first appeared in the 1980s, and Mao died in 1976.

In fact, if Mao were alive today he would not be alone. In the United States, it is estimated that 7.8% of all Americans suffer from PTSD, and among that segment of the population, more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans have PTSD in addition to 1.7 million Vietnam veterans.

Return to or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, 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 unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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7 Responses to Did Mao Zedong have Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)? – Part 2 of 2

  1. Debbie says:

    Bravo, Lloyd. Thank you for being brave enough to bring more to light on this man who influenced China so much. A decade ago in rural Guangdong I remember seeing pictures of Mao as the only decoration in farmer’s houses. When i asked why, it was, well, they miss the iron rice bowl. That’s understandable.
    I also read somewhere recently, and regret not saving the url as I havent been able to find the net site again, that there is evidence coming through that Mao did not actually know about the famine during the ‘great leap forward’, that the statistics of the tragedy were actually kept well away from him. But when he did find out, he tried his best to counter it. I really will have to try and find that site again,, as it paints a different picture than the common ( western) perception.

    It’s so obvious to anyone who actually engages their brain for a bit, but what you say about judging people from other people’s cultures is so true.

    Finally, I am saddened to hear about your PTSD. Im sad that anyone has to fight in horrific wars and suffer for them afterwards. I hope you are at peace now.

    Your articles are always so insightful, providing much food for thought.
    Take care, and sleep easy,

  2. sanukjim says:

    Key board errors / meant to say one can overcome anything with the will to just do it.

    • While there may be abuse — since abuse and fraud can be found everywhere in the corporate or public sectors — we cannot expect everyone to apply the discipline instilled in U.S. Marine Corps boot camp to manage and bring an end to their suffering from PTSD caused by combat trauma. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Humans don’t come off of an assembly line. We are all individuals and this means we react differently to similar experiences of trauma.

      For instance, after 50 years I sill sleep with a loaded shotgun next to my bed and a lot of large bladed weapons scattered throughout my house not counting all the pepper spray I keep close at hand. In fact, I have three or four locks for every window and door and before I go to bed, I check the perimeter and make sure they are all engaged every single night. Sometimes I double check just in case I forgot one.

      I also don’t fill my head with loud noise from music or hate media when I’m home so I can hear what’s going on in the rest of the house. I am almost always hyper vigilant and ready to fight. That happens to be one of the symptoms of PTSD besides the temptation of ending it all by pulling a trigger.

      Are you implying that all those homeless combat vets and the ones that killed themselves to escape whatever PTSD demons were haunting them were faking it to abuse the system?

  3. sanukjim says:

    Mr. Lofthouse, I too had PTSD after several years in Vietnam but I think that as a fellow Marine you may agree with me that our training and discipline was a main ingredient to aid in self recovery.without the pills.The memories will never go away but the dreams finally did.Semper Fi Sir.

    • I wouldn’t know about the prescribed medications that are available for dealing with PTSD. I’ve never taken any of those pills. It is my understanding that those pills dull the mental anguish – a medical lobotomy of sorts. They don’t treat PTSD.

      However I did self-medicate with alcohol for sixteen years before I decided to stop drinking the booze that just made the PTSD worse. It wasn’t until after I stopped drinking that I became aware of what the PTSD was doing to me and that the alcohol made it worse.

      And I’m not sure what you mean by “our training and discipline was a main ingredient to aid in self recovery”. I don’t remember any training during my boot camp days at MCRD back in 1965 that prepared me to deal with PTSD since PTSD wasn’t even recognized by the medical establishment until the 1980s. In fact the term PTSD didn’t exist until the 1980s. There were other terms before that time: shell shock, combat fatigue, etc. During World War One, the British used electric shock to treat combat vets that came back from the trenches with serious cases of what we now call PTSD.

      In fact, I know two former Marines that I think would agree with me that our training in boot camp back then did nothing to prepare us for the trauma of PTSD. One is a 4-star Marine Corps general who served for 40 years and he has been rated 100 percent for his combat related PTSD in addition to his physical combat injures, and the other was a Marine for four years before he went into Special Forces for several more years. His special forces training was also traumatic when he was subjected to SERE training before he was deployed to the Middle East. He said to me that the brutal SERE training probably added to his PTSD rating of 100 percent.

      I think the discipline and training U.S. Marines go through in boot camp prepares us to go out and fight in a war as a highly effective fighting force, but does little to nothing to prepare us for dealing with the trauma caused by PTSD afterwards.

      I will agree that the discipline that was literally beat into me in boot camp did assist me to overcome the dyslexia I was born with that made it difficult for me as a student K – 12, but with that often brutal and demanding boot camp instilled discipline I made it through college on the GI Bill, but it hasn’t helped many former and even active Marines that suffer from combat PTSD.

      If our boot camp training prepared us to deal with PTSD that followed us home from combat, then Why Are so Many Veterans Homeless?


      And why is there such a high relationship between PTSD and suicide?

      • From 1999-2010, the suicide rate in the US population among males was 19.4 per 100,000, compared to 4.9 per 100,000 in females.
      • Based on the most recent data available, in fiscal year 2009, the suicide rate among male Veteran VA users was 38.3 per 100,000, compared to 12.8 per 100,000 in females.


      Veterans statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide

      Then there is traumatic brain injury and PTSD – I don’t think Marine Corps discipline is going to overcome traumatic brain injuries.

      I don’t think I have the right to judge other combat vets with PTSD based on my own personal experience with it. There are combat vets that come home with no PTSD symptoms, and others that come back with PTSD that recover while many more don’t recover just like some people that get cancer survive through treatment and some don’t.

      • sanukjim says:

        I was talking the ability to apply what the self discipine learned through the training during service in The Courps.One can overthing with the will to do it.They are many abusing the system also.

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