Mao Zedong walked a long and dangerous road on his way to leading China for 27 years starting in 1949 to 1976. His first step down that road was to survive the Civil War against the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, a brutal dictator for life that the United States supported. To escape defeat, Mao avoided combat as much as possible to retreating on an almost impossible march known as Mao’s Long March that’s considered one of the most significant military campaigns in the 20th century, and one of the most amazing physical feats ever attempted.
Surrounded by hostile armies, 87,000 Communist troops escaped and started a retreat that covered nearly 6,000 miles in one year.
In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended and America’s ally for life Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan where he ruled as a brutal dictator until he died in 1976. For a peek into Chiang’s brutality, one example of many was his 2-28-1947 Massacre in Taiwan.
Meanwhile in China, Mao launched his Great Leap Forward that failed in the disaster of what’s still know as Mao’s Great Famine that I wrote about in Part 5.
Having failed, Mao stepped aside to let someone else run China. The large communes of the Great Leap Forward were abandoned and the peasants returned to their villages to farm the land,
Fearing the return of capitalism, Mao’s supporters printed a book with his slogans. Mao wanted to break the thinking and attitudes of old China. Through film, a propaganda campaign was launched so Mao could regain power, and in 1966, he launched the insanity of the Cultural Revolution.
Soon after Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping ended the Cultural Revolution, led the revision of the Chinese Constitution to limit leaders to two 5-year terms so China would never have another Mao, a powerful dictator for life, and opened China to world trade, and in the last 40 years, thanks to Deng, China is not only responsible for ninety percent of the reduction in global poverty but also the growth of a U.S. style consumer middle class of about 300 million Chinese.
In fact, the Chinese middle class now leads the world in tourism, and sends more of their children to attend colleges in the United States, Canada, and Europe than any other country. More than 100 million Chinese freely leave China annually to visit, as tourists, other countries around the globe and then fly home.
One blight on China under Deng’s leadership was the alleged crushing of a student democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. The truth is the protests that took place in Tiananmen Square didn’t start as a democracy movement, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not deny that there were deaths, but the CCP says the deaths took place several miles from Tiananmen Square due to a bloody confrontation between the People’s Liberation Army and violent protestors throwing Molotov cocktails. What is the truth about Tiananmen Square?
As this 6-part series ends, you might be thinking about what was missing. For instance the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canal, or China’s ancient irrigation system, the Treasure of Sichuan, built more than 2,200 years ago, the oldest and only surviving non-dam irrigation system in the word. The next two posts will be about the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canal. Click the link in this paragraph to discover the Treasure of Sichuan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site admired by scientists from around the world.
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 unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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