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Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong (1893–1976), founder of the People's Republic of China. Born to an educated peasant in Hunan province, he joined the newly founded Shanghai Communist Party in 1921, and in 1927 led the Autumn Harvest uprising, which was crushed by the local Kuomintang militia, Mao fled to the mountains, where he built up the Red Army and established rural soviets. Surrounded by Kuomintang forces in 1934, the army was forced to embark on the famous Long March from Jiangxi to Yan'an in Shoanxi province.

The appalling rigors of the march united the communists behind Mao, and he was elected chairman. In 1937 an uneasy alliance was made with the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek against the Japanese; after World War II Mao's forces expelled the Kuomintang to Taiwan. Mao then became chairman of the new People's Republic. In 1958 he turned his attentions to industrial growth, with his program the Great Leap Forward. Its failure spurred his replacement as chairman of the party, but he retained party leadership. He later (1966–69) attacked the chairman, Liu Shao-Sh'i, by organizing the Cultural Revolution, which created widespread agitation and led to a consolidation of Mao's power in the 1970s. Mao steered China ideologically away from the USSR and his teachings came to have great influence in the Third World. He appeared to favor a decree of deténte with the West, especially Europe, and in 1972 met with President Nixon, signaling closer relations with the United States.

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