Tito and Mao liked each other

China

Gregor Delvaux de Fenffe

To person

Gregor Delvaux de Fenffe, studied history and Romance languages ​​in Constance and Florence. He is a freelance journalist, radio and television writer with a focus on history. TV work, among others for "planet Wissen" (WDR / SWR). Winner of the Grimme Online Awards 2004 for the SWR project "Stauffenberg - The Film". Recent publications (TV): RAF - Germany in the crosshairs; The 20s.

To this day, Mao Zedong is revered like a saint in China. But his rule from 1949 to 1973 was characterized by lawlessness, terror and totalitarian violence. The "great helmsman", who dared the "great leap" and called the cultural revolution, brought the Middle Kingdom to the brink of abyss.

Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, also its "great chairman". To this day, Mao is revered like a saint in China. (& copy AP)

From 1949 to 1973 Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, was also its "great chairman". To this day, Mao is revered like a saint in China. But Mao's rule was characterized by lawlessness, terror and totalitarian violence. The "great helmsman" brought the Middle Kingdom to the edge of the abyss.

For decades Mao traumatized the Chinese people and inhibited their economic and social development. As before, Mao is glorified as the mythical savior who unified China and brought it into the modern age. But Mao stands in line with the great dictators of the 20th century, Stalin and Hitler. It is indisputable that Mao had a decisive influence on China's face and - like no one else next to him - shaped Chinese history of the 20th century.

From farmer to professional revolutionary

Mao Zedong was born in the central Chinese province of Hunan in 1893. His parents are farmers who made a modest living. Mao is growing up at a time when China's self-image of the cultural and political center of the world, the "Middle Kingdom", has been permanently destroyed. The internal signs of disintegration made the "sick man by the yellow sea" a compliant plaything for foreign interests. The German Empire, Italy, the USA, but above all Japan, are exploiting China. The Chinese population has to endure the invasive power of foreign peoples impotently.

Mao escapes the cramped conditions of his home village and after completing his training as a primary school teacher works as an assistant librarian at the University of Beijing, where he makes contact with communist student groups. Deeply indignant by the turmoil of his country and the powerlessness of his people, Mao, like many of his intellectual compatriots, ponders ways to liberate China from foreign rule and to unite the country as a nation-state. Impressed by the communist upheavals of the Russian October Revolution, where a small group of staunch politicians and professional revolutionaries with great determination take power over a vast empire, Mao urges to follow the Soviet example. The "May 4th Movement" (1919), when the student youth in Beijing rebelled against the Japanese invaders and called for armed resistance, was formative for Mao. Mao becomes a professional revolutionary. Mao played no decisive role in the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CP) in Shanghai in 1921, but was elected to the party's Central Executive Committee in 1923.

Civil War in China

In 1927 the fragile alliance between the communists and the then leading Guomindang Party (National Chinese People's Party) broke. The result is a bloody civil war. The leader of the Guomindang, Chiang Kaishek, fights the communists with an iron fist, thousands of them are persecuted and liquidated. The civil war between the warring camps is leaving deep marks on Mao and will have a decisive impact on his relationship to violence; Mass executions, massacres, rebellious peasants and marauding gangs of soldiers - the turmoil of the civil war laid the foundation for the later systematically applied revolutionary terror under his rule. Mao escapes the cruel hunt for the communists and finds refuge together with dispersed communist party cadres in a remote mountain region in central China's Jiangxi Province, which is declared Soviet territory. With the utmost brutality, Mao works systematically and systematically towards his supremacy in this first communist micro-society that emerged from the ground. But soon after losing skirmishes, the communists have to give way to the constantly advancing, multiple superiority of the Guomindang troops.

The "long march"

Mao later glorified this panicked flight from Chiang Kaishek's henchmen into the legendary "Long March" (1934/35) and elevated it to the founding myth of the Chinese revolution. The grueling, extremely loss-making wandering of the communists extends over a length of 12,000 kilometers. Of the originally 100,000 to 120,000 communists who set off, only around 8,000 to 10,000 people survive the hardships of the disorderly escape maneuver. It is the "Long March" that finally paves Mao the way to the top after bitter trench warfare between the Communists loyal to Moscow and the Chinese wing he heads: At 41, Mao becomes number one in the Communist Party of China.

Mao's followers settle in Yan'an City on the Yanhe River. Here the survivors of the Odyssey in the Loessbergland dig caves on the most primitive level. Mao rules the communist colony with relentless severity, degrading his followers to compliant vicarious agents. Those who fail to comply will be bullied, "re-educated" or liquidated. From the initial communist idealists, Mao formed a small army of ideologically aligned vassals who were solely focused on himself. Through a tactical policy of rapprochement, Mao is increasingly winning over the rural population in the area. In 1937 the Second World War reached China.

Mao Zedong speaks to followers, 1939. (& copy Public Domain)
The Sino-Japanese War enforces a truce between Chiang Kaishek's troops and those of Mao. The massive cultivation of opium and the buoyant trade in narcotics as well as the constant financial support from Moscow ensure Mao the continuous development of the Red Army. When the civil war between the Communist Party of China and the Guomindang Party continued with undiminished severity after Japan's surrender in 1945, Mao initially experienced broad support from the rural population. Farmers who refuse to support Mao's supporters are intimidated by terrorist acts by communist cadres. The corrupt Guomindang units, which are increasingly hated by the simple rural population, are systematically pushed back by the Red Chinese troops, Chiang Kaishek and his followers flee to the island of Taiwan.

China becomes the People's Republic

Nothing stands in the way of Mao's sole rule over China. Mao has officially chaired the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the CPC since 1945. On October 1, 1949, he proclaimed the People's Republic of (PR) China on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Mao chairs the Revolutionary Military Council and the Central People's Government Council. In 1954 he becomes head of state of the PR China. But the "Middle Kingdom" is economically on the ground. War and civil war have left deep wounds. Streams of refugees and displaced persons cross the country. The already marginal infrastructure has been destroyed. With a per capita income of 54 US dollars, China is one of the poorest countries in the world. 70 percent of the population are landless farmers, day laborers and migrant workers. The beginning communist dictatorship even achieved slight successes at the beginning. The gross national product reaches the pre-war level and inflation is curbed.

In the years 1949 to 1952 the communist leadership started the radical "land reform". Small and large landowners are systematically expropriated, and the land is distributed to poor or even poorer farmers. The few large industrial companies in the country, mostly owned by foreign investors, are forcibly nationalized. Even during the civil war, Mao's cadres allowed and encouraged the forcible appropriation of land by the dispossessed. Now the communist party is calling on the peasants to take land for themselves across the board by force and to take revenge and retribution on those who previously owned the land. Mao knows how to unleash, channel and instrumentalize the anger of the people through the brutal implementation of the land reform. A wave of violence is pouring over China. All over the country there are improvised show trials and hysterical attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people are shown in public at village meetings, tortured and killed. Up to five million people fall victim to the smear campaigns.

The Chinese way

As early as 1927 Mao had announced that communism in China had to be based on the peasantry. In the increasingly open opposition to the "Big Brother USSR", Mao Zedong formulates his own, the "Chinese way" of the revolution: It is not the proletariat, the peasants, who make up the revolutionary masses. Mao is forcing the "Chinese way" with measures that relentlessly intervene in the life of the rural population of China and which destroy the customs and work culture that have grown over generations. Ownership and centuries-old social structures of the traditionally family-oriented rural population are ruthlessly smashed, the farmers forcibly collectivized and combined into large cooperative associations. People lose all right to self-determination and self-organization. From 1953 to 1957, the Chinese leadership established the first five-year plan. Following the Soviet model, the nationwide unleashing of the labor force is intended to create a Chinese heavy industry at the expense of agriculture. This contrasts with the rapidly growing Chinese population, which makes an increase in agricultural products urgently necessary. But for Mao, real political and economic constraints are secondary. For him, the only thing that stands in the foreground is the constant revolutionizing of consciousness, the education to become a "new man" on the way to a "classless society".