Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Mao Zedong

This individual is not a direct affiliate of the Berkley Center.

Mao Zedong served as the first leader of the People’s Republic of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. Born in 1893, he joined the Communist Party in 1921 and quickly rose up its ranks, emerging as its political and military leader during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Civil War (1946-1949). After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao oversaw industrialization, the transformation of agriculture, and the country’s emergence as a nuclear power. His rule was at times tumultuous, particularly during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which caused massive famines, economic disarray, and cultural destruction. Mao’s approach to religion ranged from grudging toleration under state supervision to outright repression during the Cultural Revolution. Since his death in 1976, he remains a national hero for many, despite the excesses of his rule.
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