Makers of the Twentieth Century: Mao Zedong

That Mao Zedong has changed the course of modern history is beyond dispute. the extent of his influence, both in China and abroad, has however been a matter of fierce debate since his death in 1976.

Mao in 1931

Few major figures of the twentieth century have been subject to such widely varying assessments as Mao Zedong. In the 1940s, he was seen in many quarters (including the Kremlin) as a talented guerrilla leader whose Marxist credentials were of dubious authenticity. In the early 1950s, he was perceived rather as the ruler of a totalitarian party state, subservient to Moscow. Then, during the Cultural Revolution, he was metamorphosed once more in people's minds (especially those of student rebels in the West) into an inspired visionary who had devised a new pattern of socialism, purer, more radical, and more humane than that of the Soviet Union. Finally, in his last years the view began to gain ground that he was, on the contrary, a harsh and arbitrary despot cast in a traditional Chinese mould.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.