Profession: Chinese Revolutionary and Chairman of the Communist Party
Why Famous: One of the most important, controversial and powerful figures in modern history, Mao was the founding father of the People's Republic of China and led the country from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976.
In 1921 Mao became a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party and became the most important communist leader during the Chinese Civil War. He fought the Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, until Japan invaded China in 1937 and the two sides united during the war. After Japan was defeated, Mao achieved victory in the civil war and proclaimed the People's Republic of China in 1949.
During his rule China experienced constant periods of upheaval. In the 1950s he instituted the Great Leap Forward in an attempt to modernize the country's economy - this was a disaster that led to an enormous famine, costing the lives of as many as 15 million people. Sidelined in the party after this, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. In the next decade much of China's cultural heritage was attacked and so-called "bourgeoisie" elements were violently removed from all aspects of society. Mao's personality cult grew to enormous proportions in this period.
Mao shunted the Soviet Union after the Sino-Soviet split and opened up relations with the United States after a visit by US President Richard Nixon in 1972. At his death in 1976, China had rapidly developed to become a global power.
During his rule some 40 to 70 million people died, ranking as the top incidence of excess mortality in human history.
Mao's peasant focused Marxist-Leninist theories, military strategies and political policies, developed during the long struggle against Chinese Nationalists are collectively known as Maoism.
Korean War Begins
Korean War Ends
Swimming Pool Diplomacy: Khrushchev, Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split
Nixon Meets Mao
- 1930-01-05 Mao Zedong writes "A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire"
- 1931-11-07 Chinese People's Republic proclaimed by Mao Zedong
- 1934-10-16 Mao Zedong and 25,000 troops begin their 6,000 mile Long March from the south of China to the north and west
- 1935-10-19 Mao Zedong's army reaches Shanxi
- 1935-10-20 Communist forces end their Long March at Yan'an, in Shaanxi, China, bringing Mao Zedong to prominence
- 1945-10-11 Chinese civil war begins between Kuomintang government led by Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong's Communist Party
- 1948-02-15 Mao Zedong's army occupies Yenan
- 1949-10-01 People's Republic of China proclaimed by Mao Zedong (National Day)
- 1958-05-23 Mao Zedong starts the "Great Leap Forward" movement in China
- 1959-04-27 Mao Zedong resigns as Chairman of the PRC after the disastrous failure of the Great Leap Forward
- 1963-01-09 Mao Zedong writes his poem "Reply to Comrade Kuo Mo-jo"
- 1966-07-25 Mao Zedong swims the Yangtze River
- 1972-02-21 Richard Nixon becomes the first US President to visit China, normalizing relations between the countries in a meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Beijing
- 1973-02-17 US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger meets Chinese leader Mao Zedong, where the latter jokingly offers to send 10 million Chinese women to the United States
- 1976-02-27 Final meeting between Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon
- 1976-09-18 Mao Zedong's funeral takes place in Beijing
- 1976-10-10 Beijing reports arrest of Mao Zedong's widow
- 1976-10-11 Mao Zedong's widow Jiang Qing and the "Gang of Four" are arrested and charged with plotting a coup
- 1976-10-12 Hua Guo-feng succeeds Mao Zedong as chairman of Communist Party
- 1981-06-30 China's Communist Party condemns late Mao Zedong's policy