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Mao Tse-tung

Nigel Harris et al.

Mao Tse-tung

Mao’s Life


Dec. 26th 1893

born, eldest of three sons and one daughter, to Mao Shun-sheng, rich peasant/small landowner and grain merchant, of Shao-Shan in central Hunan


elementary education, village school, then to farm work.


enrolled Tung-shan modern primary school, Hsiang-hsiang, then moves to Changsha, capital of Hunan province.

Oct. 1911

Revolt in Wuchangcollapse of the Ch’ing dynasty (first Chinese revolution). Mao visits Wuchang. Fighting in Changsha, Mao in student volunteer corp.


Mao enrolled in the Provincial First Normal School. Contributes, 1917, to New Youth, paper of later top Communist leader, Chen Tu-hsiu.


secretary, Changsha Student Association.

Sept. 1918

to Peking. Li Ta-chao (later, important early leader of the Communist Party), Chief librarian at Peking University, employed as temporary clerk.

Spring 1918

The May 4th Movement (in rejection of the Versailles Treaty, concluding the first World War, conceding Germany’s interests in China to Japan). Mao returns to Changsha, active there in May 4th Movement, begins the Hsiang River Review for the Hunan Students Union.

Dec. 1919

Hunan warlord forced out. Mao returns Changsha, works as primary school teacher until the winter of 1920-21.

Autumn 1920

marries Yang K’ai-hui, daughter of former leading Changsha teacher.

Oct. 1920

organizes Changsha group of Socialist Youth League

The Party

July 1921

Mao is one of the twelve who form the Communist Party of China under Chen Tu-hsiu and Li Ta-chao. Returns to Hunan.


Secretary, Hunan CCP, and trade union organiser.

Nov. 1922

Chairman, Hunan trade union federation.

April 1923

trade unions and party in Hunan repressed. Mao flees to Shanghai.

June 1923

attends 3rd Congress, CCP; elected to Central Committee, and becomes director, Organisation Department. Congress ratifies Comintern direction to join the Kuomintang, leading nationalist party, HQ in Canton.

Jan. 1924

1st Kuomintang Congress, Canton. 3 Communists elected to Executive Committee; Mao and 5 others elected as alternate members. Mao appointed as deputy, Kuomintang Organisation Department
CCP withdraw from post? Mao retires ‘ill’ to Hunan and misses 4th CCP Congress where removed from Central Committee and reprimanded for failure to distinguish Communist and Kuomintang politics. CCP membership now 994 (with 2,365 in youth organisation), reaches 3,000 by May. Mao works in Hunan peasant movement.

Jun. 1925

repression in Hunan. Mao flees to Canton.

Oct. 1925

Mao made head of CCP Peasant Department.

Jan. 1926

2nd Kuomintang Congress, Canton. 7 Communists elected to 36-man Executive Mao and others elected as alternates. CCP membership 12,000.

Mar. 1926

First coup by Chiang Kai-shek, military head of Kuomintang, against CCP


Mao works briefly as political secretary to Wang Chingwei, officially head of Kuomintang, also as acting director, Kuomintang Propaganda Department, and editor of Kuomintang official political journal, Political Weekly (Cheng-chih Chou-pao). Also head of Kuomintang peasant training institute.

July 1926

Chiang Kai-shek launches the Northern Expedition to reconquer China. CCP and Russian advisers to Kuomintang generally opposed up to March coup, but Mao said to be enthusiastically in favour. Mao to Shanghai.

Aug. 1926

Mao to Hunan, where remains till the spring of 1927, where witnesses Chiang Kai-shek repression after Kuomintang take Hunan.

Mar. 1927

Mao publishes report on peasant movement in Hunan. Chiang takes Shanghai, and open split in the Kuomintang between Chiang and the official leadership, now based in Wuhan (Hankow). Chiang attempts destruction of CCP.

April 1927

Mao flees repression in Hunan. Attends 5th Congress CCP. Claims proposals on peasant movement suppressed there, but elected chairman. National Peasant Association, that seek safeguard alliance CCP and Wuhan Kuomintang by curbing land seizures.

May 1927

repression in Hunan by Wuhan Kuomintang. CCP membership 58,000.

July 1927

Wuhan Kuomintang seeks to liquidate CCP and trade unions.

The rise to leadership

Aug. 1927

CCP insurrection fails, Nanch’ang. Emergency conference called by Comintern, old leadership blamed for disasters and ‘neglecting the peasant movement’, but Mao not reprimanded. Mao sent as Politburo director to Hunan for Hunan share of Autumn Harvest insurrections.

Sept./Oct. 1927

Autumn Harvest insurrections: all defeated. Mao and troops flee remote Chiangkang mountains.

Dec. 1927

Canton CCP insurrection – defeated.

April 1928

Chu Teh and troops join Mao.


6th CCP Congress held in Moscow. Old leadership blamed for defeats. Mao elected in absence to Central Committee. CCP membership 10,000.

Late 1928

Mao and troops forced out of Chiangkang mountains, ultimately reach Juichin, in the mountains of south-east Kiangsi.

Aug. 1930

second wave of insurrection; Mao and others attack Changsha, fail to hold. Wife Yang K’ai-hui executed. Later marries Ho Tzu-chen.

Dec. 1930

Mao represses Fu-t’ien revolt of CCP troops. Kuomintang begin first of five military campaigns to liquidate CCP bases.

Sept. 1931

Japan begin invasion of Manchuria.

Nov. 7 1931

1st Congress of Soviets held Juichin. Mao elected Chairman, Central Soviet Government. Party leadership remain in Shanghai until 1932 when flee to Juichin. Mao begins to be eased out of leadership.

April 1932

Chinese Soviet Government declare war on Japan.


Mao removed from leadership, under house arrest.

Oct. 1934

Kuomintang force evacuation of Juichin – beginning of the Long March (size of military forces reduced during year of the march of 6,000 miles from 120,000 to 20,000). Ho Tzu-chen ill on March; to Moscow for treatment.

Jan. 1935

during the Long March, special enlarged Politbureau meeting at Tsunyi – Mao becomes Chairman of the Politbureau, Central Committee and Party, member of the secretariat and head of the military operations.

Building the new party

Mid 1935

7th Congress, Communist International, shift line to Popular Front/United Front with bourgeois Parties. CCP begin moves for United Front with Kuomintang against Japanese.

Late 1935

Japan begin advances from Manchuria into north China proper. CCP base at Yenan, Shensi.


achieve United Front, change name of Government and army, scrap land programme. Sino-Japanese war begin Japan advance rapidly southwards.


Japan eject Kuomintang from capital Nanking, then temporary capital at Wuhan. Final wartime capital becomes Chungking in west. CCP launch guerilla attacks behind Japanese lines. Outbreak of European war. Mao divorces Ho Tze-chen, marries Shanghai actress, Lan P’in (Chiang Ch’ing).


Expansion of territory activity and membership of CCP; clashes with Kuomintang. US representatives attempt to mediate.

Apr. 1945

7th Party Congress (first since 1928). CCP membership 900,000.

Aug. 1945

Soviet Union invade Manchuria in closing phases of war against Japan.


unstable front with Kuomintang under US mediation, as both armed forces race to establish most powerful bargaining position after Japanese collapse.


outbreak of civil war with the Kuomintang.

March 1947

Kuomintang forces seize Yenan.

Jan. 1949

People’s Liberation Army take Peking, move southwards to Nanking and the Yangtze crossing (April).

May 1949

Take Shanghai and Wuhan.

Oct. 1 1949

Mao announces the Central People’s Government, Peking

Dec. 1949 – Mao to Moscow.


Agrarian Reform Law to eliminate landlords but under tight Party control. Reconstruction programme begins. Mao to Moscow.

June 25, 1950

Korean War begins.

Oct. 1950

Chinese troops enter Korea to assist the North. Assist Vietminh in Vietnam.

Jan. 1953

Inauguration of the first Five Year Plan (1953-57). Stalin dies.

Oct. 1953

talks on the Korean. War, Panmunjom, culminate in Armistice.


first Taiwan crisis – US fleet protects Kuomintang regime in Taiwan. Geneva Conference – Chou En-lai attends. Strikes East Germany. [1]

April 1955

Bandung Conference of ‘non-aligned’ powers with China’s sponsorship.


Polish and Hungarian revolts. ‘One Hundred Flowers’ campaign in China to permit free speech; then closed down. Krushchev’s 20th Congress speech criticizing Stalin.


1st Russian sputnik launched. Soviet-Chinese treaty to make Russian nuclear technology available to China.

Jan. 1958

Great Leap Forward to accelerate the growth of output, accumulation and employment. People’s Communes set up – slogan: Overtake Britain. Second Taiwan crisis.


Great Leap wound down – Mao retires as Chairman of the People’s Republic. Soviet Union scraps the nuclear treaty.


Severe agricultural difficulties. Soviet Union withdraws all assistance. Concessions to the peasants.


agricultural disasters, economy slumps.


Mao launches the Socialist Education Movement to rectify rural cadres.


economy restored. Increasing US intervention in Vietnam. First Chinese nuclear test (1964).


Mao launches the Cultural Revolution to rectify cultural and educational work, but becomes attack on section of national and local CCP leadership. Severe disturbances, 1967-68, only controlled through People’s Liberation Army assuming administration and setting up ‘Revolutionary Committees’ to rehabilitate discredited cadres. Escalation of the Vietnam War.


Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.


armed clashes between Chinese and Russian troops on China’s northern border. Soviet rumours of Russian invasion likely. Increase China’s military preparedness. 9th Plenum of CCP nominates Lin Piao as Mao’s heir.


Lin Piao denounced for, allegedly, plotting murder of Mao. Mao in retirement; Chou En-lai effective head of regime.


rehabilitation and advance of Teng Hsiao-p’ing (General Secretary of the Party up to 1967, then removed with President of the People’s Republic Mao’s heir, Liu Shao-ch’i). Death of Chou. Removal of Teng from all offices. Nixon visit to Peking, and rapprochement with US.



1. The strikes in East Germany took place in June 1953, not in 1954. – ETOL

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Last updated: 20.1.2008