Mao Zedong was a communist dictator, and Chairman of the Communist Party of China. Under his rule tens of millions of people were killed, and persecuted. He caused the greatest famine in human history, cannibalism became rampant in some parts of China as a result, and he would execute people for the most minor of reasons. He destroyed Chinese culture and committed some of the worst human rights abuses in history. If the estimates of the deaths under him are accurate then he is responsible for the top incidence of excess mortality in human history. These are 10 shocking facts about Mao Zedong.

His Famine Killed Up To 55 Million


Under Mao the starvation got so bad that the government had to put up propaganda posters to convince people not to eat their children. The famine lasted three years, and was caused by the Great Leap Forward. Historians disagree over how many people died due to the famine, historian Frank Dikotter, estimated that there were 45 million premature deaths from 1958 to 1962. The Great Leap Forward was a social, and economic plan instigated by Mao Zedong. The plan was to transform China from an agrarian economy into socialist society. He tried to achieve this by quickly industrialising the economy, and collectivisation. Lower-end estimates put the death toll at 15 million, and higher end estimates put it at 55 million.

He Had A 14 Year Old Mistress


Mao was a womaniser who would often cheat on his wife. He even entered into a relationship with a 14 year old ballet dancer. She was part of a dance troupe meant to entertain soldiers, but sometimes Mao would invite back dancers to “make him his tea”. The girls parents were furious when they found out the 69 year old Mao, had made their daughter his mistress, but there was nothing they could do. Their relationship continued for 5 years until his wife became jealous and forced him to leave her.

Mao Was A Peasant


Mao grew up as part of a peasant family, living in small village. His father was a wealthy farmer, and they were the richest people in the village. They managed to afford to send him to school where he became a nationalist, anti-imperialist. He was a smart student but was unruly, and ended up being kicked out three times. The Mao family lived in luxury compared to those around them, but that didn’t stop him from being mocked by the other students for his ragged peasant clothes.

Mao Laid A Deadly Trap


In 1957 Mao announced the Hundred Flowers Campaign. He encouraged people to offer criticism of his government and policies as long as they also offered solutions. Doing this he convinced thousands of people to speak out against him, and offer different solutions. A year later he rounded up 550,000 people who criticised the government. Mao Zedong had actually just laid a trap to try and find out who the intellectuals that disagreed with him were. He described it as enticing the snakes from their lairs. The 550,000 people were either sent to labour camps, reeducation camps, or executed.

He Hated Toilets, And Plumbing


Mao Zedong hated toilets, and would only use a hole in the ground to relieve himself. He thought that toilets smelt bad, and that the smell would hurt his brain. If he had to go to the toilet, he would just head out to the woods and go there. He would force one of his bodyguards to dig him a hole out there, and then guard him while he went.

Cannibalisation Was A Huge Problem


In a province called Guanxi, cannibalisation become a huge problem. Communists began eating people in order to prove their dedication to communism. They would stalk people in large crowds and then attack them ravenously. Sometimes victims would be skinned alive and castrated before being killed. Eating people wasn’t looked down upon, and was something people did with their friends and family; they were proud of it. One old lady was famous for gouging out people’s eyeballs and eating them. The communist government tried to cover up what was going on there. It didn’t just happen in Guanxi though, all over China people began eating their relatives, and even their children out of starvation.

He Instigated Mango Fever


When Mao was presented with mangoes by the Pakistani foreign minister, he called the mangoes a “spiritual time bomb”. He had the mangoes sent to propaganda teams across China. The propaganda teams starting writing ridiculous newspaper articles about the mangoes like this one:

“In the afternoon of the fifth, when the great happy news of Chairman Mao giving mangoes to the Capital Worker and Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team reached the Tsinghua University campus, people immediately gathered around the gift given by the Great Leader Chairman Mao. They cried out enthusiastically and sang with wild abandonment. Tears swelled up in their eyes, and they again and again sincerely wished that our most beloved Great Leader lived then thousand years without bounds … They all made phone calls to their own work units to spread this happy news; and they also organised all kinds of celebratory activities all night long, and arrived at [the national leadership compound] Zhongnanhai despite the rain to report the good news, and to express their loyalty to the Great Leader Chairman Mao. “

His Cultural Revolution Was A Disaster

The Cultural Revolution was started by Mao Zedong, he thought that it would unseat the ruling class. This involved the purging of capitalists, and traditionalists, and eventually liberals. In 1996 Mao launched the revolution. He forced his opponents out of the Communist Party of China by calling for a class struggle. People all over China responded to his call, and set up groups of Red Guards. The idea infected not just the minds of the people, but the military and government as well. It resulted in violent outbreaks all over China.

Millions of people were persecuted in the events that followed. People were subject to public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, hard labour, and execution. The movement held the country back politically, and greatly damaged it’s economy. It’s been described as one of China’s greatest setbacks. It lasted for 10 years from 1966 to 1976, and only ended once Mao had been killed.

The Gang Of Four


Four people in particular became prominent during the Cultural Revolution, for their treacherous crimes. When they finally died, people celebrated in the streets. They were communist politicians, and Mao fanatics. The group was made up of Jiang Qing (Mao’s wife), Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen. Yao Wenyuan is reported to have started the Cultural Revolution by writing an article, which criticised an opera, which he claimed was attacking Mao, in a subtle way. The gang then put on Operas glorifying Mao, and the People’s Liberation Army. These plays eventually were also printed on comic books, posters, postcards, stamps, and many more kinds of merchandise.

He Tortured, And Humiliated Dissenters


In order to achieve collectivisation he tortured and humiliated anyone who tried to dissent. This was done through “Struggle sessions”. The victim of the struggle session would stand in front of a crowd and be accused of crimes. The crowd would verbally, and physically attack the victim until he admitted to the crimes he was accused of of. This would often be done at the victims place of work, but sometimes would be held in sports stadiums, where tens of thousands of people could take part. Mao Zedong claimed that the struggle session was actually meant to benefit the victim, by cleansing him of any counterrevolutionary thinking.

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