Mao Zedong was born in Shaoshan village in the Chinese province of Hunan on December 26, 1893.
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 of a heart attack on September 9, 1976 (aged 82), 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.