China History

Research Report
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Maoism, like any other philosophy, incorporates homeland tradition and culture into the doctrines that bind together the society. Maoism began as an alteration of Marxist and Leninist principles. Despite the many similarities that exist between Marxism and Leninism, the Chinese believe Maoism to be an entirely different branch of socialism. The theories not only differ in the formation of a socialist state but also between the doctrines of continuing the socialist society. Mao Tse-tung introduced a new way of thought in regards to revolution, new military and political doctrine, a new conception of the Party, and new international and foreign policy.

Historical Background

The teaching of Marxism influenced a number of Chinese intellectuals. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles offered a vision of a perfect and just society in which socialism prevailed. Li Dachao and Chen Duxiu were students of this revolutionary and nationalistic Marxist philosophy. During the May 4th Movement, Li Dacho and Chen Duxiu along with the comintern Voytinsky formed the Communist Party of China. Under pressure from Sun Yatsen and the Kuomintang, the Chinese Communist joined the Kuomintang.

When the CCP began to strengthen, Chiang Kai-shek attempted to end it by conducting a string of five campaigns with the intent to wipe out all the communists. Mao Tse-tung was among the few CCP leaders to escape the destruction of Chiang Kai-shek. Fearing for this life Mao fled to the south of China,where he regrouped his army. After Chiang Kia-shek's army attacked Mao in the Jiangxi Soviet, Mao and his supporters began The Long March north. They eventually settled in the Shesi province, which served as the base for the communist party. The province was populated by poor peasants; Mao's socialist vision captured the hearts of the peasantry greatly. Mao convinced them to join his masses.

Research Report

Like many others of the time, Mao was a revolutionist and supporter of Marxism . He desired a Marxist revolution to overcome the weak state of China. He wanted China to become more competitive in the global economy and political arena. The masses of people would be liberated and no longer exploited by the laborers. It is essential to explore the principle of Marxism and Leninism in order to develop an understanding of Maoism. These three philosophies are alike in that they believe that a socialist revolution must occur, however they differ on the people who ignite the revolution and when it will occur.

According to Marx, the socialist revolution will occur when socioeconomic conditions in a society have emerged and are consistent with the possibilities of a socialist order. In order for this to happen a dominating capitalistic society must be in decline leaving an ambitious industrial working class refusing to be satisfied with the present state. The proletariat class will then rebel against the capitalism and eventually overthrow the bourgeoisie resulting in the establishment of purely egalitarian state. Revolution will continue under the dictatorship of the proletariat to prevent the restoration of capitalism and continue the advance towards communism. During Marx's own time, the stage for this revolution was in the capitalistic societies of England, Germany, and possible the United States. Despite the lack of development,  Russia was the sight of the first successful Marxist revolution. The state of Russia in 1917 was hardly that of an appropriate sight for a Marxist revolution to occur. After ignoring prerequisite socioeconomic conditions, Lenin seized power and forced the application of the Marxist theory to the Russian state.

Mao, like Lenin, tailored Marxism to fit his own nations state of affairs. The Marxist principle says that revolution will occur under the right, organically evolved, socioeconomic conditions. It is then that the proletariat will act and take advantage of these conditions. The theory ensures that a revolution will occur but not necessarily on the time schedule of the revolutionists. Lenin and Mao did not wait for these preconditions to occur but launched a revolution under  circumstances that fit their own ambitions.

The situation in China lacked a foreseeable application of the Marxist and Leninist model. China was still operating as a semi-feudal country, economically further behind than Russia. Since China lacked the presetting for a  Marxist revolution to create a socialist state, it was essential to form a new philosophy and practice it. Maoism is the reaction to China’s inability to conform to the situation present in Marxism and Leninism. Maoism interprets Marxism and Leninism to a completely new stage
of thought. Political Philosopher, Wolfgang Leonhard, states that:

Maoism is the elevation of Marxism-Leninism to a new, third, and superior stage in the development of the construction of socialism. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism combines to form a whole; it is an ideology of the proletariat synthesized to cultivate new stages. Maoism had its beginnings in the endeavor to transfer the political tenants of Marxism and Leninism to China’s dramatically different conditions. The most influential adapter of Marxism to Asia was the changing focus from the urban proletarian to the peasantry. The Communist used military power and peasant organization. Stress on patriotism and national survival.
The state of China was a very midieval society, thus creating an obstacle to Mao's cultural revolution. Confucianism still greatly influenced the Chinese people.  People were reluctant to disturb the social harmony; it was taboo to challenge the authority. According to Maoism, the first obstacle to overcome in the social revolution was to form an anti-feudal revolution and overcome the ancient way of life. Since the proletariat class only constituted 1% of the Chinese population, it was necessary for Mao to motivate the peasantry to culminate the force behind the revolution. Mao persuaded the peasants to rebel against their landlords by impressing upon them tthe reward that the revolution will bring them. Mao's theory was attractive to many.

The Chinese revolution was a part of the world proletarian revolution directed against imperialism; internally the country should be ruled by joint dictatorship of several parties. The primary goal of the Chinese Revolution was to carry out a national revolution to overthrow foreign imperialist oppression and instill in the Chinese people a sense of self-reliance. Once this was completed the focus turned to carrying out a democratic revolution to overthrow feudal landlord oppression.

The New Democratic Revolution and The Three-Thirds Government

One of the objectives of the Chinese revolution was to create a “new democracy” that would differ from the western industrial and soviet democratic models. The revolution resulted in the establishment of a socialist state. Politically, the “new democracy”, was marked neither by a bourgeois dictatorship nor by a dictatorship of the proletariat but by a joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes. In Mao’s “Sinification of Marxism”, he called for a Chinese political theory of communism that not only adapted to Chinese conditions but also to the mentality and cultural tradition of the Chinese people.  In 1940, Mao Tse-tung developed the new democratic revolution by implementing the three-thirds system. Under this system, 1/3 of the seats went to the communist, 1/3 to the petty merchants that constitute the Left wing progressives, while the Right wing middle bourgeoisie occupied the remaining seats. The three-third system was imperative to winning over all the people to the communist ideology forming the People’s Democratic dictatorship. The People’s Democratic dictatorship would rule China in the name of peasants, workers, and the petty and national bourgeoisie. The result of this united party would be the collapse or transformation of the enemy landlord class.

In the “new democracy”, the state sector was to constitute the leading force behind the national economy. Great banks and major industrial and commercial enterprises were nationalized. However, the government would not confiscate private property or interfere with the development of capitalist production. Agriculturally, landlords would no longer own the land. The land would now be divided up and redistributed among the peasants.

During this Cultural Revolution, Mao did not want the Chinese to distance themselves from Chinese experience and tradition. He urged the communist party members to detach themselves further from the soviet model. Mao began to create a number of books discussing his philosophy of combining Marxism with Chinese tradition. In these works, he criticized the soviet model and warned the Chinese to be weary of foreign influence. Mao stated in one of his popular books of thought, that "China has suffered a great deal from the mechanical absorption of foreign material".

Maoism differs from the soviet model of socialism. While the Soviet model emphasizes on economic planning, “moral-political unity’, and the “leading role of the party” in the intellectual and cultural realm, non of these characteristics are present in Maoism. Rather, Maoism is focused on the opposition and discrepancies in the socialist civilization. Mao saw a number of contradictions present in the Chinese society. “Contradictions between the working class and the peasantry, contradictions between the intellectuals and the working class” all occurred. In 1956-1957, Mao launched the “Hundred Flowers” campaign. During this time he hoped to reveal the method for revealing and resolving conflicts. People were free to openly express criticism, however Mao’s mistakes could not be criticized.

Maoism  has a disdain for the intellectuals of China; Mao blamed them for the weaknesses of China. The intellectuals are a threat because they have the potential to form an elite class that would enjoy the priveleges that are unattainable for the workers and the peasants. The intellectuals are a danger in the political world as well, they threaten the authority of the CCP.

Since the intellectuals are seen as the enemy, Maoism gives allows them to be harassed, repressed, and humiliated. These acts can be carried out in order to eliminate the threat. Maoism focuses on educating the youth in accorance with the thoughts and principles of Mao. The youth constituted  the future of Maoism, they were loyal to Mao.

Historical Significance

Mao transformed the image of China. China was once a weak country divided up among numerous foreign powers. After Mao's cultural revolution, China now stood strong in the world.The foreign attitude towards China was now that of respect and fear.The Chinese nationals now felt a sense of self-reliance and strength.

Despite the death of Mao Tse-tung, Maoism continues to exist. Maoism is more strongly evident in modern day China than the soviet model of Marxism and Leninism. Developing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have begun to adapt the Mao’s perspective on revolution and socialism. Chairman Gonzalo ofthe Communist Party of Peru stated that "Maoism, embodying itself within the peoples of the world, is marching unstoppably to command the new great wave of the world proletarian revolution".


An, Tai Sung. Mao Tse-Tung’s Cultural Revolution. USA: Pegasus, 1972.
Hsiung, James Chieh. The Logic of Maoism, Critiques and Explication. USA: Praeger Publishers Inc., 1974
Lazerini, Edward J. The Chinese Revolution. Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.
Leonhard, Wolfgang. Three Faces of Marxism. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974.
Meisner, Maurice. Marxism, Maoism, and Utopianism. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.

Web Resources  (Longlive Marxism-Leninism-Maoism)  (China and Marxism)  (Selected works by Mao Tse-Tung)  (The Party Red Line- Mao Zedong Biography)