Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong was born December 26, 1893, into a peasant family in the village of Shaoshan, Hunan province. His father was a strict disciplinarian and Mao frequently rebelled against his authority. Mao’s early education was in the Confucian classics of Chinese history, literature, and philosophy, but early teachers also exposed him to the ideas of progressive Confucian reformers such as K’ang Yu-wei. In 1911 Mao moved to the provincial capital, Changsha, where he briefly served as a soldier in Republican army in the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty. While in Changsha, Mao read works on Western philosophy; he was also greatly influenced by progressive newspapers and by journals such as New Youth, founded by revolutionary leader Chen Duxiu. Mao also led the Chinese Communist movement in the 1930s and 1940s, and became ruler of China in 1949. Mao strayed from the Soviet Marxist model, attempting to build a socialist society based on peasant farming rather than a centralized, bureaucratic, industrialized economy. In Mao’s speech to the 1956 party congress, he spoke of the need to constantly strive for progress: "Even though we have attained extraordinarily great achievements, there is no reason to be arrogant. Modesty makes you move forward, arrogance makes you go backwards. I should always remember this truth." Mao was an “important” man to some, but to others he was their worst nightmare.