Mao Zedong

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Let a hundred flowers bloom: let a hundred schools of thought contend.
All reactionaries are paper tigers.
Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.
One cannot advance without mistakes... It is necessary to make mistakes. The party cannot be educated without learning from mistakes.

Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse-tung in Wade-Giles; Simplified Chinese: 毛泽东; Traditional Chinese: 毛澤東; December 26, 1893September 9, 1976) was the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from 1943 until his death. He was also a founder of the People's Republic of China.


Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.
  • The "Cabinet meeting" of the Chinese government is really quick in yielding. Even the fart of foreigners can be taken as "fragrance." The Cabinet meeting lifts the cotton export ban because foreigners want cotton; it orders "all provinces to stop collecting the cigarette tax" because foreigners want to import cigarettes. Let the 400 million compatriots again think it over: Isn't it correct to say that the Chinese government is the bookkeeper of foreigners?
  • 江山如此多娇,引无数英雄竞折腰。惜秦皇汉武,略输文采;唐宗宋祖,稍逊风骚。一代天骄,成吉思汗,只识弯弓射大雕。俱往矣,数风流人物,还看今朝。
    • The country is so beautiful, where so many heroes had devoted their lives into it. Sorry that the Qin Emperor or the Han Wu Emperor lacks a sense for literacy; while the founders of the Tang and Song dynasties came short in style. The great man, Genghis Khan, only knew how to shoot eagles with an arrow. The past is past. To see real heroes, look around you.
    • Qinyuanchun - Snow (沁园春•雪) (1936)
  • 我们需要的是热烈而镇定的情绪,紧张而有秩序的工作。
  • I knew the Classics, but disliked them. What I enjoyed were the romances of Old China, and especially stories of rebellions. I read the Yo Fei Chuan, Shui Hu Chuan, Fan T'ang, San Kuo, and Hsi Yu Chi, while still very young, and despite the vigilance of my old teacher, who hated these outlawed books and called them wicked. I used to read them in school, covering them up with a Classic when the teacher walked past. So also did most of my schoolmates. We learned many of the stories almost by heart, and discussed and re-discussed them many times. We knew more of them than the old men of the village, who also loved them and used to exchange stories with us. I believe that perhaps I was much influenced by such books, read at an impressionable age.
    • In Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China (1937)
  • Many people think it impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy's rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water the latter to the fish who inhabit it. How may it be said that these two cannot exist together?
    • On Guerilla Warfare (1937), Chapter 6 - "The Political Problems of Guerilla Warfare"
    • This is usually aphorized as "The people are the sea that the revolutionary swims in," or an equivalent.
  • Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.
    • On Protracted War, May 1938, from 'Mao's Selected Works, Vol. II', Section 64 pg. 153
  • Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel.
    • Speech marking the 60th birthday of Stalin (20 December 1939), later revised as "It is right to rebel against reactionaries."
  • "You are dictatorial." My dear sirs, you are right, that is just what we are. All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.
  • Stalin made mistakes. He made mistakes towards us, for example, in 1927. He made mistakes towards the Yugoslavs too. One cannot advance without mistakes... It is necessary to make mistakes. The party cannot be educated without learning from mistakes. This has great significance.
    • Said to Enver Hoxha, on his visit to China in 1956, as quoted in Hoxha's (1986) The Artful Albanian, (Chatto & Windus, London), ISBN 0701129700
  • There are a lot of things we can learn from the Soviet Union. Naturally, we should learn from its advanced and not its backward experience. The slogan we have advocated all along is to draw on the advanced Soviet experience. Who told you to pick up its backward experience? Some people are so undiscriminating that they say a Russian fart is fragrant. That too is subjectivism. The Russians themselves say it stinks. Therefore, we should be analytical.
  • 百花齐放,百家争鸣 (Simplified Chinese), 百花齊放,百家爭鳴 (Traditional Chinese), bǎihuāqífàng, bǎijiāzhēngmíng (Pinyin)
    • "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend" is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.
    • Slogan used at the start of the Hundred Flowers Campaign of open criticism of the communist government that began in late 1956 and ended in July 1957.
  • Ours is a people's democratic dictatorship, led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance.
    • On the Correct Handling of Contradiction (1957)
  • Criticisms from democratic personages can be of only two kinds, those that are wrong and those that are not. Criticisms that are not wrong can help remedy our shortcomings while wrong ones must be refuted. As for such types as Liang Shu-ming, Peng Yi-hu and Chang Nai-chi, if they want to fart, let them. That will be to our advantage, for everybody can judge whether the smell is good or foul, and through discussion the majority can be won over and these types isolated.
  • 假如办十件事,九件是坏的,都登在报上,一定灭亡。那我就走,到农村去,率领农民推翻政府,你解放军不跟我走,我就找红军去。【在庐山会议上的讲话(1959年7月23日)】
    • If we did ten things, nine were bad and got disclosed by the newspapers, we will be over. Then I will go, to the countryside, lead the peasant and revolt. If the Liberation Army do not follow me, I will get the Red Army. (July 23, 1959)
    • Speech at the Lushan Conference (23 July 1959)
  • The chaos caused was on a grand scale and I take responsibility. Comrades, you must all analyse your own responsibility. If you have to shit, shit! If you have to fart, fart! You will feel much better for it.
  • Maybe you're afraid of sinking. Don't think about it. If you don't think about it, you won't sink. If you do, you will.
  • (論國民黨) 有很多的頑固分子,他們是頑固專門學校畢業的。他們今天頑固,明天頑固,後天還是頑固。什麼叫頑固?固者硬也,頑者,今天、明天、後天都不進步之謂也。這樣的人,就叫做頑固分子。要使這樣的頑固分子聽我們的話,不是一件容易的事情。
    • (Referring to the Kuomintang) There are many stubborn elements, graduates in the speciality schools of stubbornness. They are stubborn today, they will be stubborn tomorrow, and they will be stubborn the day after tomorrow. What is stubbornness (wan gu)? "Gu" is to be stiff. "Wan" is to not progress: not today, nor tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow. People like that are called the "stubborn elements". It is not an easy thing to make the stubborn elements listen to our words.
    • Mao, 1967, as quoted by Jing Huang in The Role of Government Propaganda in the Educational System during the Cultural Revolution in China.
  • Racial discrimination in the United States is a product of the colonialist and imperialist system. The contradiction between the Black masses in the United States and the U.S. ruling circles is a class contradiction. Only by overthrowing the reactionary rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class and destroying the colonialist and imperialist system can the Black people in the United States win complete emancipation. The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.
  • All the rest of the world uses the word "electricity." They've borrowed the word from English. But we Chinese have our own word for it!
    • Quoted in Khrushchev Remembers (1970), p. 474
  • People who try to commit suicide — don't attempt to save them! . . . China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people.
    • As quoted in Mao's Last Revolution (2006) by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, ISBN 0674023323
  • My closest friend and brother – this world is lucky to have a great personality as Kim Il Sung. This causes my boundless happiness. The fate of the world revolution and the international communist movement are on your shoulders, Comrade Kim Il Sung. I wish you long life and good health.
  • 我这个人是被许多人恨的,特别是彭德怀同志,他是恨死了我的;不恨死了,也有若干恨。我跟彭德怀同志的政策是这样的:『人不犯我,我不犯人;人若犯我,我必犯人。』过去跟我兄弟也是这样。
    • 庐山会议实录
    • I am hated by many, especially comrade Pang Dehuai, his hatred is so intense that he wished me dead. My policy with Pang Dehuai is such: You don't touch me, I don't touch you; You touch me, I touch you. Even though we were once like brothers, it doesn't change a thing.

Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (The Little Red Book)[edit]

Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
  • 凡是敵人反對的,我們就要擁護;凡是敵人擁護的,我們就要反對。
    • We should support whatever our enemies oppose and oppose whatever our enemies support.
    • Chapter 2, originally published in Interview with Three Correspondents from the Central News Agency, the Sao Tang Pao and the Hsin Min Pao (September 16, 1939), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 272.
  • 谁是我们的敌人?谁是我们的朋友?这个问题是革命的首要问题。
    • Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution.
    • Chapter 2, originally published in Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society (March 1926), Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 1.
  • 革命不是請客吃飯,不是做文章,不是繪畫繡花,不能那樣雅致,那樣從容不迫,文質彬彬,那樣溫良恭儉讓。革命是暴動,是一個階級推翻一個階級的暴烈的行動。
  • A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
  • 枪杆子里面出政权
    • Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
    • Chapter 5, originally published in Problems of War and Strategy (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 224.
  • 一切反动派都是纸老虎。看起来反动派的样子是可怕的,但是实际上并没有什么了不起的力量。从长远的观点看问题,真正强大的力量不是属于反动派,而是属于人民。
    • All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful.
    • Chapter 6, originally published in Talk with the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong (August 1946), Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 100.
The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them.
  • 美国垄断资本集团如果坚持推行它的侵略政策和战争政策,势必有一天要被全世界人民处以刑。其他美国帮凶也将是这样。
    • If the U.S. monopoly capitalist groups persist in pushing their policies of aggression and war, the day is bound to come when they will be hanged by the people of the whole world. The same fate awaits the accomplices of the United States.
    • Chapter 6, originally published in Speech at the Supreme State Conference (September 8, 1958).
  • 革命战争是群众的战争,只有动员群众才能进行战争,只有依靠群众才能进行战争。
    • The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them.
    • Chapter 8, originally published in Be Concerned with the Well-Being of the Masses, Pay Attention to Methods of Work (January 27, 1934), Selected Works, Vol. I. p. 147.
  • 没有一个人民的军队,便没有人民的一切。
    • Without a People's army, the people have nothing.
    • Chapter 9, originally published in On Coalition Government (April 24, 1945), Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 296-97.
  • 我们的原则是党指挥枪,而决不容许枪指挥党。
    • Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.
    • Chapter 9, originally published in the Problems of War and Strategy (November 6, 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 224.
  • Recently there has been a falling off in ideological and political work among students and intellectuals, and some unhealthy tendencies have appeared. Some people seem to think that there is no longer any need to concern oneself with politics or with the future of the motherland and the ideals of mankind. It seems as if Marxism was once all the rage but is currently not so much in fashion. To counter these tendencies, we must strengthen our ideological and political work. Both students and intellectuals should study hard. In addition to the study of their specialized subjects, they must make progress both ideologically and politically, which means that they should study Marxism, current events and politics. Not to have a correct political point of view is like having no soul [...] All departments and organizations should shoulder their responsibilities in ideological and political work. This applies to the Communist Party, the Youth League, government departments in charge of this work, and especially to heads of educational institutions and teachers.
    • Chapter 12; originally published in "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People" (27 February 1957), 1st pocket ed., pp. 43-44
  • 下定决心,不怕牺牲,排除万难,去争取胜利。
    • Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.
    • Chapter 19; originally published in The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains (June 11, 1945), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 321.
  • 革命的集体组织中的自由主义是十分有害的。它是一种腐蚀剂,使团结涣散,关系松懈,工作消极,意见分歧。它使革命队伍失掉严密的组织和纪律,政策不能贯彻到底,党的组织和党所领导的群众发生隔离。这是一种严重的恶劣倾向。
    • Liberalism is extremely harmful in a revolutionary collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension. It robs the revolutionary ranks of compact organization and strict discipline, prevents policies from being carried through and alienates the Party organizations from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.
    • Chapter 24, originally published in "Combat Liberalism" (7 September 1937), Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 31-32
  • 要使文艺很好地成为整个革命机器的一个组成部分,作为团结人民、教育人民、打击敌人、消灭敌人的有力的武器,帮助人民同心同德地和敌人作斗争。
    • [Our purpose is] to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part, that they operate as powerful weapons for uniting and educating the people and for attacking and destroying the enemy, and that they help the people fight the enemy with one heart and one mind.
    • Chapter 32, originally published in Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art (May 1942), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 84.


  • 天下大乱,形势大好。
    • There is great chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent.
    • See e.g. Nigel Holden, Snejina Michailova, Susanne Tietze (editors). The Routledge Companion to Cross-Cultural Management. Routledge 2015.


  • It's always darkest before it's totally black.
    • This is a humorous misattribution that US Senator John McCain has sometimes used since at least January 2000, but there is no indication that Mao actually ever made such a comment, which is a joke referencing the common English proverb "It's always darkest before the dawn." It has also been humorously misattributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The quote may be derived from the US television show The A-Team, in which it was uttered in a 1983 episode ("The Rabbit Who Ate Las Vegas") by protagonist John "Hannibal" Smith. A similar quotation is attributed to actor Paul Newman in 2003.

Quotes about Mao Zedong[edit]

  • [Mao] has played politics with Asian cunning. … [and] has always been a master at concealing his true intention. … I was always on my guard with him.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, as quoted in A. Doak Barnett (1977) China and the major powers in East Asia, page 352
  • As late as 1947, Mao insisted that his program corresponded to that of Sun. Until December of that year, Mao insisted that his ‘new democracy’ would protect the ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘their industry and commerce.’ Because of China’s backwardness, he would continue to support capitalist development and ensure that both public and private, capital and labor, interests would benefit from the revolution.
    • A. James Gregor, Phoenix: Fascism in Our Time, New Brunswick: NJ, Transaction Publishers, 2001, p. 191, footnote 19
  • We spoke at length and We really liked Mao Zedong. A lot. He gave Us a very good impression, as Paul VI did. He is a good and very serious leader, and his people have done well to embrace him.
  • Mao Zedong! Amazing man! Imagine him and his followers wandering through China day and night, fighting for their goal. What an effort. He has also written beautiful prose and excellent poems.
    • Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in Damernas Värld 34/1972 answering the question "which man has made the most influence on you?" Translated from Swedish.
  • Even Mao's casual remark, "Sweet potato tastes good, I like it," became a slogan seen everywhere in the countryside.
    • Shaorong Huang, "Political Slogans as Leverage in Conflict and Conflict Management during China's Cultural Revolution Movement," in Chinese Conflict Management and Resolution, ed. Guo-Ming Chen and Ringo Ma (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 242.
  • He [Chairman Mao] appears to me as a father and he himself considered me as a son. [We had] very good relations. The only problem was that on many occasions, when official dinners were held, Chairman Mao always used to bring me to his side. So, then as Chinese tradition, Chairman Mao himself would use his chopsticks to put some food in my plate. So, in a way it was a great honour, but in a way I feel little fear...he coughing too much, a chain smoker, so I might get some germs [laughing].

See also[edit]

Social and political philosophy
Philosophers AmbedkarArendtAristotleAugustineAurobindoAquinasAronAverroesAzurmendiBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBenoistBenthamBerlinBonaldBosanquetBurkeJudith ButlerCamusChanakyaChomskyCiceroComteConfuciusDe BeauvoirDebordDu BoisDurkheimEmersonEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFranklinGandhiGehlenGentileAl-GhazaliGramsciGrotiusHabermasHan FeiHayekHegelHeideggerHobbesHumeIrigarayJeffersonKantKierkegaardKirkKropotkinLaoziLe BonLe PlayLeibnizLeninLockeLuxemburgMachiavelliMaistreMalebrancheMaoMarcuseMaritainMarsiliusMarxMenciusMichelsMillMisesMontesquieuMöserMoziMuhammadNegriNiebuhrNietzscheNozickOakeshottOrtegaPaineParetoPettitPlamenatzPlatoPolanyiPopperRadhakrishnanRandRawlsRenanRothbardRousseauRoyceRussellSadeSantayanaSarkarSartreSchmittSearleShangSimonovićSkinnerSmithSocratesSombartSpannSpencerSpinozaSpiritoStirnerStraussSunSun TzuTaineTaylorThucydidesThoreauTocquevilleVivekanandaVoltaireWalzerWeberŽižek
Social theories AmbedkarismAnarchismAuthoritarianismCollectivismCommunismCommunitarianismConflict theoriesConfucianismConsensus theoryConservatismContractualismCosmopolitanismCulturalismFascismFeminist political theoryGandhismIndividualismLegalismLiberalismLibertarianismMohismNational liberalismRepublicanismSocial constructionismSocial constructivismSocial DarwinismSocial determinismSocialismUtilitarianismVaisheshikaVanguardism
Concepts Civil disobedienceDemocracyFour occupationsJusticeLawMandate of HeavenPeacePropertyRevolutionRightsSocial contractSocietyWar

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General Secretaries and Chairmen of the Communist Party of China
Party Chairmen Mao Zedong · Hua Guofeng · Hu Yaobang
General Secretaries Chen Duxiu · Xiang Zhongfa · Bo Gu · Zhang Wentian · Hu Yaobang · Zhao Ziyang · Jiang Zemin · Hu Jintao · Xi Jinping