Mao Zedong

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Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thoughts contend.
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 organization from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.
All erroneous ideas, all poisonous weeds, all ghosts and monsters, must be subjected to criticism; in no circumstance should they be allowed to spread unchecked. However, the criticism should be fully reasoned, analytical and convincing, and not rough, bureaucratic, metaphysical or dogmatic.
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.
Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.

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.




  • 中国政府的“阁议”,真是又敏捷又爽快,洋大人打一个屁都是好的“香气”,洋大人要拿棉花去,阁议就把禁棉出口令取消;洋大人要送纸烟来,阁议就“电令各该省停止征收纸烟税”。再请四万万同胞想一想,中国政府是洋大人的账房这句话到底对不对?
    • 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?
Over crystal blue waters.
Eagles cleave the air,
Fish glide under the shallow water;
Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom.
I ask, on this bondless land
Who rules over man's destiny?
  • 独立寒秋,湘江北去,橘子洲头。看万山红遍,层林尽染;漫江碧透,百舸争流。鹰击长空,鱼翔浅底,万类霜天竞自由。怅寥廓,问苍茫大地,谁主沉浮?
    • Alone I stand in the autumn cold
      On the tip of Orange Island,
      Xiang flowing northward;
      I see a thousand hills crimsoned through
      By their serried woods deep-dyed,
      And a hundred barges vying
      Over crystal blue waters.
      Eagles cleave the air,
      Fish glide under the shallow water;
      Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom.
      Brooding over this immensity,
      I ask, on this bondless land
      Who rules over man's destiny?
    • I stand alone in cold autumn.
      The River Xiang goes north
      around the promontory of Orange Island.
      I see the thousand mountains gone red
      and rows of stained forests.
      The great river is glassy jade
      swarming with one hundred boats.
      Eagles flash over clouds
      and fish float near the clear bottom.
      In the freezing air a million creatures compete for freedom.
      In this immensity
      I ask the huge greenblue earth,
      who is master of nature?
      • translated by Willis Barnstone

Yellow Crane Tower (1927)

I pledge my wine to the surging torrent,
The tide of my heart swells with the waves.
  • 茫茫九派流中国,沉沉一线穿南北。烟雨莽苍苍,龟蛇锁大江。黄鹤知何去?剩有游人处。把酒酹滔滔,心潮逐浪高!
    • Wide, wide flow the nine streams through the land,
      Dark, dark threads the line from south to north.
      Blurred in the thick haze of the misty rain
      Tortoise and Snake hold the great river locked.

      The yellow crane is gone, who knows whither?
      Only this tower remains a haunt for visitors.
      I pledge my wine to the surging torrent,
      The tide of my heart swells with the waves.

    • China is vague and immense where the nine rivers pour.
      The horizon is a deep line threading north and south.
      Blue haze and rain.

      Hills like a snake or tortoise guard the river.

      The yellow crane is gone. Where?

      Now this tower and region are for the wanderer.

      1drink wine to the bubbling water - the heroes are gone.
      Like a tidal wave a wonder rises in my heart.

      • translated by Willis Barnstone


Here we can apply the old Chinese saying, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.”
The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.
Children are the masters of the new society.
Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel.
To see real heroes, look around you.
  • 一九二七年革命失败以后,革命的主观力量确实大为削弱了。剩下的一点小小的力量,若仅依据某些现象来看,自然要使同志们(作这样看法的同志们)发生悲观的念头。但若从实质上看,便大大不然。这里用得着中国的一句老话:“星星之火,可以燎原。”这就是说,现在虽只有一点小小的力量,但是它的发展会是很快的。它在中国的环境里不仅是具备了发展的可能性,简直是具备了发展的必然性,这在五卅运动及其以后的大革命运动已经得了充分的证明。我们看事情必须要看它的实质,而把它的现象只看作入门的向导,一进了门就要抓住它的实质,这才是可靠的科学的分析方法。
    • The subjective forces of the revolution have indeed been greatly weakened since the defeat of the revolution in 1927. The remaining forces are very small and those comrades who judge by appearances alone naturally feel pessimistic. But if we judge by essentials, it is quite another story. Here we can apply the old Chinese saying, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” In other words, our forces, although small at present, will grow very rapidly. In the conditions prevailing in China, their growth is not only possible but indeed inevitable, as the May 30th Movement and the Great Revolution which followed have fully proved. When we look at a thing, we must examine its essence and treat its appearance merely as an usher at the threshold, and once we cross the threshold, we must grasp the essence of the thing; this is the only reliable and scientific method of analysis.
    • "星星之火,可以燎原" ("A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire") (January 5, 1930)
  • 我们三年来从斗争中所得的战术,真是和古今中外的战术都不同。用我们的战术,群众斗争的发动是一天比一天扩大的,任何强大的敌人是奈何我们不得的。我们的战术就是游击的战术。大要说来是:‘分兵以发动群众,集中以应付敌人。’‘敌进我退,敌驻我扰,敌疲我打,敌退我追。’‘固定区域的割据,用波浪式的推进政策。强敌跟追,用盘旋式的打圈子政策。’‘很短的时间,很好的方法,发动很大的群众。’这种战术正如打网,要随时打开,又要随时收拢。打开以争取群众,收拢以应付敌人。三年以来,都是用的这种战术。
    • The tactics we have derived from the struggle of the past three years are indeed different from any other tactics, ancient or modern, Chinese or foreign. With our tactics, the masses can be aroused for struggle on an ever-broadening scale, and no enemy, however powerful, can cope with us. Ours are guerrilla tactics. They consist mainly of the following points:
      “Divide our forces to arouse the masses, concentrate our forces to deal with the enemy.”
      “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.”
      “To extend stable base areas, employ the policy of advancing in waves; when pursued by a powerful enemy, employ the policy of circling around.”
      “Arouse the largest numbers of the masses in the shortest possible time and by the best possible methods.”
      These tactics are just like casting a net; at any moment we should be able to cast it or draw it in. We cast it wide to win over the masses and draw it in to deal with the enemy. Such are the tactics we have used for the past three years.
    • "星星之火,可以燎原" ("A Single Spark Can Start A Prairie Fire" (January 5, 1930)
  • Children are the masters of the new society.
    • Decree Regarding Marriage (January 28, 1931)
  • 马克思主义者看问题,不但要看到部分,而且要看到全体。一个虾蟆坐在井里说:“天有一个井大。”这是不对的,因为天不止一个井大。如果它说:“天的某一部分有一个井大。”这是对的,因为合乎事实。我们说,红军在一个方面(保持原有阵地的方面)说来是失败了,在另一个方面(完成长征计划的方面)说来是胜利了。敌人在一个方面(占领我军原有阵地的方面)说来是胜利了,在另一个方面(实现“围剿”“追剿”计划的方面)说来是失败了。这样说才是恰当的,因为我们完成了长征。
    • In approaching a problem a Marxist should see the whole as well as the parts. A frog in a well says, "The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well." That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well. If it said, "A part of the sky is the size of the mouth of a well", that would be true, for it tallies with the facts. What we say is that in one respect the Red Army has failed (i.e., failed to maintain its original positions), but in another respect it has won a victory (i.e., in executing the plan of the Long March). In one respect the enemy won a victory (i.e., in occupying our original positions), but in another respect he has failed (i.e., failed to execute his plan of “encirclement ant suppression” and of “pursuit and suppression”). That is the only appropriate formulation, for we have completed the Long March.
    • "关心群众生活,注意工作方法"("On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism") (December 27, 1935)
  • 自从帝国主义这个怪物出世之后,世界的事情就联成一气了,要想割开也不可能了。我们中华民族有同自己的敌人血战到底的气概,有在自力更生的基础上光复旧物的决心,有自立于世界民族之林的能力。但是这不是说我们可以不需要国际援助;不,国际援助对于现代一切国家一切民族的革命斗争都是必要的。古人说:“春秋无义战。”于今帝国主义则更加无义战,只有被压迫民族和被压迫阶级有义战。全世界一切由人民起来反对压迫者的战争,都是义战。
    • Ever since the monster of imperialism came into being, the affairs of the world have become so closely interwoven that it is impossible to separate them. We the Chinese nation have the spirit to fight the enemy to the last drop of our blood, the determination to recover our lost territory by our own efforts, and the ability to stand on our own feet in the family of nations. But this does not mean that we can dispense with international support; no, today international support is necessary for the revolutionary struggle of any nation or country. There is the old adage, “In the Spring and Autumn Era there were no righteous wars.” This is even truer of imperialism today, for it is only the oppressed nations and the oppressed classes that can wage just wars.
    • "关心群众生活,注意工作方法"("On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism") (December 27, 1935)
  • 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; first published in late 1945). Variant translation of the last stanza: "All are past and gone! / For truly great men / Look to this age alone."
  • 我们需要的是热烈而镇定的情绪,紧张而有秩序的工作。
  • 积极防御,又叫攻势防御,又叫决战防御。消极防御,又叫专守防御,又叫单纯防御。消极防御实际上是假防御,只有积极防御才是真防御,才是为了反攻和进攻的防御。据我所知,任何一本有价值的军事书,任何一个比较聪明的军事家,而且无论古今中外,无论战略战术,没有不反对消极防御的。只有最愚蠢的人,或者最狂妄的人,才捧了消极防御当法宝。然而世上偏有这样的人,做出这样的事。
    • Active defence is also known as offensive defence, or defence through decisive engagements. Passive defence is also known as purely defensive defence or pure defence. Passive defence is actually a spurious kind of defence, and the only real defence is active defence, defence for the purpose of counter-attacking and taking the offensive. As far as I know, there is no military manual of value nor any sensible military expert, ancient or modern, Chinese or foreign, that does not oppose passive defence, whether in strategy or tactics. Only a complete fool or a madman would cherish passive defence as a talisman.
      • Problem of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War (December 1936), in Selected Works, Vol. I
    • Active defense is also known as offensive defense, or defense by decisive battles. Passive defense is also known as purely defensive defense or pure defense. Passive defense is actually a sham defense; active defense is the only real defense, the only defense for the purpose of counter-attacking and taking the offensive. As far as I known, there is no military manual of any value, nor is there any reasonably intelligent military expert, ancient or modern, Chinese or foreign, that does not oppose passive defense, whether strategically or tactically. Only the greatest fool or madman would hold up passive defense as a magic weapon.
    • He later wrote the similar quote "When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws." On Guerrilla Warfare (1937), Chapter 1 - "What Is Guerrilla Warfare?"
  • 鲁迅在中国的价值,据我看要算是中国的第一等圣人。孔夫子是封建社会的圣人,鲁迅则是现代中国的圣人。我们为了永久纪念他,在延安成立了鲁迅图书馆,在延长开办了鲁迅师范学校,使后来的人们可以想见他的伟大。
    • In my view, Lu Hsün is a great Chinese saint—the saint of modern China, just as Confucius was the saint of old China. For his immortal memory, we have established the Lu Hsün Library and the Lu Hsün Teachers’ Training School in Yan’an so that future generations may have a glimpse of his greatness.
    • "论鲁迅" ("On Lu Hsun") (1937)
  • 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)
  • 现代战争,非军队可单独胜任之事,尤其是在游击战斗中,必须民众的力量,才能有利的把握。因为有了民众的帮助,则凡关于运输,救护,即不幸失败、也有方法逃脱或收容,因此,民众没有组织和联络的地方,不可轻易作战。不要侦探,扰乱等,有很大的便利,同时可陷敌于孤立的地方,则于我之便利特多。即不幸失败,也有方法逃脱或收容,因此,民众没有组织和联络的地方,不可轻易作战。
    • Modern warfare is not a matter in which armies alone can determine victory or defeat. Especially in guerrilla combat, we must rely on the force of the popular masses, for it is only thus that we can have a guarantee of success. The support of the masses offers us great advantages as regards transport, assistance to wounded, intelligence, disruption of the enemy’s position, etc. At the same time, the enemy can be put into an isolated position, thus further increasing our advantages. If, by misfortune, we are defeated, it will also be possible to escape or to find concealment. Consequently, we must not lightly give battle in places where the masses are not organized and linked to us.
      • Basic Tactics (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 Guerrilla 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.
  • 马克思主义的道理千条万绪,归根结底就是一句话:“造反有理。”
    • Marxism comprises many principles, but in the final analysis they can all be brought back to a single sentence: it is right to rebel.
    • "在延安各界庆祝斯大林六十寿辰大会上的讲话" ("Speech marking the 60th birthday of Stalin") (20 December 1939), later revised as "It is right to rebel against reactionaries."

On Practice (1937)

Man's social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many other forms--class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society.
The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics. One is its class nature: it openly avows that dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat. The other is its practicality: it emphasizes the dependence of theory on practice, emphasizes that theory is based on practice and in turn serves practice.
Knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice.
If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance.
Only after man knows the particular essence of many different things can he proceed to generalization and know the common essence of things.
  • 人的社会实践,不限于生产活动一种形式,还有多种其他的形式,阶级斗争,政治生活,科学和艺术的活动,总之社会实际生活的一切领域都是社会的人所参加的。因此,人的认识,在物质生活以外,还从政治生活文化生活中(与物质生活密切联系),在各种不同程度上,知道人和人的各种关系。其中,尤以各种形式的阶级斗争,给予人的认识发展以深刻的影响。在阶级社会中,每一个人都在一定的阶级地位中生活,各种思想无不打上阶级的烙印。
    • Man's social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many other forms--class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society. Thus man, in varying degrees, comes to know the different relations between man and man, not only through his material life but also through his political and cultural life (both of which are intimately bound up with material life). Of these other types of social practice, class struggle in particular, in all its various forms, exerts a profound influence on the development of man's knowledge. In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
  • 人们要想得到工作的胜利即得到预想的结果,一定要使自己的思想合于客观外界的规律性,如果不合,就会在实践中失败。人们经过失败之后,也就从失败取得教训,改正自己的思想使之适合于外界的规律性,人们就能变失败为胜利,所谓“失败者成功之母”,“吃一堑长一智”,就是这个道理。
    • If a man wants to succeed in his work, that is, to achieve the anticipated results, he must bring his ideas into correspondence with the laws of the objective external world; if they do not correspond, he will fail in his practice. After he fails, he draws his lessons, corrects his ideas to make them correspond to the laws of the external world, and can thus turn failure into success; this is what is meant by "failure is the mother of success" and "a fall into the pit, a gain in your wit".
  • 马克思主义的哲学辩证唯物论有两个最显著的特点:一个是它的阶级性,公然申明辩证唯物论是为无产阶级服务的;再一个是它的实践性,强调理论对于实践的依赖关系,理论的基础是实践,又转过来为实践服务。判定认识或理论之是否真理,不是依主观上觉得如何而定,而是依客观上社会实践的结果如何而定。真理的标准只能是社会的实践。实践的观点是辩证唯物论的认识论之第一的和基本的观点。
    • The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics. One is its class nature: it openly avows that dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat. The other is its practicality: it emphasizes the dependence of theory on practice, emphasizes that theory is based on practice and in turn serves practice. The truth of any knowledge or theory is determined not by subjective feelings, but by objective results in social practice. Only social practice can be the criterion of truth. The standpoint of practice is the primary and basic standpoint in the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge.
  • 马克思列宁主义认为:认识过程中两个阶段的特性,在低级阶段,认识表现为感性的,在高级阶段,认识表现为论理的,但任何阶段,都是统一的认识过程中的阶段。感性和理性二者的性质不同,但又不是互相分离的,它们在实践的基础上统一起来了。我们的实践证明:感觉到了的东西,我们不能立刻理解它,只有理解了的东西才更深刻地感觉它。感觉只解决现象问题,理论才解决本质问题。这些问题的解决,一点也不能离开实践。无论何人要认识什么事物,除了同那个事物接触,即生活于(实践于)那个事物的环境中,是没有法子解决的。不能在封建社会就预先认识资本主义社会的规律,因为资本主义还未出现,还无这种实践。马克思主义只能是资本主义社会的产物。马克思不能在自由资本主义时代就预先具体地认识帝国主义时代的某些特异的规律,因为帝国主义这个资本主义最后阶段还未到来,还无这种实践,只有列宁和斯大林才能担当此项任务。马克思、恩格斯、列宁、斯大林之所以能够作出他们的理论,除了他们的天才条件之外,主要地是他们亲自参加了当时的阶级斗争和科学实验的实践,没有这后一个条件,任何天才也是不能成功的。
    • Marxism-Leninism holds that each of the two stages in the process of cognition has its own characteristics, with knowledge manifesting itself as perceptual at the lower stage and logical at the higher stage, but that both are stages in an integrated process of cognition. The perceptual and the rational are qualitatively different, but are not divorced from each other; they are unified on the basis of practice. Our practice proves that what is perceived cannot at once be comprehended and that only what is comprehended can be more deeply perceived. Perception only solves the problem of phenomena; theory alone can solve the problem of essence. The solving of both these problems is not separable in the slightest degree from practice. Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment. In feudal society it was impossible to know the laws of capitalist society in advance because capitalism had not yet emerged, the relevant practice was lacking. Marxism could be the product only of capitalist society. Marx, in the era of laissez-faire capitalism, could not concretely know certain laws peculiar to the era of imperialism beforehand, because imperialism, the last stage of capitalism, had not yet emerged and the relevant practice was lacking; only Lenin and Stalin could undertake this task. Leaving aside their genius, the reason why Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin could work out their theories was mainly that they personally took part in the practice of the class struggle and the scientific experimentation of their time; lacking this condition, no genius could have succeeded.
  • 常常听到一些同志在不能勇敢接受工作任务时说出来的一句话:没有把握。为什么没有把握呢?因为他对于这项工作的内容和环境没有规律性的了解,或者他从来就没有接触过这类工作,或者接触得不多,因而无从谈到这类工作的规律性。及至把工作的情况和环境给以详细分析之后,他就觉得比较地有了把握,愿意去做这项工作。如果这个人在这项工作中经过了一个时期,他有了这项工作的经验了,而他又是一个肯虚心体察情况的人,不是一个主观地、片面地、表面地看问题的人,他就能够自己做出应该怎样进行工作的结论,他的工作勇气也就可以大大地提高了。只有那些主观地、片面地和表面地看问题的人,跑到一个地方,不问环境的情况,不看事情的全体(事情的历史和全部现状),也不触到事情的本质(事情的性质及此一事情和其他事情的内部联系),就自以为是地发号施令起来,这样的人是没有不跌交子的。
    • "I am not sure I can handle it." We often hear this remark when a comrade hesitates to accept an assignment. Why is he unsure of himself? Because he has no systematic understanding of the content and circumstances of the assignment, or because he has had little or no contact with such work, and so the laws governing it are beyond him. After a detailed analysis of the nature and circumstances of the assignment, he will feel more sure of himself and do it willingly. If he spends some time at the job and gains experience and if he is a person who is willing to look into matters with an open mind and not one who approaches problems subjectively, one-sidedly and superficially, then he can draw conclusions for himself as to how to go about the job and do it with much more courage. Only those who are subjective, one-sided and superficial in their approach to problems will smugly issue orders or directives the moment they arrive on the scene, without considering the circumstances, without viewing things in their totality (their history and their present state as a whole) and without getting to the essence of things (their nature and the internal relations between one thing and another). Such people are bound to trip and fall.
  • 如果有了正确的理论,只是把它空谈一阵,束之高阁,并不实行,那末,这种理论再好也是没有意义的。认识从实践始,经过实践得到了理论的认识,还须再回到实践去。认识的能动作用,不但表现于从感性的认识到理性的认识之能动的飞跃,更重要的还须表现于从理性的认识到革命的实践这一个飞跃。抓着了世界的规律性的认识,必须把它再回到改造世界的实践中去,再用到生产的实践、革命的阶级斗争和民族斗争的实践以及科学实验的实践中去。
    • If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance. Knowledge begins with practice, and theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice. The active function of knowledge manifests itself not only in the active leap from perceptual to rational knowledge, but--and this is more important--it must manifest itself in the leap from rational knowledge to revolutionary practice. The knowledge which grasps the laws of the world, must be redirected to the practice of changing the world, must be applied anew in the practice of production, in the practice of revolutionary class struggle and revolutionary national struggle and in the practice of scientific experiment.
  • 通过实践而发现真理,又通过实践而证实真理和发展真理。从感性认识而能动地发展到理性认识,又从理性认识而能动地指导革命实践,改造主观世界和客观世界。实践、认识、再实践、再认识,这种形式,循环往复以至无穷,而实践和认识之每一循环的内容,都比较地进到了高一级的程度。这就是辩证唯物论的全部认识论,这就是辩证唯物论的知行统一观。
    • Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge; then start from rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and the objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.

On Contradiction (1937)

Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party's life would come to an end.
The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence.
Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different methods.
Every difference in men's concepts should be regarded as reflecting an objective contradiction. Objective contradictions are reflected in subjective thinking, and this process constitutes the contradictory movement of concepts, pushes forward the development of thought, and ceaselessly solves problems in man's thinking.
  • 和形而上学的宇宙观相反,唯物辩证法的宇宙观主张从事物的内部、从一事物对他事物的关系去研究事物的发展,即把事物的发展看做是事物内部的必然的自己的运动,而每一事物的运动都和它的周围其它事物互相联系着和互相影响着。事物发展的根本原因,不是在事物的外部而是在事物的内部,在于事物内部的矛盾性。任何事物内部都有这种矛盾性,因此引起了事物的运动和发展。事物内部的这种矛盾性是事物发展的根本原因,一事物和他事物的互相联系和互相影响则是事物发展的第二位的原因。这样,唯物辩证法就有力地反对了形而上学的机械唯物论和庸俗进化论的外因论或被动论。这是清楚的,单纯的外部原因只能引起事物的机械的运动,即范围的大小,数量的增减,不能说明事物何以有性质上的千差万别及其互相变化。
    • As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes. Thus materialist dialectics effectively combats the theory of external causes, or of an external motive force, advanced by metaphysical mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism. It is evident that purely external causes can only give rise to mechanical motion, that is, to changes in scale or quantity, but cannot explain why things differ qualitatively in thousands of ways and why one thing changes into another.
  • 按照唯物辩证法的观点,自然界的变化,主要地是由于自然界内部矛盾的发展。社会的变化,主要地是由于社会内部矛盾的发展,即生产力和生产关系的矛盾,阶级之间的矛盾,新旧之间的矛盾,由于这些矛盾的发展,推动了社会的前进,推动了新旧社会的代谢。唯物辩证法是否排除外部的原因呢?并不排除。唯物辩证法认为外因是变化的条件,内因是变化的根据,外因通过内因而起作用。鸡蛋因得适当的温度而变化为鸡子,但温度不能使石头变为鸡子,因为二者的根据是不同的。各国人民之间的互相影响是时常存在的。在资本主义时代,特别是在帝国主义和无产阶级革命的时代,各国在政治上、经济上和文化上的互相影响和互相激动,是极其巨大的。十月社会主义革命不只是开创了俄国历史的新纪元,而且开创了世界历史的新纪元,影响到世界各国内部的变化,同样地而且还特别深刻地影响到中国内部的变化,但是这种变化是通过了各国内部和中国内部自己的规律性而起的。两军相争,一胜一败,所以胜败,皆决于内因。
    • According to materialist dialectics, changes in nature are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in nature. Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new. Does materialist dialectics exclude external causes? Not at all. It holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a different basis. There is constant interaction between the peoples of different countries. In the era of capitalism, and especially in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the interaction and mutual impact of different countries in the political, economic and cultural spheres are extremely great. The October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new epoch in world history as well as in Russian history. It exerted influence on internal changes in the other countries in the world and, similarly and in a particularly profound way, on internal changes in China. These changes, however, were effected through the inner laws of development of these countries, China included. In battle, one army is victorious and the other is defeated, both the victory and the defeat are determined by internal causes.
  • 原来矛盾着的各方面,不能孤立地存在。假如没有和它作对的矛盾的一方,它自己这一方就失去了存在的条件。
    • The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence.
  • 人的概念的每一差异,都应把它看作是客观矛盾的反映。客观矛盾反映入主观的思想,组成了概念的矛盾运动,推动了思想的发展,不断地解决了人们的思想问题。
    • Every difference in men's concepts should be regarded as reflecting an objective contradiction. Objective contradictions are reflected in subjective thinking, and this process constitutes the contradictory movement of concepts, pushes forward the development of thought, and ceaselessly solves problems in man's thinking.
  • 党内不同思想的对立和斗争是经常发生的,这是社会的阶级矛盾和新旧事物的矛盾在党内的反映。党内如果没有矛盾和解决矛盾的思想斗争,党的生命也就停止了。
    • Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party's life would come to an end.
  • 为要暴露事物发展过程中的矛盾在其总体上、在其相互联结上的特殊性,就是说暴露事物发展过程的本质,就必须暴露过程中矛盾各方面的特殊性,否则暴露过程的本质成为不可能,这也是我们作研究工作时必须十分注意的。
    • It is necessary not only to study the particular contradiction and the essence determined thereby of every great system of the forms of motion of matter, but also to study the particular contradiction and the essence of each process in the long course of development of each form of motion of matter. In every form of motion, each process of development which is real (and not imaginary) is qualitatively different. Our study must emphasize and start from this point.
  • 不同质的矛盾,只有用不同质的方法才能解决。
    • Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different methods.
  • 由此可知,任何过程如果有多数矛盾存在的话,其中必定有一种是主要的,起着领导的、决定的作用,其它则处于次要和服从的地位。因此,研究任何过程,如果是存在着两个以上矛盾的复杂过程的话,就要用全力找出它的主要矛盾。捉住了这个主要矛盾,一切问题就迎刃而解了。这是马克思研究资本主义社会告诉我们的方法。列宁和斯大林研究帝国主义和资本主义总危机的时候,列宁和斯大林研究苏联经济的时候,也告诉了这种方法。万千的学问家和实行家,不懂得这种方法,结果如堕烟海,找不到中心,也就找不到解决矛盾的方法。
    • Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to funding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved. This is the method Marx taught us in his study of capitalist society. Likewise Lenin and Stalin taught us this method when they studied imperialism and the general crisis of capitalism and when they studied the Soviet economy. There are thousands of scholars and men of action who do not understand it, and the result is that, lost in a fog, they are unable to get to the heart of a problem and naturally cannot find a way to resolve its contradictions.
  • 不能把过程中所有的矛盾平均看待,必须把它们区别为主要的和次要的两类,着重于捉住主要的矛盾,已如上述。但是在各种矛盾之中,不论是主要的或次要的,矛盾着的两个方面,又是否可以平均看待呢?也是不可以的。无论什么矛盾,矛盾的诸方面,其发展是不平衡的。有时候似乎势均力敌,然而这只是暂时的和相对的情形,基本的形态则是不平衡。矛盾着的两方面中,必有一方面是主要的,他方面是次要的。其主要的方面,即所谓矛盾起主导作用的方面。事物的性质,主要地是由取得支配地位的矛盾的主要方面所规定的。
    • As we have said, one must not treat all the contradictions in a process as being equal but must distinguish between the principal and the secondary contradictions, and pay special attention to grasping the principal one. But, in any given contradiction, whether principal or secondary, should the two contradictory aspects be treated as equal? Again, no. In any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.
  • 当着某一件事情(任何事情都是一样)要做,但是还没有方针、方法、计划或政策的时候,确定方针、方法、计划或政策,也就是主要的决定的东西。当着政治文化等等上层建筑阻碍着经济基础的发展的时候,对于政治上和文化上的革新就成为主要的决定的东西了。我们这样说,是否违反了唯物论呢?没有。因为我们承认总的历史发展中是物质的东西决定精神的东西,是社会的存在决定社会的意识;但是同时又承认而且必须承认精神的东西的反作用,社会意识对于社会存在的反作用,上层建筑对于经济基础的反作用。这不是违反唯物论,正是避免了机械唯物论,坚持了辩证唯物论。
    • When a task, no matter which, has to be performed, but there is as yet no guiding line, method, plan or policy, the principal and decisive thing is to decide on a guiding line, method, plan or policy. When the superstructure (politics, culture, etc.) obstructs the development of the economic base, political and cultural changes become principal and decisive. Are we going against materialism when we say this? No. The reason is that while we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also--and indeed must--recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base. This does not go against materialism; on the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly upholds dialectical materialism.
  • 一切矛盾着的东西,互相联系着,不但在一定条件之下共处于一个统一体中,而且在一定条件之下互相转化,这就是矛盾的同一性的全部意义。列宁所谓“怎样成为同一的(怎样变成同一的),——在怎样的条件之下它们互相转化,成为同一的”,就是这个意思。
    • All contradictory things are interconnected; not only do they coexist in a single entity in given conditions, but in other given conditions, they also transform themselves into each other. This is the full meaning of the identity of opposites. This is what Lenin meant when he discussed "how they happen to be (how they become) identical--under what conditions they are identical, transforming themselves into one another".
  • 认识这种情形,极为重要。它使我们懂得,在阶级社会中,革命和革命战争是不可避免的,舍此不能完成社会发展的飞跃,不能推翻反动的统治阶级,而使人民获得政权。共产党人必须揭露反动派所谓社会革命是不必要的和不可能的等等欺骗的宣传,坚持马克思列宁主义的社会革命论,使人民懂得,这不但是完全必要的,而且是完全可能的,整个人类的历史和苏联的胜利,都证明了这个科学的真理。
    • It is highly important to grasp this fact. It enables us to understand that revolutions and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society and that without them, it is impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power. Communists must expose the deceitful propaganda of the reactionaries, such as the assertion that social revolution is unnecessary and impossible. They must firmly uphold the Marxist-Leninist theory of social revolution and enable the people to understand that social revolution is not only entirely necessary but also entirely practicable, and that the whole history of mankind and the triumph of the Soviet Union have confirmed this scientific truth.
  • 但是我们必须具体地研究各种矛盾斗争的情况,不应当将上面所说的公式不适当地套在一切事物的身上。矛盾和斗争是普遍的、绝对的,但是解决矛盾的方法,即斗争的形式,则因矛盾的性质不同而不相同。有些矛盾具有公开的对抗性,有些矛盾则不是这样。根据事物的具体发展,有些矛盾是由原来还非对抗性的,而发展成为对抗性的;也有些矛盾则由原来是对抗性的,而发展成为非对抗性的。
    • However, we must make a concrete study of the circumstances of each specific struggle of opposites and should not arbitrarily apply the formula discussed above to everything. Contradiction and struggle are universal and absolute, but the methods of resolving contradictions, that is, the forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions. Some contradictions are characterized by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions which were originally non-antagonistic develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones.
  • 就人类认识运动的秩序说来,总是由认识个别的和特殊的事物,逐步地扩大到认识一般的事物。人们总是首先认识了许多不同事物的特殊的本质,然后才有可能更进一步地进行概括工作,认识诸种事物的共同的本质。
    • As regards the sequence in the movement of man's knowledge, there is always a gradual growth from the knowledge of individual and particular things to the knowledge of things in general. Only after man knows the particular essence of many different things can he proceed to generalization and know the common essence of things.
  • 炸弹在未爆炸的时候,是矛盾物因一定条件共居于一个统一体中的时候。待至新的条件(发火)出现,才发生了爆炸。自然界中一切到了最后要采取外部冲突形式去解决旧矛盾产生新事物的现象,都有与此相仿佛的情形。
    • Before it explodes, a bomb is a single entity in which opposites coexist in given conditions. The explosion takes place only when a new condition, ignition, is present. An analogous situation arises in all those natural phenomena which finally assume the form of open conflict to resolve old contradictions and produce new things.
  • 我们实行过的土地革命,已经是并且还将是这样的过程,拥有土地的地主阶级转化为失掉土地的阶级,而曾经是失掉土地的农民却转化为取得土地的小私有者。有无、得失之间,因一定条件而互相联结,二者具有同一性。在社会主义条件之下,农民的私有制又将转化为社会主义农业的公有制,苏联已经这样做了,全世界将来也会这样做。私产和公产之间有一条由此达彼的桥梁,哲学上名之曰同一性,或互相转化、互相渗透。
    • Our agrarian revolution has been a process in which the landlord class owning the land is transformed into a class that has lost its land, while the peasants who once lost their land are transformed into small holders who have acquired land, and it will be such a process once again. In given conditions having and not having, acquiring and losing, are interconnected; there is identity of the two sides. Under socialism, private peasant ownership is transformed into the public ownership of socialist agriculture; this has already taken place in the Soviet Union, as it will take place everywhere else. There is a bridge leading from private property to public property, which in philosophy is called identity, or transformation into each other, or interpenetration.
  • 共产党内正确思想和错误思想的矛盾,如前所说,在阶级存在的时候,这是阶级矛盾对于党内的反映。这种矛盾,在开始的时候,或在个别的问题上,并不一定马上表现为对抗性的。但随着阶级斗争的发展,这种矛盾也就可能发展为对抗性的。苏联共产党的历史告诉我们:列宁、斯大林的正确思想和托洛茨基、布哈林等人的错误思想的矛盾,在开始的时候还没有表现为对抗的形式,但随后就发展为对抗的了。中国共产党的历史也有过这样的情形。我们党内许多同志的正确思想和陈独秀、张国焘等人的错误思想的矛盾,在开始的时候也没有表现为对抗的形式,但随后就发展为对抗的了。目前我们党内的正确思想和错误思想的矛盾,没有表现为对抗的形式,如果犯错误的同志能够改正自己的错误,那就不会发展为对抗性的东西。因此,党一方面必须对于错误思想进行严肃的斗争,另方面又必须充分地给犯错误的同志留有自己觉悟的机会。在这样的情况下,过火的斗争,显然是不适当的。但如果犯错误的人坚持错误,并扩大下去,这种矛盾也就存在着发展为对抗性的东西的可能性。
    • As already mentioned, so long as classes exist, contradictions between correct and incorrect ideas in the Communist Party are reflections within the Party of class contradictions. At first, with regard to certain issues, such contradictions may not manifest themselves as antagonistic. But with the development of the class struggle, they may grow and become antagonistic. The history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union shows us that the contradictions between the correct thinking of Lenin and Stalin and the fallacious thinking of Trotsky, Bukharin and others did not at first manifest themselves in an antagonistic form, but that later they did develop into antagonism.

Combat Liberalism (1937)

All loyal, honest, active and upright Communists must unite to oppose the liberal tendencies shown by certain people among us, and set them on the right path. This is one of the tasks on our ideological front.
  • 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 organization from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.
  • 自由主义者以抽象的教条看待马克思主义的原则。他们赞成马克思主义,但是不准备实行之,或不准备完全实行之,不准备拿马克思主义代替自己的自由主义。这些人,马克思主义是有的,自由主义也是有的:说的是马克思主义,行的是自由主义;对人是马克思主义,对己是自由主义。两样货色齐备,各有各的用处。这是一部分人的思想方法。
    • People who are liberals look upon the principles of Marxism as abstract dogma. They approve of Marxism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism. These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well - they talk Marxism but practice liberalism; they apply Marxism to others but liberalism to themselves. They keep both kind of goods in stock and find a use for each. This is how the minds of certain people work.
  • 一切忠诚、坦白、积极、正直的共产党员团结起来,反对一部分人的自由主义的倾向,使他们改变到正确的方面来。这是思想战线的任务之一。
    • All loyal, honest, active and upright Communists must unite to oppose the liberal tendencies shown by certain people among us, and set them on the right path. This is one of the tasks on our ideological front.

On Protracted Warfare (1938)

Without preparedness superiority is not real superiority and there can be no initiative either. Having grasped this point, a force which is inferior but prepared can often defeat a superior enemy by surprise attack. We say an enemy on the move is easy to attack precisely because he is then off guard, that is, unprepared.
"War is the continuation of politics." In this sense war is politics and war itself is a political action; since ancient times there has never been a war that did not have a political character.
The army must become one with the people so that they see it as their own army. Such an army will be invincible, and an imperialist power like Japan will be no match for it.
The richest source of power to wage war lies in the masses of the people.
  • 这就是所谓“唯武器论”,是战争问题中的机械论,是主观地和片面地看问题的意见。我们的意见与此相反,不但看到武器,而且看到人力。武器是战争的重要的因素,但不是决定的因素,决定的因素是人不是物。力量对比不但是军力和经济力的对比,而且是人力和人心的对比。军力和经济力是要人去掌握的。
    • This is the so-called theory that "weapons decide everything", which constitutes a mechanical approach to the question of war and a subjective and one-sided view. Our view is opposed to this; we see not only weapons but also people. Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also a contest of human power and morale. Military and economic power is necessarily wielded by people.
  • 历史上的战争分为两类,一类是正义的,一类是非正义的。一切进步的战争都是正义的,一切阻碍进步的战争都是非正义的。我们共产党人反对一切阻碍进步的非正义的战争,但是不反对进步的正义的战争。对于后一类战争,我们共产党人不但不反对,而且积极地参加。前一类战争,例如第一次世界大战,双方都是为着帝国主义利益而战,所以全世界的共产党人坚决地反对那一次战争。反对的方法,在战争未爆发前,极力阻止其爆发;既爆发后,只要有可能,就用战争反对战争,用正义战争反对非正义战争。
    • History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We Communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we Communists not oppose just wars; we actively participate in them. As for unjust wars, World War I is an instance in which both sides fought for imperialist interests; therefore, the Communists of the whole world firmly opposed that war. The way to oppose a war of this kind is to do everything possible to prevent it before it breaks out and, once it breaks out, to oppose war with war, to oppose unjust war with just war, whenever possible.
  • 指导战争的人们不能超越客观条件许可的限度期求战争的胜利,然而可以而且必须在客观条件的限度之内,能动地争取战争的胜利。战争指挥员活动的舞台,必须建筑在客观条件的许可之上,然而他们凭借这个舞台,却可以导演出很多有声有色、威武雄壮的戏剧来。
    • In seeking victory, those who direct a war cannot overstep the limitations imposed by the objective conditions. Within these limitations, however, they can and must play a dynamic role in striving for victory. The stage of action for commanders in a war must be built upon objective possibilities, but on that stage they can direct the performance of many a drama, full of sound and color, power and grandeur.
  • 优势而无准备,不是真正的优势,也没有主动。懂得这一点,劣势而有准备之军,常可对敌举行不意的攻势,把优势者打败。我们说运动之敌好打,就是因为敌在不意即无准备中。
    • Without preparedness superiority is not real superiority and there can be no initiative either. Having grasped this point, a force which is inferior but prepared can often defeat a superior enemy by surprise attack. We say an enemy on the move is easy to attack precisely because he is then off guard, that is, unprepared.
  • “战争是政治的继续”,在这点上说,战争就是政治,战争本身就是政治性质的行动,从古以来没有不带政治性的战争。
    • "War is the continuation of politics." In this sense war is politics and war itself is a political action; since ancient times there has never been a war that did not have a political character.
  • 日本现在用战争来压迫,要完全断绝中国革命的进路,所以不得不举行抗日战争,决心要扫除这个障碍。障碍既除,政治的目的达到,战争结束。障碍没有扫除得干净,战争仍须继续进行,以求贯彻。例如抗日的任务未完,有想求妥协的,必不成功;因为即使因某种缘故妥协了,但是战争仍要起来,广大人民必定不服,必要继续战争,贯彻战争的政治目的。因此可以说,政治是不流血的战争,战争是流血的政治。
    • Japan is now using war for the purpose of oppressing China and completely blocking the advance of the Chinese revolution, and therefore China is compelled to wage the War of Resistance in her determination to sweep away this obstacle. When the obstacle is removed, our political aim will be attained and the war concluded. But if the obstacle is not completely swept away, the war will have to continue till the aim is fully accomplished. Thus anyone who seeks a compromise before the task of the anti-Japanese war is fulfilled is bound to fail, because even if a compromise were to occur for one reason or another, the war would break out again, since the broad masses of the people would certainly not submit but would continue the war until its political objective was achieved. It can therefore be said that politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.
  • 军队应实行一定限度的民主化,主要地是废除封建主义的打骂制度和官兵生活同甘苦。这样一来,官兵一致的目的就达到了,军队就增加了绝大的战斗力,长期的残酷的战争就不患不能支持。
    • A proper measure of democracy should be put into effect in the army, chiefly by abolishing the feudal practice of bullying and beating and by having officers and men share weal and woe. Once this is done, unity will be achieved between officers and men, the combat effectiveness of the army will be greatly increased, and there will be no doubt of our ability to sustain the long, cruel war.
  • 军队须和民众打成一片,使军队在民众眼睛中看成是自己的军队,这个军队便无敌于天下,个把日本帝国主义是不够打的。
    • The army must become one with the people so that they see it as their own army. Such an army will be invincible, and an imperialist power like Japan will be no match for it.
  • 进步和进步的缓慢是目前时局的两个特点,后一个特点和战争的迫切要求很不相称,这就是使得爱国志士们大为发愁的地方。然而我们是在革命战争中,革命战争是一种抗毒素,它不但将排除敌人的毒焰,也将清洗自己的污浊。凡属正义的革命的战争,其力量是很大的,它能改造很多事物,或为改造事物开辟道路。中日战争将改造中日两国;只要中国坚持抗战和坚持统一战线,就一定能把旧日本化为新日本,把旧中国化为新中国,中日两国的人和物都将在这次战争中和战争后获得改造。我们把抗战和建国联系起来看,是正当的。说日本也能获得改造,是说日本统治者的侵略战争将走到失败,有引起日本人民革命之可能。日本人民革命胜利之日,就是日本改造之时。这和中国的抗战密切地联系着,这一个前途是应该看到的。
    • Progress and the slow pace of progress are two characteristics of the present situation, and the second ill accords with the urgent needs of the war, which is a source of great concern to patriots. But we are in the midst of a revolutionary war, and revolutionary war is an antitoxin which not only eliminates the enemy's poison but also purges us of our own filth. Every just, revolutionary war is endowed with tremendous power, which can transform many things or clear the way for their transformation. The Sino-Japanese war will transform both China and Japan; provided China perseveres in the War of Resistance and in the united front, the old Japan will surely be transformed into a new Japan and the old China into a new China, and people and everything else in both China and Japan will be transformed during and after the war. It is proper for us to regard the anti-Japanese war and our national reconstruction as interconnected. To say that Japan can also be transformed is to say that the war of aggression by her rulers will end in defeat and may lead to a revolution by the Japanese people. The day of triumph of the Japanese people's revolution will be the day Japan is transformed. All this is closely linked with China's War of Resistance and is a prospect we should take into account.
  • 战争的伟力之最深厚的根源,存在于民众之中。日本敢于欺负我们,主要的原因在于中国民众的无组织状态。克服了这一缺点,就把日本侵略者置于我们数万万站起来了的人民之前,使它像一匹野牛冲入火阵,我们一声唤也要把它吓一大跳,这匹野牛就非烧死不可。
    • The richest source of power to wage war lies in the masses of the people. It is mainly because of the unorganized state of the Chinese masses that Japan dares to bully us. When this defect is remedied, the Japanese aggressor, like a mad bull crashing into a ring of flames, will be surrounded by hundreds of millions of our people standing upright, the mere sound of their voices will strike terror into him, and he will be burned to death.

Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War (October 1938)

Can a Communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but must be.
  • 国际主义者的共产党员,是否可以同时又是一个爱国主义者呢?我们认为不但是可以的,而且是应该的。
    • Can a Communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but must be.
  • 坚持民族统一战线才能克服困难,战胜敌人,建设新中国,这是毫无疑义的。但是在同时,必须保持加入统一战线中的任何党派在思想上、政治上和组织上的独立性,不论是国民党也好,共产党也好,其他党派也好,都是这样。
    • It is only firmly maintaining the national united front that the difficulties can be overcome, the enemy defeated, and a new China built. This is beyond all doubt. At the same time, every party and group in the united front must preserve its ideological, political and organizational independence; this holds good for the Kuomintang, the Communist Party, or any other party or group.
  • 不但要关心党的干部,还要关心非党的干部。党外存在着很多的人材,共产党不能把他们置之度外。去掉孤傲习气,善于和非党干部共事,真心诚意地帮助他们,用热烈的同志的态度对待他们,把他们的积极性组织到抗日和建国的伟大事业中去,这是每一个共产党员的责任。
    • Our concern should extend to non-Party cadres as well as to Party cadres. There are many capable people outside the Party whom we must not ignore. The duty of every Communist is to rid himself of aloofness and arrogance and to work well with non-Party cadres, give them sincere help, have a warm, comradely attitude towards them and enlist their initiative in the great cause of resisting Japan and reconstructing the nation.


What is knowledge? Ever since class society came into being the world has had only two kinds of knowledge, knowledge of the struggle of production and knowledge of the class struggle. Natural science and social science are the crystallization of these two kinds of knowledge, and philosophy is the generalization and summation of the knowledge of nature.
Our comrades must understand that we study Marxism-Leninism not for display, nor because there is any mystery about it, but solely because it is the science which leads the revolutionary cause of the proletariat to victory.
The people’s state protects the people. Only when the people have such a state can they educate and remould themselves by democratic methods on a country-wide scale, with everyone taking part, and shake off the influence of domestic and foreign reactionaries (which is still very strong, will survive for a long time and cannot be quickly destroyed), rid themselves of the bad habits and ideas acquired in the old society, not allow themselves to be led astray by the reactionaries, and continue to advance — to advance towards a socialist and communist society.
A revolutionary party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying out a correct policy; it is carrying out a wrong policy; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly.
Democracy is practiced within the ranks of the people, who enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and so on. The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship.
  • 为什么要有革命党?因为世界上有压迫人民的敌人存在,人民要推翻敌人的压迫,所以要有革命党。就资本主义和帝国主义时代说来,就需要一个如共产党这样的革命党。如果没有共产党这样的革命党,人民要想推翻敌人的压迫,简直是不可能的。我们是共产党,我们要领导人民打倒敌人,我们的队伍就要整齐,我们的步调就要一致,兵要精,武器要好。如果不具备这些条件,那末,敌人就不会被我们打倒。
    • Why must there be a revolutionary party? There must be a revolutionary party because the world contains enemies who oppress the people and the people want to throw off enemy oppression. In the era of capitalism and imperialism, just such a revolutionary party as the Communist Party is needed. Without such a party it is simply impossible for the people to throw off enemy oppression. We are Communists, we want to lead the people in overthrowing the enemy, and so we must keep our ranks in good order, we must march in step, our troops must be picked troops and our weapons good weapons. Without these conditions the enemy cannot be overthrown.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 主观主义、宗派主义、党八股,现在已不是占统治地位的作风了,这不过是一股逆风,一股歪风,是从防空洞里跑出来的。
    • Subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing are no longer the dominant styles, but merely gusts of contrary wind, ill winds from the air-raid tunnels.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 什么是知识?自从有阶级的社会存在以来,世界上的知识只有两门,一门叫做生产斗争知识,一门叫做阶级斗争知识。自然科学、社会科学,就是这两门知识的结晶,哲学则是关于自然知识和社会知识的概括和总结。
    • What is knowledge? Ever since class society came into being the world has had only two kinds of knowledge, knowledge of the struggle of production and knowledge of the class struggle. Natural science and social science are the crystallization of these two kinds of knowledge, and philosophy is the generalization and summation of the knowledge of nature.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 一个人从那样的小学一直读到那样的大学,毕业了,算有知识了。但是他有的只是书本上的知识,还没有参加任何实际活动,还没有把自己学得的知识应用到生活的任何部门里去。像这样的人是否可以算得一个完全的知识分子呢?我以为很难,因为他的知识还不完全。什么是比较完全的知识呢?一切比较完全的知识都是由两个阶段构成的:第一阶段是感性知识,第二阶段是理性知识,理性知识是感性知识的高级发展阶段。学生们的书本知识是什么知识呢?假定他们的知识都是真理,也是他们的前人总结生产斗争和阶级斗争的经验写成的理论,不是他们自己亲身得来的知识。他们接受这种知识是完全必要的,但是必须知道,就一定的情况说来,这种知识对于他们还是片面性的,这种知识是人家证明了,而在他们则还没有证明的。最重要的,是善于将这些知识应用到生活和实际中去。所以我劝那些只有书本知识但还没有接触实际的人,或者实际经验尚少的人,应该明白自己的缺点,将自己的态度放谦虚一些。
    • A person goes from a primary school of this kind all the way through to a university of the same kind, graduates and is reckoned to have a stock of learning. But all he has is book-learning; he has not yet taken part in any practical activities or applied what he has learned to any field of life. Can such a person be regarded as a completely developed intellectual? Hardly so, in my opinion, because his knowledge is still incomplete. What then is relatively complete knowledge? All relatively complete knowledge is formed in two stages: the first stage is perceptual knowledge, the second is rational knowledge, the latter being the development of the former to a higher stage. What sort of knowledge is the students' book-learning? Even supposing all their knowledge is truth, it is still not knowledge acquired through their own personal experience, but consists of theories set down by their predecessors in summarizing experience of the struggle for production and of the class struggle. It is entirely necessary that students should acquire this kind of knowledge, but it must be understood that as far as they are concerned such knowledge is in a sense still one-sided, something which has been verified by others but not yet by themselves. What is most important is to be good at applying this knowledge in life and in practice. Therefore, I advise those who have only book-learning but as yet no contact with reality, and also those with little practical experience, to realize their own shortcomings and become a little more modest.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 我们的同志必须明白,我们学马克思列宁主义不是为着好看,也不是因为它有什么神秘,只是因为它是领导无产阶级革命事业走向胜利的科学。直到现在,还有不少的人,把马克思列宁主义书本上的某些个别字句看作现成的灵丹圣药,似乎只要得了它,就可以不费气力地包医百病。这是一种幼稚者的蒙昧,我们对这些人应该作启蒙运动。那些将马克思列宁主义当宗教教条看待的人,就是这种蒙昧无知的人。对于这种人,应该老实地对他说,你的教条一点什么用处也没有。马克思、恩格斯、列宁、斯大林曾经反复地讲,我们的学说不是教条而是行动的指南。这些人偏偏忘记这句最重要最重要的话。
    • Our comrades must understand that we study Marxism-Leninism not for display, nor because there is any mystery about it, but solely because it is the science which leads the revolutionary cause of the proletariat to victory. Even now, there are not a few people who still regard odd quotations from Marxist-Leninist works as a readymade panacea which, once acquired, can easily cure all maladies. These people show childish ignorance, and we should enlighten them. It is precisely such ignorant people who take Marxism-Leninism as a religious dogma. To them we should say bluntly, “Your dogma is worthless.” Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have repeatedly stated that our theory is not a dogma but a guide to action. But such people prefer to forget this statement which is of the greatest, indeed the utmost, importance.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 这种人闹什么东西呢?闹名誉,闹地位,闹出风头。在他们掌管一部分事业的时候,就要闹独立性。为了这些,就要拉拢一些人,排挤一些人,在同志中吹吹拍拍,拉拉扯扯,把资产阶级政党的庸俗作风也搬进共产党里来了。这种人的吃亏在于不老实。我想,我们应该是老老实实地办事;在世界上要办成几件事,没有老实态度是根本不行的。什么人是老实人?马克思、恩格斯、列宁、斯大林是老实人,科学家是老实人。什么人是不老实的人?托洛茨基、布哈林、陈独秀、张国焘是大不老实的人,为个人利益为局部利益闹独立性的人也是不老实的人。一切狡猾的人,不照科学态度办事的人,自以为得计,自以为很聪明,其实都是最蠢的,都是没有好结果的。我们党校的学生一定要注意这个问题。我们一定要建设一个集中的统一的党,一切无原则的派别斗争,都要清除干净。要使我们全党的步调整齐一致,为一个共同目标而奋斗,我们一定要反对个人主义和宗派主义。
    • What are these people after? They are after fame and position and want to be in the limelight. Whenever they are put in charge of a branch of work, they assert their “independence”. With this aim, they draw some people in, push others out and resort to boasting, flattery and touting among the comrades, thus importing the vulgar style of the bourgeois political parties into the Communist Party. It is their dishonesty that causes them to come to grief. I believe we should do things honestly, for without an honest attitude it is absolutely impossible to accomplish anything in this world. Which are the honest people? Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin are honest, men of science are honest. Which are the dishonest people? Trotsky, Bukharin, Chen Tu-hsiu, and Chang Kuo-tao are extremely dishonest; and those who assert "independence" out of personal or sectional interest are dishonest too. All sly people, all those who do not have a scientific attitude in their work, fancy themselves resourceful and clever, but in fact they are most stupid and will come to no good. Students in our Party School must pay attention to this problem. We must build a centralized, unified Party and make a clean sweep of all unprincipled factional struggles. We must combat individualism and sectarianism so as to enable our whole Party to march in step and fight for one common goal.
    • "整顿党的作风"("Rectify the Party's Style of Work") (February 1, 1942)
  • 一切反动派的企图是想用屠杀的办法消灭革命,他们以为杀人越多革命就会越少,但是和这种反动的主观愿望相反,事实是反动派杀人越多,革命的力量就越大,反动派就越要灭亡,这是一条不可抗拒的法则,外国的希特勒,墨索里尼和日本法西斯,中国的满清政府和北洋军阀,都证明了这一点。中国革命的人民,虽然被屠杀了几十万、几百万,但是却有更多的几十万、几百万起来继续革命,谁想屈服他们那是不行的。
    • The reactionaries attempt to quell the revolution by means of massacres. They feel that the greater the number of people killed, the smaller will be the revolution. However, it has turned out to be otherwise. Actually, the more people the reactionaries kill, the greater is the revolutionary strength and the larger the number of reactionaries who will perish. This is an irresistible principle. Hitler and Mussolini of foreign countries, the fascism of Japan and the Manchurian government and Pei-yang warlords of China have all proved this point. Though hundreds of thousands and millions of China's revolutionary people have been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands and millions more will rise and continue the revolution, and no one can subjugate them.
      • Speech at Memorial Meeting for China's Revolutionary Martyrs (June 17, 1945)
  • The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the U.S. reactionaries use to scare people. it looks terrible but in fact it isn't. Of course, the atom bomb is a weapon of mass slaughter, but the outcome of a war is decided by the people--not by one of two new types of weapon.
    • "Talk with the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong" (August 1946)
  • 政策是革命政党一切实际行动的出发点,并且表现于行动的过程和归宿。一个革命政党的任何行动都是实行政策。不是实行正确的政策,就是实行错误的政策;不是自觉地,就是盲目地实行某种政策。所谓经验,就是实行政策的过程和归宿。政策必须在人民实践中,也就是经验中,才能证明其正确与否,才能确定其正确和错误的程度。但是,人们的实践,特别是革命政党和革命群众的实践,没有不同这种或那种政策相联系的。因此,在每一行动之前,必须向党员和群众讲明我们按情况规定的政策。否则,党员和群众就会脱离我们政策的领导而盲目行动,执行错误的政策。
    • Policy is the starting-point of all the practical actions of a revolutionary party and manifests itself in the process and the end-result of that party’s actions. A revolutionary party is carrying out a policy whenever it takes any action. If it is not carrying out a correct policy; it is carrying out a wrong policy; if it is not carrying out a given policy consciously, it is doing so blindly. What we call experience is the process and the end-result of carrying out a policy. Only through the practice of the people, that is, through experience, can we verify whether a policy is correct or wrong and determine to what extent it is correct or wrong. But people’s practice, especially the practice of a revolutionary party and the revolutionary masses, cannot but be bound up with one policy or another. Therefore, before any action is taken, we must explain the policy, which we have formulated in the light of the given circumstances, to Party members and to the masses. Otherwise, Party members and the masses will depart from the guidance of our policy, act blindly and carry out a wrong policy.
    • On the Policy concerning Industry and Commerce (February 27, 1948)
  • 我党规定了中国革命的总路线和总政策,又规定了各项具体的工作路线和各项具体的政策。但是,许多同志往往记住了我党的具体的个别的工作路线和政策,忘记了我党的总路线和总政策。而如果真正忘记了我党的总路线和总政策,我们就将是一个盲目的不完全的不清醒的革命者,在我们执行具体工作路线和具体政策的时候,就会迷失方向,就会左右摇摆,就会贻误我们的工作。
    • Our Party has laid down the general line and general policy of the Chinese revolution as well as various specific lines for work and specific policies. However, while many comrades remember our Party’s specific lines for work and specific policies, they often forget its general line and general policy. If we actually forget the Party’s general line and general policy, then we shall be blind, half-baked, muddle-headed revolutionaries, and when we carry out a specific line for work and a specific policy, we shall lose our bearings and vacillate now to the left and now to the right, and the work will suffer.
    • Speech at a Conference of Cadres in the Shansi-Suiyuan Liberated Area (April 1, 1948)

On New Democracy (1940)

Communism is at once a complete system of proletarian ideology and a new social system. It is different from any other ideology or social system, and is the most complete, progressive, revolutionary and rational system in human history.
The communist ideological and social system alone is full of youth and vitality, sweeping the world with the momentum of an avalanche and the force of a thunderbolt.
  • 我们共产党人,多年以来,不但为中国的政治革命和经济革命而奋斗,而且为中国的文化革命而奋斗;一切这些的目的,在于建设一个中华民族的新社会和新国家。在这个新社会和新国家中,不但有新政治、新经济,而且有新文化。这就是说,我们不但要把一个政治上受压迫、经济上受剥削的中国,变为一个政治上自由和经济上繁荣的中国,而且要把一个被旧文化统治因而愚昧落后的中国,变为一个被新文化统治因而文明先进的中国。一句话,我们要建立一个新中国。建立中华民族的新文化,这就是我们在文化领域中的目的。
    • For many years we Communists have struggled for a cultural revolution as well as for a political and economic revolution, and our aim is to build a new society and a new state for the Chinese nation. That new society and new state will have not only a new politics and a new economy but a new culture. In other words, not only do we want to change a China that is politically oppressed and economically exploited into a China that is politically free and economically prosperous, we also want to change the China which is being kept ignorant and backward under the sway of the old culture into an enlightened and progressive China under the sway of a new culture. In short, we want to build a new China. Our aim in the cultural sphere is to build a new Chinese national culture.
  • 共产主义是无产阶级的整个思想体系,同时又是一种新的社会制度。这种思想体系和社会制度,是区别于任何别的思想体系和任何别的社会制度的,是自有人类历史以来,最完全最进步最革命最合理的。封建主义的思想体系和社会制度,是进了历史博物馆的东西了。资本主义的思想体系和社会制度,已有一部分进了博物馆(在苏联);其余部分,也已“日薄西山,气息奄奄,人命危浅,朝不虑夕”,快进博物馆了。惟独共产主义的思想体系和社会制度,正以排山倒海之势,雷霆万钧之力,磅礴于全世界,而葆其美妙之青春。中国自有科学的共产主义以来,人们的眼界是提高了,中国革命也改变了面目。中国的民主革命,没有共产主义去指导是决不能成功的,更不必说革命的后一阶段了。这也就是资产阶级顽固派为什么要那样叫嚣和要求“收起”它的原因。其实,这是“收起”不得的,一收起,中国就会亡国。现在的世界,依靠共产主义做救星;现在的中国,也正是这样。
    • Communism is at once a complete system of proletarian ideology and a new social system. It is different from any other ideology or social system, and is the most complete, progressive, revolutionary and rational system in human history. The ideological and social system of feudalism has a place only in the museum of history. The ideological and social system of capitalism has also become a museum piece in one part of the world (in the Soviet Union), while in other countries it resembles "a dying person who is sinking fast, like the sun setting beyond the western hills", and will soon be relegated to the museum. The communist ideological and social system alone is full of youth and vitality, sweeping the world with the momentum of an avalanche and the force of a thunderbolt. The introduction of scientific communism into China has opened new vistas for people and has changed the face of the Chinese revolution. Without communism to guide it, China's democratic revolution cannot possibly succeed, let alone move on to the next stage. This is the reason why the bourgeois die-hards are so loudly demanding that communism be "folded up". But it must not be "folded up", for once communism is "folded up", China will be doomed. The whole world today depends on communism for its salvation, and China is no exception.
  • 由于中国民族资产阶级是殖民地半殖民地国家的资产阶级,是受帝国主义压迫的,所以,虽然处在帝国主义时代,他们也还是在一定时期中和一定程度上,保存着反对外国帝国主义和反对本国官僚军阀政府(这后者,例如在辛亥革命时期和北伐战争时期)的革命性,可以同无产阶级、小资产阶级联合起来,反对它们所愿意反对的敌人。这是中国资产阶级和旧俄帝国的资产阶级的不同之点。在旧俄帝国,因为它已经是一个军事封建的帝国主义,是侵略别人的,所以俄国的资产阶级没有什么革命性。在那里,无产阶级的任务,是反对资产阶级,而不是联合它。在中国,因为它是殖民地半殖民地,是被人侵略的,所以中国民族资产阶级还有在一定时期中和一定程度上的革命性。在这里,无产阶级的任务,在于不忽视民族资产阶级的这种革命性,而和他们建立反帝国主义和反官僚军阀政府的统一战线。
    • Being a bourgeoisie in a colonial and semi-colonial country and oppressed by imperialism, the Chinese national bourgeoisie retains a certain revolutionary quality at certain periods and to a certain degree--even in the era of imperialism--in its opposition to the foreign imperialists and the domestic governments of bureaucrats and warlords (instances of opposition to the latter can be found in the periods of the Revolution of 1911 and the Northern Expedition), and it may ally itself with the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie against such enemies as it is ready to oppose. In this respect the Chinese bourgeoisie differs from the bourgeoisie of old tsarist Russia. Since tsarist Russia was a military-feudal imperialism which carried on aggression against other countries, the Russian bourgeoisie was entirely lacking in revolutionary quality. There, the task of the proletariat was to oppose the bourgeoisie, not to unite with it. But China's national bourgeoisie has a revolutionary quality at certain periods and to a certain degree, because China is a colonial and semi-colonial country which is a victim of aggression. Here, the task of the proletariat is to form a united front with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism and the bureaucrat and warlord governments without overlooking its revolutionary quality.
      At the same time, however, being a bourgeois class in a colonial and semi-colonial country and so being extremely flabby economically and politically, the Chinese national bourgeoisie also has another quality, namely, a proneness to conciliation with the enemies of the revolution. Even when it takes part in the revolution, it is unwilling to break with imperialism completely and, moreover, it is closely associated with the exploitation of the rural areas through land rent; thus it is neither willing nor able to overthrow imperialism, and much less the feudal forces, in a thorough way. So neither of the two basic problems or tasks of China's bourgeois-democratic revolution can be solved or accomplished by the national bourgeoisie. As for China's big bourgeoisie, which is represented by the Kuomintang, all through the long period from 1927 to 1937 it nestled in the arms of the imperialists and formed an alliance with the feudal forces against the revolutionary people. In 1927 and for some time afterwards, the Chinese national bourgeoisie also followed the counter-revolution. During the present anti-Japanese war, the section of the big bourgeoisie represented by Wang Ching-wei has capitulated to the enemy, which constitutes a fresh betrayal on the part of the big bourgeoisie. In this respect, then, the bourgeoisie in China differs from the earlier bourgeoisie of the European and American countries, and especially of France. When the bourgeoisie in those countries, and especially in France, was still in its revolutionary era, the bourgeois revolution was comparatively thorough, whereas the bourgeoisie in China lacks even this degree of thoroughness.
  • 这种新民主主义共和国,一方面和旧形式的、欧美式的、资产阶级专政的、资本主义的共和国相区别,那是旧民主主义的共和国,那种共和国已经过时了;另一方面,也和苏联式的、无产阶级专政的、社会主义的共和国相区别,那种社会主义的共和国已经在苏联兴盛起来,并且还要在各资本主义国家建立起来,无疑将成为一切工业先进国家的国家构成和政权构成的统治形式;但是那种共和国,在一定的历史时期中,还不适用于殖民地半殖民地国家的革命。因此,一切殖民地半殖民地国家的革命,在一定历史时期中所采取的国家形式,只能是第三种形式,这就是所谓新民主主义共和国。这是一定历史时期的形式,因而是过渡的形式,但是不可移易的必要的形式。
    • This new-democratic republic will be different from the old European-American form of capitalist republic under bourgeois dictatorship, which is the old democratic form and already out of date. On the other hand, it will also be different from the socialist republic of the Soviet type under the dictatorship of the proletariat which is already flourishing in the U.S.S.R., and which, moreover, will be established in all the capitalist countries and will undoubtedly become the dominant form of state and governmental structure in all the industrially advanced countries. However, for a certain historical period, this form is not suitable for the revolutions in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. During this period, therefore, a third form of state must be adopted in the revolutions of all colonial and semi-colonial countries, namely, the new-democratic republic. This form suits a certain historical period and is therefore transitional; nevertheless, it is a form which is necessary and cannot be dispensed with.
  • 国体——各革命阶级联合专政。政体——民主集中制。这就是新民主主义的政治,这就是新民主主义的共和国,这就是抗日统一战线的共和国,这就是三大政策的新三民主义的共和国,这就是名副其实的中华民国。我们现在虽有中华民国之名,尚无中华民国之实,循名责实,这就是今天的工作。
    • The state system, a joint dictatorship of all the revolutionary classes and the system of government, democratic centralism--these constitute the politics of New Democracy, the republic of New Democracy, the republic of the anti-Japanese united front, the republic of the new Three People's Principles with their Three Great Policies' the Republic of China in reality as well as in name. Today we have a Republic of China in name but not in reality, and our present task is to create the reality that will fit the name.
  • 大银行、大工业、大商业,归这个共和国的国家所有。“凡本国人及外国人之企业,或有独占的性质,或规模过大为私人之力所不能办者,如银行、铁道、航路之属,由国家经营管理之,使私有资本制度不能操纵国民之生计,此则节制资本之要旨也。”这也是国共合作的国民党的第一次全国代表大会宣言中的庄严的声明,这就是新民主主义共和国的经济构成的正确的方针。在无产阶级领导下的新民主主义共和国的国营经济是社会主义的性质,是整个国民经济的领导力量,但这个共和国并不没收其他资本主义的私有财产,并不禁止“不能操纵国民生计”的资本主义生产的发展,这是因为中国经济还十分落后的缘故。
    • Enterprises, such as banks, railways and airlines, whether Chinese-owned or foreign-owned, which are either monopolistic in character or too big for private management, shall be operated and administered by the state, so that private capital cannot dominate the livelihood of the people: this is the main principle of the regulation of capital. This is another solemn declaration in the Manifesto of the Kuomintang's First National Congress held during the period of Kuomintang-Communist co-operation, and it is the correct policy for the economic structure of the new-democratic republic. In the new-democratic republic under the leadership of the proletariat, the state enterprises will be of a socialist character and will constitute the leading force in the whole national economy, but the republic will neither confiscate capitalist private property in general nor forbid the development of such capitalist production as does not "dominate the livelihood of the people", for China's economy is still very backward.

On Coalition Government (1945)

In a word, everything for the front, everything for the defeat of the Japanese aggressors and for the liberation of the Chinese people--this is the general slogan, the general policy for the whole army and the whole people in the Liberated Areas of China.
The culture of New Democracy should likewise be "shared by all the common people", that is, it should be a national, scientific and mass culture, and must under no circumstances be a culture "privately owned by the few".
  • 我们的大会是在这种情况之下开会的:中国人民在其对于日本侵略者作了将近八年的坚决的英勇的不屈不挠的奋斗,经历了无数的艰难困苦和自我牺牲之后,出现了这样的新局面——整个世界上反对法西斯侵略者的神圣的正义的战争,已经取得了有决定意义的胜利,中国人民配合同盟国打败日本侵略者的时机,已经迫近了。但是中国现在仍然不团结,中国仍然存在着严重的危机。在这种情况下,我们应该怎样做呢?毫无疑义,中国急需把各党各派和无党无派的代表人物团结在一起,成立民主的临时的联合政府,以便实行民主的改革,克服目前的危机,动员和统一全中国的抗日力量,有力地和同盟国配合作战,打败日本侵略者,使中国人民从日本侵略者手中解放出来。然后,需要在广泛的民主基础之上,召开国民代表大会,成立包括更广大范围的各党各派和无党无派代表人物在内的同样是联合性质的民主的正式的政府,领导解放后的全国人民,将中国建设成为一个独立、自由、民主、统一和富强的新国家。一句话,走团结和民主的路线,打败侵略者,建设新中国。
    • Our congress is being held in the following circumstances. A new situation has emerged after nearly eight years of resolute, heroic and indomitable struggle waged by the Chinese people with countless sacrifices and amid untold hardships against the Japanese aggressors; in the world as a whole, decisive victory has been gained in the just and sacred war against the fascist aggressors and the moment is near when the Japanese aggressors will be defeated by the Chinese people in co-ordination with the allied countries. But China remains disunited and is still confronted with a grave crisis. In these circumstances, what ought we to do? Beyond all doubt, the urgent need is to unite representatives of all political parties and groups and of people without any party affiliation and establish a provisional democratic coalition government for the purpose of instituting democratic reforms, surmounting the present crisis, mobilizing and unifying all the anti-Japanese forces in the country to fight in effective co-ordination with the allied countries for the defeat of the Japanese aggressors, and thus enabling the Chinese people to liberate themselves from the latter's clutches. After that it will be necessary to convene a national assembly on a broad democratic basis and set up a formally constituted democratic government, which will also be in the nature of a coalition and will have a still wider representation of people from all parties and groups or without any party affiliation, and which will lead the liberated people of the whole country in building an independent, free, democratic, united, prosperous and powerful new China. In short, we must take the line of unity and democracy, defeat the aggressors and build a new China.
  • 中国的长期战争,使中国人民付出了并且还将再付出重大的牺牲;但是同时,正是这个战争,锻炼了中国人民。这个战争促进中国人民的觉悟和团结的程度,是近百年来中国人民的一切伟大的斗争没有一次比得上的。在中国人民面前,不但存在着强大的民族敌人,而且存在着强大的实际上帮助民族敌人的国内反动势力,这是一方面。但是另一方面,中国人民不但已经有了比过去任何时候都高的觉悟程度,而且有了强大的中国解放区和日益高涨着的全国性的民主运动。这是国内的有利条件。如果说,中国近百年来一切人民斗争都遭到了失败或挫折,而这是因为缺乏国际的和国内的若干必要的条件,那末,这一次就不同了,比较以往历次,一切必要的条件都具备了。避免失败和取得胜利的可能性充分地存在着。如果我们能够团结全国人民,努力奋斗,并给以适当的指导,我们就能够胜利。
    • China's protracted war has exacted and will continue to exact great sacrifices from the Chinese people, but at the same time this very war has tempered them. It has awakened and united the Chinese people to a greater degree than all their great struggles in the last hundred years. The Chinese people face not only a formidable national enemy but also powerful domestic reactionary forces which are in fact helping the enemy; this is one side of the picture. But the other side is that the Chinese people are not only more politically conscious than ever before but have built powerful Liberated Areas and a nation-wide democratic movement that is growing day by day. These constitute favourable domestic conditions. If the defeats and setbacks in the Chinese people's struggles of the last hundred years were due to the absence of certain necessary international and domestic conditions, then today the situation is different--all the necessary conditions are present. There is every possibility of avoiding defeat and winning victory. We shall be victorious if we can unite the whole people in resolute struggle and give them proper leadership.
  • 在中国解放区,在民主政府领导之下,号召一切抗日人民组织在工人的、农民的、青年的、妇女的、文化的和其他职业和工作的团体之中,热烈地从事援助军队的各项工作。这些工作不但包括动员人民参加军队,替军队运输粮食,优待抗日军人家属,帮助军队解决物质困难,而且包括动员游击队、民兵和自卫军,展开袭击运动和爆炸运动,侦察敌情,清除奸细,运送伤兵和保护伤兵,直接帮助军队的作战。同时,全解放区人民又热烈地从事政治、经济、文化、卫生各项建设工作。在这方面,最重要的是动员全体人民从事粮食和日用品的生产,并使一切机关、学校,除有特殊情形者外,一律于工作或学习之暇,从事生产自给,以配合人民和军队的生产自给,造成伟大的生产热潮,借以支持长期的抗日战争。在中国解放区,敌人的摧残是异常严重的;水、旱、虫灾,也时常发生。但是,解放区民主政府领导全体人民,有组织地克服了和正在克服着各种困难,灭蝗、治水、救灾的伟大群众运动,收到了史无前例的效果,使抗日战争能够长期地坚持下去。总之,一切为着前线,一切为着打倒日本侵略者和解放中国人民,这就是中国解放区全体军民的总口号、总方针。
    • Under the leadership of their democratic governments, all the anti-Japanese people in the Liberated Areas of China are called upon to join organizations of workers, peasants, youth and women, and cultural, professional and other organizations, which will wholeheartedly perform various tasks in support of the armed forces. Those tasks are not limited to rallying the people to join the army, transporting grain for it, caring for soldiers' families and helping the troops in meeting their material needs. They also include mobilizing the guerrilla units, militia and self-defence corps to make widespread raids and lay land mines against the enemy, gather intelligence about him, comb out traitors and spies, transport and protect the wounded and take direct part in the army's operations. At the same time, the people in all the Liberated Areas are enthusiastically taking up various kinds of political, economic, cultural and health work. The most important thing in this connection is to mobilize everybody for the production of grain and other necessities and to ensure that all government institutions and schools, except in special cases, devote their free time to production for their own support in order to supplement the self-suffidency production campaigns of the army and the people and thus help to create a great upsurge of production to sustain the protracted War of Resistance. In China's Liberated Areas, the enemy has wrought great havoc, and floods, droughts and damage by insect pests have been frequent. However, the democratic governments there have been leading the people in overcoming these difficulties in an organized way, and unprecedented results have been achieved by the great mass campaigns for pest extermination, flood control and disaster relief, thus making it possible to persevere in the protracted War of Resistance. In a word, everything for the front, everything for the defeat of the Japanese aggressors and for the liberation of the Chinese people--this is the general slogan, the general policy for the whole army and the whole people in the Liberated Areas of China.
  • 中国人民从中国解放区和国民党统治区,获得了明显的比较。
    • The Chinese people have come to see the sharp contrast between the Liberated Areas and the Kuomintang areas.
      Are not the facts clear enough? Here are two lines, the line of a people's war and the line of passive resistance, which is against a people's war; one leads to victory even in the difficult conditions in China's Liberated Areas with their total lack of outside aid, and the other leads to defeat even in the extremely favourable conditions in the Kuomintang areas with foreign aid available.
      The Kuomintang government attributes its failures to lack of arms.
      Yet one may ask, which of the two are short of arms, the Kuomintang troops or the troops of the Liberated Areas? Of all China's forces, those of the Liberated Areas lack arms most acutely, their only weapons being those they capture from the enemy or manufacture under the most adverse conditions.
      Is it not true that the forces directly under the Kuomintang central government are far better armed than the provincial troops? Yet in combat effectiveness most of the central forces are inferior to the provincial troops.
      The Kuomintang commands vast reserves of manpower, yet its wrong recruiting policy makes manpower replenishment very difficult. Though cut off from each other by the enemy and engaged in constant fighting, China's Liberated Areas are able to mobilize inexhaustible manpower because the militia and self-defence corps system, which is well-adapted to the needs of the people, is applied everywhere, and because misuse and waste of manpower are avoided.
      Although the Kuomintang controls vast areas abounding in grain and the people supply it with 70-100 million tan annually, its army is always short of food and its soldiers are emaciated because the greater part of the grain is embezzled by those through whose hands it passes. But although most of China's Liberated Areas, which are located in the enemy rear, have been devastated by the enemy's policy of "burn all, kill all, loot all", and although some regions like northern Shensi are very arid, we have successfully solved the grain problem through our own efforts by increasing agricultural production.
      The Kuomintang areas are facing a very grave economic crisis; most industries are bankrupt, and even such necessities as cloth have to be imported from the United States. But China's Liberated Areas are able to meet their own needs in cloth and other necessities through the development of industry.
      In the Kuomintang areas, the workers, peasants, shop assistants, government employees, intellectuals and cultural workers live in extreme misery. In the Liberated Areas all the people have food, clothing and work.
      It is characteristic of the Kuomintang areas that, exploiting the national crisis for profiteering purposes, officials have concurrently become traders and habitual grafters without any sense of shame or decency. It is characteristic of China's Liberated Areas that, setting an example of plain living and hard work, the cadres take part in production in addition to their regular duties; honesty is held in high esteem while graft is strictly prohibited.
      In the Kuomintang areas the people have no freedom at all. In China's Liberated Areas the people have full freedom.
      Who is to blame for all the anomalies which confront the Kuomintang rulers? Are others to blame, or they themselves? Are foreign countries to blame for not giving them enough aid, or are the Kuomintang government's dictatorial rule, corruption and incompetence to blame? Isn't the answer obvious?
  • 新民主主义的文化,同样应该是“为一般平民所共有”的,即是说,民族的、科学的、大众的文化,决不应该是“少数人所得而私”的文化。
    • The culture of New Democracy should likewise be "shared by all the common people", that is, it should be a national, scientific and mass culture, and must under no circumstances be a culture "privately owned by the few".
      Such is the general or fundamental programme which we Communists advocate for the present stage, the entire stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. This is our minimum programme as against our future or maximum programme of socialism and communism. Its realization will carry the Chinese state and Chinese society a step forward, from a colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal to a new-democratic state and society.
      The political leadership of the proletariat and the proletarian-led state and co-operative sectors of the economy required by our programme are socialist factors. Yet the fulfilment of this programme will not turn China into a socialist society.
      We Communists do not conceal our political views. Definitely and beyond all doubt, our future or maximum programme is to carry China forward to socialism and communism. Both the name of our Party and our Marxist world outlook unequivocally point to this supreme ideal of the future, a future of incomparable brightness and splendour. On joining the Party, every Communist has two clearly-defined objectives at heart, the new-democratic revolution now and socialism and communism in the future, and for these he will fight despite the animosity of the enemies of communism and their vulgar and ignorant calumny, abuse and ridicule, which we must firmly combat. As for the well-meaning sceptics, we should explain things to them with goodwill and patience and not attack them. All this is very clear, definite and unequivocal.

The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains (1945)

  • 中国古代有个寓言,叫做“愚公移山”。说的是古代有一位老人,住在华北,名叫北山愚公。他的家门南面有两座大山挡住他家的出路,一座叫做太行山,一座叫做王屋山。愚公下决心率领他的儿子们要用锄头挖去这两座大山。有个老头子名叫智叟的看了发笑,说是你们这样干未免太愚蠢了,你们父子数人要挖掉这样两座大山是完全不可能的。愚公回答说:我死了以后有我的儿子,儿子死了,又有孙子,子子孙孙是没有穷尽的。这两座山虽然很高,却是不会再增高了,挖一点就会少一点,为什么挖不平呢?愚公批驳了智叟的错误思想,毫不动摇,每天挖山不止。这件事感动了上帝,他就派了两个神仙下凡,把两座山背走了。现在也有两座压在中国人民头上的大山,一座叫做帝国主义,一座叫做封建主义。中国共产党早就下了决心,要挖掉这两座山。我们一定要坚持下去,一定要不断地工作,我们也会感动上帝的。这个上帝不是别人,就是全中国的人民大众。全国人民大众一齐起来和我们一道挖这两座山,有什么挖不平呢?
    • There is an ancient Chinese fable called "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains". It tells of an old man who lived in northern China long, long ago and was known as the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. He called his sons, and hoe in hand they began to dig up these mountains with great determination. Another graybeard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, "How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you few to dig up those two huge mountains." The Foolish Old Man replied, "When I die, my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons, and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can't we clear them away?" Having refuted the Wise Old Man's wrong view, he went on digging every day, unshaken in his conviction. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels, who carried the mountains away on their backs. Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the Chinese people. One is imperialism, the other is feudalism. The Chinese Communist Party has long made up its mind to dig them up. We must persevere and work unceasingly, and we, too, will touch God's heart. Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people. If they stand up and dig together with us, why can't these two mountains be cleared away?
  • “你们独裁。”可爱的先生们,你们讲对了,我们正是这样。中国人民在几十年中积累起来的一切经验,都叫我们实行人民民主专政,或曰人民民主独裁,总之是一样,就是剥夺反动派的发言权,只让人民有发言权。
    • "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.
  • 对于人民内部,则实行民主制度,人民有言论集会结社等项的自由权。选举权,只给人民,不给反动派。这两方面,对人民内部的民主方面和对反动派的专政方面,互相结合起来,就是人民民主专政。
    • Democracy is practiced within the ranks of the people, who enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, association and so on. The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. The combination of these two aspects, democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, is the people's democratic dictatorship.
  • 人民的国家是保护人民的。有了人民的国家,人民才有可能在全国范围内和全体规模上,用民主的方法,教育自己和改造自己,使自己脱离内外反动派的影响(这个影响现在还是很大的,并将在长时期内存在着,不能很快地消灭),改造自己从旧社会得来的坏习惯和坏思想,不使自己走入反动派指引的错误路上去,并继续前进,向着社会主义社会和共产主义社会前进。
    • The people’s state protects the people. Only when the people have such a state can they educate and remould themselves by democratic methods on a country-wide scale, with everyone taking part, and shake off the influence of domestic and foreign reactionaries (which is still very strong, will survive for a long time and cannot be quickly destroyed), rid themselves of the bad habits and ideas acquired in the old society, not allow themselves to be led astray by the reactionaries, and continue to advance — to advance towards a socialist and communist society.
  • 对于反动阶级和反动派的人们,在他们的政权被推翻以后,只要他们不造反,不破坏,不捣乱,也给土地,给工作,让他们活下去,让他们在劳动中改造自己,成为新人。他们如果不愿意劳动,人民的国家就要强迫他们劳动。也对他们做宣传教育工作,并且做得很用心,很充分,像我们对俘虏军官们已经做过的那样。这也可以说是“施仁政”吧,但这是我们对于原来是敌对阶级的人们所强迫地施行的,和我们对于革命人民内部的自我教育工作,不能相提并论。
    • As for the members of the reactionary classes and individual reactionaries, so long as they do not rebel, sabotage or create trouble after their political power has been overthrown, land and work will be given to them as well in order to allow them to live and remould themselves through labour into new people. If they are not willing to work, the people's state will compel them to work. Propaganda and educational work will be done among them too and will be done, moreover, with as much care and thoroughness as among the captured army officers in the past. This, too, may be called a "policy of benevolence" if you like, but it is imposed by us on the members of the enemy classes and cannot be mentioned in the same breath with the work of self-education which we carry on within the ranks of the revolutionary people.


Even if the U.S. atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.
We must have faith in the masses and we must have faith in the Party. These are two cardinal principles. If we doubt these principles, we shall accomplish nothing.
We must despise the enemy with respect to the whole, but that we must take him seriously with respect to each and every concrete question.
We ask the God of Plague: "Where are you bound ?"
Paper barges aflame and candle-light illuminate the sky.
Ours is a people's democratic dictatorship, led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance.
We have no experience in atomic war. So, how many will be killed cannot be known. The best outcome may be that only half of the population is left and the second best may be only one-third.
Death has benefits; fertilizers created.
To sum up, we must learn to look at problems from all sides, seeing the reverse as well as the obverse side of things.
  • 今天,世界战争的危险和对中国的威胁主要来自美国的好战分子。他们侵占中国的台湾和台湾海峡,还想发动原子战争。我们有两条:第一,我们不要战争;第二,如果有人来侵略我们,我们就予以坚决回击。我们对共产党员和全国人民就是这样进行教育的。美国的原子讹诈,吓不倒中国人民。我国有六亿人口,有九百六十万平方公里的土地。美国那点原子弹,消灭不了中国人。即使美国的原子弹威力再大,投到中国来,把地球打穿了,把地球炸毁了,对于太阳系说来,还算是一件大事情,但对整个宇宙说来,也算不了什么。
    • Today, the danger of a world war and the threats to China come mainly from the warmongers in the United States. They have occupied our Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits and are contemplating an atomic war. We have two principles: first, we don’t want war; second, we will strike back resolutely if anyone invades us. This is what we teach the members of the Communist Party and the whole nation. The Chinese people are not to be cowed by U.S. atomic blackmail. Our country has a population of 600 million and an area of 9,600,000 square kilometres. The United States cannot annihilate the Chinese nation with its small stack of atom bombs. Even if the U.S. atom bombs were so powerful that, when dropped on China, they would make a hole right through the earth, or even blow it up, that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.
      • Chinese People Cannot Be Cowed by the Atom Bomb (January 28, 1955)
  • 我们应当相信群众,我们应当相信党,这是两条根本的原理。如果怀疑这两条原理,那就什么事情也做不成了。
    • We must have faith in the masses and we must have faith in the Party. These are two cardinal principles. If we doubt these principles, we shall accomplish nothing.
    • On the Question of Agricultural Co-Operation (July 31, 1955)
  • 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
  • 它有许多东西我们可以学。当然,是要学习先进经验,不是学习落后经验。我们历来提的口号是学习苏联先进经验,谁要你去学习落后经验呀?有一些人,不管三七二十一,连苏联人放的屁都是香的,那也是主观主义。苏联人自己都说是臭的嘛!所以,要加以分析。我们说过,对斯大林要三七开。他们的主要的、大量的东西,是好的,有用的;部分的东西是错误的。我们也有部分的东西是不好的,我们自己就要丢掉,更不要别国来学这些坏事。但是,坏事也算一种经验,也有很大的作用。我们就有陈独秀、李立三、王明、张国焘、高岗、饶漱石这些人,他们是我们的教员。此外,我们还有别的教员。在国内来说,最好的教员是蒋介石。我们说不服的人,蒋介石一教,就说得服了。蒋介石用什么办法来教呢?他是用机关枪、大炮、飞机来教。还有帝国主义这个教员,它教育了我们六亿人民。一百多年来,几个帝国主义强国压迫我们,教育了我们。所以,坏事有个教育作用,有个借鉴作用。
    • 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. As we have indicated elsewhere, the assessment of Stalin should be 70 per cent for achievements and 30 per cent for mistakes. In the case of the Soviet Union what is good and useful makes up the essential and larger part and what is wrong only a small part. We too have things that are not good, and far from letting other countries pick them up, we should dump them. In a way, bad things are also some kind of experience and can serve a useful purpose. We have had people like Chen Tu-hsiu, Li Li-san, Wang Ming, Chang Kuo-tao, Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih, who have served as our teachers. In addition, we have other teachers. Within the country the best among them has been Chiang Kai-shek. Those whom we couldn't convince were convinced right away when Chiang Kai-shek came along to give them a lesson. How did Chiang Kai-shek teach his lessons? He taught with machine-guns, cannon and planes. Imperialism is another teacher that has given our 600 million people an education. For over a century we were oppressed by several imperialist powers, and this has been an education. Therefore, bad things can serve an educational purpose and open our eyes.
    • Strengthen Party Unity and Carry Forward Party Traditions (30 August 1956)
  • 对民主人士,我们要让他们唱对台戏,放手让他们批评。如果我们不这样做,就有点象国民党了。国民党很怕批评,每次开参政会就诚惶诚恐。民主人士的批评也无非是两种:一种是错的,一种是不错的。不错的可以补足我们的短处;错的要反驳。至于梁漱溟、彭一湖、章乃器那一类人,他们有屁就让他们放,放出来有利,让大家闻一闻,是香的还是臭的,经过讨论,争取多数,使他们孤立起来。他们要闹,就让他们闹够。
    • We should allow democratic personages to challenge us with opposing views and give them a free hand to criticize us. Otherwise we would be a little like the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang was mortally afraid of criticism and went in fear and trepidation each time the Political Council was in session. 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. If they want to create trouble, let them have their fill of it.
  • 要使几亿人中的中国人生活得好,要把我们这个经济落后、文化落后的国家,建设成为富裕的、强盛的、 具有高度文化的国家,这是一个很艰巨的任务。我们所以要整风,现在要整风,将来还要整风,要不断把我们身上的错误东西整掉,就是为了使我们能够更好地担负起这项任务,更好地同党外的一切立志改革的志士仁人共同工作。
    • It is an arduous task to ensure a better life for the several hundred million people of China and to build our economically and culturally backward country into a prosperous and powerful one with a high level of culture. And it is precisely in order to be able to shoulder this task more competently and work better together with all non-Party people who are actuated by high ideals and determined to institute reforms that we must conduct rectification movements both now and in the future, and constantly rid ourselves of whatever is wrong.
    • Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work (March 12, 1957)
  • The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigour and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you. The world belongs to you. China’s future belongs to you.
    • ‘Talk at a Meeting with Chinese Students and Trainees in Moscow,’ (November 17, 1957), quoted in Sorace et al., Afterlives of Chinese Communism (2019), p. 11
  • 为了同敌人作斗争,我们在一个长时间内形成了一个概念,就是说,在战略上我们要藐视一切敌人,在战术上我们要重视一切敌人。也就是说在整体上我们一定要藐视它,在一个一个的具体问题上我们一定要重视它。如果不是在整体上藐视敌人,我们就要犯机会主义的错误。马克思、恩格思只有两个人,那时他们就说全世界资本主义要被打倒。但是在具体问题上,在一个一个敌人的问题上,如果我们不重视它,我们就要犯冒险主义的错误。打仗只能一仗一仗地打,敌人只能一部分一部分地消灭。工厂只能一个一个地盖,农民犁地只能一块一块的犁,就是吃饭也是如此。我们在战略上藐视吃饭:这顿饭我们能 够吃下去。但是具体地吃,却是一口口地吃的,你不可能把一桌酒席一口吞下去。这叫做各个解决,军事书上叫做各个击破。
    • Over a long period we have developed this concept for the struggle against the enemy: strategically we should despise all our enemies, but tactically we should take them all seriously. This also means that we must despise the enemy with respect to the whole, but that we must take him seriously with respect to each and every concrete question. If we do not despise the enemy with respect to the whole, we shall be committing the error of opportunism. Marx and Engels were only two individuals, and yet in those early days they already declared that capitalism would be overthrown throughout the world. But in dealing with concrete problems and particular enemies we shall be committing the error of adventurism unless we take them seriously. In war, battles can only be fought one by one and the enemy forces can only be destroyed one by one. Factories can only be built one by one. The peasants can only plow the land plot by plot. The same is even true of eating a meal. Strategically, we take the eating of a meal lightly—we know we can finish it. But actually we eat it mouthful by mouthful. It is impossible to swallow an entire banquet in one gulp. This is known as a piecemeal solution. In military parlance, it is called wiping out the enemy forces one by one.
    • Speech at the Moscow Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (November 18, 1957)
  • 战争与和平,和平的可能性大于战争的可能性,现在争取和平的可能性比过去大.社会主义阵营的力量比过去大,和平的可能性此第二次世界大战前大。苏联强大,民族独立运动是我们强大的同盟军,西方国家不稳定,工人阶级不愿打仗,资产阶级一部分人也不愿打仗,美国人也不愿打仗,和平的可能性大于战争的可能,但也有战争的可能性,要准备有疯子。帝国主义为了摆脱经济危机现在打原子战,时间会缩短,不要四年,只三年就可以了。要准备,真正打怎么办?要讲讲这个问题,要打就打,把帝国主义扫光,然后再来建设,从此就不会有世界大战了。既有可能打世界大战,就要准备,不能睡觉。打起来也不要大惊小怪,打起仗来无非就是死人。打仗死人我们见过,人口消灭一半在中国历史上有过好几次,汉武帝时五千万人口,到三国两晋南北朝,只剩下一千多万,一打几十年,连连续续几百年,三国两晋南北朝、宋、齐、梁、陈。唐朝人口开始是两千万。以后到唐明皇时又达到五千万,安禄山反了,分为五代十国,一两百年,一直到宋朝才统一,又剩下千把万。这个道理我和×××讲过,我说现代武器不如中国关云长的大刀厉害,他不信,两次世界大战死人并不多,第一次死一千万,第二次死两千万,我们一死就是四千万。你看那些大刀破坏性多大呀。原子仗现在没经验不知要死多少。最好剩一半。次好剩三分之一。二十几亿人口剩几亿,几个五年计划就发展起来,换来了一个资本主义全部灭亡。取得永久和平,这不是坏事。
    • Between war and peace, the possibility of peace is greater. Currently the possibility of peace is greater than in the past. The strength of the socialist camp is greater than the past and the possibility of peace is greater than at the time of World War II. The Soviet Union is powerful and the national independence movement is our strong ally. The Western nations are not stable. The working class, a part of the bourgeoisie and the American people do not want war; therefore, the possibility of peace is greater than that of war. Nevertheless, there is also the possibility of war. There are the maniacs and imperialism wants to extricate itself from economic crises. The duration of atomic warfare today will be short, three instead of four years. We must be prepared. What should be done if war really comes? I want to discuss this problem. If there is war, we will fight. Let imperialism be swept clean and we will start construction again. Thereafter there will not be any more world war. Since a world war is possible, we must prepare for it. We must not spend our time napping. Do not be alarmed either if there should be war. It would merely mean getting people killed and we’ve seen people killed in war. Eliminating half of the population occurred several times in China’s history. The 50 million population in the time of Emperor Wu in the Han Dynasty was reduced to 10 million by the time of the Three Kingdoms, the two Chin Dynasties and the North and South Dynasties. The war lasted for decades and intermittently for several hundred years, from the Three Kingdoms to the North and South Dynasties. The Tang Dynasty began with a population of 20 million and did not reach 50 million until Emperor Xuan. And Lushan staged a revolt, and the country was divided into many states. It was not reunited until the Song Dynasty, some 100 or 200 years later, with a population of just over 10 million. I once discussed this with XX. I maintained that modern weapons were not as powerful as the big sword of China’s Guan Yunchang, but he did not agree with me. Not very many people were killed in the two World Wars, 10 million in the first and 20 million in the second, but we had 40 million killed in one war. So, how destructive were the big swords! We have no experience in atomic war. So, how many will be killed cannot be known. The best outcome may be that only half of the population is left and the second best may be only one-third. When 900 million are left out of 2.9 billion, several five-year plans can be developed for the total elimination of capitalism and for permanent peace. It is not a bad thing.
      • Speech at The Eighth Party Congress (May 17, 1958)
  • 中国人把结婚叫红喜事,死人叫做白喜事,合起来叫红白喜事,我看很有道理。中国人是懂得辩证法的。结婚可以生小孩,母亲分裂出孩子来.是个突变,是喜事。一个母亲分数出三个、两个,一个小人出来。多子女的分裂出六个、七个,七个、八个,甚至十个,像航空母舰一样。我不是不赞成节育,我是讲辩证法,是说新事物的发生,人的生产,这是喜事,是变化,一个变两个,两个变四个。至于死亡,老百姓也叫喜事。一方面并追悼会,哭鼻子,要送葬,人之常情。另一方面是喜事。也确实是喜事。你们设想,如果孔夫子还在,也在怀仁堂开会,他二千多岁了,就很不妙。讲辩证法而又不赞成灭亡,是形而上学。有灾难,是社会现象。灾变,是宇宙根本的规律。生是突变,死也是突变。由生到死几十年的渐变。假如蒋介石死了。我们都会鼓掌。杜勒斯死了,我们没有掉眼泪。这是因为旧社会事物的灭亡是好事,大家都希望。新事物的产生是好事,新事物的灭亡当然不好。如一九零五举俄国革命的失败。南方我们根据地的丢失,等于现在的苗子被雹子和暴雨打掉,这当然不好,这就发生补苗问题。
    • The Chinese people consider weddings as red happy events and funerals white happy events. I find them very rational. The Chinese know dialectics. Weddings will produce children. A child is split out of the body of the mother. It is a sudden change, a happy event. One individual is split into two or three, or even 10, like the aircraft carrier.
      The common people find the deaths, changes and occurrences of new matters happy events. When a person dies, a memorial meeting is held. While the bereaved weep in mourning, they feel it is also a happy event. Actually, it is. Just imagine if Confucius were still living and here at this meeting in Huai-jen Hall, he would be over 2,000 years old and it wouldn’t be so good! If one subscribes to dialectics and yet disapproves of death, it will be metaphysics. Disasters are social phenomena, natural phenomena. Sudden changes are the most fundamental law of the universe. Birth is a sudden change; so is death. In the several decades from birth to death, it is a gradual change. If Chiang Kai-shek should die, we would clap our hands in joy. If Dulles should die, none of us would shed a tear. This is because the death of matters of the old society is a good thing, hoped for by everyone. While the birth of new things is good, their death is naturally not good. The failure of Russia’s 1905 revolution and the loss of our base in the South were equivalent to the seedlings destroyed by hailstorm and downpour. It is naturally not good. And the problem of replacing the destroyed seedlings arises.
    • Speech at The Eighth Party Congress (May 20, 1958)
  • 绿水青山枉自多,华佗无奈小虫何!
    • So many green streams and blue hills, but to what avail ?
      This tiny creature left even Hua To powerless!
      Hundreds of villages choked with weeds, men wasted away;
      Thousands of homes deserted, ghosts chanted mournfully.
      Motionless, by earth I travel eighty thousand li a day,
      Surveying the sky I see a myriad Milky Ways from afar.
      Should the Cowherd ask tidings of the God of Plague,
      Say the same griefs flow down the stream of time.
      • "Farewell to the God of Plague" (July 1, 1958)
  • 春风杨柳万千条,六亿神州尽舜尧。
    • The spring wind blows amid profuse willow wands,
      Six hundred million in this land all equal Yao and Shun.
      Crimson rain swirls in waves under our will,
      Green mountains turn to bridges at our wish.
      Gleaming mattocks fall on the Five Ridges heaven-high;
      Mighty arms move to rock the earth round the Triple River.
      We ask the God of Plague: "Where are you bound ?"
      Paper barges aflame and candle-light illuminate the sky.
      • "Farewell to the God of Plague" (July 1, 1958)
  • 在上海时,一个中央分裂为两个中央,在长征中与张国焘分裂,高饶事件是部分分裂。部分的分裂是经常的。去年以来。全国有一半的省份在领导集团内发生了分裂。人身上海天都要脱发、脱皮,这就是灭亡一部分细胞。从小孩起就要灭亡一部分细胞,这才有利于生长。如果没有灭亡,人就不能生存。自从孔夫子以来,人要不灭亡那不得了。灭亡有好处,可以做肥料,你说不做,实际做了。精神上要有准备。部分的分裂每天都存在。分裂灭亡总会有的。没有分裂.不利于发展。整个的灭亡,也是历史的必然。整个讲,作为阶级斗争工具的党和国家,是要灭亡的。但在它的历史任务未完成前,是要巩固它,不希望分裂,但要准备分裂。没有准备,就要分裂。有准备。就可避免大分裂。大型、中型的分裂是暂时的。匈牙利事件是大型的,高饶事件、莫洛托失事件是中型的。每个支部都在起变化,有些开除,有些进来,有些工作很好,有些犯错误。永远不起变化是不可能的。列宁经常说:国家总有两种可能。或者胜利,或者灭亡。我们中华人为共和国也有两种可能,胜利下去,或者灭亡。列宁是不隐讳灭亡这种可能性的,我们人民共和国也有两种可能性,不要否定这种可能性。我们手里没有原子弹,打起来,三十六计,走为上计,他占北京、上海、武汉,我们打游击,倒退十几年,二十年,回到延安时代。所以一方面我们要积极准备,大搞钢铁,搞机器,搞铁路,争取三四年内搞几千万吨钢,建立起工业基础,使我们比现在更巩固。
    • In Shanghai, one Central Committee split into two Central Committees; in the Long March, we split with Zhang Guotao; the Gao-Rao Incident was a partial split. Partial splits are normal. Since last year, splits occurred within the leadership group in half of the provinces in the nation. Take the human body for instance. Everyday hair and skin are coming off. It is the death of a part of the cells. From infancy on, a part of the cells will die. It benefits growth. Without such destruction, man cannot exist. It would have been impossible if men did not die since the time of Confucius. Death has benefits; fertilizers created. You say you don’t want to become fertilizer, but actually you will. You must be mentally prepared. Partial splits occur every day. There will always be splits and destruction. The absence of splits is detrimental to development. Destruction in entirety is also a historical inevitability. As a whole, the Party and the stale, serving as the tools of the class struggle, will also perish. But before the completion of its historical mission, we must consolidate it. We do not hope for splits, but we must be prepared. Without preparation, there will be splits. With preparation, we will avoid big splits. Large and medium splits are temporary. The Hungary Incident was a large split; the Gao-Rao and Molotov Incidents are medium ones. Changes are occurring in each and every party branch. Some are dismissed while others join; some work successfully while others make mistakes. It is impossible for changes never to occur. Lenin constantly said: “A nation always has two possibilities: success or destruction.” Our people’s Republic of China also has two possibilities: continue to succeed, or become destroyed. Lenin did not conceal the possibility of destruction. China also has two possibilities, and we must recognize them. We are not in possession of the atom bomb. Should there be a war, running away is the best of the 36 stratagems. If Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan are occupied, we will resort to guerrilla warfare. We will regress one or two decades and return to the Yanan era. Meanwhile, we must actively make preparations, vigorously promoting iron and steel, machinery and railways, striving for several ten million tons of steel output in three or four years, establishing an industrial foundation, and becoming more consolidated than today.
    • Speech At The Sixth Plenum Of The Eighth Central Committee (9 December 1958)
  • 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。
    • 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)
  • 斯大林(社会主义经济问题)在郑州读过两遍,就讲学。现在要深入研究,否则事业不能发展,不能巩固。如讲责任,××、×××有点责任。农业部×××有点责任,第一个责任是我。柯老,你的发明权有没有责任?(柯老:有)是否比较轻?你那是意识形态问题。我是一个一○七○万吨钢,九千万人上阵,这个乱子就闹大了,自己负责。同志们自己的责任都要分析一下,有屎拉出来,有屁放出来,肚子就舒服了。
    • When talking of responsibility, XX and XX both have some responsibility, as does XX of the Ministry of Agriculture. But one with the most responsibility is me. Old Ke, does any responsibility rest on you for your invention? [Old Ke said: “yes.”] Was it lighter than mine? Yours is a question of ideology, mine of 10,700,000 tons and ninety million people going into battle. The chaos caused was on a grand scale and I take responsibility. Comrades, you must all analyze your own responsibility. If you have to shit, shit! If you have to fart, fart! You will feel much better for it.
    • Speech At The Lushan Conference (23 July 1959)
  • 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!
    • in 1959, Quoted in Khrushchev Remembers (1970), p. 474

On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (1957)

The contradictions between the enemy and us are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic, while those between the exploited and the exploiting classes have a non-antagonistic aspect in addition to an antagonistic aspect.
New things always have to experience difficulties and setbacks as they grow. It is sheer fantasy to imagine that the cause of socialism is all plain sailing and easy success, without difficulties and setbacks or the exertion of tremendous efforts.
Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture.
To sum up, we must learn to look at problems from all sides, seeing the reverse as well as the obverse side of things. In given conditions, a bad thing can lead to good results and a good thing to bad results. More than two thousand years ago Lao Tzu said: “Good fortune lieth within bad, bad fortune lurketh within good.”
To make China prosperous and strong needs several decades of hard struggle, which means, among other things, pursuing the policy of building up our country through diligence and thrift, that is, practicing strict economy and fighting waste.
Marxism can develop only through struggle, and this is not only true of the past and the present, it is necessarily true of the future as well.
  • 国家的统一,人民的团结,国内各民族的团结,这是我们的事业必定要胜利的基本保证。但是,这并不是说在我们的社会里已经没有任何的矛盾了。没有矛盾的想法是不符合客观实际的天真的想法。在我们的面前有两类社会矛盾,这就是敌我之间的矛盾和人民内部的矛盾。这是性质完全不同的两类矛盾。
    • The unification of our country, the unity of our people and the unity of our various nationalities — these are the basic guarantees for the sure triumph of our cause. However, this does not mean that contradictions no longer exist in our society. To imagine that none exist is a naive idea which is at variance with objective reality. We are confronted with two types of social contradictions — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people. The two are totally different in nature.
  • 敌我之间的矛盾是对抗性的矛盾。人民内部的矛盾,在劳动人民之间说来,是非对抗性的;在被剥削阶级和剥削阶级之间说来,除了对抗性的一面以外,还有非对抗性的一面。
    • The contradictions between the enemy and us are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic, while those between the exploited and the exploiting classes have a non-antagonistic aspect in addition to an antagonistic aspect.
  • 许多人觉得,提出采用民主方法解决人民内部矛盾的问题是一个新的问题。事实并不是这样。马克思主义者从来就认为无产阶级的事业只能依靠人民群众,共产党人在劳动人民中间进行工作的时候必须采取民主的说服教育的方法,决不允许采取命令主义态度和强制手段。中国共产党忠实地遵守马克思列宁主义的这个原则。我们历来就主张,在人民民主专政下面,解决敌我之间的和人民内部的这两类不同性质的矛盾,采用专政和民主这样两种不同的方法。
    • Many people seem to think that the use of the democratic method to resolve contradictions among the people is something new. Actually it is not. Marxists have always held that the cause of the proletariat must depend on the masses of the people and that Communists must use the democratic method of persuasion and education when working among the labouring people and must on no account resort to commandism or coercion. The Chinese Communist Party faithfully adheres to this Marxist-Leninist principle. It has been our consistent view that under the people’s democratic dictatorship two different methods, one dictatorial and the other democratic, should be used to resolve the two types of contradictions which differ in nature — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people.
  • 以马克思列宁主义的理论思想武装起来的中国共产党,在中国人民中产生了新的工作作风,这主要的就是理论和实践相结合的作风,和人民群众紧密地联系在一起的作风以及自我批评的作风。
    • Armed with Marxist-Leninist theory and ideology, the Communist Party of China has brought a new style of work to the Chinese people, a style of work that essentially entails integrating theory with practice, forging close links with the masses and practicing self-criticism.
  • 马克思主义的哲学认为,对立统一规律是宇宙的根本规律。这个规律,不论在自然界、人类社会和人们的思想中,都是普遍存在的。矛盾着的对立面又统一,又斗争,由此推动事物的运动和变化。矛盾是普遍存在的,不过按事物的性质不同,矛盾的性质也就不同。对于任何一个具体的事物说来,对立的统一是有条件的、暂时的、过渡的,因而是相对的,对立的斗争则是绝对的。
    • Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in man's thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change. Contradictions exist everywhere, but they differ in accordance with the different nature of different things. In any given phenomenon or thing, the unity of opposites is conditional, temporary and transitory, and hence relative, whereas the struggle of opposites is absolute.
  • 我们的国家是工人阶级领导的以工农联盟为基础的人民民主专政的国家。这个专政是干什么的呢?专政的第一个作用,就是压迫国家内部的反动阶级、反动派和反抗社会主义革命的剥削者,压迫那些对于社会主义建设的破坏者,就是为了解决国内敌我之间的矛盾。
    • Our state is a people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance. What is this dictatorship for? Its first function is internal, namely, to suppress the reactionary classes and elements and those exploiters who resist the socialist revolution, to suppress those who try to wreck our socialist construction, or in other words, to resolve the contradictions between ourselves and the internal enemy.
  • 我们的宪法规定:中华人民共和国公民有言论、出版、集会、结社、游行、示威、宗教信仰等等自由。我们的宪法又规定:国家机关实行民主集中制,国家机关必须依靠人民群众,国家机关工作人员必须为人民服务。我们的这个社会主义的民主是任何资产阶级国家所不可能有的最广大的民主。我们的专政,叫做工人阶级领导的以工农联盟为基础的人民民主专政。这就表明,在人民内部实行民主制度,而由工人阶级团结全体有公民权的人民,首先是农民,向着反动阶级、反动派和反抗社会主义改造和社会主义建设的分子实行专政。所谓有公民权,在政治方面,就是说有自由和民主的权利。
    • Our Constitution lays it down that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession, demonstration, religious belief, and so on. Our Constitution also provides that the organs of state must practise democratic centralism, that they must rely on the masses and that their personnel must serve the people. Our socialist democracy is the broadest kind of democracy, such as is not to be found in any bourgeois state. Our dictatorship is the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance. That is to say, democracy operates within the ranks of the people, while the working class, uniting with all others enjoying civil rights, and in the first place with the peasantry, enforces dictatorship over the reactionary classes and elements and all those who resist socialist transformation and oppose socialist construction. By civil rights, we mean, politically, the rights of freedom and democracy.
  • 民主自由都是相对的,不是绝对的,都是在历史上发生和发展的。在人民内部,民主是对集中而言,自由是对纪律而言。这些都是一个统一体的两个矛盾着的侧面,它们是矛盾的,又是统一的,我们不应当片面地强调某一个侧面而否定另一个侧面。在人民内部,不可以没有自由,也不可以没有纪律;不可以没有民主,也不可以没有集中。这种民主和集中的统一,自由和纪律的统一,就是我们的民主集中制。在这个制度下,人民享受着广泛的民主和自由;同时又必须用社会主义的纪律约束自己。这些道理,广大人民群众是懂得的。
    • Both democracy and freedom are relative, not absolute, and they come into being and develop in specific historical conditions. Within the ranks of the people, democracy is correlative with centralism and freedom with discipline. They are the two opposites of a single entity, contradictory as well as united, and we should not one-sidedly emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. Within the ranks of the people, we cannot do without freedom, nor can we do without discipline; we cannot do without democracy, nor can we do without centralism. This unity of democracy and centralism, of freedom and discipline, constitutes our democratic centralism. Under this system, the people enjoy broad democracy and freedom, but at the same time they have to keep within the bounds of socialist discipline. All this is well understood by the masses.
  • 在一九四二年,我们曾经把解决人民内部矛盾的这种民主的方法,具体化为一个公式,叫做“团结——批评——团结”。讲详细一点,就是从团结的愿望出发,经过批评或者斗争使矛盾得到解决,从而在新的基础上达到新的团结。按照我们的经验,这是解决人民内部矛盾的一个正确的方法。
    • This democratic method of resolving contradictions among the people was epitomized in 1942 in the formula "unity, criticism, unity". To elaborate, it means starting from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. In our experience this is the correct method of resolving contradictions among the people.
  • 在一般情况下,人民内部的矛盾不是对抗性的。但是如果处理得不适当,或者失去警觉,麻痹大意,也可能发生对抗。这种情况,在社会主义国家通常只是局部的暂时的现象。这是因为社会主义国家消灭了人剥削人的制度,人民的利益在根本上是一致的。
    • In ordinary circumstances, contradictions among the people are not antagonistic. However, if they are not handled properly, or if we relax our vigilance and lower our guard, antagonism may arise. In a socialist country, a development of this kind is usually only a localized and temporary phenomenon. The reason is that the system of exploitation of man by man has been abolished and the interests of the people are the same.
  • 任何新生事物的成长都是要经过艰难曲折的。在社会主义事业中,要想不经过艰难曲折,不付出极大努力,总是一帆风顺,容易得到成功,这种想法,只是幻想。
    • New things always have to experience difficulties and setbacks as they grow. It is sheer fantasy to imagine that the cause of socialism is all plain sailing and easy success, without difficulties and setbacks or the exertion of tremendous efforts.
  • 我们的教育方针,应该使受教育者在德育、智育、体育几方面都得到发展,成为有社会主义觉悟的有文化的劳动者。要提倡勤俭建国。要使全体青年们懂得,我们的国家现在还是一个很穷的国家,并且不可能在短时间内根本改变这种状态,全靠青年和全体人民在几十年时间内,团结奋斗,用自己的双手创造出一个富强的国家。
    • Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture. We must spread the idea of building our country through diligence and thrift. We must help all our young people to understand that ours is still a very poor country, that we cannot change this situation radically in a short time, and that only through decades of united effort by our younger generation and all our people, working with their own hands, can China be made prosperous and strong.
  • 我国少数民族有三千多万人,虽然只占全国总人口的百分之六,但是居住地区广大,约占全国总面积的百分之五十至六十。所以汉族和少数民族的关系一定要搞好。这个问题的关键是克服大汉族主义。在存在有地方民族主义的少数民族中间,则应当同时克服地方民族主义。无论是大汉族主义或者地方民族主义,都不利于各族人民的团结,这是应当克服的一种人民内部的矛盾。
    • The minority nationalities in our country number more than thirty million. Although they constitute only 6 per cent of the total population, they inhabit extensive regions which comprise 50 to 60 per cent of China's total area. It is thus imperative to foster good relation between the Han people and the minority nationalities. The key to this question lies in overcoming Han chauvinism. At the same time, efforts should also be made to overcome local-nationality chauvinism, wherever it exists among the minority nationalities. Both Han chauvinism and local-nationality chauvinism are harmful to the unity of the nationalities; they represent one kind of contradiction among the people which should be resolved.
  • 百花齐放,百家争鸣,长期共存,互相监督,这几个口号是怎样提出来的呢?它是根据中国的具体情况提出来的,是在承认社会主义社会仍然存在着各种矛盾的基础上提出来的,是在国家需要迅速发展经济和文化的迫切要求上提出来的。百花齐放、百家争鸣的方针,是促进艺术发展和科学进步的方针,是促进我国的社会主义文化繁荣的方针。艺术上不同的形式和风格可以自由发展,科学上不同的学派可以自由争论。利用行政力量,强制推行一种风格,一种学派,禁止另一种风格,另一种学派,我们认为会有害于艺术和科学的发展。艺术和科学中的是非问题,应当通过艺术界科学界的自由讨论去解决,通过艺术和科学的实践去解决,而不应当采取简单的方法去解决。为了判断正确的东西和错误的东西,常常需要有考验的时间。历史上新的正确的东西,在开始的时候常常得不到多数人承认,只能在斗争中曲折地发展。正确的东西,好的东西,人们一开始常常不承认它们是香花,反而把它们看作毒草。
    • “Let a hundred flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend” and “long-term coexistence and mutual supervision” — how did these slogans come to be put forward? They were put forward in the light of China’s specific conditions, in recognition of the continued existence of various kinds of contradictions in socialist society and in response to the country’s urgent need to speed up its economic and cultural development. Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land. Different forms and styles in art should develop freely and different schools in science should contend freely. We think that it is harmful to the growth of art and science if administrative measures are used to impose one particular style of art or school of thought and to ban another. Questions of right and wrong in the arts and sciences should be settled through free discussion in artistic and scientific circles and through practical work in these fields. They should not be settled in an over-simple manner. A period of trial is often needed to determine whether something is right or wrong. Throughout history, at the outset new and correct things often failed to win recognition from the majority of people and had to develop by twists and turns through struggle. Often, correct and good things were first regarded not as fragrant flowers but as poisonous weeds.
  • 无论在全人口中间,或者在知识分子中间,马克思主义者仍然是少数。因此,马克思主义仍然必须在斗争中发展。马克思主义必须在斗争中才能发展,不但过去是这样,现在是这样,将来也必然还是这样。正确的东西总是在同错误的东西作斗争的过程中发展起来的。真的、善的、美的东西总是在同假的、恶的、丑的东西相比较而存在,相斗争而发展的。当着某一种错误的东西被人类普遍地抛弃,某一种真理被人类普遍地接受的时候,更加新的真理又在同新的错误意见作斗争。这种斗争永远不会完结。这是真理发展的规律,当然也是马克思主义发展的规律。
    • Marxists remain a minority among the entire population as well as among the intellectuals. Therefore, Marxism must continue to develop through struggle. Marxism can develop only through struggle, and this is not only true of the past and the present, it is necessarily true of the future as well. What is correct invariably develops in the course of struggle with what is wrong. The true, the good and the beautiful always exist by contrast with the false, the evil and the ugly, and grow in struggle with them. As soon as something erroneous is rejected and a particular truth accepted by mankind, new truths begin to struggle with new errors. Such struggles will never end. This is the law of development of truth and, naturally, of Marxism.
  • 马克思主义者不应该害怕任何人批评。相反,马克思主义者就是要在人们的批评中间,就是要在斗争的风雨中间,锻炼自己,发展自己,扩大自己的阵地。同错误思想作斗争,好比种牛痘,经过了牛痘疫苗的作用,人身上就增强免疫力。在温室里培养出来的东西,不会有强大的生命力。实行百花齐放、百家争鸣的方针,并不会削弱马克思主义在思想界的领导地位,相反地正是会加强它的这种地位。
    • Marxists should not be afraid of criticism from any quarter. Quite the contrary, they need to temper and develop themselves and win new positions in the teeth of criticism and in the storm and stress of struggle. Fighting against wrong ideas is like being vaccinated -- a man develops greater immunity from disease as a result of vaccination. Plants raised in hothouses are unlikely to be hardy. Carrying out the policy of letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend will not weaken, but strengthen, the leading position of Marxism in the ideological field.
  • 对于非马克思主义的思想,应该采取什么方针呢?对于明显的反革命分子,破坏社会主义事业的分子,事情好办,剥夺他们的言论自由就行了。对于人民内部的错误思想,情形就不相同。禁止这些思想,不允许这些思想有任何发表的机会,行不行呢?当然不行。对待人民内部的思想问题,对待精神世界的问题,用简单的方法去处理,不但不会收效,而且非常有害。不让发表错误意见,结果错误意见还是存在着。而正确的意见如果是在温室里培养出来的,如果没有见过风雨,没有取得免疫力,遇到错误意见就不能打胜仗。因此,只有采取讨论的方法,批评的方法,说理的方法,才能真正发展正确的意见,克服错误的意见,才能真正解决问题。
    • What should our policy be towards non-Marxist ideas? As far as unmistakable counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs of the socialist cause are concerned, the matter is easy, we simply deprive them of their freedom of speech. But incorrect ideas among the people are quite a different matter. Will it do to ban such ideas and deny them any opportunity for expression? Certainly not. It is not only futile but very harmful to use crude methods in dealing with ideological questions among the people, with questions about man's mental world. You may ban the expression of wrong ideas, but the ideas will still be there. On the other hand, if correct ideas are pampered in hothouses and never exposed to the elements and immunized against disease, they will not win out against erroneous ones. Therefore, it is only by employing the method of discussion, criticism and reasoning that we can really foster correct ideas and overcome wrong ones, and that we can really settle issues.
  • 毫无疑问,我们应当批评各种各样的错误思想。不加批评,看着错误思想到处泛滥,任凭它们去占领市场,当然不行。有错误就得批判,有毒草就得进行斗争。但是这种批评不应当是教条主义的,不应当用形而上学方法,应当力求用辩证方法。要有科学的分析,要有充分的说服力。教条主义的批评不能解决问题。我们是反对一切毒草的,但是我们必须谨慎地辨别什么是真的毒草,什么是真的香花。我们要同群众一起来学会谨慎地辨别香花和毒草,并且一起来用正确的方法同毒草作斗争。
    • Undoubtedly, we must criticize wrong ideas of every description. It certainly would not be right to refrain from criticism, look on while wrong ideas spread unchecked and allow them to dominate the field. Mistakes must be criticized and poisonous weeds fought wherever they crop up. However, such criticism should not be dogmatic, and the metaphysical method should not be used, but instead the effort should be made to apply the dialectical method. What is needed is scientific analysis and convincing argument. Dogmatic criticism settles nothing. We are against poisonous weeds of whatever kind, but we must carefully distinguish between what is really a poisonous weed and what is really a fragrant flower. Together with the masses of the people, we must learn to differentiate carefully between the two and use correct methods to fight the poisonous weeds.
  • 百花齐放、百家争鸣这两个口号,就字面看,是没有阶级性的,无产阶级可以利用它们,资产阶级也可以利用它们,其他的人们也可以利用它们。所谓香花和毒草,各个阶级、阶层和社会集团也有各自的看法。那末,从广大人民群众的观点看来,究竟什么是我们今天辨别香花和毒草的标准呢?在我国人民的政治生活中,应当怎样来判断我们的言论和行动的是非呢?我们以为,根据我国的宪法的原则,根据我国最大多数人民的意志和我国各党派历次宣布的共同的政治主张,这种标准可以大致规定如下:(一)有利于团结全国各族人民,而不是分裂人民;(二)有利于社会主义改造和社会主义建设,而不是不利于社会主义改造和社会主义建设;(三)有利于巩固人民民主专政,而不是破坏或者削弱这个专政;(四)有利于巩固民主集中制,而不是破坏或者削弱这个制度;(五)有利于巩固共产党的领导,而不是摆脱或者削弱这种领导;(六)有利于社会主义的国际团结和全世界爱好和平人民的国际团结,而不是有损于这些团结。
    • Literally the two slogans -- let a hundred flowers blossom and let a hundred schools of thought contend -- have no class character; the proletariat can turn them to account, and so can the bourgeoisie or others. Different classes, strata and social groups each have their own views on what are fragrant flowers and what are poisonous weeds. Then, from the point of view of the masses, what should be the criteria today for distinguishing fragrant flowers from poisonous weeds? In their political activities, how should our people judge whether a person's words and deeds are right or wrong? On the basis of the principles of our Constitution, the will of the overwhelming majority of our people and the common political positions which have been proclaimed on various occasions by our political parties, we consider that, broadly speaking, the criteria should be as follows:
      (1) Words and deeds should help to unite, and not divide, the people of all our nationalities.
      (2) They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction.
      (3) They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people's democratic dictatorship.
      (4) They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism.
      (5) They should help to strengthen, and not shake off or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party.
      (6) They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peace-loving people of the world.
  • 总之,我们必须学会全面地看问题,不但要看到事物的正面,也要看到它的反面。在一定的条件下,坏的东西可以引出好的结果,好的东西也可以引出坏的结果。老子在二千多年以前就说过:“祸兮福所倚,福兮祸所伏。”
    • To sum up, we must learn to look at problems from all sides, seeing the reverse as well as the obverse side of things. In given conditions, a bad thing can lead to good results and a good thing to bad results. More than two thousand years ago Lao Tzu said: “Good fortune lieth within bad, bad fortune lurketh within good.”
  • 在我们的许多工作人员中间,现在滋长着一种不愿意和群众同甘苦,喜欢计较个人名利的危险倾向,这是很不好的。我们在增产节约运动中要求精简机关,下放干部,使相当大的一批干部回到生产中去,就是克服这种危险倾向的一个方法。要使全体干部和全体人民经常想到我国是一个社会主义的大国,但又是一个经济落后的穷国,这是一个很大的矛盾。要使我国富强起来,需要几十年艰苦奋斗的时间,其中包括执行厉行节约、反对浪费这样一个勤俭建国的方针。
    • A dangerous tendency has shown itself of late among many of our personnel -- an unwillingness to share weal and woe with the masses, a concern for personal fame and gain. This is very bad. One way of overcoming it is to streamline our organizations in the course of our campaign to increase production and practice economy, and to transfer cadres to lower levels so that a considerable number will return to productive work. We must see to it that all our cadres and all our people constantly bear in mind that ours is a large socialist country but an economically backward and poor one, and that this is a very big contradiction. To make China prosperous and strong needs several decades of hard struggle, which means, among other things, pursuing the policy of building up our country through diligence and thrift, that is, practicing strict economy and fighting waste.
  • 学习有两种态度。一种是教条主义的态度,不管我国情况,适用的和不适用的,一起搬来。这种态度不好。另一种态度,学习的时候用脑筋想一下,学那些和我国情况相适合的东西,即吸取对我们有益的经验,我们需要的是这样一种态度。
    • Now there are two different attitudes towards learning from others. One is the dogmatic attitude of transplanting everything, whether or not it is suited to our conditions. This is no good. The other attitude is to use our heads and learn those things that suit our conditions, that is, to absorb whatever experience is useful to us. That is the attitude we should adopt.


Criticism and self-criticism is a kind of method. It is a method of resolving contradictions among the people and it is the only method.
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.
Without democracy there cannot be any correct centralism because people’s ideas differ, and if their understanding of things lacks unity then centralism cannot be established.
  • 屈子当年赋楚骚,
    • Master Qu in that year presented the Sao of Chu;
      In his hand he grasped a killing blade.
      Mugwort and wormwood were flourishing in excess, [fragrant] pepper and orchid were scarce;
      With a single leap he plunged into limitless waves.
    • "七绝· 屈原" (1961)
  • 批评和自我批评是一种方法,是解决人民内部矛盾的方法,而且是唯一的方法。
    • Criticism and self-criticism is a kind of method. It is a method of resolving contradictions among the people and it is the only method.
    • Talk at an Enlarged Central Work Conference (30 January 1962)
  • 没有民主,不可能有正确的集中,因为大家意见分歧,没有统一的认识,集中制就建立不起来。什么叫集中?首先是要集中正确的意见。在集中正确意见的基础上,做到统一认识,统一政策,统一计划,统一指挥,统一行动,叫做集中统一。如果大家对问题还不了解,有意见还没有发表,有气还没有出,你这个集中统一怎么建立得起来呢?没有民主,就不可能正确地总结经验。没有民主,意见不是从群众中来,就不可能制定出好的路线、方针、政策和办法。我们的领导机关,就制定路线、方针、政策和办法这一方面说来,只是一个加工工厂。大家知道,工厂没有原料就不可能进行加工。没有数量上充分的和质量上适当的原料,就不可能制造出好的成品来。如果没有民主,不了解下情,情况不明,不充分搜集各方面的意见,不使上下通气,只由上级领导机关凭着片面的或者不真实的材料决定问题,那就难免不是主观主义的,也就不可能达到统一认识,统一行动,不可能实现真正的集中。我们这次会议的主要议题,不是要反对分散主义,加强集中统一吗?如果离开充分发扬民主,这种集中,这种统一,是真的还是假的?是实的还是空的?是正确的还是错误的?当然只能是假的、空的、错误的。
    • Without democracy there cannot be any correct centralism because people’s ideas differ, and if their understanding of things lacks unity then centralism cannot be established. What is centralism? First of all it is a centralization of correct ideas, on the basis of which unity of understanding, policy, planning, command and action are achieved. This is called centralized unification. If people still do not understand problems, if they have ideas but have not expressed them, or are angry but still have not vented their anger, how can centralized unification be established? If there is no democracy we cannot possibly summarize experience correctly. If there is no democracy, if ideas are not coming from the masses, it is impossible to establish a good line, good general and specific policies and methods. Our leading organs merely play the role of a processing plant in the establishment of a good line and good general and specific policies and methods. Everyone knows that if a factory has no raw material it cannot do any processing. If the raw material is not adequate in quantity and quality it cannot produce good finished products. Without democracy, you have no understanding of what is happening down below; the situation will be unclear; you will be unable to collect sufficient opinions from all sides; there can be no communication between top and bottom; top-level organs of leadership will depend on one-sided and incorrect material to decide issues, thus you will find it difficult to avoid being subjectivist; it will be impossible to achieve unity of understanding and unity of action, and impossible to achieve true centralism. Is not the main item for discussion at this session of our conference opposition to dispersionism and the strengthening of centralized unification? If we fail to promote democracy in full measure, then will this centralism and this unification be true or false? Will it be real or empty? Will it be correct or incorrect? Of course it must be false, empty and incorrect.
    • Talk at an Enlarged Central Work Conference (30 January 1962)
  • 医学教育要改革,根本用不着读那么多书,华陀读的是几年制?明朝李时珍读的是几年制?医学教育用不着收什么高中生、初中生,高小毕业生学三年就够了。主要 在实践中学习提高,这样的医生放到农村去,就算本事不大,总比骗人的医生与巫医的要 好,而且农村也养得起。书读得越多越蠢。现在那套检查治疗方法根本不适合农村,培养 医生的方法,也是为了城市,可是中国有五亿多农民。
    • Medical education should be reformed. There’s no need to read so many books. How many years did Hua Tuo spend at college? How many years’ education did Li Shizhen of the Ming dynasty receive? In medical education there is no need to accept only higher middle school graduates or lower middle school graduates. It will be enough to give three years to graduates from higher primary schools. They would then study and raise their standards, mainly through practice. If this kind of doctor is sent down to the countryside, even if they haven’t much talent, they would be better than quacks and witch doctors and the villages would be better able to afford to keep them. The more books one reads, the more stupid one gets. The methods of medical examination and treatment used by hospitals nowadays are not at all appropriate for the countryside, and the way doctors are trained is only for the benefit of the cities. And yet in China over 500 million of our population are peasants.
    • Directive on Public Health (June 26, 1965)
  • 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.
  • 全国第一张马列主义的大字报和人民日报评论员的评论,写得何等好呵!请同志们重读这一张大字报和这个评论。可是在50多天里,从中央到地方的某些领导同志,却反其道而行之,站在反动的资产阶级立场上,实行资产阶级专政,将无产阶级轰轰烈烈的文化大革命运动打下去,颠倒是非,混淆黑白,围剿革命派,压制不同意见,实行白色恐怖,自以为得意,长资产阶级的威风,灭无产阶级的志气,又何其毒也!联想到1962年的右倾和1964年形“左”实右的错误倾向,岂不是可以发人深醒的吗?
    • China’s first Marxist-Leninist big-character poster and Commentator’s article on it in Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) are indeed superbly written! Comrades, please read them again. But in the last fifty days or so some leading comrades from the central down to the local levels have acted in a diametrically opposite way. Adopting the reactionary stand of the bourgeoisie, they have enforced a bourgeois dictatorship and struck down the surging movement of the great cultural revolution of the proletariat. They have stood facts on their head and juggled black and white, encircled and suppressed revolutionaries, stifled opinions differing from their own, imposed a white terror, and felt very pleased with themselves. They have puffed up the arrogance of the bourgeoisie and deflated the morale of the proletariat. How poisonous! Viewed in connection with the Right deviation in 1962 and the wrong tendency of 1964 which was “Left” in form but Right in essence, shouldn’t this make one wide awake?
    • Bombard the Headquarters—My First Big-Character Poster (August 5, 1966)
  • (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.


How will you deal with this? Only Heaven knows.
  • 我欢迎尼克松上台。为什么呢?他的欺骗性也有,但比较地少一点,你信不信?他跟你来硬的多,来软的也有。他如果想到北京来,你就捎个信,叫他偷偷地,不要公开,坐上一架飞机就可以来嘛。谈不成也可以,谈得成也可以嘛。何必那么僵着?但是你们美国是没有秘密的,一个总统出国是不可能秘密的。他要到中国来,一定会大吹大擂,就会说其目的就是要拉中国整苏联,所以他现在还不敢这样做。整苏联,现在对美国不利;整中国,对于美国也不利。
    • I welcome Nixon's winning the election. Why? There is a deceptive side of him as well, but there is less of it. Do you believe it? He is accustomed to use hard tactics, but sometimes also soft ones. If he wishes to come to Beijing, please tell him he should do it secretly, not openly-just get on a plane and come. It doesn't matter whether negotiations succeed or fail. Why should we maintain such a deadlock? However, there is no secret in the United States. If the president goes abroad, it is impossible to keep it secret. In coming to China, he is sure to declare his aim is to draw in China in order to make things difficult for the Soviet Union. Hence he does not dare to act this way at present. To punish the Soviet Union is disadvantageous to the U.S., and to punish China is equally disadvantageous.
    • "If Nixon Is Willing to Come, I Am Ready to Hold Talks with Him" (December 18, 1970)
  • I said, now that I’m collaborating with the rightists, my reputation isn’t good. I said, in your [the Americans'] country there are two parties and it’s been said that the Democrats are more enlightened. As for the Republicans, they lean more to the right. I said there is nothing great about the Democrats. I neither admire nor am interested in them. I said, when you [Nixon] were running for President, I gave you my vote. You are still not aware of that. [...] This time round, we also gave you our vote [Tanaka]. It’s exactly like you said. If the main player, which is the Liberal Democratic Party [of Japan], doesn’t come here, how can we resolve the issue? [...] I said, that communist party of yours in Japan, I’m not interested in them.
  • “人生七十古来稀”,我八十多了,人老总想后事。中国有句古话叫“盖棺定论”,我虽未“盖棺”也快了,总可以定论吧!我一生干了两件事:一是与蒋介石斗了那么几十年,把他赶到那么几个海岛上去了;抗战八年,把日本人请回老家去了。对这些事持异议的人不多,只有那么几个人,在我耳边叽叽喳喳,无非是让我及早收回那几个海岛罢了。另一件事你们都知道,就是发动文化大革命。这事拥护的人不多,反对的人不少。这两件事没有完,这笔“遗产”得交给下一代。怎么交?和平交不成就动荡中交,搞不好就得“血雨腥风”了。你们怎么办?只有天知道。
    • Since ancient times, it has been rare for a man to live to seventy. I am now more than eighty. In my old age I have thought often of death. In China it is said, “You can judge a man only after they close the lid of his coffin.” Although my “coffin lid” is not yet closed, it will happen soon, so it is a time to sum up. During my life I have accomplished two things. First, over the course of several decades, I fought against Chiang Kai-shek and chased him to the islands. During eight years of the war against Japan, I requested that the Japanese soldiers return home. We conquered Beijing and ultimately seized the Forbidden City. There are few people who do not acknowledge this. And there are only a few people who buzz into my ears that I should retake these islands quickly. The second thing you all know about. This is the launching of the Great Cultural Revolution. There are not many who support it, and not a few who oppose it. Both of these tasks are unfinished. This “legacy” must be handed down to the next generation. How should that be done? If it can’t be done peacefully, then it must be done via shock tactics. If we really do not engage in this, then “the wind and rain will turn red with blood.” How will you deal with this? Only Heaven knows.
      • June 15, 1976. Quoted in Mao: The Real Story (2012) by Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine


Where there is oppression, there is revolt.
  • 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 Peng Dehuai, his hatred is so intense that he wished me dead. My policy with Peng 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.
  • 哪里有压迫,哪里就有反抗。
    • Where there is oppression, there is revolt.

Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (The Little Red Book)

Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
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.
The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them.
Without a People's army, the people have nothing.
Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.
  • 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。 (Fánshì dírén fǎnduì de, wǒmen jiù yào yǒnghù; fánshì dírén yǒnghù de, wǒmen jiù yào fǎnduì.)
    • We should support whatever our enemies oppose and oppose whatever our enemies support.
    • If the enemy opposes, we must support it; if the enemy supports it, we must oppose it.
    • 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. (Shéi shì wǒmen de dírén? Shéi shì wǒmen de péngyǒu? Zhège wèntí shì gémìng de shǒuyào wèntí.)
    • 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.
  • 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。(Gémìng zhànzhēng shì qúnzhòng de zhànzhēng, zhǐyǒu dòngyuán qúnzhòng cáinéng jìnxíng zhànzhēng, zhǐyǒu yīkào qúnzhòng cáinéng jìnxíng zhànzhēng.)
    • 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.
  • In the ideological field, the question of who will win in the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has not been really settled yet. We still have to wage a protracted struggle against bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology. It is wrong not to understand this and to give up ideological struggle. All erroneous ideas, all poisonous weeds, all ghosts and monsters, must be subjected to criticism; in no circumstance should they be allowed to spread unchecked. However, the criticism should be fully reasoned, analytical and convincing, and not rough, bureaucratic, metaphysical or dogmatic.
    • Speech at the Chinese Communist Party's National Conference on Propaganda Work (March 12, 1957), 1st pocket edition, pp. 26-27
  • Anyone should be allowed to speak out, whoever he may be, so long as he is not a hostile element and does not make malicious attacks, and it does not matter if he says something wrong. Leaders at all levels have the duty to listen to others. Two principles must be observed: (1) Say all you know and say it without reserve; (2) don't blame the speaker but take his words as a warning. Unless the principle of "Don't blame the speaker" is observed genuinely and not falsely, the result will not be "Say all you know and say it without reserve".
    • The Tasks for 1945 (December 15, 1944).

Directives Regarding the Cultural Revolution (1966-1972)

The masses, the army, and the cadres are the three pillars on which we rely.
It is difficult to avoid mistakes, the point is to correct them honestly. Too many people have been arrested in Szechwan and many mass organizations are branded as reactionary. All these are wrong, but they have been quickly rectified.
Guard against revisionism, particularly the emergence of revisionism at the party Centre.
  • The masses, the army, and the cadres are the three pillars on which we rely.
    • 1967
  • It is difficult to avoid mistakes, the point is to correct them honestly. Too many people have been arrested in Szechwan and many mass organizations are branded as reactionary. All these are wrong, but they have been quickly rectified.
    • 1967
  • Trust and rely on the masses; trust and rely on the PLA; trust and rely on the majority of the cadres.
    • 1967
  • The victory or defeat of the revolution can be determined only over a long period of time. If it is badly handled, there is always the danger of a capitalist restoration. All members of the party and all the people of our country must not think that after one, two, three, or four great cultural revolutions there will be peace and quiet. They must always be on the alert and must never relax their vigilance.
    • 1967
  • Guard against revisionism, particularly the emergence of revisionism at the party Centre.
    • 1967
  • Who are our enemies and who are our friends? This is the first and foremost question of a revolution and it is also the first and foremost question of the great Cultural Revolution.
    • 1967
  • Protect the left-wing; support the left-wing, form and enlarge left wing units.
  • Do not stop half way and do not ever go backward. There is no way behind you.
  • Trust the majority of the cadres and the masses. This is essential.
  • We, the communists, do not want official positions; we want revolution. We must have a thoroughly revolutionary spirit and must be with the masses every hour, every minute. As long as we are with the masses, we shall always be victorious.

Directives on the Cultural Revolution (1966-1972)

No need to be afraid of tidal waves; human society has been evolved out of 'tidal waves'.
A communist must never stay aloof from or above the masses like a bureaucrat. He ought to be like an ordinary worker in the presence of the masses, join them, and become one of them.
  • It is to the advantage of despots to keep people ignorant; it is to our advantage to make them intelligent. We must lead all of them gradually away from ignorance.
  • Wind will not cease even if trees want to rest.
  • Without destruction there can be no construction; without blockage there can be no flow; without stoppage there can be no movement.
  • No need to be afraid of tidal waves; human society has been evolved out of 'tidal waves'.
  • You should pay attention to state affairs and carry the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution through to the end!
  • This is a movement on a vast scale. It has indeed mobilized the masses. It is of very great significance to the revolutionization of the thinking of the people throughout the country.
  • A communist must never stay aloof from or above the masses like a bureaucrat. He ought to be like an ordinary worker in the presence of the masses, join them, and become one of them.
  • In any revolution, its internal causes are fundamental and its external ones are supplementary.
  • A revolution depends on an inner core. This, the bourgeois faction in authority and the faction in authority which has committed mistakes know best; [their] peripheral organizations merely add fuel to the fire.
  • Young people should be permitted to make mistakes. As long as their general orientation is correct, let them make minor mistakes. I believe that they can correct themselves in practical work.
  • The basic contradiction the great proletarian Cultural Revolution is trying to resolve is the one between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, between the proletarian and bourgeois roads. The main point of the movement is to struggle against the capitalist roaders in authority in the party.
  • The peoples of the world must have courage, dare to fight, and fear no hardships. When the ones in front fall, the others behind must follow up. In this way, the world will belong to the people and all the demons will be eliminated.
  • Democracy sometimes looks like an end in itself, but in fact it is merely a means to an end.
  • The revolutionary red guards and revolutionary student organizations must form a grand alliance. As long as they are revolutionary mass organizations, they must form a great alliance according to revolutionary principles.
  • The basic ideological programme of the great proletarian Cultural Revolution is 'to combat selfishness and criticize revisionism.'
  • The Cultural Revolution can only be the emancipation of the masses by the masses.
    • Nov. 11, 1967
  • Except in the deserts, at every place of human habitation there is the left, the centre, and the right. This will continue to be so 10,000 years hence.
    • April 22, 1968
  • It is absolutely necessary for educated young people to go to the countryside to be re-educated by the poor and lower-middle peasants. Cadres and other city people should be persuaded to send their sons and daughters who have finished junior or senior middle school, college, or university to the countryside. Let us mobilize. Comrades throughout the countryside should welcome them.
    • Dec. 22, 1968


  • 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.
  • "The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper, And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight." - Otto Braun memoirs
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • The real war is within us. History is a symptom of our disease.
    • This is a line from the 1995 film Nixon written by Oliver Stone, Christopher Wilkinson, and Stephen J. Rivele. The line is spoken by Mao (portrayed by Ric Young) through an interpreter during a fictionalized version of his meeting with Richard Nixon.

Quotes about Mao Zedong

I sduppose some people will say on balance Mao did more good than harm. ~ Diane Abbott
Had Mao died in 1956, his achievements would have been immortal. Had he died in 1966, he would still have been a great man but flawed. But he died in 1976. Alas, what can one say? ~ Chen Yun
The consequences of Mao’s actions were inevitably in proportion to the prodigious power he exercised, and the enormous population he ruled over. As a unifier and modernizer his achievements were immense, but his errors caused appalling suffering on a scale that is difficult to grasp. ~ Delia Davin
For Mao Zedong was both the Lenin and the Stalin of the Chinese Revolution, both the revolutionary founder and the post-revolutionary tyrant. ~ Maurice Meisner
Future historians may conclude that Mao’s role was to try to destroy the age-old bifurcation of China between a small educated ruling stratum and the vast mass of common people. We do not yet know how far he succeeded. The economy was developing, but it was left to his successors to create a new political structure. ~ w:John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman
[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


  • China, despite many imperfections in its economic and political system, has been the most rapidly growing nation of the past three decades. Chinese poverty until Mao Zedong’s death had nothing to do with Chinese culture; it was due to the disastrous way Mao organized the economy and conducted politics. In the 1950s, he promoted the Great Leap Forward, a drastic industrialization policy that led to mass starvation and famine. In the 1960s, he propagated the Cultural Revolution, which led to the mass persecution of intellectuals and educated people—anyone whose party loyalty might be doubted. This again led to terror and a huge waste of the society’s talent and resources. In the same way, current Chinese growth has nothing to do with Chinese values or changes in Chinese culture; it results from a process of economic transformation unleashed by the reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping and his allies, who, after Mao Zedong’s death, gradually abandoned socialist economic policies and institutions, first in agriculture and then in industry.
  • The students caught between the two superpowers and equally disillusioned by East and West, "inevitably pursue some third ideology, from Mao's China or Castro's Cuba." (Spender, op. cit., p. 92.) Their calls for Mao, Castro, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh are like pseudo-religious incantations for saviors from another world; they would also call for Tito if only Yugoslavia were farther away and less approachable.


  • The Young Lords Party understood themselves to be a revolutionary nationalist party with an internationalist vision. According to Melendez, three texts formed the core of the Young Lords' political education program: Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, Mao Tse-tung's Little Red Book, and Che Guevara's Man and Socialism: Transformation of the Individual. Grounded in Mao's critique of nationalism and Fanon's analysis of colonialism, as well as Vladimir Lenin's writings on imperialism and the national question, the nationalism of the Young Lords was much more ideologically explicit than that of most Chicano leaders...Inspired by Che Guevara, the Young Lords Party sought to engage the internal struggle of the individual "to manifest change within himself in order to create a revolution in society."
    • Cristina Beltrán, The trouble with unity : Latino politics and the creation of identity (2010)
  • Mao’s impact on China must also be assessed in terms of economic and social changes in China after 1949. Despite the setbacks of the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, overall China’s economy made decided advances during the Maoist period. China’s industrial sector grew rapidly and agricultural output was once again showing increases by the time of Mao’s death. China’s infrastructure expanded with the addition of new railways and improved roads. Electricity became available in all but the most remote villages. Life expectancy reached 65 years by the time of Mao’s death, a remarkable increase over the 1949 figure. Under the new laws of the PRC, women held equal status with men and, as a result of the commune movement, worked outside the home. Although efforts to expand education stumbled repeatedly because of political campaigns, the number of literate men and women climbed as schools and colleges grew in number throughout the period. These accomplishments are part of the legacy of the first generation of revolutionary leadership.
    At the same time, Maoist policies exacted an enormous human cost. Misguided policy decisions of the Great Leap Forward claimed millions of lives. Whether this cost was levied unintentionally or not, Mao himself chose the policies that led to human disaster and he cannot be absolved of responsibility for the outcomes. When the records of the CCP are someday made available for objective examination, both the Chinese people and the world community will be able to assess more clearly the circumstances that led to the greatest tragedies of the Maoist period and how that experience influenced China’s current economic reforms and its political direction.
    • Linda Benson, China Since 1949 (3rd ed., 2016), Chap. 4 : The radical Maoist phase, 1958–76
  • Is Mao dead? That we even feel the need to ask the question betrays part of the answer. Yes he’s dead, but more importantly, his legacy still exerts a profound influence on China, both in his continuing grassroots popularity and in the instruments of governance that the C.C.P. still uses—most of which have Mao’s fingerprints all over them.
  • The very fact that Mao is a paradoxical figure means that thinking about him is a useful way in understanding some of the other paradoxes that now constitute the PRC. The combination of artificiality, make-believe and sheer downright lies in what has gone into creating the image of Mao and reflects much on the place that has produced this mythos. Mao himself celebrated conflict, contradiction and tension. He famously opined that 'without destruction there can be no construction', an idea that was enshrined in the CR, and became the justification for many of the acts of violence then.
    • Kerry Brown, Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century (2007)
  • Had he been purely an economic thinker, then Mao would have been consigned to the dustbin of history the day he died in September 1976. Evidence of the failure of his economic ideas is manifold. But of course, economics is more often than not intimately linked to emotions and ideas of status. It is here that the other two strands of Maoism come to the fore – Mao as a nationalist and Mao as a tactician. In areas that can be broadly described as geopolitics and politics, Mao still retains impact in China.
    • Kerry Brown and Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, China and the New Maoists (2016), p. 45
  • At best, Marx equipped Mao with a dynamic vision of reality, but one which was fundamentally posited on contradictions. Once more, the real ballast was supplied by Daoism, a body of ideas reaching back to the earliest recorded dynasty, the Shang, and set down in oracular form. The Way or Dao celebrated counterpoised forces, the struggle for the achievement of balance in society constantly undermined by the rise of new forces and situations. Flux was the god of this view of the world, and it was to flux and dynamism that Mao himself appealed in perhaps the only one of his works that claims to have made a distinctive and original contribution to the corpus of Marxist theoretical works: ‘On contradiction’.
    • Kerry Brown and Simone van Nieuwenhuizen, China and the New Maoists (2016), p. 51


  • Historians have long noted that Mao Zedong, the man, was not only deeply flawed but also was not the all-powerful creator of the People’s Republic of China or even of the CCP; that real history is, naturally, much more complex than the leadership of one man. Yet he was, and remains, the most charismatic and significant leader of twentieth-century China and both the official source of legitimacy for the CCP and a powerful model of rebellion for generations of Chinese. The key point to keep in mind about the power of Mao today is this contradictory legacy.
    This enduring contradiction in Maoism can be summed up in two phrases: ‘leave it up to the Party’ and ‘it’s right to rebel.’ The first reflects the considerable prestige of the CCP associated with its role in China’s turbulent twentieth-century history. Even though various people in China today dismiss the extreme claims of revolutionary correctness or question the gaps in official Party histories, the CCP is broadly credited with saving China from imperialism, warlords, and poverty. For many in China, the greatest achievement of the CCP, for which Mao is the embodiment, is the establishment of the Chinese nation-state and the restoration of order in 1949. The many sins committed by Mao and the CCP since then have not – yet – utterly overshadowed this singular achievement.
    • Timothy Cheek, Living With Reform: China Since 1989 (2007), Chap. 2: Living History: What was Maoism?
  • This is the contradictory legacy of Mao: while Mao wrote the norms and rules of CCP leadership and represents its successes, he is also the voice of rebellion and the mirror that shows up the faults and failures of the Party. The social results of this contradiction, and this history of Mao’s three campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s, are profoundly important for China today. The most famous slogan of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, ‘it’s right to rebel’ (zaofan youli), trained a generation of Chinese youth. When those former Red Guards returned to urban China from their rustication after two, three, and sometimes ten years, they had learned from Mao, though not perhaps what Mao and the Party wanted them to learn. They learned of the profound corruptibility of the Party and of leaders everywhere, they learned it was possible – and that Mao agreed – to rebel against corrupt leadership, and they learned that rural China was still very poor. Not only poor, but also superstitious. Rural China has been identified with the excesses of faith in Mao that these self-same ‘educated youth’ also displayed during the 1960s and during at least some of their time in the countryside.
    • Timothy Cheek, Living With Reform: China Since 1989 (2007), Chap. 2: Living History: What was Maoism?
  • In all, Mao’s memory in China today is a two-edged sword of legitimacy for the CCP: an ambivalent symbol of national pride for educated Chinese, a cool brand for middle-class youth, and a talisman of selfworth for China’s disposed who have suffered under reform and globalization. Behind these meanings reside wider historical meanings of hope and despair analyzed by scholars in Western countries, as well as the inspiration Mao provided for rural revolutions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
    • Timothy Cheek, "Mao, Revolution, and Memory", in A Critical Introduction to Mao (2010) edited by Timothy Cheek
  • Had Mao died in 1956, his achievements would have been immortal. Had he died in 1966, he would still have been a great man but flawed. But he died in 1976. Alas, what can one say?
  • When Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party since 1943, died on September 9th, 1976, China was in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao had initiated a decade earlier. This was meant to be the first of a series of revolutions to rejuvenate socialism, ridding it of capitalist corruption and bureaucratic rigidity. The Cultural Revolution had been preceded by a series of social and political campaigns relentlessly prosecuted by Mao to push China toward the promised paradise of socialism. Mao believed that China could shrug off poverty and jump on to the “golden highway” to socialism if, and only if, the Chinese people, united in thought and action, threw all their talents and energy behind the collective cause. Unselfish and property-less, the Chinese people would be reborn. Having shed the burden of history and Chinese feudalism on the one hand, and without the distraction of material interests and western capitalism on the other, the Chinese people would respond to nothing but the call of socialism. However, instead of paradise, Mao’s deeply flawed ideology and ill-thought-out revolutions not only brought to the Chinese people the most lethal famine in human history, but also cut them off from their cultural roots and the progress of modern times. An enterprising people were quickly reduced to lifeless cogs in the socialist machine.
    It can be a hard truth to accept, but the disaster Mao inflicted on the Chinese people was matched only by his ineradicable accomplishments. “In the final reckoning,” wrote The Economist, “Mao must be accepted as one of history’s great achievers: for devising a peasant-centered revolutionary strategy which enabled China’s Communist Party to seize power, against Marx’s prescriptions, from bases in the countryside; for directing the transformation of China from a feudal society, wracked by war and bled by corruption, into a unified, egalitarian state where nobody starves; and for reviving national pride and confidence so that China could, in Mao’s words, ‘stand up’ among the great powers.” While The Economist was seriously mistaken about the absence of starvation in Mao’s China, few could deny the inspiration and influence of Mao’s revolution on both China and the rest of the world. Richard Nixon, who reopened diplomatic relations between China and the United States in 1972, called Mao “a unique man in a generation of great revolutionary leaders.” Pakistani Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the last foreign statesman to see him before his death, called Mao “the son of revolution, its very essence, indeed, its rhythm and romance, the supreme architect of a brilliant new order shaking the world,” adding, “Men like Mao come once in a century.”
    • Ronald Coase and Ning Wang, How China Became Capitalist (2012), Chap. 1 : China at the Death of Mao
  • It is worthwhile pointing out that even though Mao was directly responsible for the decentralization of the Chinese political and economic system, other forces, more elusive but no less decisive, were also at work. The size of the Chinese continent would make life difficult for any central planner. As an age-old Chinese axiom puts it, “Heaven is high and the emperor far away.” Some local autonomy was therefore inevitable. Historically, the tension between administrative centralization (or what is called junxian in Chinese literature) and decentralization (or what is called fengjian) has been an absorbing issue for China’s rulers ever since the First Emperor of Qin unified China in 221 BC. Even though Imperial China is remembered for its administrative innovation, a centralized bureaucracy staffed by civilians who were selected through the civil service examination, centralization coexisted with decentralization. Centralization may be the best-known aspect of traditional Chinese politics, but the political system was kept in order by balancing the competing forces of centralization and decentralization, like the Yin and Yang in Tai Chi.
    Even though China under Mao had built up, mostly from scratch, an impressive nationwide industrial base, its economic performance was an agonizing disappointment. But while Mao left behind poverty and a poorly functioning economic system, he also created much discontent among a large number of people, most of whom were desperate for change. At the end of Mao’s rule, China was left with a fractured society, a fragmented economy, and a confused and disoriented politics, crawling along what was once believed the golden highway to socialism. With the end of Mao’s era, China was bound to open a new chapter.
    • Ronald Coase and Ning Wang, How China Became Capitalist (2012), Chap. 1 : China at the Death of Mao


  • Mao’s life and his character are difficult to sum up because he was a complex man who behaved in contradictory ways. He embraced an imported modernizing ideology yet remained profoundly Chinese in his outlook. He was an idealist who produced inspirational writings but was prepared to accept suffering and death on an unimaginable scale to achieve his aims. He was a despot who proclaimed that ‘it is right to rebel’. He was an ideologue who wrote poetry. Mao recognized the contradictory nature of his own character when he wrote he combined a ‘kingly’ disposition demanding to dominate and suborn, with a ‘monkey spirit’ that urged him to run riot and throw all into disorder. Henry Kissinger saw the kingly Mao, observing that he ‘distilled raw concentrated willpower’ and ‘exuded in almost tangible form the overwhelming drive to prevail’. These qualities contributed to the survival of the communist forces during the period of armed struggle and their remarkable victory. Once China was united, however, they were often harmful. Mao used his immense prestige to intimidate his colleagues and get his own way. He became increasingly autocratic, refused to listen to those who disagreed with him, and stubbornly enforced bad decisions. He bears responsibility for the horrors of the famine brought about by the Great Leap Forward, and for the tardy response to it which produced a death toll of tens of millions. His increasing tendency to interpret any criticism as a challenge to his leadership so intimidated his colleagues that in his last years many feared to express opinions at all. His Cultural Revolution caused immense suffering and social and economic disruption, yet until his death all leaders had to pay tribute to its achievements.
  • The consequences of Mao’s actions were inevitably in proportion to the prodigious power he exercised, and the enormous population he ruled over. As a unifier and modernizer his achievements were immense, but his errors caused appalling suffering on a scale that is difficult to grasp. His utopian dreams, his periodic refusal to engage with reality, his ruthlessness, and his determination to win imposed terrible suffering on the Chinese people and cost millions of them their lives. He was ready to accept huge costs because he believed that suffering and death were inevitable in the pursuit of his cause. Mao’s revolution improved life for those who survived it, bringing the economic development, education, and modernization on which subsequent progress was built. It also reunified China and made the country a force to be reckoned with in the world. He left an indelible mark on history.
  • I should remind you that Chairman Mao dedicated most of his life to China, that he saved the party and the revolution in their most critical moments, that, in short, his contribution was so great that, without him, the Chinese people would have had a much harder time finding the right path out of the darkness. We also shouldn't forget that it was Chairman Mao who combined the teachings of Marx and Lenin with the realities of Chinese history—that it was he who applied those principles, creatively, not only to politics but to philosophy, art, literature, and military strategy. Yes, before the 1960s—or, better, up until the late 1950s—some of Chairman Mao's ideas were, for the most part, correct. Furthermore, many of his principles brought us victory and allowed us to gain power. Then, unfortunately, in the last few years of his life, he committed many grave errors—the Cultural Revolution, above all. And much disgrace was brought upon the party, the country, the people.
  • We know that Mao was the key architect of the Great Leap Forward, and thus bears the main responsibility for the catastrophe that followed. He had to work hard to push through his vision, bargaining, cajoling, goading, occasionally tormenting or persecuting his colleagues. Unlike Stalin, he did not drag his rivals into a dungeon to have them executed, but he did have the power to remove them from office, terminating their careers – and the many privileges which came with a top position in the party. The campaign to overtake Britain started with Chairman Mao, and it ended when he grudgingly allowed his colleagues to return to a more gradual approach in economic planning a few years later. But he would never have been able to prevail if Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, the next two most powerful party leaders, had acted against him. They, in turn, whipped up support from other senior colleagues, as chains of interests and alliances extended all the way down to the village – as is documented here for the first time. Ferocious purges were carried out, as lacklustre cadres were replaced with hard, unscrupulous men who trimmed their sails to benefit from the radical winds blowing from Beijing.
    • Frank Dikotter, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 (2011), Preface
  • Mao set about ensnaring his enemies with the precision of a trapper. But once the stage was set and the Cultural Revolution erupted in the summer of 1966, it took on a life of its own, with unintended consequences that even the most consummate strategist could not have anticipated. Mao wished to purge the higher echelons of power, so he could hardly rely on the party machine to get the job done. He turned to young, radical students instead, some of them no older than fourteen, giving them licence to denounce all authority and ‘bombard the headquarters’. But party officials had honed their survival skills during decades of political infighting, and few were about to be outflanked by a group of screaming, self-righteous Red Guards. Many deflected the violence away from themselves by encouraging the youngsters to raid the homes of class enemies, stigmatised as social outcasts. Some cadres even managed to organise their own Red Guards, all in the name of Mao Zedong Thought and the Cultural Revolution. In the parlance of the time, they ‘raised the red flag in order to fight the red flag’. The Red Guards started fighting each other, divided over who the true ‘capitalist roaders’ inside the party were. In some places, party activists and factory workers rallied in support of their besieged leaders.
    In response, the Chairman urged the population at large to join the revolution, calling on all to ‘seize power’ and overthrow the ‘bourgeois power holders’. The result was a social explosion on an unprecedented scale, as every pent-up frustration caused by years of communist rule was released. There was no lack of people who harboured grievances against party officials. But the ‘revolutionary masses’, instead of neatly sweeping away all followers of the ‘bourgeois reactionary line’, also became divided, as different factions jostled for power and started fighting each other. Mao used the people during the Cultural Revolution; but, equally, many people manipulated the campaign to pursue their own goals.
    By January 1967 the chaos was such that the army intervened, seeking to push through the revolution and bring the situation under control by supporting the ‘true proletarian left’. As different military leaders supported different factions, all of them equally certain they represented the true voice of Mao Zedong, the country slid into civil war.
    Still, the Chairman prevailed. He was cold and calculating, but also erratic, whimsical and fitful, thriving in willed chaos. He improvised, bending and breaking millions along the way. He may not have been in control, but he was always in charge, relishing a game in which he could constantly rewrite the rules. Periodically he stepped in to rescue a loyal follower or, contrariwise, to throw a close colleague to the wolves. A mere utterance of his decided the fates of countless people, as he declared one or another faction to be ‘counter-revolutionary’. His verdict could change overnight, feeding a seemingly endless cycle of violence in which people scrambled to prove their loyalty to the Chairman.
    • Frank Dikotter, The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976 (2016), Preface
  • Mao's impact on Chinese politics will probably be reinterpreted for as long as that impact is politically significant - and it remains considerable ten years after his death, both among reformers who have redacted their own 'new text' and among the 'leftists' who resist this construal. To Deng Xiaoping and his 'practice faction', the 'living soul' of Mao Zedong Thought consists of the mass line, 'seeking truth from facts', and independence - of class struggle, Mao's 'key link', the less said the better. Mao's notions of a regenerative bourgeoisie, of 'struggle between the two lines' within the Party, of 'continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat', have been essentially repudiated, thereby removing this source of theoretical embarrassment and political anarchism. Mao's deep concern with distributive justice, as translated into economic egalitarianism and a smothering ideological conformity, has likewise gone by the board. The posthumous interpretation of what Mao was wont to call 'self-reliance' (zili gengsheng) thoroughly discounts the old economic indices therefore (eschewal of loans, investment, or very much trade) in favour of 'opening to the outside world', compensating with a more heavy-handed appeal to Chinese nationalism. The post-Mao leadership has thus in effect sought to preserve only those aspects of Mao's legacy which are utterly flexible, while dismissing those to which he attributed immortal importance.
    • Lowell Dittmer, "Mao Zedong: Ten Years After", The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 16 (Jul., 1986)
  • In his enhanced identification with revolutionary youth, Mao no longer found the Party's standard" from the top down" approach to mass mobilization acceptable, and in spontaneously rebuking Liu and Deng and ordering the work teams withdrawn, he authorized a momentous departure from previous traditions of Party-mass linkage. Having ventured this innovation, however, he found it impossible either to allow the rebels to consummate their victory or to permit the entire experiment in spontaneous mobilization to be negated. Instead, from 1968 through 1976 he vacillated, sometimes permitting repression of the "revolutionary masses," sometimes kicking over the traces and permitting the masses to rise in relatively untrammeled anarchy (up to a point); as a result, mass mobilization became devalued either as a mechanism for elite implementation of policy or for the purpose of popular monitoring of deviant elites. Similarly, it was his prescient recognition of the problem of his own aging and debility that led Mao to attempt to designate his own heir apparent well in advance and to encourage the rise of revolutionary successors in a generational sense, but having undertaken such preparations he found them in direct conflict with his own fierce will to live, and thus repeatedly reversed them. On the issues of both mobilization and succession, we have argued that although part of the reason for Mao's oscillatory tendencies has to do with the constraints of a complex political reality, basically he was afflicted by his own crippling ambivalence. The result was an unusually protracted and debilitating crisis of succession.
    • Lowell Dittmer, "Mao and the Politics of Revolutionary Mortality", Asian Survey, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Mar., 1987)
  • I suppose some people will say on balance Mao did more good than harm.
  • One never left a meeting with him feeling indifferent... He spoke slowly and quietly, weighing each word. He never said anything foolish. There was something sad in him, and he often behaved strangely. Once he arrived unexpect­edly and he told me that Buddhism was a good religion; that though he was a prince, Buddha had done much to improve the lot of the poor. Then, as suddenly as he had arrived, he left. He was always very affectionate with me. [Oriana Fallaci: You're unable to see him as an enemy, isn't that true, Holiness?] Yes. Speaking as a Buddhist, I cannot accept the word enemy. ... Mao Tse-tung is neither cunning nor diplomatic. I told him what his generals were doing in Tibet, and he understood. Perhaps he couldn't stop them. Or perhaps he has changed. I am unable to reconcile the Mao Tse-tung I knew with the Mao Tse-tung of today. He must be in the grip of some madness or some infirmity. The cultural revolution, for example. The name is lovely, but there is no substance: it's the dementia of an old man. I cannot see him in this dementia.
    • Dalai Lama, quoted in : Oriana Fallaci. (2011). Interview with the Dalai Lama, in : Interviews with history and conversations with power. New York: Rizzoli.
  • We shall presently argue that there is indeed a great deal to learn from China. For that to happen, however, it is crucial to have a clear view of the roots of Chinese triumphs and successes, and also of the sources of its troubles and failures. It is, of course, first of all necessary to distinguish between - and contrast - the different phases of the Chinese experience, in particular, before and after the economic reforms initiated in 1979. But going beyond that, it is also important to take note of the interdependence between the achievements in the different periods. We argue, in particular, that the accomplishments relating to education, health care, land reforms, and social change in the pre-reform period made significantly positive contributions to the achievements of the post-reform period. This is so in terms of their role not only in sustained high life expectancy and related achievements, but also in providing firm support for economic expansion based on market reforms.
    It may have been very far from Mao's own intentions to develop literacy and basic health care in ways that would help to promote market-based, internationally-oriented enterprises (though that dialectical contrariness must have some interest for a Marxist theorist). But these structural achievements in the pre-reform period have certainly served as direct and valuable inputs in fostering economic performance in post-reform China. In drawing lessons from China, these apparently contrary interconnections can be particularly important.


  • The simple facts of Mao's career seem incredible: in a vast land of 400 million people, at age 28 with a dozen others to found a party and in the next fifty years to win power, organize, and remold the people and reshape the land—history records no greater achievement. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, all the kings of Europe, Napoleon, Bismarck, Lenin—no predecessor can equal Mao Tse-tung's scope of accomplishment, for no other country was ever so ancient and so big as China.
    Indeed Mao's achievement is almost beyond our comprehension, unless we note the trends which culminated in his career: first, the new growth of Chinese mass nationalism in response to Western and then Japanese invasion; second, the movement of upper-class literati to lead the peasant masses toward a better life; third, Soviet Russia's transmission of its theory and practice of revolution, including united front tactics, through the Communist International (Comintern). Sun Yat-sen got Comintern help only at the end of his career in 1923, two years before his death. Mao and his colleagues began with it. They got started also with Kuomintang help.
    • John King Fairbank, The United States and China (1983), Chap. 11 : The Rise of Communist Party
  • On the verbal level Mao's homely exhortations are studded with Chinese proverb and metaphor, both classical and colloquial. He castigates neutralists who would "sit on top of a mountain to watch the tigers fight" as well as supercilious cadres who think arguing with peasants is like "playing music to a cow." No one who has skirted a pit of nightsoil covered with maggots can fail to understand Mao's abhorrence of what he calls "the deep, stinking cesspool of Chinese reaction." To quote Confucius' sage advice, "think twice," does not necessarily promote Confucianism, but it helps to fit communism into the Chinese landscape.
    On the level of theory, Mao continued to warp and bend Communist doctrine to fit it to local needs. Stalin had asserted that the Soviet experience which reached socialism through the "dictatorship of the proletariat" offered the only path to socialism, which must be followed by the people's democracies of eastern Europe and presumably by all others. But the CCP after 1949 set up a "people's democratic dictatorship" and claimed that a mere "hegemony of the proletariat" at the head of a united front and a coalition government representing the whole "people," a combination of all "revolutionary classes," could lead China to socialism and moreover could do it by a gradual, persuasive, nonviolent transformation, quite unlike the abrupt and violent change postulated by Lenin and Stalin.
  • Mao Tse-tung in his turn unified the country as a hero risen from the people, like the founders of the Han and Ming. He went them one better and swam the Yangtze to encourage his people to use and overcome nature. Mao's armies in the 1940s were not a scourge upon the peasantry but avenged their wrongs. He "won the hearts of the people" sufficiently to secure food and soldiers from territorial bases. He attracted college students to staff his administration. His ideology claimed the Mandate of History, if not of Heaven. Once in power, his regime surveyed, classified, and redistributed both the land and the populace. Rising to power with barbarian help, he yet patronized Chinese culture and employed scholars to document the record of the previous regime and point the lesson of its fall. He celebrated the revolution in classical poetry, and his calligraphy adorned public places. His example mightily affected the peripheral states. In Peking in front of the great palace built by the Ming Emperors of the fifteenth century he built a great square, whither came delegations from Southeast Asia and the Western Regions to watch the great processions. Today Mao's body lies embalmed in the center of the square.
    • John King Fairbank, The United States and China (1983), Chap. 17 : Perspectives: China and Ourselves
  • The secret of Mao’s success at Yan’an was his flexibility at combining short-term and long-term goals. In the short term he espoused in 1940 the New Democracy as a united-front doctrine that would embrace all the Chinese people who would subscribe to CCP leadership. For the long term, he steadily developed the party organization, including its control over intellectuals. The Yan’an rectification movement of 1942–1944 (more fully described below) established the campaign style of mobilization, including individual isolation, terror, struggle, confession, humiliation, and subservience. Party members would come to know it well and, in time, so would the public. It was one of Mao’s achievements, with roots both in Leninism–Stalinism and in Imperial Confucianism.
    • John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (2006), Chap. 16 : China’s War of Resistance
  • Mao’s sinification of Marxism may fruitfully be compared with the failure of Taiping Christianity. In the 1850s Hong’s claim to be the younger brother of Jesus soon made him anathema to the foreign source of his vision, the Western missionaries, whom he did not even deal with in his profound arrogance. In short order he made himself both a Christian heretic and within China a foreign subversive, achieving the worst of both worlds. By contrast, Mao, though eventually anathematized by Moscow, succeeded for some time in cooperating with the Comintern, and when he sinified his Marxism, he masked it in a coating of orthodox terminology. Both Hong and Mao started out with only a rudimentary grasp of the foreign doctrine, and both broke free of the domination of foreigners—Hong of the missionaries, Mao of the Comintern. But of course the differences between them far outweigh such similarities.
    • John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (2006), Chap. 16 : China’s War of Resistance
  • An outsider’s understanding of Mao requires a feat of imagination, first to recognize the nature of his supremacy. Mao had two careers, one as rebel leader, one as an updated emperor. He had gained the power of the latter but evidently retained the self-image of the former. Because authority in China came from the top down, as was recognized even in the mass line, once the CCP had taken power its leader became sacrosanct, above all the rest of mankind, not only the object of a cult of veneration but also the acknowledged superior of everyone in the organization. So much of the CCP had been put together by Mao that it could be regarded as his creation, and if he wanted to reform it, that was his privilege. Only if we regard him as a monarch in succession to scores of emperors can we imagine why the leadership of the CCP, trained to be loyal, went along with his piecemeal assault on and destruction of them.
    • John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (2006), Chap. 20 : The Cultural Revolution 1966–1976
  • Future historians may conclude that Mao’s role was to try to destroy the age-old bifurcation of China between a small educated ruling stratum and the vast mass of common people. We do not yet know how far he succeeded. The economy was developing, but it was left to his successors to create a new political structure.
    • John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (2006), Chap. 20 : The Cultural Revolution 1966–1976
  • That was also the case for the whole experience since the foundation of the PRC, when Mao had been Stalin, Lenin, Marx and the First Emperor rolled into one, a figure from the past who was set on being a resolutely modern revolutionary with Chinese characteristics. Though unable to regain Taiwan, he had enjoyed great successes, reunifying the mainland and making it into a major, nuclear-armed global player, which punched above its real weight as it inspired would-be emulators round the world and allowed the leaders of the greatest superpower to come to pay court.
    Backed by the immense cult of his personality, the charismatic, narcissistic Son of Heaven, who thought himself capable of changing human nature through his mass campaigns, could demand complete loyalty to the cause of revolution as he chose to define it. Nobody and nothing could be excused from utter dedication and readiness to contribute whatever was demanded. Private life meant nothing. People were a blank sheet of paper, mere numbers to be used as the leader saw fit. Maoist autocracy reached heights of totalitarianism unparalleled by Hitler or Stalin, accompanied by massive hypocrisy as the leader who preached simplicity, morality and proletarian values had his favourite fish flown up from Wuhan, dallied with a succession of young ladies, had rarely used villas built for him at great cost, and raked in the royalties from his Little Red Book. A potent terror organization ensured obedience, a huge gulag swallowed up real or imagined opponents, and a massive propaganda machine fed the myths. Yet it is hard to argue that Mao did not inspire adulation. He was a monster, but a monster whom people revered as the symbol of a new China that would wipe away all the suffering and weakness of the hundred years before 1949 and who offered at least a promise of an ‘iron rice bowl’ of food and welfare, however much it was contradicted by his actions.
    • Jonathan Fenby, The Penguin History of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 to the Present (2019), Chap. 25 : Only Heaven Knows
  • M ao Zedong had more power over more people for a longer time than anyone in history. He was also a mass murderer, responsible for more deaths than any leader in history. Mao developed a new form of Communism, founding his revolution on the rural poor. He established a Soviet state in a remote corner of China, then finally united the country through a devastating civil war. From the beginning, he massacred millions of opponents, but the greatest destruction followed his path to build China by making steel in its backyards, tens of millions starved in the aftermath. His Cultural Revolution followed, destroying much of China's heritage. The subject of supreme adulation, Mao died peacefully of old age.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 151


  • To find positive elements in Mao Zedong's thought and action is not to deny that he was a dictator. Although he constantly warned against indiscriminate resort to imprisonment and execution, he was ruthless when he believed he had to be; the revolutionary consensus was to be protected at all costs from its enemies. Yet to assume because most dictators are paranoics or kleptocrats or closet fascists does not mean that all are. I do not see Mao as another Stalin or another Hitler. I see him more as I see Oliver Cromwell - a man of profoundly democratic instincts forced by circumstances to play the tyrant in defence of his democratic values and ill-served by his major generals.
    • Jack Gray, "Mao in Perspective", The China Quarterly (2006)
  • 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
  • The leaders of the Chinese Soviets are Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh. They are associated so closely that for a long time people thought they were the same man; one heard of the famous "Red general" Mao-Chu, or Chu-Mao. Mao Tse-tung (pronounced roughly "Mow Tzuh-doong"), the chairman of the Central Executive Committee, is political chief. General Chu Teh ("Joo Duh") is military leader. An odd point is that "Chu Teh" literally means- Red Virtue!
    The two are intimately close friends, but differ widely in character and attributes. They complement each other nicely. Mao is a philosopher, an intellectual; Chu Teh is an executive, a soldier. Mao, I heard it said, is the Red brain, Chu Teh the Red heart. A calm man, of peasant stock, Mao is a builder, a dreamer, a creator; he has never been outside China. Chu Teh, much warmer in temperament, less aloof, has traveled widely; he has great human quality, and people talk of him as they might talk of Lincoln. Mao could hold his own anywhere among Chinese intellectuals; Chu Teh talks little. Both have a considerable sense of humor, though Mao's is more sardonic; both have highly modern minds. Mao, perhaps, is the greater man; but he would not be where he is had not Chu Teh developed and led his unique army. I have heard Mao described as equal intellectually to Lenin.
    • John Gunther, Inside Asia (1939), 31st edition, New York: Harper & Brothers, hardcover, p. 216
  • Mao Tse-tung was born in 1893 in a village in Hunan. His father was a peasant, and he began to work at the age of six on the small family farm. His mother was a considerate woman, his father exceptionally severe; Mao records that he was never allowed eggs or meat, though the other farm boys had these luxuries occasionally. He had remarkable strength of character and ambition, and a fierce urgency for education; he struggled to go to school, and at seventeen tramped alone to the near-by city of Changsha where there was an academy. Came a tremendous event: where he saw for the first time a map of the world. He pored over it gluttonously. He writes, "I went to the library in the morning when it opened. At noon I paused only long enough to buy and consume two rice cakes, which were my daily lunch. I stayed in the library every day reading until it closed." He studied Adam Smith, Darwin, Spencer, Mill. One book that influenced him was Great Heroes of the World, which contained biographies of Napoleon, Peter the Great, Rousseau. He read about the American Revolution and came across a pregnant sentence: "After eight years of difficult war, Washington won a victory and built up his nation."
    • John Gunther, Inside Asia (1939), 31st edition, New York: Harper & Brothers, hardcover, p. 216-217
  • Mao began to write, turned to journalism, and found himself on the threshold of politics. With his Chinese practicality, he put an advertisement in the Changsha newspaper, asking that "hardened and determined" young men interested in patriotism and politics get in touch with him. Changsha became too small for him. He had seven dollars. He bought shoes and an umbrella, and set out to see the world. His instincts were predominantly nationalist at first; he wanted to free China from foreign domination. Imperialism, he proceeded to see, was inextricably associated with capitalism, and he became a socialist. His revolutionary career began in 1927, when he was appointed president of the first Chinese Peasants Union; his rise was rapid, and by 1930 he was chairman of the Workers and Peasants Revolutionary Committee. Then came the Long March; the great years began. Chiang Kai-shek offered a reward of $250,000 (Chinese) for him, dead or alive; his first wife and sister were caught and executed. His present wife- a typical enough touch- learned many details of his life for the first time when, in her company, he dictated his autobiography to Edgar Snow. She was severely wounded during the Long March, when he walked 6,000 miles.
    • John Gunther, Inside Asia (1939), 31st edition, New York: Harper & Brothers, hardcover, p. 217
  • 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.
  • 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].


  • In Los Angeles they [the Black Panthers would run classes every Saturday in "political education" in which their members had to memorize sections of Mao's little red book. If they failed to memorize their assignment, they were beaten up. The same thing would happen if they failed to sell their weekly quota of their party newspaper. The Panthers picked up the Maoist slogan "All power grows out of the barrel of a gun" and made an ideological fetish out of it. That phrase has to be one of the stupidest things Mao ever said, because what power really grows out of is the organized consciousness of millions of people. At some point guns may become important tactically in the revolutionary process in some countries, but that isn't where power comes from-and a good thing, too, because revolutionaries are always going to be outgunned by the forces defending the old order.
  • 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.
  • Mao’s China has contradictory legacies. Mao’s party-state copied a lot of techniques of power from Stalin’s Soviet Union, heavily relying on the repressive and bureaucratic apparatus to silence intellectuals and destroy careers and lives. But Mao’s party-state also departed from Stalin’s one in significant way. Besides top-down repression, Mao also resorted over and over again to mass mobilization to achieve social control, letting the zealous and even hysterical masses to help the Party exterminate its enemies. While the kulaks in the Soviet Union were taken care of by firing squads, China’s “landlords” and “rich peasants” were humiliated in public trials, many of which led to mob violence and death.
    Mao’s preference for mass mobilization, added to his suspicion of a state bureaucracy over which had lost personal control, ignited the Cultural Revolution that created an unintended legacy yet to be fully understood. The experience of underprivileged kids, including those previously persecuted as bad elements, being encouraged to assault cadres and seize power from local party organs, must have generated a lasting impact and formed collective memories in Chinese society. Cadres' and their chindren's experience of being attacked by rebellious Red Guard factions must have planted the seed for a long-lasting nightmare of the party-state elite.


  • Mao is dead. Very dead. The indicator of how dead he is happens to be how much he is now cited as an “authority” for the most un-Maoist of endeavors. China is not undergoing a Maoist or even a Mao revival. It is undergoing a tragedy-to-farce progression (Marx, yes): Mao’s first coming was in many ways a tragedy, insofar as he tried to build socialism in China. He failed so miserably that he now can be called upon as an incantation to build a variety of viciously undemocratic capitalism that is so far from his own life endeavor that it would be farcically laughable if it weren’t so depressingly crass.
  • Today's mic-hogging, fast-talking, contentious young (and old) lefties continue to hawk little books and pamphlets on revolution, always with choice words or documents from Marx, Mao, even Malcolm. But I've never seen a broadside with "A Black Feminist Statement or even the writings of Angela Davis or June Jordan or Barbara Omolade or Flo Kennedy or Audre Lorde or bell hooks or Michelle Wallace, at least not from the groups who call themselves leftist. These women's collective wisdom has provided the richest insights into American radicalism's most fundamental questions: How can we build a multiracial movement? Who are the working class and what do they desire? How do we resolve the Negro Question and the Woman Question? What is freedom?
  • A ninety-year-old Du Bois was hopeful, too, in another way. "Today, the United States is fighting world progress, progress which must be toward socialism and against colonialism," he said, speaking to seven hundred students and faculty at Howard University in April 1958. Later in the year, having gotten his passport back, Du Bois toured Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Communist China, where he happily met Chairman Mao Tse-tung. When Mao started musing about the "diseased psychology" of African Americans, showing that he was attuned to the latest racist social science, Du Bois interjected. Blacks were not diseased psychologically; they lacked incomes, Du Bois explained, inciting a debate and a fusillade of questions from Mao. When Du Bois expressed some of his failures as an activist, Mao interjected. Activists only failed when they stopped struggling. "This, I gather," Mao said, "you have never done."
    • Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), New York: Bold Type Books, p. 368
  • Mao was wrong about the unique nature of his tactics. In their emphasis on isolating towns by dominating the surrounding countryside, they derived directly from the methods of the horse peoples who had been such persistent enemies of China for nearly two thousand years. But there were novel features in Mao’s methods: first, his belief in the ‘classless’ – ‘soldiers, bandits, robbers, beggars, and prostitutes’ –were grist to the revolution’s mill, ‘people capable of fighting very bravely and, if properly fed, a revolutionary force’; second, his perception that in the face of a more powerful enemy a war could nonetheless be won if one had the patience to avoid seeking a decision until the enemy’s frustration and exhaustion robbed him of the chance of victory. This theory of ‘protracted war’ will be remembered as Mao’s principal contribution to military theory. After his triumph over Chiang Kai-shek in China, it was adopted by the Vietnamese in their wars, first against the French, and then against the Americans.
  • [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
  • Mao’s study, a medium-sized room, was across the hallway. Manuscripts lined bookshelves along every wall; books covered the table and the floor; it looked more the retreat of a scholar than the audience room of the all-powerful leader of the world’s most populous nation. On my first few visits a simple wood-frame bed stood in one corner; later it disappeared. Our first sight was of a semicircle of easy chairs, all with brownish slipcovers as if a thrifty middle-class family wanted to protect upholstery too expensive to replace. Between each pair of chairs stood a V-shaped coffee table, covered with a white napkin, fitting into the angle made by adjoining arm rests. The tables next to Mao, being generally piled with books, had just enough room for the ever-present cup of jasmine tea. Two standing lamps with unusually large circular shades stood behind the chairs; in front of Mao, to his right, was a spittoon. When one entered the room, Mao rose from one of the easy chairs; on the last couple of visits he required two assistants’ help, but he never failed so to greet his visitors. One usually cannot tell when meeting a famous and powerful leader to what extent one is impressed by his personality or awed by his status and repute. In Mao’s case there could be no doubt. Except for the suddenness of the summons there was no ceremony. The interior appointments were as modest as the exterior. Mao just stood there, surrounded by books, tall and powerfully built for a Chinese. He fixed the visitor with a smile both penetrating and slightly mocking, warning by his bearing that there was no point in seeking to deceive this specialist in the foibles and duplicity of man. I have met no one, with the possible exception of Charles de Gaulle, who so distilled raw, concentrated willpower. He was planted there with a female attendant close by to help steady him (and on my last visits to hold him up); he dominated the room—not by the pomp that in most states confers a degree of majesty on the leaders, but by exuding in almost tangible form the overwhelming drive to prevail.
  • On September 9, 1976, Mao succumbed to his illness, leaving his successors with his achievements and premonitions, with the legacy of his grandiosity and brutality, of great vision distorted by self-absorption. He left behind a China unified as it had not been for centuries, with most vestiges of the original regime eliminated, clearing away the underbrush for reforms never intended by the Chairman. If China remains united and emerges as a twenty-first-century superpower, Mao may hold, for many Chinese, the same ambiguous yet respected role in Chinese history as Qin Shihuang, the Emperor he personally revered: the dynasty-founding autocrat who dragged China into the next era by conscripting its population for a massive national exertion, and whose excesses were later acknowledged by some as a necessary evil. For others, the tremendous suffering Mao inflicted on his people will dwarf his achievements.
    Two strands of policy had been competing with each other through the turbulences of Mao’s rule. There was the revolutionary thrust that saw China as a moral and political force, insisting on dispensing its unique precepts by example to an awestruck world. There was the geopolitical China coolly assessing trends and manipulating them to its own advantage. There was a China seeking coalitions for the first time in its history but also the one defiantly challenging the entire world. Mao had taken a war-wracked country and maneuvered it between competing domestic factions, hostile superpowers, an ambivalent Third World, and suspicious neighbors. He managed to have China participate in each overlapping concentric circle but commit itself to none. China had survived wars, tensions, and doubts while its influence grew, and in the end, it became an emerging superpower whose Communist form of government survived the collapse of the Communist world. Mao achieved this at horrendous cost by relying on the tenacity and perseverance of the Chinese people, using their endurance and cohesion, which so often exasperated him, as the bedrock of his edifice.
  • Mao Zedong openly declared that "man must conquer nature," setting loose a devastating onslaught on the natural world that transitioned seamlessly from clear-cuts under communism to mega-dams under capitalism.
    • Naomi Klein This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)
  • Mao’s understanding of the Marxist theory of social change has frequently been misrepresented. It is often suggested that Mao turned his back on the materialist philosophy of Marxism, glorifying rather the capacity of ideas to transform society. He is thus depicted as an “idealist” or “voluntarist,” one who regarded the ideological-political superstructure of society and struggles within it as the primary source of social change; the economic base, which Marx had attributed with this role, became in Mao’s mind pliantly malleable to pressures for change from the superstructure. Yet, a careful exploration of this dimension of his thought does not bear out this interpretation. While his views on the capacity of politics, ideology, and culture to contribute to social change did go beyond that of a mechanical and reductionist materialism and did vary, his general perspective remained an economists one; he continued to regard the economic foundation of society—forces and relations of production—as the ultimately determining factor in history.
    • Nick Knight, Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong's Thought (2007), Introduction
  • Mao was thus not content to lead a purely rural revolution, and he strove where possible to alter the sociological composition of the Party and military in favor of the working class and during the period of the Jiangxi Soviet to construct its embryonic state institutions in ways that expressed the power of the working class. While he put great store in the peasants as the “main force" of the Chinese Revolution, he was adamant that it would not be their consciousness which dictated the long-term direction of the revolution, for this could only serve to reinforce economic, political, and cultural impediments to the modernist transformation of China's society. Mao’s frequent references from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s to the necessity of working class leadership of the Chinese Revolution are therefore signposts indicating not only his conception of the future course and strategy of the revolution but the future of China itself. These signposts are more than sufficient to problematize the conventional accounts of Mao’s approach to China’s revolution and the orthodoxy of that approach. It remains to be seen, however, whether those who have constructed the spurious image of Mao as peasant revolutionary will choose to notice them and rethink this central dimension of Mao’s thought.
    • Nick Knight, Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong's Thought (2007), Chap. 4 : Working Class and Peasantry in Mao Zedong's Thought, 1923—1945
  • Mao thus perceived “politics” as a vitally important factor in the unfolding of history and the realization of historical goals. However, he did not perceive “politics” as autonomous from other historically generative elements within the “economic” realm of society’s “basis” (the forces and relations of production); rather, the effectivity of “politics” to accelerate the historical process was circumscribed by the “economic” realm, just as the further development of the “economic” realm was dependent on developments in the political realm. This mutual interdependence within the “basis” of society indicated the importance of political organization and action, but indicated also the objective limitations interdependence created. Guided by this framework, Mao was prepared to exploit the possibility for political action to its limit but was, during the Yan’an period, very mindful of not rushing ahead of the constraints of the objective situation. It was, nevertheless, on the possibility of exploiting the potential of “politics” to achieve short-term historical goals that Mao premised his confidence in the realization of “inevitable” long-term historical goals.
    • Nick Knight, Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong's Thought (2007), Chap. 5 : Politics and Vision: Historical Time and the Future in Mao Zedong’s Thought, 1937-1945
  • It is clear that Mao regarded a sinified Marxism as a union between Marxism’s universal laws and the particular “laws” that described the characterizing regularities of the Chinese context. How did he perceive this theoretical system as a “guide to action”? It must be stressed that Mao did not regard it as incorporating the formulae for automatic and necessarily correct policy responses to the various political, economic, and military contingencies that might arise in the course of revolution. The function of a sinified Marxism was to facilitate as accurate an interpretation of the Chinese context as possible. With this information, the CCP’s leaders would be in a position to formulate strategies and tactics commensurate with the objective possibilities and limitations of the concrete situation. Such strategies and tactics could only be regarded as appropriate in their conception rather than as necessarily correct. Having a clear and hopefully accurate picture of the historical situation would act as a guide to action by ruling out inappropriate policy responses and presenting certain strategies and tactics as preferable or even obvious. Here again, the influence of the inductive method is revealed in Mao’s method of formulating policies: Under no circumstances could one arbitrarily formulate strategies or tactics a priori, but only via a careful analysis of the characteristics of a historically specific situation.
    • Nick Knight, Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong's Thought (2007), Chap. 7 : Mao Zedong and the “Sinification of Marxism”
  • The Cultural Revolution that broke out in 1966 is significant in the context of a discussion of Mao’s thought for several reasons. First (and as with the theory and practice of the Hundred Flowers movement), Mao indicated his willingness to depart from a central principle of Leninism by not only bunching an attack on the Party but by mobilizing non-Party elements as the spearhead of that attack. For Lenin, a communist party represented the vanguard of the working class, its most advanced and politically conscious section. In the Leninist conception, there is no suggestion that the vanguard party might itself become an agent of retrogressive ideas, policies, and actions that could threaten the attainment of the revolutionary goals of the working class. Mao, however, made no assumption that the Party was above and beyond the struggles within society; contradictions and ideologies of a class nature were inevitably reflected within the Party, and it could thus be inhabited by negative and counter-revolutionary elements. Such elements had to be struggled against, and if their position within the Party was so powerful that they could not be dislodged by an intra-party struggle, then it would be necessary to mobilize progressive forces from the wider community to defeat them. During the years of the Cultural Revolution, Mao led a coalition of nonparty elements (students, youth, the military, sections of the working class) in his attack on those within the Party deemed to have taken “the capitalist road.” However, while Mao demonstrated a rather different appreciation of the vanguard status of the communist patty than had Lenin, he would not, despite its widespread failings, permit its complete destruction.
    • Nick Knight, Rethinking Mao: Explorations in Mao Zedong's Thought (2007), Chap. 8 : Mao Zedong on the Chinese Road to Socialism, 1949-1969
  • The Chinese revolution is indisputably one of the most important events of twentieth-century history, and its doctrine, known as Maoism, has accordingly become one of the chief elements in the contemporary war of ideas, irrespective of its intellectual value. Measured by European standards the ideological documents of Maoism, and especially the theoretical writings of Mao himself, appear in fact extremely primitive and clumsy, sometimes even childish; in comparison, even Stalin gives the impression of a powerful theorist. However, judgements of this kind must be made with some caution. Those who, like the present writer, do not know Chinese and have only a scanty and superficial knowledge of China's history and culture doubtless cannot grasp the full meaning of these texts, the various associations and allusions perceptible to a reader acquainted with Chinese thought; in this respect one must rely on the views of experts, who, however, do not always agree.


  • The question of how to deal with the legacy of Mao Zedong, how to separate man from myth, ranged among the most difficult tasks faced by the new CCP leadership. The close interrelation of Mao as symbol of the Chinese Revolution with CCP politics demanded a cautious treatment in order not to tarnish the party’s claim to legitimate rule. Deng Xiaoping (1904–97), who emerged as the “architect” of the process of gradual reform after December 1978, had been actively involved in repudiating the impact of Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policies in 1956 and thus was highly aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of debunking the CCP’s most prominent symbol. Mao Zedong’s elevated status was to be reduced. He was to become “man, not God,” as a popular Chinese biography was to put it later, but his achievements were not to be discredited by way of a thorough de-Maoization process.
    • Daniel Leese, "Mao the Man and Mao the Icon", in A Critical Introduction to Mao (2010) edited by Timothy Cheek
  • Mao’s key idea about the need for violent rebellion to sweep away social injustice and his practical strategies to achieve this aim – party-building, mass work, protracted guerrilla warfare – have attracted the discontented across decades and territories. Educated persuaders have used these emotional ideas to galvanise insurgencies, sometimes with enormous bloodshed. But except in China, Maoist insurgencies have failed to translate into stable political power. (And even in China, the Maoist fondness for mass mobilisation has threatened to topple the regime at least twice, amid the catastrophic aftermath of the Great Leap Forward and in the first two years of the Cultural Revolution.) Mao’s promise of ‘mass democracy’ has never delivered: in practice, it has usually resulted in the triumph of those who shout the loudest, or fight and plot the hardest. A Beijing taxi driver once summed up for me, during a five-minute conversation, Maoism’s eighty-year political appeal and its limitations. ‘The good thing about China under Mao is that everyone was equal. Not like now, when people will do you over for money, and even beggars won’t leave you alone until you give them 100 yuan.’ I asked if he would therefore like to turn the clock back to Mao’s era. ‘No,’ he quickly replied. ‘I’d rather get myself some education.’ To this member of an over-worked, underprivileged economic class in China today, equality of opportunity is more attractive than forcible equalising of outcome.
    • Julia Lovell, Maoism: A Global History (2019), Conclusion
  • Paradoxes are found in all great men. One need think only of the contradictory principles and impulses that motivated such twentieth-century figures as Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, de Gaulle and Mandela. The contradictions were even more marked in Mao. As a Chinese revolutionary, he rejected Western values but made it his mission to match Western achievements; he led a revolution against the world to join the world. His driving purpose was to liberate China from decades of foreign oppression, but to realise this aim he adopted a Western political theory – Marxism. He selected it because he saw it as an essentially destructive force, and he believed that in China destruction must necessarily precede construction. He sent his young Red Guards storming through the nation in the 1960s to destroy ‘the four olds’, his term for the remnants of China’s past. Yet this was a man steeped in China’s history, whose daily reading was the Chinese classics and who took as his political and military mentors not contemporary texts but the writings of the ancient Chinese masters.
    • Michael Lynch, Mao (2004), Introduction
  • The adulation Mao received during his lifetime and the outpouring of national grief evoked by his death may have appeared excessive, but they were not wholly irrational. The Chinese people had good reason to look upon him with awe. At home, he had led a vast social revolution, had resisted the Japanese invader, had defeated Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists, and had destroyed the vestiges of European imperialism in China. On a wider front, he had transformed his country into a world power and taken it into the nuclear age, had challenged the Soviet Union for the leadership of international socialism, and had made China a model and inspiration for emerging nations still engaged in anti-colonial struggle. By any measure, these were towering achievements.
    Yet beside them have to be set failures that were equally monumental. Mao’s attempt to revolutionise the Chinese economy in the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s ended in the death from starvation of 50 million people. Further millions died or suffered during the Cultural Revolution when Mao tried during the last ten years of his life to impose a binding political correctness not only on his contemporaries but on China perpetually. It has been said that Hitler killed people for what they were, Stalin for what they did, and Mao for what they thought. The charge against Mao is not that he willed those deaths but that he allowed them to happen, that he did not balance the risks, and finally acquiesced in losses that were avoidable.
    • Michael Lynch, Mao (2004), Conclusion
  • One of the paradoxes in Mao as a revolutionary thinker is that despite the emphasis in his teaching on the need for realism, he was far happier dealing with abstractions, to which he could commit himself, than with the reality of the weakness and irresolution of individuals. He had the cast of mind of the revolutionary who is always more comfortable with abstract concepts, which require a grand design for their achievement, than with the reality of people as they ordinarily are. It has been a notable feature of many of the major figures in revolutionary history that they have admired ‘the people’ or the proletariat as a historical force but have been scathing and dismissive of individuals or groups who did not meet revolutionary expectations. The most fanatical of the French revolutionaries, Robespierre, was deeply depressed by the poor quality of the human material available for building the new world. Yet he was sustained by the belief that society was perfectible if its enemies were ruthlessly removed. Both Marx and Lenin rejected as worthless whole classes of people and whole cultures, but remained convinced that the will of the people made utopia not merely attainable but inevitable.
    The absolutism of the belief in an ultimate goal enabled revolutionaries to come to terms with the invariably destructive consequences of their policies. Individual tragedy and disaster become acceptable. The grander the design in which they believed, the easier it was to regard people as merely the instruments for fashioning the design. It was essentially a process of depersonalising. People in a collective sense were a source of inspiration, but people as individuals, with all their weaknesses, were a cause of embarrassment. This attitude of mind often began with a detestation of injustice, moved to the view that the injustice was part of a structured system, and concluded that only by destroying the system could injustice be eradicated. Thus amelioration was not enough; reform could bring only temporary respite. Destruction was not an option but a necessity. There was a teleology attaching to it which appealed to the revolutionary mind. Because the goal was certain to be realised, come what may, the reverses and partial failures along the path, no matter how severe, were always bearable.
    • Michael Lynch, Mao (2004), Conclusion
  • The ever-growing historiography devoted to Mao does not present the clearest of pictures. Often depending on the political leanings of the authors, Mao is variously portrayed as an unredeemed monster, the new emperor of a new China, an idealist facing insuperable problems, an opportunist concerned only with preserving himself in power, a planner whose economic illiteracy proved disastrous, a wily politician and shrewd statesman who saw his country through internal and external crises and prepared it successfully for modernity; such are the conflicting images of Mao Zedong. Given his formative role in the development of China as a sovereign state and a major international power, the number of conflicting interpretations is likely to increase rather than diminish.
    • Michael Lynch, Mao (2nd ed., 2017), Mao Zedong: An Assessment


  • As he approached his death in 1976, Mao ruminated that he could claim two great victories: the conquest of China and the Cultural Revolution, though he acknowledged that some might disagree about the latter. He made no mention of socializing the country in the 1950s or masterminding China’s emergence from isolation with the Nixon visit and entry into the UN in the 1970s. Mao’s self-image was as a revolutionary, and it is that persona that connects his three great errors. He thrived on upheaval, yet after the post-1949 socialist revolutions that he had led, the prospect for Chinese nation-building was the magnification of bureaucracy and routine in an endless series of Five-Year Plans on the model of the Stalinist command economy. The great organizers of nation building, Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai, would be in their element. But Mao, who knew nothing about economics, would find his expertise in revolution to be a surplus to requirements.
    In the 1957 rectification campaign, he aimed to shake up the Party bureaucracy to prevent it from getting into the comfortable rut of ruling by fiat. He failed. Mao’s romantic concept of the Great Leap Forward was intended to unleash the revolutionary energies of China’s masses, but Liu and Zhou knew that the masses unorganized would achieve little, and the formation of the communes and the backyard steel drive owed everything to the bullying of Party cadres at all levels. Frustrated by the failures of rectification and the Leap, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in a final effort to reignite revolutionary fire under the CCP. In this way, he knew he would once more be setting the agenda.
    How did Mao get away with these colossal and costly errors? His senior colleagues were all revolutionaries, hardened in battle, ruthless in action. Yet when Marshal Peng criticized the Leap, few stood up beside him, and none in the top leadership. In the aftermath of the Leap, Mao briefly ceded control of the economy to his colleagues. But when he judged they were about to permit the return of family farming, he returned proclaiming the importance of class struggle, and his colleagues folded. Rural reform did not take place until after his death. And at the start of the Cultural Revolution, first one senior leader and then another was denounced and purged. Mao adapted his guerrilla tactics to political struggle, and picked off his opponents in bite-sized pieces. At no stage did any one of them dare to rally his comrades to prevent the Chairman decimating a leadership that had lasted almost unchanged for twenty years.
    • Roderick MacFarquhar, "Who Was Mao Zedong?", The New York Review of Books (October 25, 2012)
  • Mao lies a-mouldring in his tomb, but his soul and his body of work will keep marching on as long as the C.C.P. remains in power. In his attempts to keep out Western ideological influences, Xi has no rival ideology to use as a shield. Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism cannot be revived. Only Mao as hero-leader and leftist ideologue can withstand the sugar-coated bullets of the foreign bourgeoisie. A pox on the criticisms of him in the 1981 resolution on party history! Xi believes that attacks on Stalin and Lenin undermined the Soviet Union well before Gorby came to power, so there will be no tolerance for attacks on Mao. His life and legacy are surer legitimators of C.C.P. power than economic success which cannot always be guaranteed.
  • Mao then rose from guerrilla chief in the late 1920s to a party leader in the mid-1930s on the Long March, the flight of the C.C.P. from the southeast to the northwest to escape Chiang Kai-shek’s attacks. This was an epic event in Communist annals because it took a year, covered some 6,000 miles and reduced the 85,000 who had set out to a mere 8,000 by the time they reached the northwest. He absorbed two lessons: All power grew out of the barrel of a gun; and most of the time peasants were very difficult to organize because they had fields to tend and families to feed.
    From the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, Mao played his tiger role. He led an increasingly strong and efficient party and army that survived the anti-Japanese war and then defeated Chiang and the K.M.T. in the civil war of the late 1940s. From 1949 until 1956, Mao presided over the installation of the Communist dictatorship in China, rooting out all opposition, real or imagined, and transforming the ownership of the means of production from private hands to socialist control.
    It was then that he dabbled in the monkey business for the first time. From the point of view of a dutiful C.C.P. cadre, “monkey business” could be defined as any measure that would disrupt the party’s standard operating procedures. Cadres did not appreciate it when Mao in 1956 exhorted intellectuals to “Let a hundred flowers bloom” and a year later again encouraged intellectuals to criticize the conduct of the party. As members of the ruling elite, the cadres resented being criticized, and Mao, having promised that the criticisms would only be like a light rain, quickly wound up the campaigns when they turned into a typhoon, and purged the critics.
    Mao truly became the monkey king by starting the Cultural Revolution in 1966 to dispel the “miasmal mist” of Soviet-style “revisionism” from the C.C.P. Now, it was the youth of China, not the peasants, who were to be his agents of destruction, as major party and government departments were trashed and their officials humiliated and purged.
    For Mao, the Cultural Revolution ended in 1969 with the appointment of a new, and hopefully more revolutionary, leadership. But though he had dealt the age-old bureaucratic system of China a terrible blow, he knew that it could rise again from the ashes. He always emphasized that China would have to experience regular Cultural Revolutions.
    • Roderick MacFarquhar, "How Mao Molded Communism to Create a New China", The New York Times (Oct. 23, 2017)
  • Mao oversaw the major movements in the early 1950s that spread communist rule down to the grass roots throughout China, and it was he who made the major policy decisions during the twenty-seven years that he lived after the revolution. Mao initiated the abandonment of “New Democracy” in favor of a rapid advance to socialism; after the triumph of rural collectivization, it was Mao who initiated the thaw that morphed into the relatively liberal “hundred flowers” era, and it was he who then reversed course into the Anti-Rightist Campaign. In his subsequent leftist phase, Mao conceived of the Great Leap Forward, the Socialist Education Movement, and, finally, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Despite these disasters, to the end of his days, nobody dared challenge Mao. For better or worse, his was the outsize personality that overawed all his colleagues, bestriding the country like a colossus to whom all Chinese citizens had been inculcated to give obedience. The signs suggest that Xi aspires to a similar Maoist role.
    • Roderick MacFarquhar, "Does Mao Still Matter?", in Jennifer Rudolph, Michael Szonyi (ed.), The China Questions (2018)
  • There is more of Dewey than of Marx in all this.
    • Herbert Marcuse, on "On Practice", in 1962, quoted in Stuart R. Schram, "Mao Studies: Retrospect and Prospect", The China Quarterly, No. 97 (Mar., 1984)
  • Even if one excludes the civil war, the regime must be held accountable for a huge number of deaths. Although the estimates are quite speculative, it is clear that there were between 6 million and 10 million deaths as a direct result of the Communist actions, including hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. In addition, tens of millions of "counterrevolutionaries" passed long periods of their lives inside the prison system, with perhaps 20 million dying there. To that total should be added the staggering number of deaths during the ill-named Great Leap Forward—estimates range from 20 million to 43 million dead for the years 1959–1961—all victims of a famine caused by the misguided projects of a single man, Mao Zedong, and his criminal obstinacy in refusing to admit his mistake and to allow measures to be taken to rectify the disastrous effects.
  • Mao and the system that he created were directly responsible for what was, and, one hopes, will forever remain, the most murderous famine of all time, anywhere in the world.
    Undoubtedly it was not Mao's intention to kill so many of his compatriots. But the least one can say is that he seemed little concerned about the death of millions from hunger. Indeed, his main concern in those dark years seems to have been to deny a reality for which he could have been held responsible.
  • The psychological effects of the Long March are much more intangible. For Mao, at least, the experience served to reinforce his voluntaristic faith that people with the proper will, spirit, and revolutionary consciousness could conquer all material obstacles and mold historical reality in accordance with their ideas and ideals. For those who survived the ordeal-and for those who were inspired by the story of their survival-the experience, however bitter it was at the time, gave rise to a renewed sense of hope and a deepened sense of mission. People must be able to hope before they can act; they must possess not only ideals and a sense of mission, but hope and confidence that they will be able to realize their ideals through their own actions. More than any other event in the history of Chinese Communism, it was the Long March-and the legendary tales to which it gave rise-that provided this essential feeling of hope, the confidence that determined people could prevail under even the most desperate conditions. And more than any other individual, it was Mao Zedong who radiated and inspired this faith in the future. It was a faith not only in those deemed capable of molding the future in accordance with Communist hopes but also in the values regarded as essential to the eventual realization of those hopes. The familiar Maoist virtues of unending struggle, heroic sacrifice, self-denial, diligence, courage, and unselfishness were values espoused not by Mao alone but carried and conveyed by all of the veterans of the Long March, for these were the values they had come to regard as essential to their own survival and to the survival of the revolution to which they had devoted their lives. These ascetic values lay at the core of what later came to be celebrated as "the Yan'an spirit."
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 4 : The Maoist Revolution and the Yan'an Legacy
  • Despite the prominence of the theory of New Democracy in formal Maoist theory for more than a decade, and its seeming promise of a lengthy stage of capitalist (or at least semi-capitalist) development, the bourgeois phase of China's postrevolutionary history was abruptly terminated after a scant four years. No doubt in good measure responsible for the hasty prouncement of the "transition to socialism" was Mao Zedong's longstanding populist-type hostility to all forms of capitalism and his persistent refusal to intellectually accept the Marxist thesis that socialism presupposes capitalism.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 8 : The Social and Political Consequences of Industrialization
  • Mao Zedong, the main author of the Great Leap, obviously bears the greatest moral and historical responsibility for the human disaster that resulted from the adventure. But this does not make Mao a mass murderer on the order of Hitler and Stalin, as it is now the fashion to portray him. It was not Mao's intention to kill off a portion of the peasantry, as Becker and others imply. There is a vast moral difference between unintended and unforeseen consequences of political actions, however horrible those consequences might be, and deliberate and willful genocide. The blurring of that difference does no service to the task of understanding the terrible moral ambiguities of this most genocidal of all centuries.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 13 : The People's Communes and the "Transition to Communism"
  • Mao Zedong's last revolutionary act was to turn into the greatest tragedy of his long revolutionary career-and one with dire consequences for the Chinese people. In 1966 into the seventy-two-year-old Mao staged his final revolutionary drama, stimulating a cataclysmic upheaval that he baptized "the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution." It was his last desperate attempt to revive a revolution that he believed was dying. It was an attempt that failed, and it was a failure on a grand scale, dominating and distorting the social and political life of the People's Republic for more than a decade and tarnishing the historical image of Mao in the process. In launching the Cultural Revolution, Mao proclaimed principles and ideals he could not (or would not) sustain, and unleashed social and political forces he could not control, forces which were to exact a fearsome human and social toll. Before the drama had played itself out, it consumed, physically or spiritually, virtually all of its original promoters and supporters as well as many of its intended victims along with a good number of unintended ones who would have preferred to stand on the sidelines of the battles that racked and nearly wrecked China during the last decade of the Maoist regime.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 17 : The Concept of Cultural Revolution
  • In the years immediately preceding the Cultural Revolution, Mao arrived at a conclusion that no other Marxist in power had hitherto been willing to entertain. A socialist society, he now believed, could generate a new class of exploiters; the main barriers to the "transition to socialism" were not the bourgeois residues of the past but rather the bureaucrats of the present, the onetime revolutionaries whom the revolution had transformed into rulers and who by virtue of their political power controlled the new society and appropriated much of the fruits of social labor in the process. On occasion Mao was quite explicit, indeed blunt, in setting forth this view; as when (in 1965) he condemned "the bureaucratic class" as a class "in sharp opposition to the working class and the poor and lower-middle peasants," as those becoming "bourgeois elements sucking the blood of the workers." Nor did he hesitate to identify the site and source of these "new bourgeois elements" or their leaders. They were, he charged on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, "those people in positions of authority-within the Party who take the capitalist road." What seemed at the time to be pure ideological bombast proved to be a remarkably accurate prognosis of the future of Chinese Communist society.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 17 : The Concept of Cultural Revolution
  • What makes this so remarkable a phenomenon in the history of postrevolutionary societies is that the call for rebellion against the existing political order came from those who had built that order. It came from some among the veterans of the revolution-and Mao was certainly the most venerable and venerated of the veterans-who had created state and Party institutions they now had come to regard as obstacles to, rather than as instruments of, the revolutionary social changes they sought. But the more important question about the Cultural Revolution is not so much why Mao issued his rebellious call but rather why and how so many tens of millions of ordinary Chinese citizens responded to it.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 18 : The Cultural Revolution 1966-69
  • Among the distinguishing features of the Mao period, many observers once believed, was a unique attempt to reconcile the means of modem industrialism with the ends of socialism. That, no doubt, was Mao's aim, and it certainly was the Maoist claim. But, in the end, Mao Zedong was far more successful as an economic modernizer than as a builder of socialism. This judgment, of course, does not accord with the conventional wisdom of the day, which tells us that Mao sacrificed "modernization" to "ideological purity" and that economic development was neglected as the late Chairman embarked on a fruitless quest for a socialist spiritual utopia. The actual historical record conveys a rather different story, and it is essentially a story of rapid industrialization. The post-Mao critiques of the Maoist economic legacy, which dwell less on the accomplishments than on the deficiencies of the era, nonetheless reveal that the value of gross industrial output grew thirty-eight-fold during the Mao period, and that of heavy industry ninety-fold, albeit starting from a tiny modern industrial base whose output had been halved by the ravages of foreign invasion and civil war. But between 1952 (when industrial production was restored to its highest pre-war levels) and 1977, the output of Chinese industry increased at an average annual rate of 11.3 percent, as rapid a pace of industrialization as has ever been achieved by any country during a comparable period in modern world history.' Over the Mao era, the contribution of industry to China's net material product increased from 23 percent to over 50 percent while agriculture's share declined from 58 to 34 percent.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 21 : The Legacies of the Maoist Era
  • Although it has become unfashionable to recall the accomplishments of Mao’s time, it remains the case that the Maoist regime made immense progress in bringing about China’s modern industrial transformation, and it did so under adverse internal and external conditions. Without the industrial revolution of the Mao era, the economic reformers who rose to prominence in the post-Mao era would have had little to reform.
    Of the Chinese people, Mao’s industrial revolution demanded hard labor and great sacrifices, as had been the case in the industrialization of Japan and Russia in earlier times. Popular consumption and living standards suffered as the Communist state appropriated ever larger shares of the surplus to finance the expansion of the modern industrial plant. The state, simply put, exploited the people it ruled, especially the peasantry in order to build a heavy industrial base and to support the growing bureaucracy that presided over it. But it is not the case, as some of the more zealous champions of the market have suggested, that the Chinese people did not materially benefit during the years of Maoist industrialization. To be sure, China’s sharply rising national income did not translate itself into corresponding increases in income for the working population, whose labor was responsible for the rise. Some of the increase was absorbed by a rapidly growing population, partly the result of the ineffectiveness of belatedly implemented birth control policies. However, most of the surplus flowed into state coffers (and from there to the modern industrial sector and its bureaucracy), leaving only enough for meager increases in popular income over the last two decades of the Maoist regime. While the income of state employees, including regular factory workers, rose significantly during the late Mao period, the income of peasants, who made up 75 percent of the laboring population, increased little, if at all, after 1957. Yet among gains not easy to quantify in economic calculations, but vital for measuring popular welfare, one must note the vast expansion of schools and educational opportunities during the Mao era, the transformation of a largely illiterate population into a mostly literate one, and the building of a relatively comprehensive health care system where none existed before. The near doubling of average life expectancy over the quarter-century of Mao’s rule – from an average of thirty-five in pre-1949 China to sixty-five in the mid-1970s – offers dramatic statistical evidence for the material and social gains that the Communist Revolution brought to the great majority of the Chinese people.
    Upon completing his monumental history of the Soviet Union, the great English historian E. H. Carr warned: “The danger is not that we shall draw a veil over the enormous blots on the record of the Revolution, over its cost in human suffering, over the crimes committed in its name. The danger is that we shall be tempted to forget altogether, and to pass over in silence, its immense achievements.”
    Carr’s words deserve to be pondered by students of modern Chinese history as well as Russian history, for revolutions do not easily lend themselves to balanced appraisals. Great social upheavals typically arouse great and unattainable expectations, and when those high hopes are dashed long periods of disillusionment and cynicism inevitably follow, while the actual historical achievements are ignored or forgotten. It usually takes several generations, far removed from the political and ideological battles of the revolutionary epoch, to bring the historical picture back into focus. It is the blots on the Maoist record, especially the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution, that are now most deeply imprinted on our political and historical consciousness. That these adventures were failures colossal in scope, and that they took an enormous human toll, cannot and should not be forgotten. But future historians, without ignoring the failures and the crimes, will surely record the Maoist era in the history of the People’s Republic (however else they may judge it) as one of the great modernizing epochs in world history, and one that brought great social and human benefits to the Chinese people.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 21 : The Legacies of the Maoist Era
  • The legacy that Mao Zedong left for his successors was thus a most ambiguous and contradictory one, marked by a deep incongruity between the Maoist regime's progressive socioeconomic accomplishments and its retrogressive political characteristics. On the one hand, Mao "created a nation," as Deng Xiaoping said, completing in the early years of the People's Republic many of the unfinished tasks of the Guomindang's abortive bourgeois revolution. The Maoist regime also established some of the preconditions for socialism. It began China's modern industrial revolution; it abolished private ownership of the means of production, a necessary if by no means sufficient condition for socialism; and it kept alive (far longer into the postrevolutionary era than might have been anticipated) a vital socialist vision of the future. On the other hand, Maoism retained essentially Stalinist methods of bureaucratic political rule; it generated its own cults, orthodoxies, and dogmas and it consistently suppressed all intellectual and political dissent. Mao Zedong, to be sure, looked upon the Communist bureaucracy as a great evil, but the only remedy he could devise to control his own creation was to rely on his personal prestige and the force of his own personality. Neither in theory nor in practice does the Maoist legacy include meaningful institutional safeguards against bureaucratic domination.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (3rd ed., 1999), Chap. 21 : The Legacies of the Maoist Era
  • For Mao Zedong was both the Lenin and the Stalin of the Chinese Revolution, both the revolutionary founder and the post-revolutionary tyrant.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao Zedong: A Political and Intellectual Portrait (2006), p. 192
  • It was not Mao Zedong's impatience with the pace of history alone that was responsible for this rush toward utopia in the late 1950s. Mao had come to embody the increasingly radical expectations of peasants, rural Party cadres, and a good many higher Party leaders. He was also inspired, as were many others, by the striking successes of the Chinese Communist Party in the late 1940s- and early 1950s - the stunning victory over the Guomindang, the rapid consolidation of Communist power, the successes of land reform and early industrialization, and the revolutionary fervors generated by the agricultural collectivization campaign of 1955-6. By late 1957 Mao Zedong had thrown off all conventional Marxian restraints on the revolutionary will, permitting him to embark on the tragic adventure of the Great Leap Forward. Standing above all institutions, he now became a tyrant as well as a utopian prophet, nearly oblivious to the human and social costs of his "great leap" to communism - and to the costs of the Cultural Revolution, an upheaval which in large measure grew out of the political tensions generated by the failure of the Great Leap.
    • Maurice Meisner, Mao Zedong: A Political and Intellectual Portrait (2006), p. 197
  • There is a final irony that has been implied, but not stated, in the way in which this chapter has portrayed politics portrayed Chinese politics since the establishment of Chiang’s Nationalist government in 1928, through the victory of the Communist Party in 1949 to the present era, as a passing on of the baton in a wider, consistent, politics of modernity. For the political form of China today—a one-party state that does still allow a significant amount of individual autonomy, a powerful state with a role in the international order which is partly cooperative and partly confrontational, and a highly successful semi-capitalist economy in which the state and party still play a significant, embedded role—means that the Communist Party of today has essentially created the state sought by the progressive wing of the Nationalists in the 1930s rather than the dominant, radical Communists of the 1960s. One can imagine Chiang Kaishek’s ghost wandering round China today nodding in approval, while Mao’s ghost follows behind him, moaning at the destruction of his vision. The intellectual assumptions behind both the Nationalists and the Communists in the last century were similar in many important ways, making this seeming paradox perfectly comprehensible if examined in a somewhat longue durée that extends back before 1978 or 1949.
    • Rana Mitter, Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (2nd ed., 2016), Chap. 3 : Making China Modern


  • It was no longer possible to say that only the Western world could become rich through capitalism, so a new narrative took hold: although a few developing countries might be able to enter global markets from the periphery, it is only because they are very small, almost insignificant. Strangely enough, today you sometimes hear the opposite: that developing countries might make it, but only if they are very large. This is due to the transformation of two giants, China and India, which for decades were held back by, in one case, a communist despot, and in the other a democratic but strictly protectionist command economy. Therefore, people said that Chinese and Indians will be successful all over the world – except in China and India. But then, in 1976, China’s dictator Mao Zedong, as the US economist Steven Radelet put it, ‘single-handedly and dramatically changed the direction of global poverty with one single act: he died’. His successor, Deng Xiaoping, began to accept the private enterprise that peasants and villagers secretly engaged in and extended it to the entire economy. All the restrained creativity and ambition was finally let loose and China grew at record speed. Ironically, intellectuals around the world – modern-day Max Webers – soon explained that this is itself not that strange, as Confucianism made it easy to modernize the economy.
    • Johan Norberg, The Capitalist Manifesto: Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World (2023)


  • One communist country went through a destruction of collusions for collective action that was equivalent to the organizational destruction in Germany and Japan. This was China during the cultural revolution. For whatever reasons, Mao started a revolution against his own upper-level and middle- level subordinates—the red mandarins. He decimated the very administrators and managers on which his economy depended. Only the military was spared. The immediate result was extreme instability and administrative chaos: the economic performance of the Chinese economy during the cultural revolution was much worse than in other communist countries. A longer-run result was that, when Mao died, there were not nearly as many well-entrenched coteries of administrators as in the Soviet Union and the European communist states.
    So when Deng and the other pragmatists defeated Mao's widow and the rest of the "gang of four" shortly after Mao's death, there were few industries, enterprises, or coteries of administrators whose insider lobbying could undermine Deng's market-oriented reforms. Deng was presumably also helped because virtually everyone was glad to see the end of the chaos. The encompassing interest of Deng, the new pragmatic autocrat, prevailed, largely because the cultural revolution had destroyed the narrowly entrenched interests with a stake in the status quo.
    Deng could do what Gorbachev and the other European communist reformers could not do: win out over the countless cliques engaged in covert collective action and other insider lobbies. The lion's share of the then-poor Chinese economyagriculture—was promptly put under an individual responsibility market system. Other market-oriented reforms followed. The result, as we know, was rapid economic growth: output has often increased at 10 percent or more per year. This difference between China and the European countries that were communist, but had no cultural revolution, is precisely consistent with the argument offered here.
    • Mancur Olson, Power and Prosperity (2000), Chap. 9 : Implications for the Transition


  • We tried to avoid these shortcomings by making careful and discriminating use of a wider array of sources than any other biographer, weighing evidence carefully, and presenting sound and forceful judgments unmarred by political considerations. This dispassionate attitude allows us to present the Great Helmsman as the multifaceted figure that he was—a revolutionary and a tyrant, a poet and a despot, a philosopher and a politician, a husband and a philanderer. We show that Mao was neither a saint nor a demon, but rather a complicated figure who indeed tried his best to bring about prosperity and gain international respect for his country. Yet he made numerous errors, having trapped himself in a cul-de-sac of a political and ideological utopia, and basking in his cult of personality while surrounding himself with sycophantic courtiers. Without a doubt he was one of the greatest utopians of the twentieth century, but unlike Lenin and Stalin, he was not only a political adventurer but also a national revolutionary. Not only did he promote radical economic and social reforms, but he also brought about a national revolution in former semicolonial China and he united mainland China, which had been engulfed in a civil war. Thus it was Mao who renewed the world’s respect for China and the Chinese people, who had long been despised by the developed Western world and Japan. Yet his domestic policies produced national tragedies that cost the lives of tens of millions of Chinese.
    • Alexander V. Pantsov, with Steven I. Levine, Mao: The Real Story (2007; 2012), Introduction: Myths and Realities
  • In Mao’s case, a number of other factors likewise explain this attitude. Unlike Lenin and Stalin, who destroyed a great and powerful Russia that prior to the October Revolution had been one of the leading world powers, Mao transformed China from a semi-colony into an independent and powerful state. He was not only a revolutionary who transformed social relations, but also a national hero who brought to fruition the mighty anti-imperialist revolution begun by Sun Yat-sen, compelling the entire world to respect the Chinese people. He united mainland China after a long period of disintegration, power struggle, and civil wars. It was during Mao’s rule that China was finally able to become one of the main geopolitical centers of the world, politically equidistant from both superpowers, and, therefore, attracting increased attention from world public opinion. Of course, during Mao’s rule the Chinese people remained poor, and the Chinese economy backward, but it was precisely during this time that Chinese began to take pride in their country’s present as well as its past. This is why the Chinese people will never forget the “Great Helmsman.”
    Mao brought to the Chinese not only national liberation, but social servitude. It was he and the Chinese Communist Party he directed that, through deceit and violence, imposed totalitarian socialism upon the long-suffering people of China, driving them into the abyss of bloody social experiments. The lives of hundreds of millions of people were thereby maimed, and several tens of millions perished as a result of hunger and repression. Entire generations grew up isolated from world culture. Mao’s crimes against humanity are no less terrible than the evil deeds of Stalin and other twentieth-century dictators. The scale of his crimes was even greater.
    Still, Mao is distinguished from the ideologists and practitioners of Russian Bolshevism even in his totalitarianism. His personality was much more complex, variegated, and multifaceted. No less suspicious or perfidious than Stalin, still he was not as merciless. Almost throughout his entire career, even during the Cultural Revolution, in intraparty struggle he followed the principle of “cure the illness to save the patient,” compelling his real or imagined opponents to confess their “guilt” but not sentencing them to death. This is precisely why the “moderate” faction, despite the repeated purge of its members, was ultimately able to stand its ground and come to power after the Chairman’s death. Mao did not cure the “illness” of Deng Xiaoping and his supporters, but neither did he eliminate them physically. He did not even order the death of Liu Shaoqi. The chairman of the PRC was hounded to his death by enraged Red Guards. Moreover, Mao did not take revenge on his former enemies. He neither killed Bo Gu, nor Zhou Enlai, nor Ren Bishi, nor Zhang Guotao, nor even Wang Ming. He tried to find a common language with all of them after forcing them to engage in self-criticism. In other words, he forced them to “lose face” but also kept them in power.
    In all of this, Mao was an authentically Chinese leader and ideologist who was able to combine the principles of foreign Bolshevism not only with the practice of the Chinese revolution, but also with Chinese tradition.
    A talented Chinese politician, an historian, a poet and philosopher, an all-powerful dictator and energetic organizer, a skillful diplomat and utopian socialist, the head of the most populous state, resting on his laurels, but at the same time an indefatigable revolutionary who sincerely attempted to refashion the way of life and consciousness of millions of people, a hero of national revolution and a bloody social reformer—this is how Mao goes down in history. The scale of his life was too grand to be reduced to a single meaning.
    And that is why he reposes in an imperial mausoleum in the center of China, in the square adorned with his gigantic portrait. He will be there for a long time, perhaps forever. In essence, the phenomenon of Mao reflects the entire trajectory of twentieth-century China in all its complexity and contradictions, the trajectory of a great but socially and economically backward Eastern country that made a gigantic break from the past to the present over the course of eight decades.
    • Alexander V. Pantsov, with Steven I. Levine, Mao: The Real Story (2007; 2012), Epilogue


  • To govern a nation with a poet’s logic and vision can only lead to great catastrophe. In reading Mao’s works, you’ll notice they are extremely enchanting. Packed as they are with the imagination, passion, and the utopian ideals of a poet, they are endlessly moving. But as soon as such ideas are transformed into practice, they will often bring about disaster. Mao often exhibits just such a conversion: romanticism at the theoretical level mutating into despotism at the practical level.
  • Even among totalitarian rulers such as Stalin, Mao sets himself apart. Such dictators usually only control the bodies of the people; dissidents, heretics, and opponents are at most sent to prison or labor camps and thus are neutralized corporeally. Mao, however, sought also to remould thought. He said once that two types of people existed in Chinese tradition: heroes and sages. Heroes were extremely talented in some areas such as politics and economics; sages existed to influence people’s thought. Mao sought to position himself as a hero, but desired even more the role of sage. He wanted to effect a spiritual control of people, to conquer the popular will, to influence and remould people’s thought, to have his dictatorship permeate into people’s minds, and he created an array of systems and methods to do so. This is both awesome and dreadful, and is without precedent.
  • In China’s grassroots society, the deification of Mao Zedong has taken place to a staggering degree. In countless taxicabs dangle icons of Mao, warding off evil spirits. I investigated a little the question of which among China’s many emperors and generals could become deities and which could not. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234) and Guan Yu 關羽 (d. 219) were deified, but Qin Shihuang 秦始皇 (259-210 BCE), Han Wudi 漢武帝 (141-87 BCE) and Liu Bei 劉備 (161-223) did not make the grade. There are two prerequisites for such a deification: one must either have preternatural wisdom, or a godlike ability to ward-off misfortune—Mao Zedong had both. Further bolstering Mao worship are those intellectuals, who, over recent years, have taken a Maoist turn. Some have, for example, proselytized the “three new traditions” 新三統 which advocate establishing a new national ideology through the aggregation of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Confucius. These intellectuals see themselves as “Imperial Tutors,” and their “three new traditions” as “Schemes for good government and security” offered to the current regime. After the recent abrupt rise of China’s economy, there is now a push to strengthen Chinese soft-power. What China has to offer in this realm, other than Confucius, is Mao Zedong. In the present statist stream of thought, Mao’s status is extremely prominent, and he also carries influence among certain groups of young people, some of whom are even intent on establishing a “Maoist Party.”
  • Without a rational assessment and critique of Mao Zedong thought and culture, its cancers will be anointed along with its charms and passed down in this spirit. The effect very likely will be catastrophic. Speaking personally, such cancers are already internalized as a kind of poisonous gas deep within myself. Because of this, I must hold fast to the fundamental position of “in the process of critiquing and assessing Mao Zedong thought and culture, making a serious accounting of myself.”
    My students, on the other hand, believe that there is no need for their teacher to spend his days in reflection and repentance. They see a teacher with many good qualities and see these as endowed upon him by Mao Zedong. This is, indeed, in some ways true. The key reason for this generational gap rests in the fact that the challenges we face are different: my challenge remains to cast off the influence, not only historical but actual, of Mao Zedong; their challenge, lies in the fact that they are totally estranged from the Mao era; they know nothing of it, so they must start from scratch to seek out its reasonable elements. Therefore, between teacher and student there is a divergence of opinions and ideas. But, I have to say, I am most antipathetic to their “price theory.” They agree that the Mao era was replete with problems but believe that these were a price that had to be paid. Whenever I hear of this price theory, I get all fired up; do they really know what price was paid? The death of millions or even tens of millions. In my view, the death of one person is one too many, let alone tens of millions. Can we be so blasé as to use “price” to “settle this up”? They haven’t personally experienced that time and think they can look upon it objectively – “people died, so they died.” And this touches upon another key problem: the life of a person, in my view is of the utmost import.
    I have many haunted memories, and my students criticize me for always wallowing in my personal recollections, for being unable to break free from them. But I still want to remind these young scholars: in summing up the thought and culture of the 1980s, there is one great lesson to be learned. The attempt to directly apply Western modernity without thinking through the problems of China, to believe that China’s developmental trajectory is simply to follow the road of Western modernity, will result in immense confusion. In the same vein, we absolutely cannot directly apply an unexamined Mao Zedong thought and culture to respond to the problems of contemporary China. This would lead not only to great confusion, but to catastrophe.
  • Mao was China's biggest idealist and dictator. His ideology encompasses both idealism and despotism. This often creates conflicts, or dualism. For example, if you aren't an enemy, you're a friend; if something is inaccurate, then it's a mistake. The best way to resolve the contradictions inherent in dualism is by protesting.
    But that makes people become truculent. Mao considered himself the guardian of truth, and people who thought differently from him were branded as enemies. This tendency can still be seen in modern China. Even those who criticize Mao bear traces of his thinking.
    • Qian Liqun, in interview with JoongAng Ilbo on Sept. 18, published in September 25, 2012


  • As for Mao Zedong, I now see him as both a brilliant leader and a scheming tyrant. He blazed the trail to the Promised Land but could not take his people there. Under his leadership, China grew united and strong, life expectancy lengthened, and hundreds of millions were rescued from pauperdom. At the same time, his wild social experimentation was responsible for the misery and deaths of millions, or possibly tens of millions. Never a true friend, he twice threw me into wrongful isolation in prison when it suited some political purpose.
    Mao was a thinker, philosopher, analyst, general, political leader, poet, and a connoisseur of great stature. He unified and led the revolution through unbelievable hardships, overcoming unthinkable odds, to achieve victory over the established powers in China that had the support of virtually all the world's governments. If he had died before coming to power, he would probably still be remembered as a prophet and as something close to a saint. Even so, it is still he, not Sun Yat-sen, whom most Chinese still look on as the "George Washington of China."
    But today I believe that Mao was a tragic figure of Aeschylean proportions. Having preached and warned for years against the corruption that usually follows power, having inveighed against arrogance and exaggeration of the role, prowess, and wisdom of any single individual, he became their victim and in turn victimized the Chinese people. With unimaginable hubris, he thought of China-and the world-as an experimental laboratory in his hands. None of the ordinary human relationships of family, community, and friendship were important to him, but only the moving of people through the motions of carrying out his own grand designs. The results was that, in the end, with his formidable powers of introspection, he saw himself gradually turn into the very embodiment of what he had despised and fought against as a young Hunanese patriot-a crabbed old despot, friendless, clueless, disenchanted.
  • On the Chinese side, change was a part of an even greater development: China’s resumption of an international and regional role appropriate to her historic stature and potential. Mao’s revolution had made China more integrated than ever before, and made significant improvements in health and education. But its economic development had been chaotic, and it had not lifted the Chinese people out of poverty.
    • J. M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad, The Penguin History of the World (6th ed., 2014), Book 8 : Our Own Time, 3 : Crises and Détente
  • Whatever the price of the Chinese Revolution, it has obviously succeeded, not only in producing more efficient and dedicated administration, but also in fostering a high morale and cummunity propose... The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao's leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history.


  • Mao had worked late into the night — his custom. He awoke about 11:00 a.m., ate a bowl of rice and some Chinese pickles, and the group set off. Baggage had been sent ahead, but Mao's bodyguards had packed a few books to take along, two Chinese encyclopedic dictionaries, Lexicon of Words (Ci Hai) and Origin of Words (Ci Yuan), and two dynastic works of great distinction, studied and annotated by emperors, statesmen, and scholars for hundreds of years. One was called Records of the Historian (Shi Ji) and covered the period from the semi-mythical Yellow Emperor, China's founding father, and into the Han dynasty until about a hundred years before Christ. The other, The General Mirror for the Aid of Government (Cu Chi Tang Qian), covered thirteen hundred years of history and had been compiled in the eleventh century. It was designed as a practical handbook for the emperor, telling him how his predecessors had handled difficult questions. No text by Marx or Lenin.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury, The New Emperors : China in the era of Mao and Deng (1993), Chap. 1 : The Old Capital
  • Publicly, Mao had sailed in the face of the American threat and, in effect, thumbed his nose at Stalin's warnings as well. In 1946, when Chiang Kai-shek began preparing an all-out drive against the Communists, Stalin urged Mao to enter into a coalition with Chiang and take a secondary role. Resistance, Stalin contended, might lead to World War III. For many years Stalin had demonstrated his preference for Chiang, as Mao bitterly knew. Stalin had supported Chiang even after he turned on the Communists in the 1927 massacre at Shanghai.
    Only with the greatest reluctance had Stalin shifted his backing from Chiang Kai-shek in Shanghai to the Communists and left-wingers.
    Mao had no illusions about whom Stalin preferred. As a contemporary Soviet historian commented: "Stalin favored a two-Chinas policy." Stalin felt Chiang was weak and posed no danger to Moscow. He did not trust Mao.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury, The New Emperors : China in the era of Mao and Deng (1993), Chap. 2 : The Poet of the Fragrant Hills
  • Mao's quarters were fitted to his taste. Along the north wall, so that the southern sun would flood the broad windows, was a study through which one passed into his bedchamber, the biggest of his rooms. Beside the courtyard windows stood his bed, a square wooden bed, the legs mounted on sturdy wooden blocks, bigger than the great kang, or oven-bed, in his parents' home in Shaoshan, bigger than many a room in the new flats of Beijing — not a king-sized bed, an emperor-sized bed. Mao reposed on a hill of pillows. Half his bed, as long as he lived, was piled with papers, books, the slender sheaves of the Chinese classics that he read and reread from boyhood to old age. As for the other half of the bed, it was to have many and varied occupants.
    A pair of brass bracket lamps were mounted on the wall behind Mao's bed, eight feet from the floor. More bracket lights were fixed between the windows. On tables beside his bed and at its head stood gooseneck lamps, flexible to adjust to his angle of sight. The walls of the bedroom and study were lined with books and document boxes filled with reports, correspondence, and possibly some items from the special library collected for Mao by the secret police specialist, Kang Sheng. The floor was covered with a Chinese carpet of apple green.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury, The New Emperors : China in the era of Mao and Deng (1993), Chap. 6 : The Study of Chrysanthemum Fragrance
  • Mao's mind was philosophical and poetic. He felt at home with the Chinese classics. He knew Confucius and his follower Mencius, and he knew how the Ming and the Tang and the other dynasties had handled economics. Statistics bored him. He preferred to leave these details to subordinates.
    Mao's great strength in the Long March and in the Revolution was his belief in the efficacy of mass action. He was convinced that there was no problem that could not be solved if he mobilized the strength of the masses. He did not literally believe in his famous parable of the old man who moved a mountain, but he did believe he knew how to direct the strength of China's huge population. With that energy there was no goal China could not attain — whether moving a mountain or creating a steel industry or wiping out the opium habit.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury, The New Emperors : China in the era of Mao and Deng (1993), Chap. 14 : Deng Tackles His Biggest Job
  • Mao was strongly inclined to "total solutions." He believed in philosophy as an instrument of change and that society was always in flux between periods of stability and periods of luan, chaos. Change arose from luan. Stability was static. In a state of upheaval, progress was made and new, capable people and ideas emerged.
    The Mao scholar Li Zehou quotes Mao as saying after he read the history of China's Warring States, "It is a delight to read. But when it moves to the peaceful years I hate it. Not because I love chaos but because a time of peace is not good for the development of the people. It is unbearable."
    Whether all this underlay Mao's fatalistic decision will never be known. He kept no diary, and none of his secretaries was privy to all his thoughts. But there can be no question that Mao well understood his historic achievement in routing Chiang Kai-shek and uniting China under the Communist banner, and he also believed that the crusade ultimately called the Cultural Revolution was an even greater enterprise. It was, in his view, a revolution not only to save his revolution but to perfect it, endangered as he believed it to be by contamination, impurities, and even treason from within. It must be saved from the men who had helped to create it. In this Kang Sheng's poisoned words played a part.
    If Mao achieved success in his new campaign it would, he reckoned, be the ultimate deed of his career, overshadowing even the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949. This, he was confident, would place his name not among the great men of China but at the head of the list, as the emperor of emperors.
    • Harrison E. Salisbury, The New Emperors : China in the era of Mao and Deng (1993), Chap. 25 : Poisoned Paper
  • 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.
  • Various kinds of enmity are joined in Mao’s concrete situation, rising up to absolute enmity. Racial enmity against the white colonial exploiter; class enmity against the capitalist bourgeoisie; national enmity against the Japanese intruder of the same race; internecine enmity nursed in long, embittered civil wars—all this did not paralyze or relativize each other, as they might be thought to; rather, they were confirmed and intensified in the situation. Stalin succeeded in joining the telluric partisanship of the national homeland with the class enmity of international communism. Mao was years ahead of him, surpassing Lenin in his theoretical consciousness by taking the formula of war as the continuation of politics by other means even farther.
  • Few major figures of the twentieth century have been subject to such widely varying assessments as Mao Zedong. In the 1940s, he was seen in many quarters (including the Kremlin) as a talented guerrilla leader whose Marxist credentials were of dubious authenticity. In the early 1950s, he was perceived rather as the ruler of a totalitarian party state, subservient to Moscow. Then, during the Cultural Revolution, he was metamorphosed once more in people's minds (especially those of student rebels in the West) into an inspired visionary who had devised a new pattern of socialism, purer, more radical, and more humane than that of the Soviet Union. Finally, in his last years the view began to gain ground that he was, on the contrary, a harsh and arbitrary despot cast in a traditional Chinese mould. Mao was all these things simultaneously, and a number of others beside.
    It has often been said that Mao Zedong was both China's Lenin and her Stalin. If, however, we wish to explain developments in China in terms of analogies drawn from Russian experience, it would be more appropriate to say that Mao Zedong was China's Lenin, Stalin, and Peter the Great.
  • The one domain in which there was almost total continuity in Mao's approach from the 1930s to the 1970s was that of patterns and methods for the exercise of political authority. Moreover, in this case it should have been possible, I would argue, to discern in Mao's speeches and writings prior to 1949 the signs of many things to come.
    Mao declared that the new regime he was about to set up could be called a 'people's democratic autocracy' just as well as a 'people's democratic dictatorship'. Too much should not be made of this terminological difference, for tu-ts'ai was sometimes used in years past, when Marxist expressions did not yet all have standard equivalents in Chinese, as a translation for 'dictatorship'. None the less, to the extent that it carries an aura of old-fashioned Chinese-style autocracy, this term in fact sums up rather well the essence of Mao's approach to political leadership.
    On the one hand, he promoted grass-roots participatory democracy on a larger scale than any other revolutionary leader of modern times. In this respect he served the Chinese people well, and helped to prepare them for the next stage in their political development. But at the same time he regarded the promotion of democracy as feasible only within the framework of a 'strong state'. In this he was, in my opinion, correct. Unfortunately, his idea of a strong state was something very like an autocracy, in which he, as the historic leader of the Chinese revolution, remained in the last analysis the arbiter as to what political tendencies were legitimate, and which were not.
    • Stuart R. Schram, The Thought of Mao Tse-Tung (1989), Part 1 : Mao Tse-tung's thought to 1949
  • Throughout his career, from the Ching-kang-shan and Yenan to the 1960s, Mao Tse-tung treated democracy and centralism as two indissolubly linked aspects of the political process, one of which could not be promoted without reference to the other. The Cultural Revolution saw the emergence of two quite different concepts. Democracy was replaced by 'rebellion'; centralism was replaced by chung, or personal loyalty to the great leader and helmsman. No doubt Mao Tse-tung saw these tendencies as bound together in a dialectical unity, like democracy and centralism, which he had not in principle repudiated. Nevertheless, he allowed a situation to develop in which the 'heads', of which he himself acknowledged the necessity, at all levels of society and the economy, could not in fact function as heads because, although they were held accountable they had no power to take decisions. The alliance between the leader and the masses took the form, on thenational level, of anunstructured plebiscitary democracy, sadly reminiscent of earlier examples. At lower levels, it produced a mixture of arbitrary rule by adhoc committees, military control, apathy and confusion.
    • Stuart R. Schram, The Thought of Mao Tse-Tung (1989), Part 2 : Mao Tse-tung's thought from 1949 to 1976
  • I argued in Part 1 that Mao had devised the concept of the 'principal contradiction' because, unlike Marx, who was never in doubt as to the basic conflict underlying Western society in his own day (that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie), Mao lived in a world characterized by a bewildering variety of social strata, deposited layer by layer in the course of a century of rapid change. Chinese and world society are not likely, in the coming decades, to grow less complex, nor is the interaction between countries and cultures likely to grow less intense. In this context, Mao's ideas about contradictions may provide, if not a map, then a compass, for charting the contours of a changing reality.
    At the same time, Mao himself, as I have noted repeatedly (and as he remarked more than once), was full of contradictons. In an effort to sum these all up, let me conclude with what may appear to benothing more than a bit of folklore, but has perhaps a deeper significance. I quoted above Mao's statements, and those of the Tsing-hua University Middle School Red Guards, regarding the Monkey King, Sun Wu-k'ung, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Mao had repeatedly used Monkey as a political symbol in earlier years, and prior to the Great Leap, virtually all of these references were negative. Indeed, in May 1938 he went so far as to identify Monkey with the 'fascist aggressors' who would be buried in the end beneath the 'Mountain of the Five Elements' constituted by the peace front. But suddenly, in 1958, the tone changed, and Mao declared:
    Monkey paid no heed to the law or to Heaven (wu-fa wu-fien). Why don't we all learn from him? His anti-dogmatism [was manifested in] daring to do whatever he liked …
    Perhaps that sums up, better than any other single image, the essence of Mao's political role, and its profound ambiguity. Eternal rebel, refusing to be bound by the laws of God or man, nature or Marxism, he led his people for three decades in pursuit of a vision initially noble, which turned increasingly into a mirage, and then into a nightmare. Was he a Faust or Prometheus, attempting the impossible for the sake of humanity, or a despot of unbridled ambition, drunk with his own power and his own cleverness? More of the latter than used to be imagined, no doubt, and yet something of the former as well. Even today, the final verdict, both on the man and on his thought, must still remain open.
  • In a word, was Mao too much a man of the 20th century to command much interest in the 21st? History records many singular recurrences of ideas and institutions, but Leninism and the Stalinist command economy, which so dominated the present century, do appear to have run their course. Modernization and economic development are another matter. While attention will no doubt continue to focus on the costs of development, perhaps only the rich can allow themselves to treat it as irrelevant. Thus, though Mao will probably not be remembered as the unerring architect of the future and the creator of a new world and a new humanity, a more modest place in history as a modernizing despot may well be his.
    • Stuart R. Schram, "Mao Zedong a Hundred Years On: The Legacy of a Ruler", The China Quarterly, No. 137 (Mar., 1994)
  • In many ways his political instincts were sound. He tried to invest in the Chinese people. But in his personal feelings he was emotional, wrong-headed, and hysterical, and these qualities increasingly took over in the 1950s. But despite enormous blunders and crimes, he was a great leader who was trying to do the best for China. I think he’ll be remembered for that.
  • I agree with the current Chinese view that Mao's merits outweighed his faults, but it is not easy to put a figure on the positive and negative aspects. How does one weigh, for example, the good fortune of hundreds of millions of peasants in getting land against the execution, in the course of land reform and the “Campaign against Counter-Revolutionaries,” or in other contexts, of millions, some of whom certainly deserved to die, but others of whom undoubtedly did not? How does one balance the achievements in economic development during the first Five-Year Plan, or during the whole twenty-seven years of Mao's leadership after 1949, against the starvation which came in the wake of the misguided enthusiasm of the Great Leap Forward, or the bloody shambles of the Cultural Revolution? ... In the last analysis, however, I am more interested in the potential future impact of his thought than in sending Mao as an individual to Heaven or to Hell.
    • Stuart R. Schram, quoted in Roderick MacFarquhar, "Stuart Reynolds Schram, 1924–2012". China Quarterly (December 2012)
  • In fact, the occurrence of favorable unintended consequences (the Smith-Menger-Hayek case) also has some parallels in the field of economic planning in China, though for that we have to look at other parts of recent Chinese history. As the fast economic progress of East Asian and Southeast Asian economies gets more fully analyzed, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not only the openness of the economies—and greater reliance on domestic and international trade—that led to such rapid economic transition in these economies. The groundwork was laid also by positive social changes, such as land reforms, the spread of education and literacy and better health care. What we are looking at here is not so much the social consequences of economic reforms, but the economic consequences of social reforms. The market economy flourishes on the foundations of such social development. As India has been lately recognizing, lack of social development can quite severely hold up the reach of economic development.
    When and how did these social changes occur in China? The main thrust of these social changes was in the pre-reform period, before 1979—indeed a lot of it during the active days of Maoist policy. Was Mao intending to build the social foundations of a market economy and capitalist expansion (as he certainly did succeed in doing)? That hypothesis would be hard to entertain. And yet the Maoist policies of land reform, expansion of literacy, enlargement of public health care and so on had a very favorable effect on economic growth in post-reform China. The extent to which post-reform China draws on the results achieved in pre-reform China needs greater recognition. The positive unintended consequences are important here.
    Since Mao did not consider seriously the likelihood that a flourishing market economy would emerge in China, it is not surprising that he did not consider this particular entailment of the social changes that were being brought in under his leadership. And yet there is a general connection here that is quite close to the focus on capability in this work. The social changes under consideration (expansion of literacy, basic health care, and land reform) do enhance human capability to lead worthwhile and less vulnerable lives. But these capabilities are also associated with improving the productivity and employability of the people involved (expanding what is called their “human capital”). The interdependence between human capability in general and human capital in particular could be seen as being reasonably predictable. While it may not have been any part of Mao’s intention to make things easier for market-based economic expansion in China, a social analyst should have been well placed—even then—to predict just such a relationship. Anticipation of such social relations and causal connections helps us to reason sensibly about social organization and about possible lines of social change and progress.
    • Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (1999), Chap. 11 : Social Choice and Individual Behavior
  • Supposedly this was Mao’s reaction to all the suffering: ‘You have only tree leaves to eat? So be it.’ What is undeniable is that he took no serious steps to change policy until it was too late. He continued to take satisfaction from communist successes in the decade since 1949. Land had been collectivised, industry nationalised. Rival parties had been eliminated. The non-Chinese groups in the population had been cowed. The ruling group enjoyed unchallenged supremacy; its members had the prestige and authority of men who had fought in the civil war against the Kuomintang. Yet the Great Leap Forward had not worked out as Mao had intended. The tens of millions of deaths were not the only reason why the central leaders of party and army were alarmed – and many leaders in fact were just as unconcerned about the hardship as Mao himself.
    • Robert Service, Comrades: A History of World Communism (2009)
  • Mao had been like a great pendulum of the Chinese Revolution since the 1950s. By swinging from side to side in strategy, he showed that he knew how to hold on to power and pull up short of destroying the state order. But he had run out of ideas about how to advance the revolutionary cause in China. Maoism was a helpful way to win peasant support and make a revolutionary war. It could unify and energise a whole people by fundamental social and economic reforms. But it was a poor way to industrialise a country. It involved horrendous suffering even in its quieter periods. Its ruptures with the Soviet historical experience included both advantages and disadvantages for citizens of the People’s Republic of China. But it shared many basic concepts, practices and structures with the USSR. Maoism was a variant of Marxism-Leninism. Its bankruptcy was evident to most Chinese long before Mao died.
    • Robert Service, Comrades: A History of World Communism (2009)
  • Mao, I call a populist tyrant because of what we associate today, and especially after Donald Trump with the term populism. And in Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the globe, we've just been through a period, hopefully past tense of populist authoritarianism. But populism or another term that scholars use for voluntourism, it is an appeal to the mass public, the downtrodden and the dispossessed and the disaffected elements of a society in particular. That's who Mao appealed to in China, the rural peasantry of course most notably, but other elements of society in the urban proletariat as well.
    Mao was a deeply anti-elitist politician who repeatedly appealed straight to the masses and would try and mobilize them, I should say, through his campaigns, the yundong. One yundong after another characterized Mao's era. He would mobilize the masses against the state. He didn't use the state against the masses so much, certainly not after 1956, but he used the masses against the state repeatedly. He had an innate faith in them in their voluntourist agency, you might say. He distrusted institutions, he distrusted elites, and this led to his views about revisionism. He wanted to transform Chinese society, normatively, culturally, behaviorally, and the institutions would get corrupted in that process, he believed. So he leapfrogged the institutions, the bureaucracies and appeals repeatedly straight to the masses. So that's why I call him a populist.
    He was also very much a revolutionary in, I would argue the Trotskyite variety. He saw perpetual revolution and the export of it. You James are in fact writing your own PhD dissertation about the export of Maoist revolutions abroad during the sixties and the seventies. So that was also populous. To be a revolutionary, you have to be a populist. And then I would note, why do I call him a tyrant? So I call him a populous tyrant. Well, he was a tyrant of global historical proportions. He's up there in the league of Hitler and Stalin, if not more so. Many more Chinese died under his rule than did under Hitler's rule or Stalin's rule or Pol Pot in Cambodia, tens of millions, somewhere between 40 and 50 million Chinese died as a result of his policies directly or indirectly. I don't know about tens of millions, but countless millions, others were persecuted by him and took their own lives and were stigmatized. He was a despot and a tyrant extraordinary.
  • Even to his closest comrades, Mao was hard to fathom. His spirit, in Smedley's words, ‘dwelt within itself, isolating him’. His personality inspired loyalty, not affection. He combined a fierce temper and infinite patience; vision, and an almost pedantic attention to detail; an inflexible will, and extreme subtlety; public charisma, and private intrigue.
    • Philip Short, Mao: The Man Who Made China (2017), Prologue
  • The achievements of Mao's great contemporaries, Roosevelt, Churchill and De Gaulle, are measured against those of their peers. Even Stalin built on Lenin's accomplishments. Mao's life was played out on an altogether vaster canvas. He was unquestioned leader of almost a quarter of mankind, inhabiting an area the size of Europe as far as the Urals. He wielded powers equalled only by the most awesome of Chinese emperors in an era when China's history was so compressed that changes which, in the West, had taken centuries to accomplish, occurred in a single generation. In Mao's lifetime, China made the leap from semi-colony to Great Power; from millennial autarky to socialist state; from despoiled victim of imperialist plunder to Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, complete with H-bombs, surveillance satellites and ICBMS.
    Mao had an extraordinary mix of talents: he was visionary, statesman, political and military strategist of genius, philosopher and poet. Foreigners might sniff. In a memorable put-down, Arthur Waley, the great translator of Tang dynasty poetry, described Mao's poems as ‘not as bad as Hitler's paintings, but not as good as Churchill's’. In the judgement of another Western art historian, his calligraphy, while ‘strikingly original, betraying a flamboyant egotism, to the point of arrogance, if not extravagance … [and] a total disregard for the formal discipline of the brush’, was ‘essentially inarticulate’. Most Chinese scholars disagree. Mao's poems, like his brushwork, seized the tormented, restless spirit of his age.
    To these gifts, he brought a subtle, dogged mind, awe-inspiring charisma and fiendish cleverness.
    • Philip Short, Mao: The Man Who Made China (2017), Epilogue
  • Stalin cared about what his subjects did (or might do); Hitler, about who they were. Mao cared about what they thought.
    China's landlords were eliminated as a class (and many of them were killed in the process); but they were not exterminated as a people, as the Jews were in Germany. Even as his policies caused the deaths of millions, Mao never entirely lost his belief in the efficacy of thought reform and the possibility of redemption. ‘Heads are not like chives’, he said. ‘They do not grow back again.’
    What was achieved at the cost of such bloodshed and pain?
    Mao's own judgement, that his two major accomplishments were his victory over Chiang Kai-shek and the launching of the Cultural Revolution, offers a partial answer, though not quite in the sense he had intended. The one reunified China after a century of division and restored its sovereignty; the other gave the Chinese people such an overdose of ideological fervour as to immunise them for generations to come. Mao's tragedy and his grandeur were that he remained to the end in thrall to his own revolutionary dreams. Where Confucius had taught harmony – the doctrine of the mean – Mao preached endless class struggle, until it became a cage from which neither he nor the Chinese people could escape. He freed China from the straitjacket of its Confucian past. But the bright Red future he promised turned out to be a sterile purgatory.
    • Philip Short, Mao: The Man Who Made China (2017), Epilogue
  • Mao ruled for twenty-seven years. If the past, as he believed, is indeed a mirror for the present, will the twenty-first century see a third Chinese golden age, for which the Maoist dictatorship will have opened the way?
    Or will it be his fate to be remembered as a flawed colossus, who brought fundamental change to China on a scale that only a handful of others have achieved in the past several millennia, but at a terrible price, and then failed to follow through?
    History is laid down slowly in China. One day, perhaps, Mao's shadow will loom less large. His name will recede into a more distant, less threatening past, to join the shades of other founding statesmen: Peter the Great, the tyrant who laid the foundations of modern Russia; George Washington, slave-owner and humanist; Napoleon, ‘the greatest criminal in French history’, as one French intellectual put it; Oliver Cromwell, iconoclast and regicide; a handful of others. But the regime Mao founded may well last longer than most Westerners wish to think. In Asia, elements of a market economy have coexisted for thousands of years with authoritarian rule. Certainly China will change, but not necessarily as the rest of the world expects.
    • Philip Short, Mao: The Man Who Made China (2017), Epilogue
  • I think my first impression – dominantly one of native shrewdness – was probably correct. And yet Mao was an accomplished scholar of Classical Chinese, an omnivorous reader, a deep student of philosophy and history, a good speaker, a man with an unusual memory and extraordinary powers of concentration, an able writer, careless in his personal habits and appearance but astonishingly meticulous about details of duty, a man of tireless energy, and military and political strategist of considerable genius.
  • After a moment of silence Mao said that he had, as I knew, begun life as a primary school teacher. He had then had no thought of fighting wars. Neither had he thought of becoming a Communist. He was more or less a democratic personage such as myself. Later on, he sometimes wondered by what chance combination of reasons he had become interested in founding the Chinese Communist Party. Anyway, events did not move in accordance with the individual human will. What mattered was that China had been oppressed by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.
    “Man makes his own history, but he makes it in accordance with his environment,” I quoted. “You have fundamentally changed the environment in China. Many wonder what the younger generation bred under easier conditions will do. What do you think about it.”
    He also could not know, he said. He doubted that anyone could be sure. There were two possibilities. There could be continued development of the revolution toward Communism, the other possibility was that youth could negate the revolution, and give a poor performance: make peace with imperialism, bring the remnants of the Chiang Kai-shek clique back to the mainland, and take a stand beside the small percentage of counter-revolutionaries still in the country. Of course he did not hope for counter-revolution. But future events would be decided by future generations, and in accordance with conditions we could not foresee.
    Mao Tse-tung walked me through the doorway and, despite my protests, saw me to my car, where he stood alone for a moment, coatless in the sub-zero Peking night, to wave me farewell in the traditional manner of that ancient cultured city. I saw no security guards around the entrance, nor can I now recall having seen even one armed bodyguard in our vicinity all evening. As the car drove away I looked back and watched Mao brace his shoulders and slowly retrace his steps, leaning heavily on the arm of an aide, into the Great Hall of the People.
    • Edgar Snow, "Interview with Mao", The New Republic (1965)
  • In their native countries, Roosevelt and Churchill are regarded as examples of wise statesmen. But we, during our jail conversations, were astonished by their constant shortsightedness and even stupidity. How could they, retreating gradually from 1941 to 1945, leave Eastern Europe without any guarantees of independence? How could they abandon the large territories of Saxony and Thuringia in return for such a ridiculous toy as the four-zoned Berlin that, moreover, was later to become their Achille’s heel? And what kind of military or political purpose did they see in giving away hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens (who were unwilling to surrender, whatever the terms) for Stalin to have them killed? It is said that by doing this, that they secured the imminent participation of Stalin in the war against Japan. Already armed with the Atomic bomb, they did pay for Stalin so that he wouldn’t refuse to occupy Manchuria to help Mao Zedong to gain power in China and Kim Il Sung, to get half of Korea!… Oh, misery of political calculation! When later Mikolajczyk was expelled, when the end of Beneš and Masaryk came, Berlin was blocked, Budapest was in flames and turned silent, when ruins fumed in Korea and when the conservatives fled from Suez – didn’t really some of those who had a better memory, recall for instance the episode of giving away the Cossacks?
  • Mao's beginnings were commonplace, his education episodic, his talents unexceptional: yet he possessed a relentless energy and a ruthless self-confidence that led him to become one of the world's most powerful rulers. He was one of the toughest and strangest in China's long tradition of formidable rulers who wielded extraordinary powers neither wisely nor well, and yet were able to silence effective criticism for years or even decades by the force of their own character and the strength of their acolytes and guards. Mao need not have done what he did, and it was he alone who ensured that his visions of social and economic change became hopelessly enmeshed with violence and fear. It was his rhetoric and his inflexible will that led to the mobilization of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens, who - even when they wished to - could find no way to halt the cataract of energy swirling around them.


  • In critical respects, this Mao-dominated universe can be considered the Chairman’s extended family. Mao’s patriarchal approach to rule was, of course, reflective of a deeply patriarchal society, but it was even more fundamentally a consequence of a long and successful revolutionary struggle. As with all other founders of indigenous communist regimes, after achieving power Mao’s position was unchallengeable until his death: he was truly the father of his country in the eyes of his followers.
    • Frederick C. Teiwes and Warren Sun, The End of the Maoist Era: Chinese Politics During the Twilight of the Cultural Revolution, 1972-1976 (2007), Conclusion
  • What explains the obedience Mao received from the elite during the last years of his life, an obedience that extended beyond carrying out explicit orders inimical to elite interests to shaping positions according to expectations of the Chairman’s wishes, and holding sacrosanct his “line” even as he slipped into a coma? The answer lies in a combination of fear, belief, and moral authority, with both fear and belief basically reflecting moral authority. Fear was at root a fear of being off side with Mao, with possible consequences, varying by period, of loss of influence and position, or of mortal threat under the most dire circumstances, as well as of personal inadequacy in not being able to keep up with the Chairman’s thinking.
    • Frederick C. Teiwes and Warren Sun, The End of the Maoist Era: Chinese Politics During the Twilight of the Cultural Revolution, 1972-1976 (2007), Conclusion
  • From early on in his career Mao was a visionary, a strategic genius, a realistic revolutionary, a nationalist, and a dedicated Marxist. From early days he also saw himself as a leader of great destiny, and he was always acutely attentive to his personal power, but it was power for great purposes. Mao could also capture the popular and elite imagination, whether for the universally approved “standing up” to foreign imperialists and national unification, or, before everything went wrong, the Great Leap’s pursuit of unprecedented economic growth.
    For all his talent, Mao’s successes before 1949 owed much to circumstances, notably the Japanese invasion and incompetence of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists. He also built successfully on Marxist ideology and the organizational backbone of a Leninist party. After 1949, Mao initially benefited from an already tested program for statebuilding based on the Soviet model. Mao’s great achievement was to enlarge upon these circumstances by developing broad-based party unity, a form of quasi-collective leadership allowing significant leadership discussion, and a pragmatic, often cautious approach to policy. Together this produced the unimaginable victory of 1949, and also sustained the party’s further successes to the mid-1950s.
    Paradoxically, the seeds of later disasters can be found in the victory of 1949. Most fundamentally, Mao’s power, while uncontested within the party as long as successes continued during the struggle for national power, became unchallengeable upon coming to power and would remain so for rest of his life. His emperor-like authority was unmistakable in the Gao Gang case and the handling of agricultural cooperativization, even as he maintained the semblance of collective leadership. In many senses, leadership politics under the Chairman was like the highly personalistic court politics of imperial China that could be altered into more arbitrary forms at any time of the emperor’s choosing. For much of the initial period up to 1956, Mao left alone certain areas (notably the economy) in which he recognized his limitations, but his ability to intervene was clear.
    • Frederick C. Teiwes, "Mao Zedong in Power (1949–1976)", in William A. Joseph, Politics in China: An Introduction (3rd ed., 2019)
  • Mao’s sin was less corruption than hubris, his belief that he was “alone with the masses” and had a special understanding of the needs of the revolution and the Chinese people. No one and no costs should stand in the way of his pursuit of those visions, and he could not accept responsibility when that pursuit led to disastrous consequences, which, in his view, were ultimately someone else’s fault. Mao Zedong was only able to do this because of the absolute power he had accumulated through the combination of his record of revolutionary success, the centralizing forces of the Leninist party organization that he built, and the authoritarian strain in traditional Chinese political culture.
    • Frederick C. Teiwes, "Mao Zedong in Power (1949–1976)", in William A. Joseph, Politics in China: An Introduction (3rd ed., 2019)


  • Mao left a China that was badly broken, and it would take an enormous effort to fix it. The devastation and backwardness that he left in his wake prompted his successors to rethink the nation’s trajectory—indeed, it was a historic opportunity. When they finally seized this opportunity, they rejected Mao’s core ideas and even the antipathy to market mechanisms and private enterprise at the core of the Soviet economic system that had been sacrosanct in China since the 1950s. When the dust finally cleared, the new model would be the export-oriented developmental states of East Asia, whose features would be grafted onto the stock of a rebuilt and revitalized Communist Party. A reform of this magnitude could only gain traction if leaders were forced to admit that something in China had gone seriously wrong. This was not the legacy that Mao had hoped to leave. It was in fact the opposite of what he intended.
    • Andrew G. Walder, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (2015), p. 14
  • It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mao’s contributions to China after 1956 were unsuccessful by his own standards and destructive in ways that he surely did not imagine. During both the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the destructive aspects of Mao’s initiatives far outweighed any outcomes that could be construed as positive. The Cultural Revolution succeeded in its agenda of destroying the structure of China’s party-state, and in sidelining the many officials who might have harbored inner doubts about Mao’s vision, but it created nothing lasting in its place. During the Cultural Revolution Mao tried repeatedly to put a positive face on each unexpected and unwanted development, asserting that out of disorder a greater order would eventually be born. But the public celebrations of the “great victories” of the Cultural Revolution, accompanied by the escalating intensity of the cult of Mao, all turned out to be as hollow as Mao’s earlier insistence that the accomplishments of the Great Leap were “nine fingers” and the shortcomings “one finger.” As Mao’s health failed during his final two years, he appeared to resign himself to the fact that his legacy was far from assured, and that powerful forces in the leadership and in society at large were arrayed against it.
    • Andrew G. Walder, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (2015), p. 319
  • Mao Zedong left China in a quiet crisis, an unsettled state and society very much in flux. After the arrest of the officials on whom Mao depended to launch the Cultural Revolution and fight to preserve its legacy, there was little doubt that the Cultural Revolution, and the core ideas that had inspired it, would be repudiated. There was obvious popular yearning for social and political stability and a rise in living standards. In many ways, the devastation that Mao left in his wake gave his successors the opportunity for a new start. So much of the Soviet-inherited institutions had been smashed and had yet to be rebuilt. There was great uncertainty about the direction that China should take.
    • Andrew G. Walder, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (2015), p. 341
  • Today, half a century after the launch of the Cultural Revolution, Mao has been reduced to a benign cultural icon. His image is displayed on China’s national currency, replacing the workers, peasants, tractors, and steam shovels of the Mao era. His face adorns the ubiquitous badges, posters, and other artifacts produced in the hundreds of millions during the era of the Mao cult, now marketed everywhere to tourists. Theme restaurants with Cultural Revolution–era decor entertain diners with songs and dances from the Red Guards and “loyalty to Mao” era. “New left” intellectuals, dissatisfied with the corruption and inequality spawned by China’s turn toward market-oriented state capitalism, hark back to the Mao era for its positive accomplishments; ordinary citizens reflect with nostalgia on the Mao era as a simpler, less money conscious, more egalitarian, and less corrupt time. The party leadership celebrated the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth by emphasizing the positive accomplishments of his reign, seeking to solidify the party’s legitimacy, celebrate its history, and reinforce national pride. These views of Mao, and of the Mao era, are very different from the ones that prevailed in the late 1970s, as China began the long process of recovering from the damage of his misrule. They are based on highly selective historical memory and a great deal of forgetting.
    • Andrew G. Walder, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (2015), p. 343-344
  • Most of what Mao tried to do backfired on him. The central organizing theme of the book, starting with chapter 7 and going through the very end, is that each time Mao tried a bold initiative, it had outcomes that must have surprised him—certainly [that] he did not welcome—and he repeatedly changed his tactics and ran into new problems. In the end—although this isn’t explicitly argued—I think you could probably draw the conclusion from the story that Mao lost his way in the end and ended up doing things that did enormous harm to China. He became so fixated on maintaining his vision that he lost sight of the damage that it was causing the country. What’s remarkable about him as a leader of a communist country is that he’s the only one who ever fomented rebellion against the state that he’d set up. If he had only wanted to get rid of officials who disagreed with him, he didn’t need to do that. I think that’s the thing that is really most remarkable about Mao as a leader. The other thing that I think people should walk away [with] after reading the book is that the period from 1949 through 1976 was really the core of the Chinese revolution. We tend to think of revolutions as being over when a new government takes power. But in China, that was just the beginning. China had not changed very much in 1949. The party had only controlled limited areas of the countryside. It ran no cities. It had this extremely rapid military conquest of China. The revolution in China was not one where ordinary people rose up under the leadership of guerrilla forces and took power in the cities. The Communist Party was able in the late 1940s to create a large modern army in Manchuria, and it basically rolled south and then west across China. It was a military conquest. So basically, the transformation of China that took place—the revolution—really began in 1949 and ’50, after this army took power.
  • The things that Mao stood against—a leadership that is concerned with stability, with economic development, with security, with improving the standards of living of the Chinese people… those are the ultimate values for the leadership today, and Mao denigrated those ideas throughout his life. He did not want stability. He thought that if China was left to develop under stable dictatorship of the party, the party members would set themselves apart from ordinary people, would have a better lifestyle, would grasp privileges for themselves. He saw this happening in the Soviet Union, and he called this “revisionism.” He had this strange idea that it was capitalism or reversion to capitalism; it actually was the opposite of capitalism. What he foresaw as a future of China that he disapproved of was a bureaucratic dictatorship based on total state control and the privileges that inevitably came from that. If you understand in a clear-eyed fashion what Mao stood for and what he tried to fight for in his life, you realize that China’s leaders today—whatever their reverential attitude towards him is—they are doing everything that he fought against during his life. I think people in China are very fortunate that that is the case. In many ways, the polite and semi-worshipful attitude towards Mao by the current leadership really glosses over absolutely fundamental differences between China in that period and the leaders today. Another way in which it helps us to understand China today—and this is related to the campaign against corruption and all the similar things that people write about, things that have gone wrong in China under its market reforms—is that party officials (and I said this in the first few minutes) were under extraordinary scrutiny. They were under constant threat of being removed from power, criticized, even being put in prison for disobeying party policy. After Mao’s death, the party relaxed this kind of super-aggressive, almost punitive attitude towards party officials, and gave them a great deal more space to do what they wanted. One of the results, in the context of a market economy, is that they’ve enriched themselves. What’s interesting is this is more like capitalism, but it’s very different from what Mao said was capitalism back in the 1960s and ’70s. Another way in which it helps us to understand China today is that the relaxation of the control over party officials, the relaxation of the campaigns that were so damaging and bloody in China in that period, has led to an exacerbation of the abuse of power and the use of people’s positions to enrich themselves. As much as Mao was worried about this in his life, that was almost absent. People today look back on the Mao period, I think with some justification, as one where party officials were not as corrupt as they are today. They may have abused their power somewhat, but they led very simple, even spartan lives. No one amassed fortunes. Party officials today can travel abroad; they fill up the business and first class cabins of international air flights; they come here and they buy real estate. They’re part of the international jet set, the international elite. There was nothing like this when Mao was alive, and I don’t think he could even have imagined that this was a possibility.
  • Mao's socialism is both an ideology of modernization and a critique of Euro-American capitalist modernization. But this critique is not a critique of modernization itself. Quite the contrary-it is a standpoint based on a revolutionary ideology and nationalism that produced a critique of the capitalist form or stage of modernization. For this reason, on the level of values and history, Mao Zedong's socialism is a type of modern anticapitalist modernization theory. From the perspective of its impact on the state, Mao's elimination of the "three differences" in actual social praxis eliminated the possibility of the existence of the autonomous categories of the individual and the state, from which arose an unprecedentedly hegemonic bureaucratic state.
    • Wang Hui, "Contemporary Chinese Thought and the Question of Modernity", Social Text (1998)
  • Indeed, in China's historical context, modernization and the rejection of rationalization have proceeded together, and this has produced profound historical contradictions. For example, on the one hand, Mao Zedong centralized power to establish a modern state system; on the other hand, he launched the Cultural Revolution to destroy that system. On the one hand, he used People's Communes and collectives to promote China's economic development; on the other hand, he designed the social distribution system to avoid the severe social inequalities of capitalist modernization. On the one hand, he used the nationalization of the economy to subsume society under the state goal of modernization, in the process stripping individuals of all political autonomy; on the other hand, he was horrified and pained at the use of state mechanisms to suppress the autonomy of "the masses." In sum, inherent in China's socialist modernization experience is a historical antimodernity. This paradox has cultural roots, yet it is infinitely more important to search for an explanation in the dualsided historical discourse from which Chinese modernization emerged (namely, the search for modernization and reflections on the devastating consequences of Western modernization).
    • Wang Hui, "Contemporary Chinese Thought and the Question of Modernity", Social Text (1998)
  • There are many alternatives to thinking of Mao as a fiend who was China’s Hitler. One useful way to think of current assessments of Mao is a bit like American views of Andrew Jackson. Though admittedly far from perfect, the comparison is based on the fact that Jackson is remembered both as someone who played a significant role in the development of a political organization (the Democratic Party) that still has many partisans and as someone responsible for brutal policies toward Native Americans that are now often referred to as genocidal.
    Both men are thought of as having done terrible things, yet this does not necessarily prevent them from being used as positive symbols. And Jackson still appears on $20 bills, even though Americans now tend to view as heinous the institution of slavery, of which he was a passionate defender, and the early 19th-century military campaigns against Native Americans, in which he took part. At times Jackson, for all his flaws, is invoked as representing an egalitarian strain within the American democratic tradition, a self-made man of the people who rose to power via straight talk and was not allied with moneyed elitists. Mao stands for something roughly similar. Workers in state-owned industries who in recent years have been laid off understandably associate Mao with a time when laborers got more respect, and he is remembered by some as a Communist leader who, for all his mistakes, never forgot his roots in the countryside and never viewed himself as belonging to a caste that was superior to ordinary folk.
    • Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010)
  • The feelings of ordinary Chinese toward Mao run the gamut from nostalgia to fury, admiration to disdain. There continue to be long lines to view his body, which remains on display in the lavish mausoleum in the center of Tiananmen Square that was built soon after his death. But not everyone who goes to look at him does so in a spirit of reverence (it has long been said that there are those who go just to make sure that the tyrant they feared is really dead, and there are many who go simply as tourists), though some definitely do go to pay homage to a man they still think of as a kind of deity. Most, no doubt, have a mindset not unlike that which citizens of today’s France might have when visiting Napoleon’s tomb, considering Mao a person of undeniable importance in their country’s past, who had his dark side and also made significant contributions to the nation, without which it would not be what it is now.
    • Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010)
  • I often heard peasants talk about the Great Leap Forward as though it was some sort of apocalypse that they had by some miracle escaped... We walked along the village... Before my eyes, among the weeds, rose up one of the scenes I had been told about, one of the banquets at which the families had swapped children in order to eat them. I could see the worried faces of the families as they chewed the flesh of other people's children... What had made them swallow that human flesh, amidst the tears and grief of other parents—flesh that they would never have imagined tasting, even in their worst nightmares? In that moment I understood what a butcher he had been, the man "whose like humanity has not seen in several centuries, and China not in several thousand years": Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong and his henchmen, with their criminal political system, had driven parents mad with hunger and led them to hand their own children over to others, and to receive the flesh of others to appease their own hunger. Mao Zedong, to wash away the crime that he had committed in assassinating democracy, had launched the Great Leap Forward, and obliged thousands and thousands of peasants dazed by hunger to kill one another with hoes, and to save their own lives thanks to the flesh and blood of their childhood companions. They were not the real killers; the real killers were Mao Zedong and his companions.
    • Wei Jingsheng, 'Mon évolution intellectuelle entre seize et vingt-neuf ans', in La Cinquième Modernisation et autres écrits du "Printemps de Pékin", trans. and ed. Huang San and Angel Pino (1997), pp. 244-246, quoted in Jean-Louis Margolin, 'China: A Long March into Night', The Black Book of Communism (1999), pp. 493-494
  • Communism was to be China’s weapon for modernization, according to the party’s propaganda. It would make the country rich and strong. But Mao’s agenda went further than the creation of a modern, wealthy country. He wanted to transform Chinese society and people’s ways of thinking. It was “old China” that was to blame for the country’s weakness, Mao thought, more than even British, Japanese, or American imperialists. He liked to compare traditional, Confucian forms of thinking to women with bound feet, hobbling along while being disdained by others. His “new China,” on the other hand, should be youthful, progressive, and militant. Those who stood in the way were “pests” to be exterminated; landlords, priests, and capitalists were holding China back on purpose, in order to serve their own interests. They had to go, as did all those forces that blocked the new society the Communists would create. For Mao this was a millennial struggle. It was China’s last chance to redeem itself and retake its rightful position in the world.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (2017), Chap. 9 : China's Scourge
  • He thus played the role of China’s Kemal Ataturk as well as her Lenin — and even, in strict truth, of her Stalin. Whereas Lenin enjoyed only a few short years of creative power after 1917, Mao followed thirty years of struggle to establish a Communist state with almost thirty years of power to build socialism in China. The challenge came less from the anti-Communists than from opponents and rivals within the Communist Party itself. Much of Mao’s energy was expended in unnecessary battles with comrades whose basic ideals he shared.
    • Dick Wilson, Mao: The People's Emperor (1979), Introduction
  • Having defeated Japan and Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s, he went on to declare war against the earth in the 1950s and against human nature in the 1960s. He tried for the extremes — of thorough-going free speech in the Hundred Flowers, of personal collectivism in the Great Leap Forward, of integral equality between leaders and led in the Cultural Revolution. In each case he failed, because his Party would not support him, but in each case there was some residue of the experiment which survived in China and made its Communism, its national life, distinctive. The modified people’s commune is now entrenched as a vehicle for China’s agrarian development in all its aspects — political, social and economic.
    The person behind this achievement, however, remains inscrutable. A man of enormous energy and drive, fuelled by a consuming hatred of authority and resentment of being rejected on grounds of breeding or education, he stormed through life detached and seemingly invulnerable to its blows. He persuaded many of his closest kinfolk and friends to join his revolutionary cause, only to see them die in the cruel fight for its success. From his succession of marriages only an occasional glimpse of affection is revealed. He was loving with his children while they were infants, but cavalier and insensitive once they were adult. In the end no one gained his heart: the human emotions were for him subordinated to the lonely quest for power.
    • Dick Wilson, Mao: The People's Emperor (1979), Conclusion


  • There were big differences between Mao during and after the revolution—I talked about this in my book The Historical Process of the Sinicization of Marxism. The most important distinction is that before the founding of the PRC, as Mao himself said, both he and the other leaders of the Communist Party were always "in a state of fear and trembling, as if treading on thin ice," fearing that the slightest misstep, or any strategic error, would send the Party into a deep abyss. This was based on Mao's principle of absolute strength, because in those days the Communist Party had too many enemies, and the situation was ever-changing, so a slight mistake could indeed cause big problems. Thus prior to 1949, Mao Zedong was always a cautious person, not very radical, not so "left." In fact it was quite the opposite, and in traditional party history, the Party had experienced three “left deviations.” At the time, everyone was left, and Mao Zedong was someone who resisted and criticized the left, and thus was more to the right. Indeed Mao was always regarded as a representative of rightist and conservative tendencies by the representatives of the Komintern and the CCP Central Committee. At the time, the basic policy of the leaders of the CCP, including the representatives of the Komintern in China, was to attack, so it was natural that there were many conflicts between the two, and it was inevitable that Mao Zedong would be under pressure. The biggest change in Mao Zedong after the founding of the PRC was that he was no longer cautious. It is not wrong to say that he was arrogant, but to be specific, what happened was that Mao Zedong's judgment of power differentials was increasingly wide of the mark.
  • In Mao a politician’s grasp of the historical moment was coupled with a poet’s whimsy, and it was often through some improvised flourish that he would unveil his program. When the Communist Party Central Committee and the top brass in Beijing tried to clamp down on popular protests, Mao did not use his supreme authority as party chairman to set his colleagues straight. Instead, he employed the very same approach as the masses by writing a big-character poster of his own, entitled “Bombard the Headquarters,” protesting that “some leading comrades” had adopted “the reactionary stand of the bourgeoisie … encircling and suppressing revolutionaries” and “stifling opinions different from their own.” You can imagine people’s reaction: what can it mean when the great leader Chairman Mao has gone so far as to write a big-character poster? It can mean only one thing—that Chairman Mao is in the same boat as ordinary people like themselves! No wonder, then, that the great proletarian Cultural Revolution soon engulfed China with the speed of an unquenchable wildfire.
    Historically, emperors have always cut the kind of figure and spoken the kind of language expected of an emperor, no matter how exalted or how humble their origins. Mao was the only exception. After he became leader, he often acted quite out of keeping with accepted norms, taking his comrades in the Communist Party leadership completely by surprise. Mao understood very well how to whip the masses into a frenzy, and by appearing on the Gate of Heavenly Peace in the early stages of the Cultural Revolution and greeting fanatical “revolutionary students” and “revolutionary masses” there, he impelled the high tide to ever greater heights.
    • Yu Hua, China in Ten Words (2011)


  • The feeling is shared by some older people. Amid today's chronic corruption and widening income disparity, Mao as a megalomaniac who launched the Cultural Revolution and other violent political campaigns during their youth seems very distant from China’s present-day reality. Many of China's elderly, especially those from the bottom social strata who did not benefit much from the country's economic boom, miss Mao’s reign and have become nostalgic for the Mao era, which they have romanticized as more socially fair and morally pure. Mao represents a simpler time before China became so money-obsessed and people began to believe in nothing but personal gain.
    In a strange twist of fate, although Mao eliminated all form of private capital in China, he now enjoys a deified status among many of the self-made rich elite because, according to one account, they admire Mao’s tenacity and his ability to turn weakness into strength. They worship Mao as a God. In a visit to Mao’s hometown, Shaoshan, in 2014, I was amazed to watch local wealthy Chinese in flashy Mercedes hire uniformed guards to march with them to lay flowers and wreaths in front of a giant copper status of Mao.
    Mao is not dead—his ghost continues to haunt China.

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Religious al-GhazaliAmbedkarAugustine of HippoAquinasAugustineAurobindoCalvinChestertonDanteDayanandaDostoyevskyEliadeGandhiGirardGregoryGuénonJesusJohn of SalisburyJungKierkegaardKołakowskiLewisLutherMaimonidesMalebrancheMaritainMoreMuhammadMüntzerNiebuhrOckhamOrigenPhiloPizanQutbRadhakrishnanShariatiSolzhenitsynTaylorTeilhard de ChardinTertullianTolstoyVivekanandaWeil
Socialist AdornoAflaqAgambenBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBernsteinButlerChomskyde BeauvoirDebordDeleuzeDeweyDu BoisEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFrommGodwinGoldmanGramsciHabermasKropotkinLeninLondonLuxemburgMaoMarcuseMarxMazziniNegriOwenPaine RortyRousseauRussellSaint-SimonSartreSkinnerSorelTrotskyWalzerXiaopingŽižek
  1. "Big bad wolf". The Economist. 31 August 2006. Retrieved on 28 July 2015.