10 Brutal Realities of Life in Mao’s China

10 Brutal Realities of Life in Mao’s China

Mao Zedong, who you may also know as Chairman
Mao, is one of those rare people whose actions have affected the lives of countless millions. He ushered his own brand of communism in China,
and held the massive country in an iron grip for decades. But what was life like under this initially
benevolent-seeming leader who gradually shifted into a ruthless dictator? Let’s find out… 10. The civil war between Mao’s communists and
the ruling National Party Mao seized power in 1949, but it was by no
means an easy task. The power shift came in the form of a ruthless
conflict that started at the heels of the second Sino-Japanese war in 1945, and raged
on for years. The war with Japan and the emergence of communism
had divided China in three factions: The regions controlled by Japan, the ones controlled by
Mao’s communists, and the Kuomingtang nationalists fighting under Chiang Kai-Shek. Japan’s WWII defeat took them out of the
equation, and the clash between the remaining two became known as the Chinese Civil War. The Nationalist government troops were much
larger and they were initially the stronger side, but as the battles progressed, it became
evident that the communists were the cool new kid on the block. As communism spread throughout Asia, they
gained both momentum and ground, and mediation attempts by the U.S. completely failed to
defuse the situation. By 1949, the underpowered but far more driven
communists of the People’s Liberation Army had secured China from their enemies … and
the country was declared the People’s Republic of China. 9. The Great Leap Forward One of Mao’s most ambitious goals was to
change China from an agrarian farming society to a modern, industrial megapower. Unfortunately, he thought that this massive
change could be achieved in just a few years, and without any notion as to what his subjects
wanted. Even more unfortunately, he decided to focus
on labor-intensive industrialism instead of the sort that required machines and investments,
which meant he needed lots and lots of people moved to new, unfamiliar industrial tasks
at newformed communes. If you think that this sounds a lot like he
was sentencing a huge chunk of his population to work camps, well, there have been worse
analogies. The result of Mao’s ambitions was the Great
Leap Forward, a two-year game of population chess that has been called the greatest mass
murder in history. From 1958 to early 1960, the Chairman and
his cohorts reverted millions and millions of people who had previously worked in agriculture
to communes where they were harnessed in various small-scale industry activities. In the process, many agricultural implements
were destroyed and farm animals were killed, and the removal of the workforce from food
production first resulted in crops rotting in the fields, and then very little crops
at all. When frightful leaders of the ineffective
communes lied about the size of their crops to make themselves look better, the bureaucrats
nodded … and carried away all the “surplus” food they didn’t actually have, leaving
the workers to starve. At this point, even Soviet Union took one
look at what China was doing and withdrew its support. Add in a few natural disasters and unfortunate
weather conditions, and a large-scale disaster was ready. Before the Great Leap Forward was called off,
it caused massive environmental damage throughout China and killed a literally immeasurable
number of people. No one knows the precise amounts of victims
— though China insists the “official” death toll was 14 million people, experts
have estimated the real number somewhere between 20 and 48 million. 8. The atrocities of the 1966 Cultural Revolution In 1966, Mao launched his (in)famous Cultural
Revolution that was officially meant to revive the country’s communist cultural strivings
and reach it to new, glorious heights. While he hoped that the plan would help China
become the ultimate socialist country and rise himself into the position of “the man
who leads Planet Earth into socialism,” it was also a handy plot for the now elderly
Chairman to get rid of the people plotting against him. As a result, the whole endeavor was a ploy
that Mao used to “strengthen communist ideology,” and it just so happened that the best way
to do that was to cull the people who opposed him. Mao let the party faithfuls loose on his enemies,
and had the official media slander them. Gangs of the party’s Red Guards and students
attacked people who they thought were wearing “bourgeois” clothing, signs interpreted
as “imperialist” were torn down and non-conforming party members were either murdered or driven
to suicide. The brutalities were so complicated and widespread
that historians are still trying to make sense of it all, but it’s generally agreed that
up to two million people lost their lives and the country’s economy was thoroughly
crippled. In the end, the only goal the Revolution reached
was plunging China into a decade of turmoil, hunger and mindless violence. The Cultural Revolution also managed to destroy
much of China’s cultural heritage. 7. Mao’s cult of personality A key part of Mao’s rule was the cult of
personality centered around him. The “Cult of Mao” depicted the Chairman
as a benevolent leader and infallible ideological visionary who loomed over everyone else, both
metaphorically and as a literal giant watching over the people in propaganda posters. To keep up with this image, the mistakes and
failures of his regime were routinely either downplayed or blamed on other, lesser Party
members. This hero worship was a far cry from Marxist
ideals, which despised the cult of an individual person, but he sold it to the party as a necessity
to boost morale: After all, thousands of years of emperor worship couldn’t just vanish
overnight, and the people would need something to fill the void. This certainly worked for Mao’s purposes. In time, his public image became that of an
unchallengeable, iconic figure that was all but impervious to criticism. His shadow is felt though the man himself
is long gonel, and elements of his borderline messianic status in parts of China have carried
over to the new millennium. 6. Labor camps In 1949, the Chinese communists set up a system
of Laogai camps, which were a network of labor camps modeled after the Soviet gulags. Laogai camps were technically just for work
and re-education — “re-education through labor,” if you will — and there were rules
that prevented the camp officials from torturing and abusing the prisoners. However, the ruleset was purely technical,
and creative camp leaders were able to torture prisoners who didn’t fill their daily work
quota with tricks like tying them to bamboo poles and exposing them to mosquitoes and
elements, without ever actually hitting them. As the Atlantic reported in 2013, the Laogai
camp system didn’t exactly go away with Mao. It survived to modern times, providing handy
workforce with minimal costs. The camps often have two names to mask their
real nature: a “secret” administrative name, and a public name that made it seem
like a legitimate business. For instance, one camp was publicly known
as ‘Yunnan Province Jinma Diesel Engine Plant,’ but its true, administrative name
is listed as ‘Yunnan Province Prison No. 1.’ 5. Brutal executions Brutal executions were a tragic consequence
of Mao’s ruthless rule. Between 1947 and 1957 alone, the communist
regime killed an estimated five million civilians, and a good chunk of this was premeditated. Mao’s early regime used violence and scare
tactics to silence the opposition and to dirty the hands of ordinary people to make them
accomplices. Mao’s idea was to turn people against each
other so “they had their hands bloodied in the pact sealed in blood between the party
and the people.” When everyone was dirty, no one could go back
and the only way was forward … namely, Mao’s forward. As a result, villagers had to bloody their
hands by denouncing and killing “landlords,” who were largely just ordinary farmers. They were buried alive, or tied up and dismembered
while they were helpless. Even their children weren’t always safe,
and some particularly zealous people killed them for being “little landlords.” Meanwhile, the regime often staged public
executions on stadiums, where hundreds of people witnessed the deaths. 4. The anarchy of 1967 One particular unforeseen side effect of Mao’s
cultural revolution was the anarchy of 1967. Removing various party power players from
under Mao had created a power vacuum, and multiple factions of the Red Guard were trying
to get as large a slice of the pie as possible, which led to battles that sent many cities
on the brink of full anarchy. Lin Biao, Mao’s designated successor, was
ordered to restore order by sending army troops to various cities. This went roughly as well as sending the military
to urban areas tends to go: Although the military managed to push the Red Guards of the problem
areas to more rural areas and stop their conflict, the chaos in the cities sent the country’s
economy in free fall. 3. The Great Famine Mao’s Great Leap Forward may have been the
largest mass murder in history, but the Great Famine is what did the most of the actual
dirty work. Thanks to the communist regime’s actions
toward forcefully shifting the country’s production wheels toward industrialization,
tens of millions of people starved. The Great Famine was easily the world’s
largest famine, and between 1959 and 1961 an estimated 30 million people starved to
death. What’s more, a similar amount of life was
lost over that time due to lost or postponed births. China is still hesitant to make a detailed
look into the Great Famine, but voices such as journalist Yan Jisheng have written extensively
about the tragedy. Jisheng describes the events from the viewpoint
of an otherwise unremarkable Henan province city, where one in eight people were wiped
out by starvation and starvation-induced brutality in just three years. Officials tried to commandeer more grain than
farmers actually have. In a single commune, 12,000 people died over
the span of just nine months. Children begging for food from the officials
were dragged deep into the mountains and left to die. There are terrifying true stories of cannibalism
and entire villages slowly dying, the last remaining inhabitant finally going insane. 2. Mango worship If you want an example of just how crazy things
could get under Chairman Mao, look no further than China’s cult of the mango. Mao once received a crate of mangoes as a
present from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but evidently didn’t much care for the fruit
since he immediately re-gifted the crate to a group of peasants occupying a university. Overwhelmed by the fruit basket from their
noble leader, the workers decided to send one of the mangoes to each of the most important
factories in Beijing. The people immediately started associating
the fruit with Mao, and since the man’s cult of personality was already in full flow,
things got a little… weird. The People’s Daily newspaper published poems
about the mango. Factory workers held huge ceremonies around
the fruit, preserving it in wax, placing it in altars and bowing to it. One tool factory decided to send their mango
to a sister factory in Shanghai, and chartered an entire plane for its transport. People started making fake plastic and wax
mangoes to worship, and mango-themed merchandise started popping up. Mango-brand cigarettes were a huge hit and
the 1968 National Day parade featured mango-themed floats. You could even get killed over a mango; When
a dentist in a small village compared a touring mango (yes, there were touring mangoes) to
a sweet potato, he was put on trial for slander and promptly executed. The reason for the mango craze was ultimately
simple: Apart from being associated with Mao, the fruit was virtually unknown in China,
so it was like the Chairman had suddenly given them the communist version of the Forbidden
Fruit. Ultimately, the mango cult turned out to be
little more than a particularly weird (and occasionally homicidal) meme. The craze lasted for 18 months before people
came to their senses and moved on. 1. Mao’s final days and the power vacuum he
left Chairman Mao, the “Great Helmsman,” died
in 1976 after assorted issues with his lungs and heart, and as his body was (against his
living wishes) embalmed for future display in a darkly comedic, bumbling process that
may or may not have involved his head swelling up like a football, the country was a mess. Mao’s final year was marked by disaster
and setback, and one of the most devastating earthquakes in China’s history had struck
only a few months earlier, causing many of the more traditional Chinese to lose faith
in the leadership. There was no clear idea of who would assume
control after Mao. The most likely successor — a virtual unknown
called Hua Guofeng — took steps to cement his power by arresting his opponents and becoming
the new Chairman, but in the end his only claim to power was a personal link to Mao,
who wasn’t exactly around to watch his back. When Hua’s hastily formed, 10-year “four
modernizations” policy to improve China’s economy was such a disaster that the country
shook its head and abandoned it in less than a year, a challenger emerged in the form of
Deng Xiaoping. Deng was a twice-purged and twice rehabilitated,
resilient veteran of the communist leadership, who was less about ideology and more about
pragmatic “if it works, it works” attitude. In fact, the main reason for his second purge
was his famous saying that he “did not care whether a cat was black or white as long as
it caught mice.” In a country ravaged by decades of ideological
ideas, a little bit of pragmatism was ultimately enough to seize the power, and Deng eventually
emerged as China’s new top dog.

70 thoughts on “10 Brutal Realities of Life in Mao’s China

  1. Mao was of course the worst mass murderer of the 20th century. It's interesting to note that the current dictator Mr. Xi, sees the foreign occupations of parts of China by Japan, and various western powers in the 20th century as the great "humiliation". But Mao destroyed the cultural and economic legacy of China throughout his lifetime, yet his picture is now on the 100RMB note. Seems that over it's 5000 years of history, China has done more damage to themselves than any "laowai" has ever done.

  2. This is why todays teenage communists must be sent to post-soviet states to get educated on what real communism is or be put on death row as a threat to humanity afterwards.

  3. Communist came to my states capital (Sacramento, California) to lobby for a "Communist Day". These savages know no shame. Nazis are saints compared to communists.

  4. Now make a video about Armenian genocide by ottoman empire, Kashmir pandits genocide by islamists in Indian Kashmir .

  5. And western countries still do trade with this abomination of a country. I fear we will all pay a heavy price for this one day…

  6. 68 million people died in World War 2 total everyone be it soldiers, citizens, freak accidents, bombing runs, 2 nuclear weapons, gas chambers, etc everyone
    Chinese "revolution" resulted in the death of over 100 million with the largest majority being citizen not associated with either party in the war.

  7. Chinese official never admitted any large number death toll for both the great leap forward and the cultural revolution.

  8. Nothing is very enjoyable hearing how tens of millions were starved or tortured to death under Chairman Mao's overstayed dictatorship, Simon.

  9. Mao Zedong was the real life Thanos. He basically killed off half his population so the other can eat.

  10. Hate the advert break in the middle of this interesting video. That’s the reason for the dislike.

  11. It's incredible, terrifying really, that one person could be so capable of so much evil. What's sad is that three of the most well none people in the world (Hitler, Stalin, & Mao) and they were worshiped as gods by the very people that they slaughtered.

  12. Google helped China ban this video before it was even finished uploading.
    Who here doubts this statement?
    Google: Don't be evil.
    Lol, funny joke, Google…

  13. I lived in Shanghai for 4 years and felt surprised at how the people there still revere him as a great leader–they say this amongst themselves, in local dialects, not 'to Westerners' specifically. Even the Shanghainese, who endured the worst of the Cultural Revolution, speak of him with reverence and pride…

  14. The more I watch these videos, the more I respect the modern Chinese. They started from a stupidly behind starting point and grow into one of the most influential countries in the world.

  15. The dictatorship is still going on in China, yet they think themselves as the best of best. What a pathetic country.

  16. I'm a regular watcher of VisualPolitik and TopTenz. Please do a video on Bengali genocide committed by pakistani forces.

  17. Never like Mao, Marxism is never meant to be dictatorial.

    Imagine yourself being just an owner(king) of your own house and lose your mind or life over your possessions, what man could resist the temptation of owning the whole country or even, the world.

  18. Mangoes are amazingly delicious. However, breadfruit, crates and crates of breadfruit dropped from the sky would have been helpful.

  19. ive read numerous books about this kind of thing. Simon just brushes across the crazy crap China did.

    no insult meant to Simon. still a very informative video.

  20. Right, years ago I had a clerk, she was born during the cultural revolution, she was completely brainwashed. If it weren't tragic it'd be absurdly comical. She was in the States as her husband forced her to leave with him after Tianemen square.

  21. Marxism is a non theistic cult religion. People subscribe to it like any mythology. It cannot and has never been verified in the natural world. Yet, Marxists continue their magical thinking while always providing excuses for why it didn't work LAST time.

  22. What about the dictatership the Catholic church had during the dark ages no one on the right wants to talk about that

  23. They calculate the gorillians in a completely fraudulent way. What they do is take census data from one period, make up some formula (the stupider, the better) to calculate the population totals at some future data, then compare it to real data from that period and say "Person X killed 55 gorillian." It's completely bogus. More to the point, all the "people" killed are simply ghost babies that were never born to begin with. Might as well say if you kill 1 person, you killed infinity people, because you killed all their would be descendants.

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