Mao Tse-tung, alternately spelled Mao Zedung, was born in Hunan Province in South China on 26 December 1893. He is regarded as one of the leading communists of the last century. His theories on communism, warfare and revolution have been extremely influential. He was also responsible for a revolutionary program called The Great Leap Forward that cost the lives of 20 to 30 million people.
Although Mao's parents were farmers, they were by no means poor, and he received a good education. Around the age of 16, Mao began to develop a political consciousness. He joined a local army unit in 1911 and became part of the republican revolution.
In 1911, while working at a Beijing University, 3,000 students held a government protest in Tiananmen Square. Mao soon began to develop a Marxist-Leninist form of thinking. He believed that by using the potential of the peasant workers, the revolution in China would succeed.
By 1920, Mao was head of a primary school in Changsha. His efforts to bring education to the people were suppressed. He soon formed a small communist group.
The Chinese Communist Party had the backing of the Soviet Union and held its first meeting in 1921, with Mao acting as recording secretary. He was soon appointed to general secretary for Hunan Province and quickly set about organizing labor unions and strike actions. In 1927, Mao was thrown out of the party after organizing a disastrous protest in Hunan called the Harvest Uprising. From 1928 onwards, Mao began forming The Red Army. In 1931, he was elected chairman of the newly formed Soviet Republic of China.
During this time, war was raging between the Red Army and its opposition, the Guomindang. Mao was revolutionary in his guerrilla warfare tactics. In 1934, after the fifth attempt of the Guomindang to encircle Mao's camps, the legendary Long Walk began. Eighty thousand communists started on the trek to Yan'an, a distance of 6,000 miles (9,656 km). Only 8,000 were to reach the destination 12 months later.
After the second Sino-Japanese war ended, battle between the communists and their opposition continued. Eventually, Mao succeeded in becoming chairman of the People's Republic of China. During his reign, Mao broke with the traditional form of Soviet Communism, which led to the disastrous Great Leap Forward. Mao was replaced as leader by Liu Shaoqi.
Mao once again fought for his right to party leadership using the ideal of Cultural Revolution. He succeeded in removing Liu from power and was named as supreme commander of the nation and the army until his death in 1976.