.. and drinking wine. Although the peasants rejected the traditional Buddhist religion by spurning idols, Mao praises the peasants for saving certain idols such as, a statue of Pao Cheng who was a official in the Sung Dynasty (960-1127), an impartial judge. 31 Finally, he applauds the Hunan peasant association for restoring order, which was to be a theme echoed by Mao during the Cultural Revolution when Mao relied on the military to restore order. Mao’s belief in the ability of peasants to organize and rule was at the heart of the Communist success in attaining power.
In 1927, the Guomingdang broke with the Communists. Chased from the urban areas, the Communists fled to the countryside. 32 This proved to be a blessing. Throughout the 1930’s, the Communists organized the rural areas and solidified the party organization. 33 The Japanese invasion of China during World War II, also provided Mao with opportunity to draw the Chinese people behind him in an united front against the Japanese invaders.
Mao’s stature within the party continued to grow. After leading the Communists on the Long March to the City of Yunan in Northern China in 1935, he assumed leadership of the party at age 42. 34 Mao’s belief in harmony, set him upon a campaign that would solidify his power, and further strengthen his role, the Rectification Campaign (1942-1943). The Rectification Campaign was a harbinger of the purges that Mao would initiate again during the Cultural Revolution; it was a symbol of Mao’s belief in harmony and order. This campaign aimed at purging the party of Stalinist supporters. 35 Purging of dissident elements within the party created unity according to Mao.
The Rectification Campaign was a turning point for the Communists. With a strong leader, unity within, and a specifically tailored Chinese political ideology, the Communists made steady gains against the Guomingdang in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). By 1949, the Communists controlled the Chinese mainland. Not surprisingly, on October 1st, Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. Equally in character, Mao’s proclamation took place at the Imperial Gate in Tianamen Square, the gate where the Emperors of China had stood prior to the fall of the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1911.
36 During the next five years, Mao focused on structuring the new Chinese government. 37 Again, Mao turned to Chinese history. Using the Imperial governments as a blueprint, he copied the principles of an Imperial state, with a commanding head as the supreme authority. Like that of an ancient Chinese family tree, authority was placed in one person: Mao. 38 Below Mao in authority, were a plethora of overlapping bureaucracies.
39 This structure served Mao in later years as these branches squabbled amongst themselves allowing Mao to rise above these disputes and be able to exercise absolute imperial power. By the mid 1950’s, Mao had what the Chinese Emperors, his childhood heroes, had struggled to create: a unified mainland China with a supreme ruler. Mao’s lifestyle during the 1950’s also began to resemble the imperial luxury of a Chinese Emperor. 40 His court consisted of an inner circle of around thirty to forty people who worked to his rhythm. 41 In bed for days, lounging by the side of a private pool, or enjoying a bevy of women, Mao lived in an atmosphere reminiscent of the Forbidden City, the place where Chinese Emperors were isolated from their country. His appetite and desire for luxury was continually satisfied.
42 Mao emulated the First Tang Emperor of China43 binding people to him by discovering their weaknesses. Sycophantic advisors whose position resided with pleasing Mao, never disagreed with him. Security staff during the Great Leap Forward would set up vast potemkin fields of grain to lead Mao to think that the economy was doing well, while in reality, huge numbers of people were starving. Mao, born a peasant, had become an emperor. According to Mao’s personal doctor, Dr. Li Zhisui, At the end, the most loved man in China was friendless.
44 Mao also knew how to use Chinese culture to consolidate his place as the head of China. 45 The three great rivers of China, the Pearl, the Xiang, and the Yangtze were historically signs of the power of nature. Mao proposed that he swim the three great rivers in the spring of 1956. Mao’s security staff opposed the swim. He defied them and swam.
Chairman Mao was as mighty as the rivers he had swam, the propaganda posters depicting the swim seemed to say to the people of China. 46 One staff member, Yang Shangkun said, No other world leader looks down with such disdain on great mountains and powerful rivers. 47 Mao’s swimming in 1956 showed his desire to do what no one else had imagined which epitomized his power. Mao’s strength lay in his ability to devise colossal plans, plans that only an emperor would dream of and be able to execute. Shortly after his swim in the Yangtze, in July of 1956, Mao told Dr.
Li that he wanted to dam the Yangtze in the area of the Three Gorges. The dam was to be like Emperor Qin Shihuangdi’s Great Wall. 48 In February, 1957 Mao turned back to politics. He moved to solidify his power in the party. Again, he called upon traditional Chinese ideas. An ancient Chinese adage, let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend, 49 became The Hundred Flower’s Movement. Traditionally, Chinese intellectuals were given freedom to criticize the Imperial Governments without fear of persecution.
Many of the Chinese histories that Mao had read, were written by intellectuals who during imperial times had criticized the government. 50 A Hundred Flowers promoted criticism of the Communist Party. However, other leaders in the Communist Party, did not embrace such Chinese tradition. They condemned the Flowers Movement and launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign which condemned critics of the Communist party. 51 Undaunted by the failure of the Hundred Flowers Movement, Mao in May of 1958 launched another grandiose plan: the Great Leap Forward. This was Mao’s economic plan to transform China into an industrial nation in two years.
The plan was to decentralize agriculture and create communes which would promote heavy industry and agricultural production. 52 The Great Leap Forward seemed to symbolize Mao’s embrace of technology and industry. In fact, it epitomizes Mao’s reliance on traditional Chinese ideals first formulated in his observance of the peasant culture. The Great Leap Forward relied on a commune system, which operates much like the China of Mao’s childhood. Small villages would set rice quotas and economic priorities and work as a group, sharing.