Up to now, we've examined the change in ideas that prepared China for Maoism. But a personal dimension of this also needs to be examined: Mao himself.
Mao Tse-tung was born in 1893 to a family in a southern China village. From his childhood he always wanted to see Beijing and imagined living there. At age fifteen, he began to read young people's magazines published in the capital, and especially liked New Youth, a publication of the New Culture movement. This magazine was filled with articles by Darwinist ideologues such as Yen Fu and Ting Wen-chiang.
In 1918, Mao visited the city he always wanted to see. There he made friends with Yang Changzhi, a teacher from Beijing University who recognized the young man's talent and got him a job at the university library. Mao began his job of cataloguing and dusting the books and cleaning the rooms. He became friends with Li Dazhao, the director of the library, whose articles in New Youth he had read and liked. Li Dazhao had Communist ideas; for this reason, the university library became known as the Red Room. Chinese Communist theoreticians often met there, where Mao heard the names of Marx, Engels and Lenin for the first time.
After reading Darwin, Mao became an ardent Communist
He inherited Darwinist ideology from Sun Yat-sen.
But the man who brought the young Mao to embrace Communism was not from Beijing. After spending a few months at the Beijing library, Mao went to Shanghai and metChen Duxiu, a classical scholar and a friend of Li Dazhao who had made a special study of Darwin.68 This Communist leader's most striking feature was that he was an ardent Darwinist. He can be considered as China's most important advocate of Darwinism and became Mao's most important tutor. Years later, Mao was to say, "He had influenced me more than anyone else."69
In her book Mao, Clare Hollingsworth, a historian at the University of Hong Kong said that Mao was greatly influenced by the Darwinist views of Chen Duxiu and even in the 1970s he looked back nostalgically to the studies of Darwin he did in his youth.70
Chen Duxiu educated Mao in the scientific aspects of Darwinism; on the political level, he was influenced by Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese leader of the time. Interestingly, Sun Yat-sen, regarded as the founder of modern China and of the Kuomintang (the Nationalist Chinese Party), was also a Darwinist. In an article in The New Republic, the American researcher Jacob Heilbrunn writes:
After a bloody revolution, Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
...[I]t was the great Chinese revolutionary and nationalist Sun Yat-sen who decisively influenced Mao. Sun held that the Chinese had to embrace nationalism in order to defeat the Western powers, and he preached a doctrine of political Darwinism: "although natural forces work slowly, yet they can exterminate great races."As a young organizer for the communists in Hunan in the early 1920s, Mao supported Sun, who was the patriarch of the Kuomintang (KMT). Sun created a temporary alliance beween his nationalist party and the communists, and, in 1926, Mao was even briefly given control of the KMT's propaganda department.71
Brainwashed by the ideas of Darwin and Marx, Mao became an active, passionate Communist from 1920 onward. With eleven friends who thought as he did, he founded the Communist Party in Shanghai in 1921. Afterward, he strengthened the Communist Party by various alliances, skirmishes, guerilla battles and propaganda. For a while, the Communists under Mao cooperated with the Nationalist Party, but in the second half of the 1920s, each side became hostile to the other. Mao relocated his militants in Jiangxi province in southern China and there formed a "liberated zone" outside the central authority.
The struggle between the two sides lasted for years. After World War II, the Communist "liberated zone" continued to grow, to the point that it encompassed almost all of China. In 1949, Mao and his Communists entered Beijing and proclaimed the "People's Republic of China." With this, the world witnessed the second Communist Revolution after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917—a second revolution at least as bloody as the first.