Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping leadership

Mao And Deng

Leadership is a term used for defining the characteristics, qualities, skills, and objectives of an individual who successfully leads his or her particular group or organization in the attainment of the desired goal or objective.

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Background of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping


Mao Zedong was born Hunan Province in the rocky upland village of Shaoshan, Xiangtan Country. Mao began attending the village school in Shaoshan when he was eight years old. After only five years of school, however, his father had him return to the farm to work in the fields by day and manage the account books at night. Mao was six years older than the other students, and his ragged clothes and country manners were a source of great embarrassment to him. By early 1911, versed in the traditional classics and alert to the crisis of his country, the seventeen-year-old Mao was ready for larger things. He took a steamer to Changsha, where he was admitted to middle school and began reading newspaper. He rapidly became one of the most avid readers in his age group and later stated that his entire education had been through newspapers.


Deng Xiaoping was born Deng Xixian in Paifang Village in Xiexing township, Guang’an County, Sichuan Province. He was educated in France, participating in a work-study program for Chinese students, where many notable Asian revolutionaries, such as Ho Chi Minh and Zhou Enlai, discovered Marxism-Leninism.


From their background, we can see that both leaders were born in rural areas and educated there, which convince us that both leaders knew what exactly the farmers wanted and needed. However, Deng also had spent part of his life in France studying, to which it showed that Deng had already known the western ideas in his young and that can be part of the reason why Deng had not supported some of Mao’s policies such as not opening up the country to trade with capitalist countries such as USA.


Mao had toured China and concluded that the Chinese people were capable of anything and the two primary tasks that he felt they should target was industry and agriculture. Mao announced a second Five Year Plan to last from 1958 to 1963. This plan was called the Great Leap Forward.


The Great Leap Forward had developed the agriculture and industry, bostering China’s economy.China was reformed into a series of communes, giving her people more jobs and lower the unemployment rate. The commune was provided with all that was needed, showing that Mao Zedong had cared about the welfare of the communes. A leader can be considered good by people if he cares about them.


However, the qualities of the materials produced were very low as a large amount had to be produced with a very short period of time. Many people were injured during work because of lack of sleep. As a leader, Mao did not give the workers enough time to rest, which shows a lack of concern for them. Millions of people died of starvation in the following years and even Mao admitted that the policy was a failure.


Mao Zedong, as a leader of the largest country in Asia, had failed to identify the economic consequences of the Great Leap Forward. He lacked the foresight which is important to leaders. Mao has shown that he wanted things to be done quickly and has been impatient, which are not the qualities which a leader possesses.


However, he knew that China needs to develop and has shown the thirst for China to be a strong economic body. But the vision cannot be realistic without proper actions.


Four Modernizations were goals of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. They were introduced in 1976 by Zhou Enlai. The Four Modernizations are Agriculture, Industry, Science and Technology, and military. These reforms were a reversal of Mao Zedong policy of economic self-reliance. China decided to accelerate the modernization process by stepping up the volume of foreign trade, especially the purchase of machinery from Japan and the West. By participating in such export-led growth, China was able to step up the Four Modernizations by attaining certain foreign funds, market, advanced technologies and management experiences, thus accelerating its economic development.


Deng Xiaoping had known that foreign trades were needed to improve the Chinese economy, which were different from Mao Zedong’s isolation policy. As a leader, Deng needed to lead China out of poverty, with help of other countries, Deng was able to accelerate China’s economic development. Deng did not care, unlike Mao if the trade partner was a capitalist country. As a leader, Mao was afraid of the capitalist getting into the Chinese market and remained enemy with USA till the 1970s because of military reasons, not thinking of the economic benefits and the life of his people.


Analysis of Mao and Deng’s leadership qualities


Deng’s leadership style was significantly different from Mao Zedong, preferring a low key style of leadership. Deng never assumed the position of Communist Party Chief or head of the government, stating “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice.” Unlike Mao, Deng was not theoretically inclined. He thus described himself: ‘I have not read a lot of books; there is only one thing, that is to believe what Chairman Mao said about seeking truth from facts’.


Although economic conditions have improved since Deng succeeded Mao as


principal ruler in the late seventies, Deng had to institute market reforms and allow some foreign investment because Mao’s central planning and collective agriculture policies had left the economy in ruin, shows that Deng as a leader is capable of handling the economic ruins.


Deng Xiaoping had shown his leadership skills when solving economic problems such as the Open-door policy in the late 1970s and Gengshen Reforms in 1980. He was able to open China to the world even though Mao had opposed before his death.


Both Mao and Deng have been firm leaders. Both will eliminate any people that are considered threatening their reign. Mao’s purge of Liu Shaoqi during the Cultural Revolution and Deng’s order to bring the army to Tiananmen square in 1989 to eradicate the turmoil caused by protesters are good examples, which also showed that leaders have to be cruel in order to get the power.


Mao Zedong was a firm and decisive leader. He was quick and decisive to remove Lin Biao when Lin Biao and his group tried to get into power in 1971. For a leader, even to consolidate power is not an easy task, not even considering improving the economy.


Use the right man at the right place


One of the most important quality that a leader must possess is the ability to use the right man at the right place. Deng Xiaoping had previously appointed Zhao Ziyang who is the architect for China’s economy as the party’s scretary and Jiang Zemin who replaced Zhao Ziyang in 1989.


Mao also knew the importance of using the right man at the right place. Deng Xiaoping had been the vice premier during Mao’s era and Hua Guofeng was also handpicked by he himself.


Impacts of their leadership qualities to China’s economy


Mao’s main goal was to destroy the landlord-gentry classes and redistributing land to peasants, fulfilling the part of the socialist prospect for China. The reform lasted for 2 years and carried out with minimal force and military pressure, showing that Mao wanted everything to be carried out peacefully. This also reveals that Mao was a careful leader and one who was careful about his main supporters’ mood and feelings, the peasants.


Real power more important than comrades


In 1963, Mao had increasing conflicts between Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping-a sign of suspicion and difference in goals. Liu and Deng began planning to gradually retire Mao from any real power and turn him into a figurehead. Mao, in order to prevent him from being ‘stripped off his real power’, tried to eliminate his ex-comrades, Liu and Deng, shows that he was more concerned about his own leadership position than towards economic reconstruction and recovery after the failed Great Leap. He created Cultural Revolution to purge Liu and Deng but also ruined the economy and social lifes which had caused many people to die of starvation or “being capitalist”.


Deng Xiaoping, unlike Mao Zedong, decided to apply the Open Door Policy in the late 1970s to China which can be the turning point of the Chinese economy. Before Mao’s death, China was on self-reliance and often suffered from starvation but rejected help from capitalist countries. The lack of help, whether through technology, industry or investment, would have greatly benefited China.


The daring move by Deng has given China loans from all over the world, with trade and investment being encouraged. Deng had given China another way of getting prosperous, even until today, China has been practicing the policy.


Suppressing of supporters in Tiananmen Square 1989


Deng Xiaoping had ordered to suppress the protesters during the Tiananmen incident in 1989, which had caused the world’s protest. His style of dealing with students earned China a military weapons trade embargo by the European Union and other sanctions. Many tourists would also avoid going to China, causing the economy’s growth to slow down for a year.



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