Mao always claimed to have settled a democratic communist state, but this declaration is pretty much false… In fact, People’s Republic of China had all the aspect of an authoritarian dictatorship… Mao established that the PRC could only have one leader, one party in the elections: the Chinese Communist Party and it made a severe use of propaganda.
In 1962, Mao advocated the Socialist Education Movement (SEM), which was his way to educate younger generations to true communist values but overall to build a severe propaganda around him based on the rewriting and extrapolation of his ambitions, acts and achievements. This youth was for him what will later be the Red Army which will be totally loyal to Mao’s ideas, personality and ambitions. This youth will later obey blindly to his ideas and policies. The propaganda was even more intensified by a certain cult of personality set around Mao by the government to the families, it was very common to find the portrait of Mao in the living room of the Chinese households, posters of Mao were as well highly common during his lifetime. In 1962, great quantities of politicized art were produced and circulated with Mao at the center.
Poster of propaganda showing the perfect Chinese household with Mao's Portrait on the wall
Poster of propaganda representing Mao writing
Poster of propaganda representing the Long March
The Cult of Mao proved vital in starting the Cultural Revolution. The government discouraged the creation Art for the sake of beauty and required it to serve political needs: to glorify China and Communism. So all art forms slowly became means of propaganda for the political party, with also songs, statues, posters, and even theater.
But the most important feature of Mao’s propaganda was the world famous little Red book, which contained and promoted quotes from Mao’s speeches on various subjects such class struggle, "correcting mistaken ideas" and the "mass line". The book was published on billions of copies. The book was a sort of Bible of Mao’s thought, and it became so important that it became it became almost mandatory to own and carry one during the Cultural Revolution. This book was even sold outside China to forreign countries. This revealed to be a great tool of propaganda which contributed to the huge cult of personality present around the character of Mao.
Examplary of Mao's Red Book
Even though, history proved that Mao not only had supporters but also rebels as many attempts of murder were made against him. Mao was thus not afraid to send Chinese people to a labor camp called the Laogai and sometimes send them to death. The best example of this is the hundred flowers campaign.
This campain was launched in 1956 and consisted in allowing Chinese people to let off some steam by sending letters of recommandations and complaints in order to improve the country’s leadership and policies. In fact hundreds thousands of letters were sent which led Mao to crack down to critics and do what he called « pluck the poisonous weeds from the bed of flower » which consisted in arresting hundreds of pro-democracy activist and launching the « Antic Rightist » campain. This campain resulted in the killing and the sending of 500000 governments critics to « reeducation » through labor camps. So Mao lied by saying that he established a true democratic communist dictatorship, as his regime turned out to be simply an authoritarian, suspicious regime providing a strong propaganda and cult of personality around Mao and restricting its people freedom of thoughts and speech. This sadly reminds us of other emblematic historic figures…
Chinese soldiers about to shoot a Chinese citizen
Stalin and Mao fighting fascism
Mao the torturer:
Even if Mao allowed significant improvements in his country and his population, this character also impeded his population’s conditions of life and was the source of numerous deaths…