Was Mao himself a product of the international environment?

Mao Zedong was a product of the international environment of his time. He rose to power partly because of the instability that Western nations had brought to China. His key ideas derived from foreign figures like Karl Marx.

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To figure out if Mao Zedong was a product of the international environment, one will have to do some research into the life of Mao and into the history of China. One will have to see if global events and ideas played a part in the formation of Mao’s character and reign.

One element that allowed Mao to take power was the general instability of China. China’s fragility can be attributed to the exploitive relationship that China had with the West. The parasitical aims of the West weakened Chinese rulers and made them vulnerable to overthrow.

Indeed, rulers were not secure in China. Mao witnessed the 1911 Chinese Revolution, which felled the Qing dynasty and formed the Republic of China. Mao was also greatly impacted by the May Fourth Movement. Here, Chinese people protested the West’s role in giving some of their land to Japan. They also began to turn their back on Western values and embrace the communist ideals of Marxism and Leninism.

Mao’s beliefs were notably informed by the German thinker Karl Marx. Eventually, Mao would become chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and, with the help of the Soviet Union (another communist empire), violently implement his own version of communism throughout China.

The above indicates that Mao would not be the person that he was without the concomitant international political environment. In other ways, Mao is a product of the international environment. When it comes to culture, international cultural commodities, like Jean-Luc Godard’s film La Chinoise, exhibit Mao's global appeal and his transformation into a viable, cosmopolitan product.

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Mao Zedong was a product of the international environment. As a youth, he read about and admired George Washington both as a general and a supporter of democracy. At school in Changsha he was influenced by the writing of the American-educated Sun Yat-sen, who supported replacing the schlerotic and out-of-touch Chinese monarchy with a modern Western-style republic. Mao continued to study Western thinkers after graduating from the Changsha school, immersing himself, among others, in Adam Smith, Darwin, and Rousseau.

At Peking University, Mao came under the influence of Li Dazhao, a librarian who wrote newspaper articles about the Russian Revolution. Mao was deeply influenced by reading Western communists such as Lenin, Marx, and Engels. When Dazhao became a communist, Mao did as well, becoming one of the first in China and organizing the Changsha branch of the Chinese Communist Party.

When Mao took control of China, he followed Russia's lead in investing in large scale industrial projects meant to make the country competitive with West, and like the Russian communists, instituted aggressive Five-Year-Plans and the collectivization of farming.

Without the shaping influence of international thought, Mao would not have entertained the kind of radical ideas he did about modernizing and bringing revolutionary change to China. He certainly never would have become a communist and sought to transplant communist ideals to his homeland.

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Mao Zedong was very much a Chinese nationalist. Yet, he was still influenced indirectly by world events and the actions of other countries.

For starters, even early in his life as a revolutionary, Mao wanted to rid China of outside influences from the West, which he saw as weakening China's strength. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Western powers had been eroding Chinese sovereignty through a series of humiliating one-sided treaties. Mao saw how this weakened the Qing Dynasty and led to the 1912 overthrow of the monarchy. He also saw how weak China appeared to be in the aftermath of WWI when Japan was allowed to keep Chinese territory that had been surrendered by Germany. Mao was keenly aware of how other nations would take advantage of China whenever they could. This reality pushed him to envision and seek out a different future for his country.

Mao's ideology was also a product of the international environment. Early on in his revolutionary career, Mao was influenced by the writings of the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Communism as envisioned by the Germans Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels greatly informed how Mao would attempt to structure China after he came to power. Mao also made alliances with the Soviet Union, another communist nation, although the two nations would eventually part ways.

All this indicates that Mao was influenced by the international environment even if he was mostly motivated to restore Chinese supremacy at home.

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