Mao Zedong (Chinese: 毛泽东; Wade–Giles: Mao Tse-Tung ( listen); December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), courtesy name Runzhi(潤芝)， also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary, poet, political theorist and founding father of the People's Republic of China, which he ruled as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. His theories and military strategies and political policies are collectively known as Maoism or Marxism–Leninism–Maoism.
Born the son of a wealthy farmer in Shaoshan, Hunan, Mao adopted a Chinese nationalist and anti-imperialist outlook in early life, particularly influenced by the events of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and May Fourth Movement of 1919. Mao adopted Marxism–Leninism while working at Peking University and became a founding member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), leading the Autumn Harvest Uprising in 1927. During the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the CPC, Mao helped to found the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, led the Jiangxi Soviet's radical land policies and ultimately became head of the CPC during the Long March. Although the CPC temporarily allied with the KMT under the United Front during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), after Japan's defeat China's civil war resumed and in 1949 Mao's forces defeated the Nationalists who withdrew to Taiwan.
On October 1, 1949 Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China (PRC), a single-party state controlled by the CPC. In the following years Mao solidified his control through land reforms and through a psychological victory in the Korean War, and through campaigns against landlords, people he termed "counter-revolutionaries", and other perceived enemies of the state. In 1957 he launched a campaign known as the Great Leap Forward that aimed to rapidly transform China's economy from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. This campaign led to the deadliest famine in history and the deaths of more than 15 million people. In 1966, he initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a program to remove "counter-revolutionary" elements of Chinese society that lasted 10 years and which was marked by violent class struggle, widespread destruction of cultural artifacts and unprecedented elevation of Mao's personality cult and which is officially regarded as a "severe setback" for the PRC.
In 1972, Mao welcomed American President Richard Nixon in Beijing, signalling a policy of opening China, which was furthered under the rule of Deng Xiaoping (1978–1989). Mao suffered a series of heart attacks in 1976 and died at the age of 82 on September 9. Mao was succeeded as paramount leader by Chairman Hua Guofeng (1976–1978), who was quickly sidelined and replaced by Deng.
A controversial figure, Mao is regarded as one of the most important individuals in modern world history and is also known as a theorist, military strategist, poet and visionary. Supporters credit him with driving imperialism out of China, modernising China and building it into a world power, promoting the status of women, improving education and health care, as well as increasing life expectancy as China's population grew from around 550 million to over 900 million under his leadership. Conversely, his autocratic totalitarian regime has been vastly condemned for overseeing mass repressions and destruction of religious and cultural artifacts and sites, which through arbitrary executions, purges and forced labor caused an estimated 40 to 70 million deaths, which would rank his tenure as the top incidence of excess mortality in human history.
Smoking may have played an important role in his declining health, for Mao was a heavy smoker during most of his adult life. It became a state secret that he suffered from multiple lung and heart ailments during his later years. There are unconfirmed reports that he possibly had Parkinson's disease in addition to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Mao's last public appearance—and the last known photograph of him alive—was on May 27, 1976, when he met the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the latter's one-day visit to Beijing. Mao suffered two major heart attacks in 1976, one in March and another in July, before a third struck on September 5, rendering him an invalid. Mao Zedong died nearly four days later just after midnight, at 00:10, on September 9, 1976, at age 82. The Communist Party of China delayed the announcement of his death until 16:00 later that day, when a radio message broadcast across the nation announced the news of Mao's passing while appealing for party unity.
Mao's embalmed, CPC-flag-draped body lay in state at the Great Hall of the People for one week. During this period, one million people (none of them foreign diplomats, and the majority crying openly or otherwise displaying some kind of sadness) filed past Mao to pay their final respects. Chairman Mao's official portrait was hung on the wall, with a banner reading: "Carry on the cause left by Chairman Mao and carry on the cause of proletarian revolution to the end", until September 17. On September 17, Chairman Mao's body was taken in a minibus from the Great Hall of the people to Maojiawan to the 305 Hospital that Liu Zhisui directed, and Mao's internal organs were preserved in formaldehyde.