September 9th 1976: Chairman Mao dies
On this day in 1976, the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong died just after midnight at the age of 82. Born in 1893 into a Chinese farming family, the young Mao quickly developed an interest in Marxist and Communist ideology. After World War Two, a civil war broke out in China between the ruling nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek and the communists he had tried to purge. Despite having the support of many Western nations like the United States, Chiang Kai-shek was defeated and Mao, who had led the communists, was victorious. On October 1st 1949 Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Mao then ruled the country as Chairman of the Communist Party, and under his rule any opposition to the communist regime was ruthlessly suppressed. Millions died under his rule, some from his disastrous policies like the ‘Great Leap Forward’ of 1958 which tried to rapidly transform China from an agrarian to industrial economy and triggered a deadly famine. Millions more died under his ruthless persecution, especially after the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1966 which aimed to purge counter-revolutionary forces in Chinese society. Overall Mao’s rule is believed to have caused the deaths of 40 to 70 million people. In his last years Mao worked to ease tensions with Western powers and met with US President Nixon in China in 1972. Mao Zedong died in 1976 following a period of deteriorating health; his body lay in state at the Great Hall of the People for ten days and his embalmed body remains on display in his mausoleum in Beijing.