If you were ask to give a short narrative for those two very important historical figure, what words were to come into your mind?
Abraham Lincoln was consistently voted by US scholars as the greatest US president. He was even immortalized in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. However, don’t the ill informed Americans know he is the greatest mass murderer in US history? During his term of presidency, the US fought the most destructive and bloodiest war ever, WWII caused less destruction than the US Civil War. 3% of US population died in combat, starvation or even mistreatment in prisoner of war camps. Lincoln exercised his authority to suspend habeas corpus, arresting and temporarily detaining thousands of suspected secessionists without trial.
His blood thirsty generals like Grant, Sherman and Sheridan laid waste to a slew of cities in the South. Sherman ordered his troops to burn crops, kill livestock and consume supplies. Finally he destroyed civilian infrastructure along his path of advance. This strategy is one of the components of total war. During Sherman’s march to sea he ordered Atlanta, the capital of Georgia burnt to the ground for no good reason. Basically, wherever the Union troop went a path of devastation was left in its wake.
“The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars) in destruction, about one fifth of which “inured to our advantage” while the “remainder is simple waste and destruction.” The Army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills.”
Is this how Lincoln should be remembered?
It is obvious it is not. Based on the accolade given to him by US historians or public, he is one of the greatest US president if not the greatest. Lincoln also shared similar standing with worldwide audience. Lincoln was credited as the man who saved the union and freed the slaves. Basically he is recognized as the president who put the US on the path to future greatness. How does Mao Zedong compared to him?
Let’s put aside ideology for a moment and compare Mao’s achievement to Lincoln. Mao, is a guy who fought for over twenty years as a rebel (in fact, he was labelled by the authority as the worst kind of bandit). What exactly did he fight for? Fame and fortune? No, he and many individuals like him sacrificed so much to fight for equality and independence for his people. As a historical figure, Mao is the guy who gave land to landless farmers and gave them equal right to the rich and powerful. He also organized a very effective resistance to the invading Imperial Japanese Army.
Some detractors like to point out that the lion share of the fighting and casualties was bear by the Nationalist army. However, the various Nationalist army, despite suffering horrendous losses actually have little tangible results to show for. The key word here is “effective”. The Red Army grow from around fifty thousand in 1937 to close to a million strong by 1945. Contrary to common belief, the Soviet Union was too busy fighting the German invasion to supply even miniscule arms or supply to the Chinese Communist. In fact, the Soviet Union recognized the Republic of China’s government under Jiang Jieshi and supplied them with a decent amount of arms prior to 1941. From 1937 to 1945, the Red Army under Mao captured more than half a million pieces of small arms by attacking the Imperial Japanese Army and the various puppet Chinese collaborationist armies. Of course it is not a walk in the park for the communist lead forces either, in some stages they also suffered catastrophic losses but it bounced back stronger due to the enormous support it receives from the people.
So it comes as no surprise to realistic China watchers that the poorly equipped Communist would triumph over the 4 million strong Nationalist armies. The movement by Mao is not a simple armed movement. In addition to the land reform that gave each farming family their own farmland, it provided equal opportunity to women by giving them the same right as men. To top it off, the Communist party is the first government in China to give universal education.
By the late 1950s, China which was known as the sick man of Asia was able to successfully built up an industrial base. In the 1960s China came to possess nuclear, rocket, satellite technology and was pretty much self sufficient in all heavy industry. By the 1970s, the PRC took back the seat of permanent member in the UN security council and was universally recognized by the majority of the nations. At the time of his death Mao, China’s life expectancy has almost been doubled from a low base of 36. All school aged children are literate, before 1949 the literacy rate was less than 15%. Despite being embargoed by the strongest world economy bloc since its inception, the PRC was able to achieve tremendous growth. This is no simple task as to maintain its own independence, the PRC also has to break with the 2nd most powerful bloc in the world.
Mao has no illusion that China is a 3rd world nation and aligned China’s interest with them. He would not accept China in a position of subservient in exchange for simple material gain. He gradually built up the foundation of China. China’s position grew stronger relative to pretty much every countries from the 1950s to the 1970s. It was most pronounced actually compare to the two super power at that time. In the 1950s, China was isolated and only recognized by the communist bloc and was poor and dependent. By the 1970s China has break out of the imposed international sanction and was negotiating on equal footing with both the USSR and USA.
Is Mao achievement any less significant than what Lincoln has done for the US? Or is he vilified for making China strong and the Chinese people free.