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Political scientists cite his personal attributes and exposure to the proletariat as synergistic in the formation of his doctrine. What particular experiences in Mao Zedong's formative years influenced his brand of Communism? I'm asking for specific events he witnessed as a youth and people who shaped his ideology.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

When Mao was a young man in 1927, the Nationalist government cracked down on the Communists, who, up to that time, had been regarded as "fellow travelers." The crackdown was particularly successful in the cities, where people were concentrated, and could be easily rounded up and arrested. It caught Mao in the countryside, but he managed to escape from his captors, run to the hills, and rally surviving peasants. This experience helped convince him that the road to a successful revolution in China lay with the peasantry and not with city dwellers.

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Interestingly, in Russia it was the exact opposite process - the communists first tried to appeal to badly suppressed peasants and organize uprisings. The uneducated peasants didn't want to follow them and would often betray them to the government. In the end the communist decided that change is only possible with the literate population and addressed the (relatively small) working class instead. – Wladimir Palant Oct 12 '11 at 14:20
This is much the same as what I learned in a History of Modern China course, mostly Mao shunned cities and stayed in the countryside rallying the peasants to him to fight the government. Although some of his politics at the time seemed kind of sketchy, he never seemed a reliable Communist Cadre but in many ways was more an opportunist. – MichaelF Nov 2 '11 at 17:01
Basically, Mao didn't "follow the book," but rather created his own brand of Communism. – Tom Au Nov 2 '11 at 17:08
Yes, agreed. That seems to have been his road towards the Cult of Mao and his continual cry of "I'll take it to the people" when he did not get his way. – MichaelF Nov 7 '11 at 12:54
@MichaelF: Did you do your History of Modern China course at Yale? Was your professor Spence? Those were mine. – Tom Au Apr 26 '12 at 13:58

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