Quote from The Economist (April 2009)
for all his success in overturning traditional values and institutions, the founder of modern China came up short in his desire to convert written Chinese from its character-based system to an alphabet.
What evidence is there for this? Did he try very hard to get this done? How was this desire of Mao's denied fulfillment?
Update: More similar claims again from The Economist (Jan 2017), this time with Stalin playing a role too!
Mao Zedong (who was Mao Tse-tung before pinyin, under the “Wade-Giles” romanisation system) wanted a radical break with old ways after 1949, when the civil war ended in mainland China. He was hardly the first to think that China’s beautiful, complicated and inefficient script was a hindrance to the country’s development. Lu Xun, a celebrated novelist, wrote in the early 20th century: “If we are to go on living, Chinese characters cannot.”
But according to Mr Zhou, speaking to the New Yorker in 2004, it was Josef Stalin in 1949 who talked Mao out of full-scale romanisation, saying that a proud China needed a truly national system.
Edit: Many here and on the linked post claim that it is impossible to create or impose an alphabetical or phonetic writing system for Chinese (or China), supposedly because China has many languages.
But this is as absurd as claiming that it is impossible to impose a single official/national language in China because of China's many languages. Which, of course, is something that has been done — in the form of putonghua in the PRC or guoyu in the ROC or huayu in Singapore. And this is something that can be done anywhere in the world if you have the political will and power to do so (as the CCP/KMT/PAP have done in those respective countries).
(This is not to say that everyone in China can understand putonghua — according to Xinhua, as late as 2017, only 73% could. But the question of whether you can create/impose a particular language/writing system is entirely different from the question of whether 100% of the population can understand it.)
It is also false that all the Chinese languages use the same ideographs/characters. Try asking someone from Beijing to explain what the following simple Cantonese and Hokkien/Minnan/Taiwanese phrases mean:
See if she is even able to read these sentences out in her native Beijing Mandarin.
Note that there is no standard/accepted Chinese character for the Cantonese "D" (it is sometimes rendered as 啲 and sometimes 尐). Indeed, it is most commonly simply rendered as the English letter D!