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With Reference to Other Chinese Leaders of the Period, to What Extent, If Any, Has the Role of Mao Zedong

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With reference to other Chinese leaders of the period, to what extent, if any, has the role of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) in China's development between 1949 and 1976 been over-estimated?

Mao Zedong's role in developing China up to 1958 was not over-estimated as it was during this period, a series of successful reforms and policies that he drove China on the correct path, most of his success is credited to the foundation of his ideology of Maoism. However from 1958 onwards, Mao grew more paranoid of those around him, encouraged anarchy in the form of constant revolution thus hurting China's development in the process while maintaining overzealous support from the majority. Other moderate leaders such as Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Liu Shaoqi tried to correct China's course after the failure of Mao's economic policies.

Maoism is an ideology that was formed in the Yan'an period following the Long March. Maoism is partially based Mao's ideas of motivated mass lines where the lack of technology was made up by China's literal masses of workers. One of the most prominent successes of Maoism was demonstrated in the First Five Year Plan which was a series of goals that aimed to end Chinese dependence upon agriculture in order to become a world superpower. In terms of economic growth the First Five Year Plan was quite successful, with aid provided by the Soviet Union, China achieved an average annual rate of 19% between 1952 and an agricultural growth at 4% a year. Key industries, including iron and steel manufacturing, coal mining, cement production, electricity generation, and machine building, were greatly expanded and put China on a firm, modern technological footing. Chinese historian Zong Huaiwen, who viewed Mao in a more or less positive aspect, said that "The number of technicians and engineers in 1957 totaled 175,000, three times that in 1952". Consider the fact that China was a devastated third world country, with land ravaged by foreign invasions and civil wars, Mao (or Maoism specifically) steered China into the path of prosperity. The success of the First Five Year Plan was partly based on Mao's reforms on social groups, one in particular were the rights of women which played a long term role in the development of China.

In the perspective of women, for centuries before the early 1900s, there was a prominent male domination in China. Women served as slaves, concubines, and prostitutes. The infamous foot binding tradition made women suffer from excruciating pain. Mao's New Marriage Law that he introduced in 1950 eradicated old Chinese laws such as arranged marriages that lifted the oppression of Chinese women. As a result women willingly followed Mao in 1958 with his introduction of daycare and soup kitchens. The success for women's equality had a significant impact on Mao's image which contrasted with the old misogynist rulers in pre-Communist China. The role of women in Chinese society changed drastically under Mao's regime which played an influential role in the Great Leap Forward as 'Iron Women'.

However despite Mao's success in economic and social

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