9 September – On this day

Chinese revolutionary and statesman Mao Zedong, who had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other health problems, dies in Beijing at the age of 82.

The Communist leader and founder of the People’s Republic of China is considered one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

Mao is a very controversial figure;

  • Supporters credit him with driving imperialism out of China, modernising China and building it into a world power, promoting the status of women, improving education and health care, and increasing life expectancy as China’s population grew from around 550 to over 900 million during the period of his leadership. He is also known as a theorist, military strategist, poet, and visionary.
  • In contrast, critics consider him a dictator who severely damaged traditional Chinese culture, as well as a perpetrator of systematic human rights abuses who was responsible for an estimated 40 to 70 million deaths through starvation, forced labour and executions, ranking his tenure as the top incidence of ‘democide’* in human history.

Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel (1932-2014) as “the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder”. Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the term genocide, and it has become accepted among other scholars. According to Rummel, democide surpassed war as the leading cause of non-natural death in the 20th century.