The bloody worldwide legacy of China’s Great Helmsman

Mao Zedong’s ideology inspired murderous fanatics across the developing world.

Following the French Jacobins, Russian Bolsheviks sought to inter-nationalise their road to revolution, but neither movement was as successful as China’s Maoists in going global. This is not a well-known story because it does not fit the peaceful, win-win rise which China’s contemporary leaders are pursuing, in which power comes from trillions in low-interest loans and vast infrastructure projects rather than from the barrel of Mao’s gun.

The Chinese Communist insistence on absolute party discipline, anti-imperialism, and guerrilla warfare in the countryside, had an enormous appeal to those seeking to overthrow colonial regimes in the post-war period. It also caught the imaginations of those in the West who — in the abstract — fancied a perpetual revolution in which, as the older Mao himself did in the Cultural Revolution, they tore down what had been built just for the hell of it.

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