1949-1971  The Mao Empire

exhibit section showing artifacts and photos


The emergence of a strong, Communist regime on mainland China ultimately changed the power structure throughout the world. The Communist takeover in 1949 compounded the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, an intermittent ally with China.

However, the new People's Republic of China would face a series of identity crises in the 1950s and 1960s. As the Communists searched for the quickest path into the modern world, their President / Party Chairman / and chief ideologist, Mao Zedong, was transformed. From a strong leader upholding the rights of the common people, he turned himself into a god-like presence who played a central role in the daily affairs of every person in China. In the process, he brutally crushed all opposition.

From experiments with rapid economic growth through radical swings in Party ideology, the Chinese people followed Mao through speeches, propaganda posters and the Communist doctrine he set down in his "little red book." For more than two decades, the Chinese people accepted communal living and the stifling uniformity that marked Mao's total upheaval of society.

Meanwhile, Western power in Asia was collapsing. The United States' view of itself as the new leader of the Free World brought on two "undeclared" wars that cost the lives of over 112,000 Americans - two wars that were directly linked to America's fear of Chinese Communism.

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