Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung listen (help·info), and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution. He was the architect and founding father of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949, and held authoritarian control over the nation until his death in 1976. His theoretical contribution to Marxism–Leninism, along with his military strategies and brand of policies, are collectively known as Maoism.
Mao rose to power by commanding the Long March, forming a Second United Front with Nationalists during the Second Sino-Japanese War to repel a Japanese invasion, and leading the Communist Party of China (CPC) to victory against Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War. After solidifying the reunification of China through his Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, Mao enacted sweeping land reform, by using violence and terror to overthrow the feudal landlords before seizing their large estates and dividing the land into people's communes. During the years when Mao was China’s 'Great Helmsman', a range of positive changes came to China. These included doubling the school population, providing universal housing, abolishing unemployment and inflation, increasing health care access, and dramatically raising life expectancy. As a result, Mao is still officially held in high regard by many in China as a great political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of the nation. Maoists further promote his role as a theorist, statesman, poet, and visionary, while anti-revisionists continue to defend most of his policies.
Mao remains a controversial figure to this day, with a contentious legacy that is subject to continuing revision and fierce debate. Nationwide political campaigns led by Mao, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are often considered catastrophic failures. While China's population almost doubled during the period of Mao's leadership (from around 550 to over 900 million), his rule from 1949 to 1976 is believed to have caused the deaths of 40 to 70 million people. Severe starvation during the Great Chinese Famine, mass suicide as a result of the Three-anti/five-anti campaigns, and political persecution during both the Anti-Rightist Movement and struggle sessions all resulted from these programs. His campaigns and their varying disastrous consequences are further blamed for damaging the culture and society of China, as historical relics were destroyed and religious sites were ransacked.