Important People


Important People Essay, Research Paper

Mao Zedong

Sex: Male

Pronunciation: [mow dzuhdoong]

History: also spelled Mao Tse-tung

Life: (1893-1976)

Leader and leading theorist of the Chinese communist revolution, born in the village of Shaoshan, Hunan Province, China, the son of a farmer. He graduated from Changsha teachers’ training college, then worked at Beijing University, where he was influenced by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. He took a leading part in the May Fourth Movement, becoming a Marxist and a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party (1921).

During the first united front with the Guomindang (Nationalist Party), he concentrated on political work among the peasants of his native province, and advocated a rural revolution, creating a soviet in Jiangxi province in 1928. After the break with the Guomindang in 1927, the Communists were driven from the cities, and with the assistance first of Zhu De, later of Lin Biao, he evolved the guerrilla tactics of ‘people’s war’.

In 1934 the Guomindang was at last able to destroy the Jiangxi Soviet, and in the subsequent Long March the Communist forces retreated to Shanxi to set up a new base. This established Mao’s supremacy in the Party.

When in 1936, under the increasing threat of Japanese invasion, the Guomindang renewed their alliance with the Communists, Mao restored and vastly increased the political and military power of his Party. His claim to share in the government led to civil war; the regime of Jiang Jieshi was ousted from the Chinese mainland; and the new People’s Republic of China was proclaimed (1949) with Mao as both Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the Republic.

He followed the Soviet model of economic development and social change until 1958, then broke with the USSR and launched his Great Leap Forward, which encouraged the establishment of rural industry and the use of surplus rural labour to create a new infrastructure for agriculture.

The failure of the Great Leap lost him most of his influence, but by 1966, with China’s armed forces securely in the hands of his ally Lin Biao, he launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and the Great Leap strategy was revived (with caution) when the left wing was victorious in the ensuing political struggles (1966-71).

He died after a prolonged illness, which may have weakened his judgment. A strong reaction then set in against ‘cult of personality’ and the excessive collectivism and egalitarianism which had emerged during his time in power. A political, military, social, and economic essayist, he was also a significant minor poet.

Kim Il-sung

Sex: Male

Pronunciation: [kim ilsung]

History: originally Kim Song-ju

Life: (1912-94)

North Korean soldier, statesman, prime minister (1948-72), and president (1972-94), born near Pyongyang, Korea. He founded the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army in 1932, and led a long struggle against the Japanese. He proclaimed the Republic in 1948, and became effective head of state. He was re-elected president in 1982 and 1986, established a unique personality cult wedded to an isolationist, Stalinist political-economic system, and named his son, Kim Jong-Il (1942-) , as his successor.

Roh Tae-Woo

Pronunciation: [roh tay woo]

Life: (1932-)

South Korean statesman and president (1988?92), born in Sinyong, Kyongsang, South Korea. He studied at the Korean Military Academy (1951?5), became commanding general of the Capital Security Command in 1979, and helped General Chun seize power in the coup of 1979?80. Retiring from the army in 1981, he became minister for national security and foreign affairs (1981?2), and minister for home affairs (from 1982).

Elected chairman of the ruling Democratic Justice Party (1985), his political reforms helped restore democracy to the country, and he was elected president despite allegations of fraud and rigged voting. In 1996 he was found guilty of treason and corruption, and imprisoned; but released in 1997.

Nehru, Jawaharlal

Sex: Male

Pronunciation: [nairoo]

History: known as Pandit(’Teacher’) Nehru

Life: (1889-1964)

Indian statesman and prime minister (1947-64), born in Allahabad, India, the son of Motilal Nehru. He studied at Cambridge, became a lawyer, and served in the Allahabad High Court. He joined the Indian Congress Committee (1918), was influenced by Gandhi, and was imprisoned several times by the British.

In 1929 he was elected president of the Indian National Congress. He became India’s first prime minister and minister of external affairs (1947), and followed a policy of neutrality during the Cold War. He introduced a policy of industrialization, reorganized the states on a linguistic basis, and brought the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir to a peaceful solution.

Gandhi, Indira (Priyadarshini)

Sex: Female

Pronunciation: [gandee]

Life: (1917-84)

Indian stateswoman and prime minister (1966-77, 1980-4), born in Allahabad, India, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru. She studied at Visva-Bharati University (Bengal) and Oxford, and in 1942 married Feroze Gandhi (d.1960). She became president of the Indian Congress Party (1959-60), minister of information (1964), and prime minister following the death of Shastri.

After her conviction for election malpractices, she declared a state of emergency (1975-7), and was premier again in 1980. She achieved a considerable reputation through her work as a leader of the developing nations, but was unable to stem sectarian violence at home. She was assassinated in New Delhi by Sikh extremist members of her bodyguard.

Ho Chi-Minh

Sex: Male

Pronunciation: [hoh chee min]

History: originally Nguyen That Thanh

Life: (1892-1969)

Vietnamese statesman, prime minister (1954-5), and president (1954-69), born in Kim-Lien, North Vietnam. From 1912 he visited London and the USA, and lived in France from 1918, where he was a founder member of the Communist Party. From 1922 he was often in Moscow. He led the Viet Minh independence movement in 1941, and directed the successful military operations against the French (1946-54), becoming President of North Vietnam. He was a leading force in the war between North and South Vietnam during the 1960s.

Marcos, Ferdinand (Edralin)

Sex: Male

Pronunciation: [mah(r)kos]

Life: (1917-89)

Philippines statesman and president (1965-86), born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. He trained as a lawyer, and as a politician obtained considerable US support as an anti-Communist. His regime as president was marked by increasing repression, misuse of foreign financial aid, and political murders (notably the assassination of Benigno Aquino in 1983).

He declared martial law in 1972, but was overthrown in 1986 by a popular front led by Corazon Aquino. He went into exile in Hawaii, where he, and his wife Imelda (1930-) , fought against demands from US courts investigating charges of financial mismanagement and corruption. His body was returned to the Philippines for burial in 1993, and soon afterwards Imelda was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

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