September 9, 1976. Mao Zedong, the revolutionary who founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC), dies aged 82, a week after suffering a heart attack. Born in 1893 into a peasant family in Shaoshan in Hunan Province. At age 17 he joined the revolutionary army that went on to defeat the Qing dynasty a year later in 1912. With the revolution completed, Mao returned to Hunan to study and upon graduating moved to Beijing. In 1921 he attended the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party and worked his way up the party’s ranks to eventually become its Chairman. Mao then took charge of the Red Army that rose up against the ruling Kuomintang nationalists. He successfully orchestrated a campaign of guerilla warfare to defeat first the invading Japanese and then the Kuomintang in 1949. Mao’s leadership of the PRC was to be remembered for its merciless authoritarianism; political enemies were tortured and killed. Many of his sweeping reforms were failures but Chairman Mao was nonetheless idolised by workers from across China. The industrialisation of China under his leadership laid the foundations for the country’s current growth, and Mao is seen by many historians as one of the most influential characters of the 20th century.
Also on September 9: California becomes the 31st US state (1850); Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founds Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (1923); French is made equal to English in Canada’s Federal government (1969).
Born on September 9: Leo Tolstoy (1828), Colonel Sanders (1890), Claude Nougaro (1929), Otis Redding (1941), Hugh Grant (1960), Adam Sandler (1966), Michael Bublé (1975).