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Mao Zedong, formerly spelled Mao Tse-tung, led the Chinese Communists in a decades-long struggle for power in China, first against the nationalists under Chaing Kai-shek, then the Japanese occupiers, and after World War II against the nationalists once again. Success finally came in 1948, when Mao`s communists seized control of the mainland and drove the remnants of the nationalist regime to exile on Taiwan, then known in the west as Formosa.

During his lifetime, Mao put into practice his dream of a communist society, which he organized in a situation that Karl Marx had never considered--an agrarian country of peasants with little industry. Agriculture was collectivized and the former upper and middle classes were persecuted. The results were very mixed, and his "Great Leap Forward" in 1958 was a disaster for the economy.

Determined to produce permanent revolution in the country, Mao launched the "Cultural Revolution" in 1966, causing great disruption to Chinese society and the ultimate loss of much of its cultural heritage, deemed "bourgeois" by the youth that Mao directed.

During his life, Mao was a revered figure in China. His image appeared on posters and Chinese were expected to have copies of his book, "The Thoughts of Chairman Mao," or simply "The Little Red Book." After his death in 1976, power was retained for a while by the "Gang of Four," including Mao`s widow, but since their fall from power, Mao`s status has been gradually reduced.

In a drive towards permanent revolution,

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