Revolutionary and ruler, Marxist and nationalist, liberator anddespot, Mao Zedong takes a place among the iconic leaders of thetwentieth century. In this book, Maurice Meisner offers a balancedportrait of the man who defined modern China.

From his role as leader of a communist revolution in a war-tornand largely rural country to the disasters of the Great LeapForward and the Cultural Revolution, the relationship between Mao'sideas and his political action is highly disputed. Withunparalleled authority, Meisner shows how Mao's unique sinificationof Marxism provides the key to looking at this extraordinarypolitical career. The first part of the book is devoted to Mao'srevolutionary leadership before 1949, in particular the influenceof the liberal and anarchist ideas of the May Fourth era, hisdiscovery of Marxism, Leninism and his conviction that peasantsheld the potential for revolution. In the second part, Meisneranalyses Mao's early successes as a nationalist unifier andmodernizer, the failure of his socialism and his eventualtransformation into a tyrant.