After the ending of the Sino-Japanese War in 1945, the Chinese Civil War immediately started. In 1949, the Communist Party of China (CCP) defeated the Republic of China, which was led by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party). This led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which has since been based on "Mainland China". The KMT fled to Taiwan, an island to the southeast of Mainland China.
Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Mao's first goal was equal distribution of land. In the old days, landlords have complete ownership of farmland. This system of landlord ownership clashed with communist beliefs. The new distribution system was in favor of less wealthy peasants. The idea of owning farmland appealed to many peasants even before the CCP came to power, and was significant in building up grassroots support for the CCP. In 1953, Mao began various campaigns to suppress former landlords and capitalists. Foreign investment was largely wiped out.
Mao believed that socialism would eventually triumph over all other ideologies. Following the First Five-Year Plan based on a Soviet-style centrally controlled economy, Mao took on the ambitious project of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, beginning an unprecedented process of collectivization in rural areas. Mao urged the use of backyard iron smelters to increase steel production, pulling workers off of agricultural labor to the point that large amounts of crops rotted unharvested. Mao decided to continue to advocate these smelters despite a visit to a factory steel mill which proved to him that high quality steel could only be produced in a factory; he was probably concerned that ending the program would dampen peasant enthusiasm for the leap forward.
The destruction of balance constitutes leaping forward and such destruction is better than balance. Imbalance and headache are good things. - Mao, May of 1958, in a speech.
The implementation of Maoist thought in China may have been responsible for over 70 million deaths during peacetime, with the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957-58, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Because of Mao's land reforms during the the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in famines, thirty million perished between 1958 and 1961. By the end of 1961 the birth rate was nearly cut in half because of malnutrition. Active campaigns, including party purges and "reeducation" resulted in imprisonment and the execution of those deemed contrary to the implementation of Maoist ideals. Mao's failure with the Leap reduced his power in government, whose administrative duties fell on Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
To impose socialist orthodoxy and rid China of "old elements", and at the same time serving certain political goals, Mao began the Cultural Revolution in May 1966. The campaign was far reaching into all aspects of Chinese life. Red Guards terrorized the streets as many ordinary citizens were deemed counter-revolutionaries. Education and public transportation came to a nearly complete halt. Daily life involved shouting slogans and reciting Mao quotations. Many prominent political leaders, including Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, were purged and deemed "capitalist-roaders". Liu later died in prison, which is now considered the single most tragic story during the Cultural Revolution. The campaign would not come to a complete end until the death of Mao in 1976.