Mao Zedong and Mahatma Gandhi are two important figures in 20th-century history, both of whom are known for their distinct political philosophies. Mao in China and Gandhi in India both led revolutions that shaped their countries into what they are today. Though they now have very contrasting reputations, in their time they had both similarities and differences in political views.
One basic idea shared by Gandhi and Mao was their opposition to “imperialism,” or the domination of one nation by another. Gandhi’s most famous struggle was to gain independence for India from British imperial rule. In China, which was already an independent country during the communist revolution, Mao also considered imperialism to be among his people’s enemies. In his view, U.S. military involvement in various countries, and especially in Taiwan, constituted an imperialist threat to China and the world.
An area in which the two men sharply disagreed was the use of physical force to achieve their goals. Gandhi is famous for being against the use of violence. While admitting that violence could be better than doing nothing at all against injustice, he argued that strong but non-violent resistance was both the most moral and the most powerful solution. Mao believed the opposite: that violence is inevitable and the source of all progress in history. He famously said that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and believed military force was the only way to overthrow the entrenched ruling elites of Chiang Kai-Shek's Chinese Nationalist Party.
Mao and Gandhi both advocated greater equality for women. Mao spoke of how women in China were doubly oppressed by traditional society, arguing that they should participate in society on equal footing with men and contribute equally to the workforce. Gandhi also spoke of the natural equality of men and women, and was especially concerned about how women lacked freedom of choice in traditional Indian marriages.
Regarding class war and the distribution of wealth in their countries, Gandhi and Mao had both similarities and differences in their political views. Mao asserted that people are naturally divided into classes, and that the downtrodden must struggle against the upper classes to establish a socialist society with equal distribution of resources. Gandhi sought the cooperation of all economic classes for the greater good, and he was sharply critical of India's traditional caste system. He, too, believed that resources should be distributed more equitably, arguing that every person should have no more or less than what he or she needs.
- Lintao Zhang/Getty Images News/Getty Images