Born the son of a wealthy farmer in Shaoshan, Hunan, Mao adopted a Chinese nationalist and anti-imperialist outlook in early life, particularly influenced by the events of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 and May Fourth Movement of 1919. Mao converted to Marxism-Leninism while working at Peking University and became a founding member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), leading theAutumn Harvest Uprising in 1927. During the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the CPC, Mao helped to found the Red Army, led the Jiangxi Soviet's radical land policies and ultimately became head of the CPC during the Long March. Although the CPC temporarily allied with the KMT under the United Front during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), after Japan's defeat China's civil war resumed and in 1949 Mao's forces defeated the Nationalists who withdrew to Taiwan.
On October 1, 1949 Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China (PRC), a one-party socialist state controlled by the CPC. In the following years Mao solidified his control through land reforms and through a psychological victory in the Korean War, and through campaigns against landlords, people he termed "counter-revolutionaries", and other perceived enemies of the state. In 1957 he launched a campaign known as the Great Leap Forward that aimed to rapidly transform China's economy from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. This campaign, exacerbated by natural disasters that occurred at the time, led to the deadliest famine in history. In 1966, he initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a program to remove "counter-revolutionary" elements in Chinese society that lasted 10 years and was marked by violent class struggle, widespread destruction of cultural artefacts and unprecedented elevation of Mao's personality cult and which is officially regarded as a "severe setback" for the PRC.In 1972, he welcomed American president Richard Nixon in Beijing, signalling a policy of opening China.