Chairman Mao Zedong ("Mao") was the leader of China's Communist party from 1949 until his death in 1976. Communist China originally followed the ways of the U.S.S.R., until the two countries disagreed and Mao took China in a new direction.
In 1959 Mao started the first collective in Henan, China and soon there were collectives all over the country. This period is known as "The Great Leap Forward." During this period more people died in terms of mass numbers than during Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia.
The Cultural Revolution is probably the most well-known period to come out of China, lasting from 1966-1976. During the Cultural Revolution many intellectuals, and those with foreign ties, and eventually everyone in the country were targeted for re-education.
Although Mao led his people through periods of great social and economic hardship, he remained one of the most influential leaders in world history while alive, and even after his death.