Answer by Chrys Jordan:
The image above shows that Mao Zedong was more than three times as terrible as Stalin – which, if you know how bad Stalin was, sounds hard to believe. But it is true.
But Mao is not considered the worst because he had better press.
Hitler is CONSIDERED to be a much worse leader than Mao Zedong because:
- European and American troops gave witness to the Nazi Holocaust. The survivors gave consistent testimony. The Nazis themselves, those who would have denied the Holocaust if the Holocaust had not happened, admitted it had happened.
- There are few witnesses to the crimes of Mao Zedong. No Western troops were there to see it, and the Chinese government has long denied these things.
This is also true because:
- Mao Zedong had a better press agent. Most of his cult of personality in the west is based on the Edgar Snow biography, Red Star Over China. This "candid biography" made Mao seem a better man than he was with its mixture of truth with blatant lies. The key lie, among many, was the statement of the principles about how the revolutionary army should never exploit the peasants. Mao claimed to have practiced these principles during the Long March. In fact, he neither practiced these principles, but he never even preached them.
- Hitler, by contrast, had no admiring biographer in the west. Again, this is because his crimes were too well known. The crimes of Mao Zedong were less well known. Instead, the image of Mao Zedong as the only Communist leader with principles was common in the west.
A complicating factor for many Americans was that people on the left-wing of the political spectrum often found Communism attractive. The ideal of peasants peacefully co-operating in a rustic paradise is appealing. Only the Cold War paranoia and knowledge of the Soviet police state kept there from being a Communist Party in America.
And now we come to Mao and China. As above: Mao Zedong appeared to be a "good Communist" leader. What is more, he was Chinese. While Russians were "obviously the enemy," in the Cold War period, it was harder to say similar things about the Chinese without sounding racist. I am not sure why this was, only that it was so. My school teachers were among those who thought so.
For these reasons, China appeared to be "the better Communist country." This was a common idea among liberal Americans during the 1970s and 1980s.
That should help further in explaining why Mao is less known as the monster he actually was. And to expand the question. Not only: "Why is Hitler seen as worse than Mao?" Also: "Why do people not know that Mao was worse than [fill in the blank]?"
But the answer will probably come back to the Edgar Snow book, and to the Chinese government's maintaining the party line.
For those persons who doubt that Mao is as bad as he appears, I recommend Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. The authors present a persuasive argument. And because they made an extraordinary claim, they provided extraordiary evidence.