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Li Dazhao

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Li Dazhao

Li Dazhao (李大釗, Wades-Giles: Li Ta-chao) (October 29, 1888 - April 28, 1927) was a Chinese intellectual who cofounded the Communist Party of China with Chen Duxiu in 1921.

Li was born in Hebei province to a peasant family. From 1913 to 1917 Li studied political economy at Waseda University in Japan before returning to China in 1918.

As head librarian at the Peking University Library, he was among the first of the Chinese intellectuals who supported the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong was an assistant librarian during Li's tenure at the library, and Li was one of Mao's earliest and most prominent influences. By many accounts, Li was a nationalist and believed that the peasantry in China were to play an important role in China's revolution. As with many intellectuals of his time, the roots of Li's revolutionary thinking were actually mostly in Kropotkin's communist anarchism, but after the events of the May Fourth Movement and the failures of the anarchistic experiments of many intellectuals, like his compatriots, he turned more towards Marxism.

Under the leadership of Li and Chen, the CPC developed a close relationship with the Comintern. At the direction of the Comintern, Li and Chen were inducted into the Kuomintang in 1922. Li was elected to the KMT's Central Executive Committee in 1924.

Tensions between the Comintern, the KMT, and the CPC presented opportunities for political intrigue and opportunism. With the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War, Li was captured during a raid on the Soviet embassy in Guangdong and, with nineteen others, he was executed by strangulation on the orders of the Manchurian general Chang Tso-lin on April 28, 1927.

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