During the reign of Mao Zedong, there was no need of a secret police, because there was enough hatred among the people themselves. This was true indeed, and all this was very much encouraged by Mao and his propagandists. They not only spread their ideas by putting up wall posters, broadcasting radio programs and showing propaganda films, but they also organized discussion groups, accusation groups, story-telling groups and memory meetings that people had to attend. This naturally enforced the communist ideology but it also turned people against each other, as many were denounced at accusation meetings etc. As people saw that many were under pressure or tortured (some were even killed), they realized that there was no place for any sort of opposition so they hid their true feelings out of fear. When there is no freedom of thought (let alone freedom of speech) it can be considered to be a cruel dictatorship, since people are robbed from their basic rights as humans.
In 1958 the Great Leap Forward started and this clearly indicated the true nature of Mao and his ways of ruling. Although he encouraged debate and reflection, when it backfired, he felt the need to ‘reeducate’ the people in order to move forward. His plans this time however, differed from his ‘Five Year Plan’ in 1953-1957, because now there were no signs of wanting benefits for the peasants whatsoever, and there was no success this time. The communes he set up abolished private land and property altogether and what is more, peasants now did not receive more food or pay for working hard, so there was no motivation either. Another than this, his plans were a failure, so there was famine and many died (partly due to the drought as well, but his other ideas regarding industry failed too, resulting in overall poverty) however, nothing was done to help the people, because Mao could not admit he was wrong, he had to keep the image that he was perfect and powerful. In this sense he was also selfish and cruel.
The last and possibly most horrible thing he has done that contributed to people feeling that he created a cruel dictatorship was the Cultural Revolution. He had various reasons for it but none of those justify the terror and torture that people were subjected to. He did not directly torture people but he reassured the Red Guards of his support and approval. The Red Guards were fanatics, who physically tortured people, humiliated them and destroyed technology and cultural, anything that was thought to be anti-revolutionary. Mao created a cruel dictatorship in the sense that the ‘dirtiest work’ was done by the people, who were loyal to him, and forgot that the other citizens were human too. It is not only that Mao did nothing to stop them, but he actually wanted them to carry out such actions, because it was for his own benefit.
It can certainly be argued that Mao created a cruel dictatorship, as he caused the suffering of many Chinese people. Suffering in terms of wealth, education, freedom and physical pain (e.g. kneeling on broken glass etc.). He also did not particularly care about the lives of his own people, what was more important than that was his own power and position. Despite all this, it cannot be forgotten that especially in the beginning of his rule, he made significant and positive changes that impacted China. These involve driving out the Japanese, ridding China of corruption, improving its economy and so on. Mao did create a cruel dictatorship during which people have suffered enormously however, his positive impacts and the fact that without such a strong leader, sufferings of a different kind but to the same extent would have happened cannot be forgotten.