You can't understand the CPC without comprehending Mao's understanding of Marxism-Leninism. The Chinese have said that Mao, Like Stalin, was 70% good and 30% bad (not as a moral judgement but in terms of PC correct and incorrect actions). Both, while living, were the subject of personality cults and were treated as if they were 100% "good." Both were fierce enemies of capitalism and sought to lay the foundations for the future communist society free of all human exploitation but found themselves in historical circumstances that overwhelmed them at times, and in the case of Stalin eventually led to the destruction of the socialist state he created, preserved from Nazism (along with the rest of Europe) and tried to defend in the cold war to which his successors succumbed.
Mao too faced Incomprehensible historical contradictions that Marxist theory was unprepared to answer at the time ( a split with the USSR and an internal CPC civil war expressed as a cultural "revolution"). So for us to understand just what and why the 30% was and came about is vitally important. But also we must study the 70% as well as it was the basis of all the past successes of the world communist movement and is the foundation of its future possibilities of victory. That 70% was based on a correct understanding and application as a guide to action of the theoretically sound foundations laid by Marx and Engels and creatively developed by V.I. Lenin and which our task today is to further develop and adapt to historical conditions in which we find ourselves.
We must, of course, study other progressive thinkers within and without the Marxist tradition, but the works of the founders and their flawed great continuers in the past century will be important weapons for the communist and workers party to wield to attain victories over the capitalists and imperialists who dominate the world today and for us in the USA to bury the forces represented by both Donald Trump and Joe Biden and their enablers (conscious and unconscious) in the Republican and Democratic parties.
The correct understanding of Mao will allow us to better comprehend the current policies of China and the revolutionary significance of Xi Jinping thought.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.