China’s Monster

After two days of deadline work, I’m finally getting around to this – the much-anticipated NY Times review of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s biography, Mao: The Unknown Story. The review is a must-read because it’s fair and balanced and illuminating.

I still haven’t read Mao, but the review confirms my own initial thoughts (which still might be wrong; won’t know until I read it for myself): that the book does indeed offer reams of evidence that Mao was the true scum of the earth, worse than the Great Dictator, worse than Stalin or Chiang Kai Shek or Pol Pot, worse tham anybody. But the authors also hurt themselves by over-generalizing and making blanket assertions that they fail to back up with evidence.

In their new book, “Mao: The Unknown Story,” Jung Chang and Jon Halliday make an impassioned case for Mao as the most monstrous tyrant ever. They argue that he was responsible for “well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader,” and they argue that “he was more extreme than Hitler or Stalin” in that he envisioned a brain-dead, “completely arid society, devoid of civilization, deprived of representation of human feelings, inhabited by a herd with no sensibility, which would automatically obey his orders.”

Ms. Chang, the author of “Wild Swans,” a best-selling memoir that chronicled her family’s sufferings under Mao, and her husband, Mr. Halliday, a British historian, drew upon newly available material from secret Chinese and Soviet archives for this volume, and they interviewed hundreds of people, including intimates, colleagues and victims of Mao. Their hefty if tendentious and one-dimensional book contains a plethora of valuable new information that helps flesh out the record of devastation left by this heinous tyrant.

The book demonstrates just how brutal and conniving Mao was in his rise to power, maps out the key role he played in fomenting the Korean War and reveals the huge degree to which he was dependent on Stalin both in coming to power and in trying to turn China into a nuclear superpower. The authors write that “close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork” during the Great Leap Forward and an accompanying famine. This, they contend, was a result not of economic mismanagement but of cold political calculus. They argue, further, that Mao launched his deadly Cultural Revolution as a means of purging those officials (like his No. 2, Liu Shao-chi) who had dared to question his catastrophic Great Leap Forward policies.

Unfortunately, I really don’t want to read a one-dimensional account of Mao’s life (or anyone’s life). To me, a good biography has to offer an historiographical account, making the reader feel he or she is there in that time, in that place, learning not just about the life of the “hero,” but about the psychological and historical factors that shaped him. Now, this book may contain all of these aspects, but from what I’ve read so far, I’m skeptical. I already know Mao was the quintessential dick.

One of the problems with this volume is that Ms. Chang and Mr. Halliday offer little insight into Mao’s behavior. There are few clues to childhood or adolescent ordeals (aside from having a father he disliked) that might have shaped his pathological psyche, no assessment of philosophers (like Nietzsche or Machiavelli, say) who might have influenced his philosophy, no analysis of the dictator’s mature writings that might shed light on his politics or values.

The authors also provide scant historical context for Mao’s ascendance. They do not put their subject in perspective with the imperial tradition in China, nor do they examine the social and economic circumstances that helped make the country susceptible to his rise and malign rule. To make matters worse, they occasionally make gross generalizations that cannot be proved: for instance, they write that during the Cultural Revolution, when students were exhorted to assail their teachers, “there was not one school in the whole of China where atrocities did not occur.”

Such questionable assertions undermine the authors’ purpose and are thoroughly gratuitous: Mao’s crimes against humanity, documented in this volume and elsewhere, are so heinous and so gargantuan that they hardly need to be hyped.

Again, I’ll reserve final judgement, but have to admit I’m approaching it with a big grain of salt.

The Discussion: 42 Comments

The book was a tremendous eye-opener to me and great help while teaching the Korean War. To have such an evil and utterly ammoral man forced even today to be rammed down the throats of the people angers me so much against this regime. How can they allow his face to continue to bear down upon people everywhere without a true reckoning?

October 21, 2005 @ 5:16 am | Comment

My advice to everyone is simple: read the book instead of humming and harring over various reviews. We’ve had three reviews on TPD so far, the first was anti, the second pro and this fairly anti. Take your pick, good, bad or indifferent – you can find them all over the www.

I agree with Kier above.

It continually preplexes me why so many people criticise the book for not being something that it never ever claimed to be or set out to be. The clue is in the title: MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY.

The book offers up what is not is the history books….and that’s one of it’s greatest strengths.

Anyone who HAS read the book will know that the last three quarters of an inch of pages list the names of sources and interviewees – and there are literally thousands. Many of the testimonies reveal facts that are still hushed up to this day. Testimonies from people who were actually there.

For example:

– the history books do not tell us everything about the purges that Mao started in the 1920s and continued till his death.

– the influence of the Soviet Union in the funding and decision making in the CCP right from 1920 onwards.

– how the starry-eyed young CCP volunteers from the cities soon lost faith after arriving in Yenan and lived in sheer terror. The few foreigners that made it into Yenan spoke of an atmosphere of nervous tension and how if you asked anyone a question, you’d receive exactly the same answer (Bring to mind any modern day comparisons?)

– how Mao purposely avoided fighting the Japanese for the entire 8 years of the struggle, against the wishes of his commanders. Including the Japanese attack on Shanghai which was made possible by a Nationalist General CCP mole – with Mao’s blessing.

Anyone with even the vaguest interest in China should read the book. It is an astonishing work – full of eyewitness accounts. Absolutely vital reading.

October 21, 2005 @ 6:10 am | Comment

Either this reviewer is being sloppy, or the Unknown story is unknown because much of it isn’t true. The reviewer stated that Mao was dependent on Stalin in trying to make China a nuclear superpower. Stalin was dead by 1953 and Soviet assistance for China’s nuclear program didn’t begin until a few years later. The Sino-Soviet nuclear cooperation agreements weren’t signed until 1955. China’s National Nuclear Corporation wasn’t founded until 1956. After the Sino-Soviet schism, China’s nuclear program suffered delays and the first test detonation wasn’t until 1964.

October 21, 2005 @ 7:05 am | Comment

has anyone read the “privage life of chairman mao” by his personal doctor, li zhi sui?

that was definitely an eye opener. written about 10 years ago now..haven’t read this latest book but i wonder how it compares…anyone read both?

October 21, 2005 @ 8:54 am | Comment

10 years of painstaking research.

Having just finished reading the first few chapters I find it very difficult to stop reading.

I hope this book is translated into Mandarin very soon. It needs to be read by every mainlander.

October 21, 2005 @ 9:47 am | Comment

I fear the problem is not translation but prohibition. Of course, underground…


October 21, 2005 @ 9:57 am | Comment

I have not read this book. But I have some words to say. As a Chinese, I am glad that after Mao’s time people, especially Chinese people, began to reevaluate Mao; but I am always suspicious why people put great effort to describe him as a devil, as we put the same energy to illustrate him as our god. Right, he made big mistakes; he should be responsible for tens of millions of death. But why do you try to prove that he had an evil mind, not he made great mistakes?

He might be a devil; so what would you do then?

I do not think anyone will try hard to prove that his/her neighbor has an evil mind, and then tell everyone about this.

October 21, 2005 @ 9:58 am | Comment

keir wrote “To have such an evil and utterly ammoral man forced even today to be rammed down the throats of the people angers me so much against this regime. How can they allow his face to continue to bear down upon people everywhere without a true reckoning? ”

My thought exactly. If I see him one more time on tv hawking his war in Iraq. I would explode I think.

October 21, 2005 @ 12:32 pm | Comment


As much as people hate Bush, and as I am starting to disapprove as well, he is, and will never be a Mao Tse Tung. Bush started a war, yes. But, to my knowledge, he has not quite lived up to Mao’s stature…nor has he killed millions of his own countrymen.

That said….let’s get back to Mao.

October 21, 2005 @ 1:17 pm | Comment


I’d just read it. You’re torturing yourself over, what, $20? It’s sitting on my shelf, and I’ll have a go at it eventually.

Also, remember the maxim about history books.

“Every work is biased, because the historian is interested enough in the material to approach the topic.”

I made the quote up, but that’s paraphrasing what I was taught at university.

To desire an objective view of Mao is to ask the impossible. You can only begin to get at the truth if you take contrasting views, put them together and consider what you think to be the reality.

We are not automotans to be fed information. We were brought up in the free world, able to process and assess ideas, theories, etc ourselves. I am relishing reading Chang’s book eventually, because I will take time to analyse it myself.

We have often lamented the inability for PRC Chinese people to access these kind of works because of Beijing’s authoritarian censorship. Let’s all put our money where our mouth is, exercise our civil rights and read this book (for all its faults) while thinking and praying for a happy, democratic future for our Chinese friends.


October 21, 2005 @ 4:15 pm | Comment

I have no problems with a scholarly work describing how Mao Zedong was a mass murderer who slaughtered millions. I do have a problem with a wannabe-scholarly work that believes that Jiang Jieshi wanted to fight the Japanese over the Communists or that the Japanese were tricked into invading China by the Communists. That such a work confirms the prejudices I may already have does not mean it is worth reading.

October 21, 2005 @ 5:26 pm | Comment

Yeah Richard, I can’t believe you’re STILL debating the merits of a book you obviously would love to hold and caress in your hands but are TOO LAZY AND CHEAP TO GO OUT AND BUY IT!!!!!!!
I’m sorry, but I have come to the conclusion that you are now putting down this fantastic read written with passion simply because you can’t be bothered to hunt a copy down. You’re trying to convince yourself no to buy it. That’s it, isn’t it? Huh?
Otherwise, why again bring up the subject of this book I bought back in June when Rumsfeld is causing havoc right here, right now in Beijing and no one bothered to mention it.
PS- tongue is slightly in cheek…..

October 21, 2005 @ 5:41 pm | Comment


October 21, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

Lol, I love Rummy. He brightens my day – where would I get my laughs without him?

In fact I’m spoilt really. There’s:

Prezzer (John Prescott)

So many people to be lampooned by Rory Bremner. It’s a shame Asian politics doesn’t feature – I’d like to see his take on Hu Jintao. Though he does make some funny comments about Bejing if its relevant.

I think that’s one sign that means you can be sure the media is manipulated in China – an abscence of comedy progs that poke fun at people in authority.

October 21, 2005 @ 6:07 pm | Comment

Keir, gimme a break, I’m reading three other books now nd studying Chinese. Buy me a copy…?

October 21, 2005 @ 6:57 pm | Comment

Can you put one of those wish-list things on your site for Amazon Taiwan or something? Then maybe you’d get these books for free from kind readers…

October 21, 2005 @ 9:40 pm | Comment

Why analyzing Mao? It is not that shocking people like him existed at all. The question that begs the answer is can we prevent another Mao from emerging. To that end, answer first what kind of system would have allowed one person to garner the power of the entire Chinese population and directed it to such disastrous result. More than just one person, it’s the failure of a system, wasn’t it?

Not comparing anyone to Mao here. But, if one small clan of people could launch a war with the most powerful military the human race has ever seen at their disposal, with false justifications and did it under the world’s watch, what else is not possible? Was this the failure of the system, again? We’d better know the answer soon.

October 21, 2005 @ 10:11 pm | Comment


You’re right. The American system is responsible for producing Bush and the Iraq War – as well as for keeping a high degree of stability and a strong Rule of Law even during the Bush administration.

And the Communist Party is responsible for producing Mao and 70 million killed by Mao’s policies, and years of anarchy and chaos and the destruction of thousands of years of Chinese civlization.

October 22, 2005 @ 12:21 am | Comment

The book says “well over 70 million deaths in peacetime”.

How credible is the number 70 millions? I read the number 30 million many times in western media. Of course, a number of a few millions is a lots.

I am not a fan of Mao, I don’t hate him either. My dad was sent to the countryside for more than 20 years.

I listened to the two authors on a radio talk show yesterday. I don’t think there is much scholarship in this book.

October 22, 2005 @ 12:28 am | Comment

Dezza asked:

has anyone read the “privage life of chairman mao” by his personal doctor, li zhi sui?

Yeah, it’s great, loaded with fascinating details of the personal life of Mao, and of the small world of people who had regular, direct contact with him.

You follow Doctor Li through his personal transformation from idealistic young doctor completely bowled over by Mao, to later years of disillusion, fear, and disgust.

October 22, 2005 @ 12:53 am | Comment

And Martyn, I am not reviewing the book, just giving readers access to the review and a place where they can comment on it. I prmise, I’ll do my own review soon and come to my own conclusions. Meanwhile, I wanted to hear what everyone had to say, and to see if they agreed with my sense that the book lacked historical context – a feeling i have and am willing to change after I’ve read the book. Thanks.

October 22, 2005 @ 6:21 am | Comment

My comment wasn’t directed at you Richard, it was directed at the NYTimes review.

October 22, 2005 @ 10:12 am | Comment

70 million seems a bit inflated. But then again, arguing whether it’s 70 million or 30 million or whatever the number quoted by the CCP is is sort of like arguing whether Rwanda’s situation constituted “acts of genocide” or “genocide”. In the end it still doesn’t diminish Mao’s reputation as one scary-ass motherf**ker.

I’ve read Jung Chang’s “Wild Swans” and am familiar with the suffering her family (especially her parents, and most movingly her father) had endured at the hands of the CCP and Mao. So I forgive her for her biases (and no doubt inaccuracies and generalizations), because it would be impossible for her to excercise objectivity in such a case. Just as my father, an extremely intelligent and rational man, would never be able to bring himself to criticize Mao objectively, because it was a result of Mao’s policies that he was able to be the first one to go to school, go abroad, and consequently bring his family – generations and generations of impoverished peasantry – more opportunities than they ever imagined.

Onto the book: haven’t read it yet, but will soon. And with a large helping of salt, if the review posted is accurate. I mean, I can buy that the Cultural Revolution was started purely as a means to weed out his opponents (a position also expounded in Wild Swans), but that Mao coldly and purposely planned for the deaths of nearly 40 million people during the Great Leap Forward? And what could that accomplish? Oy. Requires much…much more proof.

October 22, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

Mao is no Hitler. Mao was neither a Stalin. Mao made great mistakes. A mistake is not deliberately, but accidentally. Many Chinese died because of his failed policies and China was set back another 50 years. This was the past. Now it’s time to work with more energy and enthusiasm for the future.

October 22, 2005 @ 4:09 pm | Comment

Mao was as bad as Stalin. Read up on how he treated some of his most loyal people during the CR. Sorry, but you are wrong about this. You can’t knowingly allow tens of millions to die monstrous deaths and then just wink and say, “Oops.”

October 22, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment


Of course, the number (70 millions) is important. How can I trust the content of the book if there are unnecessary hypes in it.

October 22, 2005 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

but that Mao coldly
and purposely planned for the deaths of nearly 40 million people during
the Great Leap Forward?

I never heard anywhwere that he planned for it. He was quite upset about it (big deal). But he still let it happen and refused to change policies until after the 40 million were dead.

October 22, 2005 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

I think people should look at Mao in the historical context: the China that was very backward and almost totally closed and isolated internationally…

It is laughable to say that Mao coldly
and purposely planned for the deaths of nearly 40 million people during the Great Leap Forward.

October 22, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

Xing, defending Mao is like defending Hitler. The Great Leap Forward is just one example of Mao’s horrors. Do you think the CR helped China end its isolation? Do you think it’s excusable? Mao asphyxiated the Chinese people’s minds, turning many into automatons. They are still reeling from this catastrophe, and many (most?) of China’s present ills can be traced back to Mao. The worst thing that could ever happen, thirty years of pure hell.

October 22, 2005 @ 11:04 pm | Comment


I am not defending Mao. However, I think it is none sense for some people to compare Mao to Hitler. I have no problem when people compare him with Stalin.

Again, people should really look at Mao in the historical context. For the great founding father of the US, Thomas Jefferson, people like to think he is impecable. How many people know that he kept a large number of slaves.

October 22, 2005 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Everyone knows the Founding Fathers had slaves. This is taught in school to al Americans. Do you know how Jefferson treated his slaves? They teach that in class too, but I suspect you don’t know that.

Mao can fairly be compared to Hitler. No, they aren’t exact parallels of one another, but both were the worst possible things that could have happened to their countries. Germany recovered from Hitler after five years, at least economically. China’s recovery from Mao will take generations. Hitler’s scourge lasted 12 years, Mao’s nearly 30. The suffering Mao caused his people simply cannot be calculated, it is so vast and so terrible. To say otherwise is to defend Mao.

October 23, 2005 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Richard, this part of the article:

“The authors write that “close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork” during the Great Leap Forward and an accompanying famine. This, they contend, was a result not of economic mismanagement but of *cold political calculus*.”

I took it to mean that Chang and Halliday are pretty much saying then that Mao engineered the famine on purpose for political gain, which I think is a dubious (though worth looking into) claim.

About the Mao-Hitler analogy…I’ve decided I’ll be open to it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I’ll be open to critically thinking about it, instead of rejecting it on grounds of hyperbole, which I had to admit was my first and convenient kneejerk reaction.

But this:
“Xing, defending Mao is like defending Hitler.”

No. You should know as well as anyone else that this does not even begin to be a fair counter-argument. In saying so you’re clearing trying to shut the mouths of those who defend Mao on certain points, by shaming them out of a rational debate (’cause, you know, pretty much everyone would recoil in horror at being compared to a Hilter apologist. That’s a sure conversation-stopper right there.)

Xing and ZHJ and whoever else should have the right to defend certain actions or aspects of Mao if they want to, without it being misconstrued as comparable to an endorsement of Hitler. Because while it is true that Hitler and Mao both did many deplorable, horrific things that caused incalculable destruction, and that it would be worth looking into the similarities between them, their ideological regimes, their policies, and especially their motivations I would say are different enough that being sympathetic towards one does NOT equate to being sympathetic towards the other. For example, in the most basic instance, Mao’s goal was never, ever ethnic extermination, nor was the culture of hate he directly or indirectly promoted based on race. The connotations therefore of being a Mao sympathizer and a Hitler sympathizer are quite different.

And I don’t see Xing or ZHJ or whoever else defending or absolving Mao, really. What I do see is some questioning of the veracity of the research presented, and trying to see things from a historical, birdseye-view standpoint – from where Mao appears less of an anomalous, “worst. tyrant. EVER.” (tm comic book man), civiliation-ending monster, but merely one in a long line of monsters (beginning with the Sui despot Yang Guang, continuing with Qin Shihuang – whom the Chinese historians have never quite forgiven, btw – up to the modern age), each of whom did A LOT of bad, some good (including Mao… to acknowledge his accomplishments is not to absolve him of his sins) and each of whose negative legacies the Chinese have always managed to overcome. All of which is to say that Mao may seem a lasting shadow now, but chances are he won’t be for long, in the grand scheme of things. This “whatever, Mao’s in the past…let’s get on with it” mentality of the Chinese may seem somewhat jaded and callous and apologist to the Westerner, but I guess that’s what pragmatism honed through 4000 years or so of history will do to you.

Urgh…I’m rambling. Sorry. Carry on.

October 23, 2005 @ 2:01 am | Comment

If Jung says Mao engineered the Great Leap Backwards with the intention of mass murdering his own citizens, I’d need to see her document that carefully, because I honestly don’t believe it and never heard that said before. Hitler sent the entire 6th Army to its doom in Stalingrad — needless deaths, but that doesn’t mean he intended them to die, that it was calculated. So again, if the book says this, I’ll need to see proof; it sounds reckless, but I don’t know because I haven’t read it.

I stick to my guns about defending Mao. There is just about nothing to defend. It’s like defending Hitler for building Germany’s wonderful highway system and making Nazi Germany’s economy soar. Does that qualify him for, maybe, 40 percent good, 60 percent bad? No; he was a monster. Mao’s barefoot doctor program and his early reforms (especially for women) were great things, but are next to meaningless within the context of the sheer misery he inflicted on China. There is no defending Mao. I do not know of any reputable historians who defend Mao. He was as egomaniacal and as disinterested in the lives of others as Hitler, and the number of those who died as a direct result of his rule equals or exceeds Hitler’s victims. Period. Everything else Mao’s defenders say is parsing, apologism and historical distortion. I’ve heard all the arguments, and they are rooted more in emotion (“Mao gave China a spine!”) than historical fact. Mao destroyed China, wiped out the brain cells of its children and left millions of dead and tortured in his wake. Defend away if it makes you feel good. Just know that it’s equivalent to defending Hitler, and no one takes such a defense seriously.

October 23, 2005 @ 2:25 am | Comment

Alright, so if any attempt to explain Mao or place Mao in any sort of context or to question statistical inaccuracies or generalizations is viewed as indefensible and even laughable apologist verbal gymnastics, then there can be no valid defense, therefore there can be no critical debate on Mao beyond the consensus that he was a monster (which btw no one disagreed with), no point in critiquing the relative fairness of Chang’s new book, because no matter what its flaws may or may not be it still would affirm everything you believed in about him, and really, no point to this thread.

October 23, 2005 @ 3:21 am | Comment

Please don’t put words in my mouth. It is fine to explore and expose historical inaccuracies. I am a big believer in myth-shattering. I never said otherwise. But for people to defend Mao with the same old BS about, well, even though he slaughtered millions some of the things he did were swell — that’s what I reject out of hand. I am always open minded to good arguments. But you know, nothing will change my opinion about Hitler, about Stalin, about Pol Pot because I’ve done enough of my own research to know that in spite of whatver token good things they may have done, they inflicted literally unparalleled suffering on humanity, no matter what their motivations, which don’t matter for beans – murder is murder, no matter what motivates the murderer. Just ask the victims and their families. And the same holds true for Mao as it does for Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. When I hear people trying to let them off the hook because their “motives” were good — it makes me sick. I am always willing to learn more about these men, and I’ve read countless books on Hitler and at least six biographies of Stalin. Knowledge is strength. But no valid historian ever defends these men. No valid historian ever defends Mao. Only apologists. It sends up a big red flag for me whenever people start defending Mao, I admit it. And I think it’s justified that I feel this way. I’ve seen the effects with my own eyes, and every time I think of what China could be today had Mao never existed, I feel literally sick with sadness.

October 23, 2005 @ 4:01 am | Comment

I am so disappointed reading this. Richard! Read the book! How many times have you rolled yr eyes at Chinese people being willing to grasp at straws or make generalisations about things they know little about or haven’t read?

The point of the book is that the authors have spent 10 years looking up this research. Jon Haliiday is a well respected scholar in the UK and expert on Russia. Much of the juice in the book comes from the Comintern archives, which have been opened up. So, whilst shocking, the famine being engineered by Mao is actually the most well documented part. As is the Korean War, due to the fact that the Comintern have the numbers. There is no hiding this. There are parts of the book which are conjecture (which the authors admit is conjecture), but the really damning stuff is totally backed up with evidence. They explain fully how they came up with the 70 million figure, and admit it is hard to give a precise figure to the number of deaths he was responsible, there being so many.

I have also read ‘the private life of chairman mao’, and to me that book complements the chan/halliday book completely. It basically points to him being a total textbook psycho. People say ‘where’s the balance, the bright side?’. Well, some people don’t have a good side. They spent 10 years on this book and couldn’t find one. I think the findings of this book have certainly opened a can of worms, but I think that Chang/Halliday’s argument is well argued, backed by evidence (and a full bibliography amounting to dozens and dozens of pages). I am sure that other historians will now turn to investigate in depth parts of the areas Chang/Halliday have opened up but they deserve all credit for doing so.

I think some people need to read the book before passing judgment. In that way they will actually know what they are talking about

October 23, 2005 @ 4:25 am | Comment

And another thing…

I am sorry but this has really got my goat. I think the NY review is rather poor. It states:

“They write that Mao saw the Sino-Japanese War as an opportunity to have Chiang Kai-shek destroyed by the Japanese and actually hoped that the Soviets would partition China with Japan, giving the Communists control of half the country. In addition, they assail the heroic myth of the Long March, arguing that Mao and his men survived only because Chiang allowed the Red Army to escape.

At the same time, the authors declare that Mao lacked a “heartfelt commitment” to Marxism, that he was driven not by idealism or passionate belief but by a raw pursuit of power. They write that he harbored extreme scorn for his fellow Chinese and that there “is no sign that Mao derived from his peasant roots any social concerns, much less that he was motivated by a sense of injustice.” At age 24, they say, he wrote a series of statements that reveal the sheer selfishness at the core of his philosophy: “I do not agree with the view that to be moral, the motive of one’s action has to be benefiting others. Morality does not have to be defined in relation to others.” And: “Some say one has a responsibility for history. I don’t believe it. I am only concerned about developing myself.””

All of this is backed by evidence in the book!!!! They say, oh its one sided, but damn it all, it is all backed by quote, interview and documentation! What more do they need! The stuff about the Reds doing little, the spies under the order of Stalin in the KMT, his total selfishness is all backed by cold, hard evidence! The reviewer fails to acknowledge this. There is plenty of background given to Mao’s historical place. The reason that they don’t talk about his writings in terms of his philosophy is that their argument is he didn’t have one – bar the acculmilation of power! He didn’t have a good side! How can you write about his good side and his philosophy when the argument of the book is he had neither!!


October 23, 2005 @ 4:35 am | Comment

Si, I am not talking about the book now, I am talking about MAO. I admit, I haven’t read it. I just wanted to get the opinions of those who have read it. I make no definitive judgments about a book I haven’t read. Once I read it I’ll write my own review. So please, don’t be disappointed. I put the post up to hear the opinions of others, freely admitting my own is incomplete at the moment.

October 23, 2005 @ 4:47 am | Comment

To Si: Chill.

My posts on Chang/Halliday’s findings were all prefaced by the caveat that I had not read the book. And because I have’t read the book, I wasn’t refuting their research, only being skeptical towards it, as one should.

Richard, I can’t speak for the other “apologists” on here, but personally I am a Mao “aplogist” only in the sense that I don’t think he’s as evil as Hitler, and that in China’s long history, I doubt he’s the worst thing that ever happened to us. I am open to being proved wrong on both points.

I am NOT, however (and nor is anyone else here, I think) arguing that there are pros to balance out his cons, or that he was a “necessary evil” because he unified China or somesuch.

Furthemore, I think there’s value in differentiating between motivations and outcomes. Of course, if Si is right, and if Mao was really the apotheosis of evil and that everything he’d ever done was motivated by power and selfishness, then that’s pretty much a moot point.

October 23, 2005 @ 4:20 pm | Comment

if Mao was really the apotheosis of evil and that everything he’d ever done was motivated by power and selfishness

I never said that and acknowledge his early reforms. Hitler did good as well – for a while.

October 23, 2005 @ 5:53 pm | Comment

Not referring to you, Richard. Referring to Si’s last post.

October 23, 2005 @ 6:05 pm | Comment

I encourage people to check the sources that they have cited. I have, and they sometimes either blatantly skew evidence out of their context or make overly stupid, unrelated generalizations. I am not defending Mao, but this “biography” is somewhat of an affront. I can spend ten years researching and coming up with bullshit as well.

May 2, 2006 @ 2:42 am | Comment

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