More reviews of Jung Chang’s Mao

The Times of London likes it:

Mao: The Untold Story exposes its subject as probably the most disgusting of the bloody troika of 20th-century tyrant-messiahs, in terms of character, deeds โ€” and number of victims. This study, by Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans, and her husband, the historian Jon Halliday, is a triumph. It is a mesmerising portrait of tyranny, degeneracy, mass murder and promiscuity, a barrage of revisionist bombshells, and a superb piece of research. This is the first intimate, political biography of the greatest monster of them all โ€” the Red Emperor of China. Using witnesses in China, and new, secret Chinese archives, the authors of this magisterial and damning book estimate that Mao was responsible for 70m deaths. He boasted he was willing โ€œfor half of China to dieโ€ to achieve military-nuclear superpowerdom.

And same from the UK Guardian.

In Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday invariably, and with absolute justification, refer to the Cultural Revolution as ‘the Great Purge’. It so happened that the wrath of the Red Guard was directed against ‘intellectuals’, loosely defined as anyone who had any pretensions to learning. But the method by which they were suppressed – mass murder usually accompanied by gratuitous torture – was the same as that which Mao employed whenever he felt it necessary to strengthen his hold over China and its people. His entire life was punctuated with slaughter of such a magnitude that it could only have been ordered by a man who was criminally insane.

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have not, in the whole of their narrative, a good word to say about Mao. In a normal biography, such an unequivocal denunciation would be both suspect and tedious. But the clear scholarship, and careful notes, of The Unknown Story provoke another reaction. Mao Tse-tung’s evil, undoubted and well documented, is unequalled throughout modern history.

He was candid about his megalomania. ‘Morality,’ he wrote, ‘does not have to be defined in relation to others. People like me want to satisfy our hearts to the full.’ His heart was satisfied only by the domination of his people, a term which he defined so rigorously that, even when he was indisputable ruler of China, he still wanted to dictate the thoughts of its population to ensure that they never even thought of turning against him. He safeguarded his position by murdering millions of his innocent compatriots.

These days, it is fashionable to point out that Adolf Hitler had redeeming features. He was good with dogs and other people’s children. Mao was hateful with everybody – his women, his wives and his son and daughter. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday deny him credit for the one episode in his blood-soaked career which, his apologists claim, at least adds an element of heroism to the savage saga: the Long March was a fraud.

I think I’ll have to read it to make up my own mind. As I’ve said before, Jung Chang’s style can drive me up a wall, but this sounds well worth a read. Has anyone here finished the book yet?

The Discussion: 74 Comments

As another who hasn’t read it yet, I’m quite interested in the review comments. One thing that has struck me is that the negative reviews say pretty much the same things as the negative reviews of Iris Chang’s “The rape of Nanjing” (she’s not a real historian, get’s emotionally much too close so how can it be considered balanced) – yet that is acknowledged as THE book to read about the subject (unless you’re a hard-core historian).

July 14, 2005 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

Very interesting reviews. I quite like the point about Hitler and his dogs. Helps me remember the issue of perspective (how not to forget the whole because of “mitigating factors”).

Hopefully we’ll see some varied discussion from the academic community. However, as there is no “council of historians” in Britain, I doubt the input of academics will really help matters much. People will always claim they’re “biased” one way or another. Though some surprising views might be expressed. We shall have to see.

July 14, 2005 @ 7:49 pm | Comment

I look forward to reading the book when the library gets it in – I’m not enriching Madame Jung any further from my pittance of a wage. I read a few snippets in the bookshop the other day and it didn’t look very good. She tries to demolish the whole legend of the Long Marchers crossing the Luding bridge in Sichuan, using the testimony of just one old woman who said there was no fighting. Maybe it’s true, but she counts this as hard evidence.

Mao may have been responsible for (and indifferent to) the deaths of millions, but Jung Chang seems to have set out to depict him as unredeemably bad. Maybe he was 70% bad and 30% good.

July 14, 2005 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

Maybe he was 70% bad and 30% good.

Mike, you gotta be joking, right?

July 14, 2005 @ 10:03 pm | Comment

i sure wish I could have gotten her book, but had to settle for
Mao, a life by short.
I think I will finish Short’s then read hers and compare.
Have you read Short’s?

July 15, 2005 @ 1:34 am | Comment

If the Party represents “Mao-tse-dung thought”, and the Party says Mao was 70 percent right, then it REALLY means Mao was 49 percent right.
70 percent x 70 percent = 49 percent.
But of course this leads to circular reasoning (which is, in fact, how the Party has reasoned about Mao’s “percentage”), and you can keep multiplying 70 percent times 70 percent until you get something close to zero.

July 15, 2005 @ 1:43 am | Comment

I think people should keep in mind that Jung Chang is the daughter of high CCP officials. It’s hard to expect an objective view on Mao from someone with her background since her parents were exactly the type of people that were targeted by Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

July 15, 2005 @ 2:07 am | Comment

Mao was worse than Tojo. He did this to his own people.

July 15, 2005 @ 3:42 am | Comment


When you read her book, you will see that the Luding Bridge episode is based on a lot more than the old woman’s testimony. For one thing, she cites Nationalist battle orders that moved the regiment guarding the bridge away. Also, the regiment that the CCP says was at the bridge was deployed some 50k away. Strange that, don’t you think? There’s more too.

July 15, 2005 @ 4:32 am | Comment

“It’s hard to expect an objective view on Mao from someone with her background since her parents were exactly the type of people that were targeted by Mao’s Cultural Revolution.”

Well that applies to many Chinese, doesn’t it?

July 15, 2005 @ 5:15 am | Comment

“For one thing, she cites Nationalist battle orders that moved the regiment guarding the bridge away. ”

The whole premise of that story was that, Mao got away not because he was smart, but because Chiang let Mao go to get his son back.

In 1927 when Chiang started killing CCP, Chiang’s son was in USSR. That did not prevent him from wiping out CCP. Four years later, after his son denounced him publicly, he misssed his son so much that he will let his biggest rival get away.

This kind of story get high mark review. Interesting.

July 15, 2005 @ 5:35 am | Comment


So you’re saying that the Nationalist battle orders are a lie? Why would they do that? Perhaps you should actually check her information before you discount it.

July 15, 2005 @ 5:54 am | Comment


Here is official version from CCP. The warlord did not want CCP to move into their territory. Therefore warlord’s first priority was to defend their territory from CCP and Chiang. Warlords several times intentionally let CCP slip as long as CCP moved out of their territory.

Is this story more believable that you quoted?

Long march was well known way before CCP took power. Chiang would have plenty of chances to discredit that move. Now, seventy years later, someone came up an original research.

I am wondering who is “smarter”, Chiang, the writer to make this story, or the one who believe this story.

July 15, 2005 @ 6:20 am | Comment

When I said 70% bad 30% good I wasn’t joking. Mao was responsible for millions of deaths – probably more than the Japs. But was he 100% bad? He liberated China. He gave China back to the Chinese. He is still revered – or at least respected – in China by people who experienced the worst aspects of his rule. He was a brilliant strategist, an original thinker, and poet. My wife’s father died in one of his stinking prison cells during the “wenhua dageming” but she doesn’t hate Mao. He will always be remembered by Chinese for one thing: in Beijing in 1949 he was able to proclaim: “The Chinese people have stood up”.

July 15, 2005 @ 6:54 am | Comment

Firstly, really interesting reviews. How ironic that two of the online UK newspapers that I read everyday carried these reviews and missed ’em. Typical.

As already said, I suppose we’ve each got to read the book ourselves and examine the sources to see what we make of it.

Revisionist books are always controversial and always polarise people. However, I am impressed by the amount of time Jung and Jon took to research the book, as well as the places they visited.

I met Jung Chang (Richard can you please pass me a dustpan and brush to sweep up the names I’m dropping here!) in 1994 and she talked about this book even then.

I’m inclined to give the authors the benefit of the doubt, mainly because modern Chinese history as set out by the CCP is only slightly less ficticious than the Harry Potter books. Something similar was once said to me by one of my mainland tutors at university before you all accuse me of China-bashing.

July 15, 2005 @ 7:02 am | Comment

Steve, when did the KMT try to discredit Luding Bridge? If you can come up with some evidence as to them falsifying their own battle records, I might believe you. The second past of your post makes no sense. No offence, but I think you need to thing a bit longer before posting in English again.


“I’m inclined to give the authors the benefit of the doubt, mainly because modern Chinese history as set out by the CCP is only slightly less ficticious than the Harry Potter books.”

Classic, mate, classic!

July 15, 2005 @ 7:23 am | Comment

What? You mean Harry Potter is FICTION?

July 15, 2005 @ 7:41 am | Comment

I haven’t read the book. But from what I have got from various reviews, Chang basically use KMT’s or Chiang Kai Shek’s side of stories about Mao, which are highly biased, given that they were military loser to Mao.

Mao is not a good person, that’s for sure. But somehow he managed to defeat Chiang so miraculously that many guerillas around the world admire him.

July 15, 2005 @ 8:19 am | Comment

Raj, I am really enjoying your comments. Only one request: I really want to encourage comments from people who speak English as a second language, so please, criticize their viewpoints but not their language capabilities. It takes a lot of courage for these people to come here and debate, and they provide an important perspective (and besides, Steve’s English is quite good).

July 15, 2005 @ 8:20 am | Comment

“when did the KMT try to discredit Luding Bridge?”

Edgar Snow’s “Red over China” was published in 1936. If long March was a farce, don’t you think KMT should have found enough time to discred it?

Now seventy years later, this kind of highly acclaimed work is invented. Which will be a laughing stock, Mao and his long march, or the writer and her believer?

July 15, 2005 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Whatever Luding bridge, Mao and his red army ran (or fled) almost 6000 miles by foot (or 3700 miles according to Ed Jocelyn and Andrew McEwen) and survived. And that by itself was a military miracle.

July 15, 2005 @ 8:44 am | Comment


Sure, sorry about that.

Steve, I’ll say it again. Tell me why the KMT battleorders were falsified, or show me that the KMT orders did say there was a regiment there at the time. Because if Chang & Halliday are right in saying that there were no KMT troops there, then how could there have been a battle at Luding?

I’m very surprised that you’re putting so much weight behind the KMT. Who cares if they haven’t discredited something? In any case, I’m sure if the Nationalists had tried to descredit the Long March, you’d claim it was evidence that Chang was part of a smear campaign.

Just because no one has ever challenged the Long March before doesn’t mean it all happened like the CCP says it did. You know, many Socialists and left-wing people in America & Europe used to think Stalin was a great guy, because no one considered he wasn’t. The Labour Party sent an “investigator” there, who came back saying the USSR was all milk & honey.

The same thing may well have happened to Snow. We can’t be sure, but his portrait of the Communists is extremely rosy. At times he just seemed to repeat his hosts’ propaganda. He somehow “missed” the chaos caused by the Great Leap Forward, the famines, etc. If he wasn’t aware of something like that (or didn’t think it worth discussing), then I don’t know how his view of the Long March can be taken at face value.

July 15, 2005 @ 9:26 am | Comment

Initially I was excited about and looking forward to reading this book but after learning that Jung Chang is another escapee from the Cultural Revolution, I decided she is absolutely the wrong person to have written it, as she undoubtedly still has and always will have strong emotions about Mao. I mean what the hell would you expect her to say (“I safe from the Commies, now I bad-mouthing them- hahaha!”)?

July 15, 2005 @ 9:39 am | Comment

Ad hominem. One can’t discredit the contents of a book one hasn’t read. After all, Jung C*ang made no secret of her desire to expose the Mao myth and she and her husband spent years researching it.

July 15, 2005 @ 9:45 am | Comment

Can we trust books by Holocaust survivors?

July 15, 2005 @ 9:55 am | Comment

Martyn, I have to take issue with this: One can’t discredit the contents of a book one hasn’t read.

I have never read Protocols of the Elders of Zion but I take serious issue wth it. Same with Mein Kampf, which I haven’t read. Same with books by neo-cons about how easy it will be to spread US-style democracy. I would be incapable of reviewing these books, but I sincerely believe you can form a pretty well-educated opinion about them if you read enough objective reviews.

July 15, 2005 @ 9:59 am | Comment

I think you take some particularly extreme examples. Your point is correct in theory, but certainly does not apply here.

Under the circumstances of JChang’s book NOT being The Protocols… or Mein Kampf but simply a book about Mao from a Chinese person who’s family lived under Mao, then these circumstances offer no reasonable reason to discredit the contents, none whatsover.

July 15, 2005 @ 10:16 am | Comment

There we agree Martyn. I was just saying that it is possible to make informed judgements about things without deep familiarity based on good sources. I

July 15, 2005 @ 10:25 am | Comment

Nevertheless, point taken.

July 15, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

” Because if Chang & Halliday are right in saying that there were no KMT troops there, then how could there have been a battle at Luding?”

Raj, You missed the point. I questions the interpretation that Chiang intentionally let Mao go. It is really not important how big the battle was.

According to CCP’s version. only four died in Luding battle. Even if there was a battle, it would be minor. The significance of Luding is not about how many people fought there.

CCP had fought thousands of battle. Why is luding is significant in its history? The significance of that battle is that CCP could be totally wiped out there.

Take Dunkirk. If Nazi intentionally instead mistakenly let allies leave. does that change the significance of that battle?

July 15, 2005 @ 11:32 am | Comment


Well the significance of the Long March is reduced if the KMT didn’t really push the Communists hard. The CCP has made the Long March into a grand escape by people who fought tooth & nail. It’s their own fault for building it up so much.

Chang & Halliday say that no one died at Luding because there was no battle there. If you read the book, you will find out for yourself. She mentioned one high ranking official expressing that a horse had fallen over the edge – he was told that no one died. The firing from the KMT was supposed to be very fierce, but the vanguard all survived to be present at a celebration presentation a few days later. The curator of the museum said in the 80s that the bridge hadn’t been on fire. It’s all there.

If there was no battle, then this very important part of the Long March was just propaganda. But as I wasn’t there I can’t safely tell you what happened. So I can only suggest you read the book and try to examine some of their sources yourself.

July 15, 2005 @ 11:45 am | Comment


After reading your explaination, it is just like saying that Chiang was really stupid and there is no wonder Mao won because anyone can won Chiang. Is that right?

July 15, 2005 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

1. Please don’t abuse my user-name.
2. I didn’t say that at all. Please show me where I said it.

But, in a way, Chiang was stupid. He should have crushed the Communists when he had the chance.

July 15, 2005 @ 12:22 pm | Comment

‘So I can only suggest you read the book and try to examine some of their sources yourself.”

Raj, Thanks for holding so much interest in CCP history. I will not read that book, let alone check the source.

You can argue Chiang intentionally or mistakenly let CCP run away. Either way he was pretty stupid. I guess we can at least agree on that part. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 15, 2005 @ 12:24 pm | Comment


Sorry for using your name. Sincerely. At least we agree that Chiang is really stupid.

July 15, 2005 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

‘K, we can agree to disagree then on Chang.

July 15, 2005 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

Raj, are you the same person who posts at JT as Shumatsu Samurai?

July 15, 2005 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

Why? Who are you, Jing?

July 15, 2005 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

I am your father….

In all seriousness though, no one in particular, but you are the same Shumatsu Samurai yes? It seems to much to be simple coincidence.

July 15, 2005 @ 4:31 pm | Comment


Yes, I am. And now perhaps you would care to tell me who you are….

July 15, 2005 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

Hmm, I didn’t read your post properly. Are you saying you don’t post in JT? Because I’m surprised that you’d remember my alias if you just give it a cursory glance now and again. I find that rather hard to believe….. I mean surely you must use the forum or something.

July 15, 2005 @ 4:37 pm | Comment

I used to post at JT a few years back while waiting during the 65 minutes spare time I had between classes. But I haven’t done so for quite some time, though I do occassionally still browse the news at JT and their accompanying comments. I recognized your from that.

July 15, 2005 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

Ah, ok. I’m so happy I made an impact on you. However I have to admit I am rather disappointed with JT. So many articles turn into an “X-bashing” fest, though some discussions are good. I guess trolls have very sad lives and get a buzz from pissing people off.

Lol, by the way do you have an opinion on this book? You could have just e-mailed me if you’re not ๐Ÿ˜‰

July 15, 2005 @ 4:45 pm | Comment

I haven’t had the opportunity to read it. Though I am skeptical of the claims regarding Mao’s so-called military incompetance. I have read other more or less impartial academic works detailing the long march and communist military activity that seem to conflict with Chang’s account of how Mao managed the Red Army.

However, on the issues of Mao’s personal life, I have no experience on the topic. He could have been some depraved sexually-predatory sybarite, but to be blunt that sounds a little far fetched.

July 15, 2005 @ 5:13 pm | Comment

FYI, the Far Eastern Economic Review also gave this book a pretty good review. It seems to very much be a “love it or hate it” book.

July 19, 2005 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

and i guess the “love it or hate it” aspect just comes from the amount of emotion that people have invested in the idea of Mao. People either completely can’t stand him, or admire him and refuse to see other points of view.

July 19, 2005 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

I have read the Jung Chang book and found it absolutely hilarious. What excellent jokes! So Mao was no brave fellow at all: he merely allowed himself to be carried six THOUSAND miles accross some of the world’s highest mountains….My o my…What a lazy fellow. He should have been really energetic and slept in his bed in one comfy room, instead.

By being lazy, Mao took over China…..! What could that man not have done had he been willing to do a spot of work?

And the Long March was no big deal….Chiang ALLOWED the Reds to go to North China, you see, to please Russia…..Goood of him, but why did he not simply allow them to stay in South China – rather than reposition themselves in the North where they could be in direct contact with Russia and be infinitely more dangerous to him?

Don’t forget it was Russian aid that enabled to CCP to overthrow Chiang – who could not smash the CCP with many times more US aid….

Ho ho ho —read Jung Chang for the laughs….

July 21, 2005 @ 5:36 am | Comment

Krish, you obviously are totally unaware of Stalin’s relationship with Chiang. I amo not ready to praise this book, but the points you criticize sound to mne like plusses, not minuses. If you think the average Chinese was taught that Mao was carried around on a chaise lounge during the so-called Long March …well, what can one say?

July 21, 2005 @ 5:51 am | Comment

Mao’s greatness will not go down simply because of Jung Chang’s bitterness – the readers of Wild Swan know that she lost her privileged life that Mao had given to her because her parents were part of Mao’s rise to power. In fact, people in Maoโ€™s position would not be able to cause direct death of many people – one may even question any โ€“ itโ€™s his followers like Jung Chang’s parents who did that. Of course, Mao’s weakness or mistakes will not be forgotten. Everyone with a sane mind would see that China is learning from Mao’s mistakes and now making historic progress.

There are many people in China who suffered much more than what Jung Chang’s family. Unlike Jung Changโ€™s parents and herself, many did not even have the privilege of enjoying at least a period of the “good time” that Mao had given to them, but they are true Chinese who have faith in their own country, like Zhu Rong-Ji who was purged in the 50’s but did what he felt was right and eventually rose to become the Premier. Jung Chang is simply a bitter woman who knows how to capitalize on and profiteer from her marriage to an English and the historic moment of the rise of modern China. Who would want to read her book or even bother to know Mao if China was still like some 100 years ago when the foreign powers were deciding her destiny? Try to write a book about Chiang and see how many copies could be sold.

July 24, 2005 @ 10:12 am | Comment

re: maonhaozi’s comments

Looks like we’ve moved from a discussion of the book to a pedantic ad hominem attack on the author for her alleged betrayal of the Chinese people. Nice job, maonhaozi.

July 29, 2005 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

I’ve read the book my first on Mao. I found it utterly compelling and convincing. At the very least it deserves serious analysis rather than flippant put-downs. They make a very convincing case as to why Chiang Kai-Shek allowed the Reds thru so easily

August 4, 2005 @ 10:58 am | Comment

I cant believe that you can defend Mao so passionately. If you were Germans defending Hitler in a similar way society would brandish you as radical hate mongers.

Mao was a dog – less than a dog – unfortunately he was able to unleash his pettiness on China for so long and so many people suffered for it.

August 5, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

Nobody is perfect in this world. Mao made mistakes too.

Yet, it is completely wrong to compare Mao with Hitler. There is fundamental difference in the nature of them.

Mao led the Chinese people in the struggles to win independence and succeeded delivering a new China to his people.

Hitler led his people to destruction, invading other countries, killing Jewish people and other minority races.

Writers and historians must be clear about it!

As for the sufferings of Chinese people, it depends upon how you look at it. As a Chinese myself who also suffered in the Cultural Revolution, I found that the experience of that period was very rewarding. I learned a lot about life.

China has a long history which is dramatic and violent. Don’t forget that China was never a paradise and people suffered tremendously at the hands of foreign powers and under the rule of Nationalist regime, before Mao established the People’s Republic of China.

August 5, 2005 @ 4:21 am | Comment

I read the book and like everyone was amazed by how totally and unremittingly negative it was about Mao. Has anyone noticed the psychotic chinese reviewer on – I quote:

“anybody can come to China and visit any people to find out if there was 3,500,000 people died because of Mao.some book authors in order to make money and attrack more readers,and to make some shameful
new leader happy,or for the aim of anti Mao,who has founded new china,and liberated all the poor oppressed and exploied people,
try to make this shameful giant lie as truth ,though it has repeated countless times,but it is still a lie,and the liar is live on this.anybody ,welcome to china,ask people,in any city or village,to make the shameful lie go to hell.Don’t make your homeland be liar’s paradise. ”

August 9, 2005 @ 2:15 am | Comment

As a note, anyone that says Mao was 70% good, 30% bad is actually regurgitating CCP slogans. It is interesting, in a free thinking society, you ask someone what they think about a national leader you might get different answers. Not in PR China, apparently. I have read a number of books about China recently – June Chang’s book makes me very sad, and I am finding myself not want to read it since it is depressing.

August 15, 2005 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

Chang and Halliday’s book on Mao is a must-read for anyone with in an interest in twentieth century history. It confirms the general picture that was available already in the early nineteen-sixties from accounts of people who had fled / escaped from China, but it adds an enormous amount of detail culled from archives, other publications and interviews with survivors.
Whether each and every factual statement in the book corresponds with something that really happened, I cannot judge, but at least the authors provide enough detail about time and place to make it possible for anyone with better knowledge to confirm or disprove their assertions.
Whether each and every explanation the authors give as to causes or reasons for some event or action is plausible, let alone true, I cannot judge either. But, again, they do give explanations that are historically plausible and therefore can be subjected to objective criticism.
True, they have not a good word for Mao, which runs counter to the clichรฉ that there is some good in every person. But there have been so many books that have nothing but good words for the Great Helmsman. Would the inclusion of a chapter on “Mao’s achievements” have enhanced the value of Chang & Halliday’s book or merely made it longer, without adding anything that we have not been told a hundred times before? After all, they set out to tell “The Unknown Story”.

August 17, 2005 @ 3:37 pm | Comment

Some Questions for Jia Li

1. Responsible for tens of millions of Chinese deaths, do you think Mao merely made some mistakes or committed the crimes to the highest degree?

2. ‘Mao led the Chinese people in the struggles….’, the result war and chaos. In today’s phraseology, should that be defined as terrorism?

3. Hitler led his nation to destruction for 12 years when he was in power, Mao led his nation to destruction for 27 years when he was in power. Hitler persecuted Jews, and Mao persecuted the innocents and let them starve. Is it not apt to compare Mao with Hitler?

4. Surely everyone learns a lot about life through suffering. However, you find your experience through Cultural Revolution rewarding. Were you rewarded by seeing numerous Chinese deaths and their suffering? Does it mean criminals were lecturers just because you learned from their crimes?

August 26, 2005 @ 2:31 am | Comment

Some Answers for CultRevo

1. First of all, the death toll of tens of millions of Chinese is questionable? What sources does this figure come from? Has it been verified and proved? What causes did people die of? Did Mao give instructions or sign death warrants? Here comes another question: Should we hold any state leader responsible for any deaths in the country which he runs? Should British people hold their PM Tony Blair responsible for the deaths of patients who died because of the poor medical care of NHS and those victims killed by criminals while he is in power?

The mistakes made by Mao during the Great Leap Forward are that he approved on overestimated production quotas. At that time, the leaders at state and provincial levels were divided in opinions. Some leaders set too high quotas in steel and food grain productions whereas other leaders thought that these quotas were unrealistic and impossible. Mao agreed with and backed up those who set too production quotas. In 50s, when PRC was just established and country was still in poverty-stricken state. There was a strong over-zealous feeling to transform the country among the leaders as well as people. Later Mao admitted his mistakes on more than occasions. In June 18th, 1960, in his speech โ€˜Ten Years Summeryโ€™, he made self-criticisms. He said: โ€œI myself have made many mistakes, some of them made together with other people. For example, at conference in Beidaihe, I gave approval on 30 millions tons of steal production for 1959 Year Plan, โ€ฆโ€ฆ In 1959, 1960 and 1961, agricultural production decreased on big scale. Of course, natural disasters such as floods and drought were part of the reasons. But the main reasons were mismanagement, high production quotas, overestimated production and high quotas of purchase by the state. As result, rural areas suffered from famine. It is a densely populated and backward country. Famine often happened before the communists took over the power. Mao never intended to let his people die of starvation.

2. Terrorism is use of threats and act of violence against innocent people, which is carried out by extremists or extremistsโ€™ organisations for political purposes. Mao believed in revolution. He said: โ€œRevolution is not a dinner party, not like writing an essay or sewing embroidery. It is an act of violence of one class against another.โ€ He drew on the experiences of the French Revolution and the October Revolution in Russia when he mobilized the poor peasants in revolutionary movements. They deprived landlords of their land and distributed among the poor peasants in the land reform movement, thus ending centuries old feudal system. During Second World War, he led his armed forces in fighting the Japanese troops for 8 years. He won popularity among the people in the civil war with the Nationalists who were so corrupted at that time. These movements and wars canโ€™t be defined as terrorism.

Sorry, I have to stop here. I will finish next time.

August 27, 2005 @ 10:02 am | Comment

Some funny Chinese words appeared in posting. They are not my mistakes. Hope you can figure out the English.

August 27, 2005 @ 10:09 am | Comment

To read such a total distortion of history is downright nauseating. The comparison of the NHS hospitals under Blair with Mao’s wanton butchery during the CFR is so appalling, so dumb, so haphazrd and stuouid it literally boggles the mind. The carnage of the CR is a dcumented fact, not a matter of conjecture. To imply that it wasn’t that bad — well, it’s apologism and revisionism at its most abhorrent.

August 27, 2005 @ 10:10 am | Comment

Well said, Richard. Even the CCP admits that the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution was wrong.

Mao did not order all those people to be individually killed, but he is responsible for their deaths by initiating poorly thought out and destructive policies. If he didn’t know that taking peasants out of the fields would lead to famine then he was an idiot and incompetant. If he did realise what would happen, then he was a terrible man for doing it anyway.

In regards to the Cultural Revolution, remember that he was subverting the Party by getting the young to do his work for him. He was not the real leader of China at that time and had been replaced by other politicians. But in a desperate attempt to regain control, he was willing to cause economic and social chaos, destroy China’s historic heritage and so forth.

Hardly a man worth defending….

August 27, 2005 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

By the way, Li, do you know anything about the French Revolution? Because it was quite a terrible time of chaos and uncertainty for many years, with ridiculous policies. Did you hear about how the government tried to rewrite the calendar and time itself? Wow, that really helped the French people, didn’t it?

One dictatorship was replaced by another – the “Committee of Public Safety”. When Napoleon was defeated in 1815, a non-revolutionary constitutional monarchy was established. Although that eventually fell, France never attempted such a suicidal form of government.

August 27, 2005 @ 6:08 pm | Comment


Is it your prejudice that the Chinese donโ€™t know anything about the French Revolution? When I talked about the FR with my French friends as well as relatives, I found we share a lot of ideas and opinions, because of our historical backgrounds of revolutions. They all think that the FR is very important part of their history and is not a lost cause despite chaos, terror, wars, and anarchism. They might be interested in Princess Diana, but they will never want their monarchy to come back. They are very proud of the fall of their monarch and the glorious gains of liberty, equality and fraternity.

What I have posted is the truths that I know. My generation who grew up in China in the 50s and 60s experienced all these, especially the CR. Chang said that the Chinese people know very little about Mao. It is absolutely nonsense! Nowadays, there have been so many Chinese books about Mao published in China, Hong Kong and America. Changโ€™s book on Mao is one-sided and distorted story. The craft of her writing is to extract from other books all she needs to dipict Mao as an evil character. There have been many books about Mao now. She and her husband have to debunk all the theories of other writers in order to claim to be authority and promote their book to be a bestseller. It is more about money rather than Mao.

Recently, my friends in Beijing told me that some people whom she interviewed were shocked and angry when they learned that Chang has written such book in which she distorted what they said. They feel that they have been cheated. I am not surprised. When I read her book, I found a lot of contents are from the books I have also read. But she always distorted them. For a small example, she wrote that Mao was cruel and unkind to his youngest daughter and did not allow her to eat his ration in difficult years. I also read this book which she sourced. The author wants to say that Mao is a man of principle. I would expect Chang put it correctly, because her father was also a man of communist principles and always strict with her and her siblings described in her Wild Swan. So many historical facts have been distorted. My sister-in-law had a schoolmate in the elite school โ€˜August 1stโ€™ in Beijing before the CR, this girlโ€™s father Wang Jin Shan, a respected army general was one of 18 heroic Long Marchers who fought across the Luding Bridge. She only can cheat those Western readers who know nothing about China.

I have to go now. You donโ€™t have to post back to me. I donโ€™t think we can agree on anything. It is pointless to argue back and forth. I donโ€™t have that sort of time.

September 1, 2005 @ 11:52 am | Comment

Has anyone here actually looked at “Mao Zedong Zaoqi Wengao”. “Early manuscripts of Mao Zedong”. This can be found in the index; page 756. It is Mao, 1990.

Read page 13. Many quotes from this. Like “we have no duty to other people”.

My friend has compared what is on page 13 to the actual writings of Mao in “Zaoqi”. He says Mao’s actual meaning, in context, is exactly the opposite to what was portrayed in “The Unknown Story”.

He had no problem finding that book, “Zaoqi” in Hunan. Should be available throughout China.

This entire book is based to a great degree on this characterization of Mao Zhu Xi. If this characterization is a fraud, it puts a cloud over everything subsequently stated.

What say you?

He also says that it is impossible that General Zhang- the Young Marshall-said what was attributed to him on page 103.

September 4, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

So- no one has compared “Unknown Story” with “Mao Zedong Zaoqi Wengao”?

Too bad. This is necessary to know whether this book was written honestly. I want to know.

September 17, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment


You are absolutely right. I meant to praise Jung Chang’s book, not to condemn it. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read. It has invented a new genre: turning history into jokes. It tells how a very lazy man (Mao) overhtrew a very stupid one (Chiang Kai-Shek). Chiang was according to Jung Chang so stupid that anyone could overthrow him. The mystery is how he survived so long. Why did Mao take 20 years to kick out someone so incredibly stupid? Doesn’t that prove my point that Mao was not only lazy – he once allowed himself to be carried six thousand miles over some of the world’s highest mountain ranges (the so-called Long March, which should really be called the Long Sleep) – but that Mao was EVEN STUPIDER THAN THE UNBELIEVABLY STUPID CHIANG?????? How come Jung Chang has failed to point out the astonishing lack of even the smallest intelligence of Mao?

September 19, 2005 @ 10:36 am | Comment

1. Mao was so lazy that he turned the world upside down by lolling in bed. Once he allowed himself to be carried six thousand miles through some of the most rugged terrain in the world, over some of the world’s highest mountain ranges…! Think of that man’s foul laziness!! I should be ashamed even to be carried one mile at the local park…

2. Chiang Kai-Shek was so wise that he allowed Mao to move his army from South China to North China where it could be in direct touch with the Soviet Union. Stupid people urged Chiang Kai-Shek that this was dangerous, but Chiang smiled wisely and said: “I know what I am doing…..I am even providing Mao with maps! Don’t woryy! Be happy!!” Years later Chiang ended up losing China to Mao and living in Taiwan. He used to say: “Look how smart I am! I got that done by helping Mao that time…” What a clever man was Chiang Kai-Shek!!!! As clever as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday….!!!

3. Mao was so stupid that he could persuade the Soviet Union to provide him with only a fraction of the aid that the US was giving Chiang. What a dumb clown, eh!!! Chiang was at least 100 times smarter. He got so much more aid…! If Chiang left China to Mao in the Civil War this was because of a wise decision. He knew Taiwan was better…..Idiot Mao was stuck with big old China. Serves him right!!!!

4. Mao was so stupid that although he had no Marxist principles, as has been proved by Jung Chang, and wanted only power, he spent two decades being hunted from pillar to post as a leader of the Communist Party, whose chances of conquering China were almost nil. People told him he would have done much better joining Chiang’s Kuomintang Party: then he could get power without all this trouble! But idiot Mao just didn’t see their point…He just kept right on with the Communists, as if he cared about Communism….! What a clown!!!!

September 20, 2005 @ 3:34 am | Comment

That post above from me, by the way, sets out some lessons one derives from Jung Chang’s hilarious book. It shows why I am such an enthisiastic fan of this clever lady.

September 22, 2005 @ 5:31 am | Comment

“Zaoqi Wengao”.

Read it.

September 23, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

lazy bastards

October 10, 2005 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

Well, it’s a great thng to be lazy…..Isn’t that how Mao turned the world upside down, according to Jung Chang? Lazy bastards of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your pillows…..

There is an interesting review of this book in this month’s New York Review of Books.

October 17, 2005 @ 9:20 am | Comment

The book and all the reviews evade the issue of human responsibility for murder, torture and deliberate starvation. Mao did not personally kill anybody; neither did Robespierre, Hitler or Stalin. But all three, and Mao as well, plus their associates, instigated the killing of opponents, or supposed opponentsand other people carried out their bidding, often enthusiastically. It is wrong to blame it all on Mao, or the others. Many shared the responsibility, and it was made possible by the fall of the Empire and the subsequent civil war.

November 1, 2005 @ 3:41 pm | Comment


Be sure to condemn old Winnie Churchill along with Hitler and Stalin and Mao. Churchill ALLOWED 4 million Indians to starve to death in the 1940s. A member of his War Cabinet – Viscount Alanbrooke – called that a Hitlerian act. Churchill also did all he could to foment trouble in India between Hindus and Muslims that led to the Partition of India and the loss of at least a million lives. Yes, Old Winnie is right up there with the best.

As for Roosevelt, please mention his backing of the bloodiest Latin American dicatators of his time – what he merrily called “Our sons of bitches”.

As for capitalism, it didn’t do a bad job either – the Depression of the Thirties made Hitler possible.

Plenty of blame for all. Jung Chang blames it all on Mao, but that is too generous.

November 2, 2005 @ 6:43 am | Comment

With Billions of people admiring what Moa has done for China, who is June Chang to discredit Mao? June is certainly not the right person with personal hated for Moa and also now living in US with all the different ideology of life. Is US clean on human right? Look at the example of World War 2 when Japan attacked Hawaii and all the Americans of Japanese decent in America were just locked up! Mao may have done a lot of evil especially during his more senile years influenced by the Gang of 4. However, if not for him, China will still be bullied and very corrupted by the rich who wants to become richer and most likely be colonized by Japanese and Americans. China now enjoys respect from other countries and on the way to become an economy giant and we should respect this.
It is unfair to say that Mao was hateful with everybody – his women, his wives and his son and daughter. In a book I read called โ€œThe Long Marchโ€, Mao was very upset by the death of his wife and sister who were killed by Chang in Nanking and he bearly escaped with his own life. This book is definitely one sided and the review by the Times of London is even more shocking and biased.

December 27, 2005 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.