Jonathan Fenby on Chang-Halliday’s Mao

The controversy shows no signs of abating.

It was a summer publishing sensation, an 814-page biography of a man the authors depict as the worst mass murderer of the 20th century, with 111 pages of notes and bibliography.

Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang, celebrated author of the world bestseller, Wild Swans, and her husband, historian Jon Halliday, was hailed by reviewers, most of whom were not specialists on China. The book was described as ‘a triumph’, ‘stupendous’ and ‘awesome’ when it was published in Britain. UK sales have reached 60,000.

But now the authors find themselves in a bitter battle with some of the world’s leading China experts, who have united to unleash a barrage of criticism of the book in general, and, in particular, of its sourcing – the subject of a ten-point reply from the authors in the forthcoming edition of the London Review of Books.

The central thrust of the book is that Mao was a sadistic monster, worse than Hitler or Stalin, and responsible for 70 million deaths. His Marxism was a shallow mask for selfishness.

His reputation as a military leader and champion of the peasants was a sham, argue the book’s authors. Portraying Mao as a creature of Stalin, the authors say that, far from moving China forward, he did nothing good, ruthlessly eliminating rivals, starving millions, provoking wars and treating his wives abominably.

By concentrating on the man and his misdeeds, critics say, the book does not explain the context of Mao’s rise, his ability to hold power for 26 years and his international impact. ‘More needs to be taken into account than a simple personalisation of blame,’ one leading historian, Jonathan Spence of Yale, wrote in the New York Review of Books

Yesterday Jung Chang and Jon Halliday told The Observer: ‘The academics’ views on Mao and Chinese history cited represent received wisdom of which we were well aware while writing our biography of Mao. We came to our own conclusions and interpretations of events through a decade’s research.’

There are elements in the story on which there is general agreement. Nor do the book’s critics deny that Mao was a monster. But a 14-page review article to appear next month in the China Journal, by Gregor Benton of Cardiff University and Steve Tsang of St Antony, Oxford, contends that the methods used by the authors ‘make for bad history and worse biography’.

Andrew Nathan of Columbia set off the debate in the LRB with a review last month, headed ‘Jade and Plastic’. He acknowledged that the ‘unknown stories’ in the book ‘if true, will be big news for historians’. But he said it was difficult to know which of the multiple sources often given for an event were relevant. He claimed, ‘that many of Chang and Halliday’s claims are based on distorted, misleading or far-fetched use of evidence.’

The academic critics have focused on around 20 specific events where the book provides a fresh account of events, including its sensational claim that the Chinese Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, intentionally let the Red Army escape on the historic Long March of 1934-5 when Mao led his communist forces across China to a safe haven in the north. In their defence of their book, the authors point to their detailed references, such as the 26 sources for the claim about the Long March.

Nathan replies in a response below their letter: ‘Of these 26 items, which one, two or three unequivocally support the improbable claim that Chiang let the Reds escape intentionally?’

Dispute also surrounds the book’s account of the battle of Luding Bridge, during the March, celebrated in communist lore as a heroic feat by the Red Army. Chang and Halliday say it never took place, basing themselves on the lack of casualty reports, evidence from the curator of a museum, and testimony from a 93-year-old woman they met at the scene in 1997 who had lived there at the time. In their letter to the LRB, they point to seven written sources for their account.

But an Australian journalist recently found an equally aged witness who claims the battle did take place. The Long March, a book by two Britons in China who walked the route, claims the account by Chang and Halliday is ‘wrong on almost every count’. The book, to be published in March, recounts a meeting with another old woman who accounts for the low death toll among communists by saying the Red Army used peasants as a human shield. ‘They were all shot and killed,’ she said. Their deaths weren’t recorded.

A commenter here named Ivan offered a simple and elegant solution to the whole mess: Have the CCP open the archives on Mao so the historical anomalies can be cleared up. It wouldn’t answer every question, but it might help separate facts from fantasy. Until then, expect the back-and-forth arguments to continue, with a dearth of hard evidence to back up either side.

The Discussion: 44 Comments

I am going to write a book tomorrow that says

1) Hitler raped on average 10 young girls a day when he was Chancellor of Germany. Every time he raped a girl, he skins her corpse and fries her meat for dinner. This is confirmed by multiple first-hand accounts of parents of some of the girls

2) Hitler beheaded his own mother when he was 16 during an argument with her, and later made ground meat from her mother’s head. This is confirmed by eye witness account

3) Hitler was actually very very poor military planner. German forces were actually defeated by Polish soldiers, but Poland intentionally allowed Germany to occupy it. THis is confirmed by secret documents from many underground libraries.

4) Hitler later asked Stalin to have sex with him, but Stalin refused. So he invaded USSR. And during the invasion, all german forces were defeated at the beginning. But Stalin asked the German forces to advance to Stalingrad so Hitler won’t “lose face”. This is confirmed by secret USSR sources.

This just goes to prove how evil Hitler is!

December 4, 2005 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

I guess your point is that everyone already knows how evil Mao was, so we don’t need a book with exagerrated and unsubstantiated claims.

December 4, 2005 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

HX, now can you point to similar idiocies in the Chang-Halliday book? I’ve read about allegedly unsubstantiated claims, but nothing like the parallels you’re drawing.

December 4, 2005 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

I did not read the book. But from the way it is described, it sounds like those authors just want to get some attention with their books. They claimed that the Chiang Kai Shek allowed CCP to win the Long March? If that has even 1% of truth, then wouldn’t the KMT jump on it and broadcast it back then when it was an enemy of CCP?

They should’ve claimed that Mao did not really win China, but KMT moved to Taiwan voluntarily because it does not want to bring to warfare and suffering to the Chinese people.

December 4, 2005 @ 9:57 pm | Comment

please tell me who should be responsible for the death(death toll is 30 million) during Mao’s presidential term.

December 4, 2005 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

as i said in an ealier thread, “JC&H’s book is widely discredited by academics”. what she did only served to confuse the matter and obstruct our effort to seek truth.

almost all her “new discoveries” were lies and exaggerations. even though those not discovered by her are largely true, that is bad enough for a reader.
eating a bowl of rice with 26 grains of sand will surely break your teeth.

ivan’s suggestion sounds good, but there will still be controversy afterwards, as many will not trust what CCP disclose, even if they do open the book.

December 5, 2005 @ 12:42 am | Comment

It is really not unlike “The Coming Collapse of China” in that somebody is trying to, ahem, sell books. I mean if it is titled “Structural Deficit of Chinese Economy”, which is actually a more accurate title, then no one would freakn buy a book.

Someone is just trying to generate some controversies in order to sell books.

December 5, 2005 @ 2:05 am | Comment

Seems you know a lot about Hitler, Hongxing.
Is he, like Mao, one of your heros?

and btw, what about Elvis?

December 5, 2005 @ 4:52 am | Comment

The two controversies cited in the article, i.e., Luding bridge and Chiang intentionally let Mao go, will not be helped by CCP’s record at all. J&C’s book makes Mao even more legendary.

One thing is indisputable, if Mao lost Luding war, his red arm would be totally eliminated.

J&C’s book basically ask people choose between the following two hypothesis:

1) Chiang let Mao go because of his son; (When Chiang killed tens of thousands of communists in 1927, his son was already in USSR).
2) Mao was so brilliant that he actually led red arm out of an extremely dangerous situation with little loss.

J&C’s chapter 29 made similar attempt and readers need to choose from the following two:

1) General Hu was a communist memeber; (General Hu was a staunch anti-communist even when KMT and CCP was on good terms, and was responsible for the death of thousands of communist member in his career.)
2) Mao was so brilliant that his 20,000 troops frustrated General Hu’s 200,000 troops and won the war.

Which is more far-fetched?

December 5, 2005 @ 6:34 am | Comment

I have been hearing that several so-called China experts discredit Chang/Halliday, but I haven’t seen the hard and fast research that these “experts” put forth to back up their discrediting.

December 5, 2005 @ 7:10 am | Comment


Yes, they do exactly what they accuse Chang and Halliday of doing – make claims without putting any evidence up.

Some people say that the book has given the pro-CCP people more fuel. Well it didn’t really, as they can only do what they usually do – say someone is lying because they’re not red-breasted pro-CCP loving Chinese patriots. The real fuel has come from people lambasting the book so harshly, as those fenqing can say, “Oh look – even Western corrupt people dislike the book. It proves all accusation about Mao are lies – long live the Chairman!”

As someone pointed out, other authors have made very strong criticisms of Mao more than anyone else, but not attracted much attention. Thus I do wonder if part of it is envy. You might not believe it, but some academics are very nasty towards their more famous peers who make a lot of money.

Don’t believe me? Well academics write bad/poor books all of the time – such that they get slated in almost every review. So why have so many supposedly “neutral” people got excited about this, when their criticism of other books is normally very restrained? Some of the comments I’ve read about Chang on the internet are very telling, especially those about how she was a “spoilt brat” in China, etc.

Just one factor I’m sure, but a potential factor nonetheless.

December 5, 2005 @ 1:36 pm | Comment

Yes, they do exactly what they accuse Chang and Halliday of doing – make claims without putting any evidence up.

Well, to be fair, the critics don’t need to put up any evidence of their own. All they need to do is to poke holes through the evidence presented. For claims as monumental and potentially explosive as Chang/Halliday’s, the onus is on the authers to prove that their claims and the reasoning behind their claims are completely satisfactory. And what some critics seem to be saying now is that they aren’t – that the evidence presented is not conclusive enough for Chang/Halliday to have made the inferences they’d made.

P.S. Someone should compile a collection of HongXing’s “bon mots” for the posterity of TPD. A “Greatest Hits”, if you will.

December 5, 2005 @ 2:27 pm | Comment


I don’t think there are back-and-forth arguments to continue. By common sense, the burden is on the book authors to prove their claims are valid, instead of exaggerations or lies.

December 5, 2005 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

And from the book review by a leading China scholar Andrew Nathan, the book is full of holes. Andrew Nathan is by no mean a China lover; he is probably baned to enter China.

December 5, 2005 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

Nathan’s review was not bad. Though it should’ve been titled “Jade and Earthernware”, not “Jade and Plastic”, to go along with the apt proverb “äq‹ÊŽæŠ¢”.

December 5, 2005 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

“I haven’t seen the hard and fast research that these “experts” put forth to back up their discrediting. ”

jerome, did you read the guardian article.
— “But an Australian journalist recently found an equally aged witness who claims the battle did take place. The Long March, a book by two Britons in China who walked the route, claims the account by Chang and Halliday is ‘wrong on almost every count’. ”
— “Nathan replies in a response below their letter: ‘Of these 26 items, which one, two or three unequivocally support the improbable claim that Chiang let the Reds escape intentionally?'”
— “But a 14-page review article to appear next month in the China Journal, by Gregor Benton of Cardiff University and Steve Tsang of St Antony, Oxford, contends that the methods used by the authors ‘make for bad history and worse biography'”

btw, is your PhD on history?

December 5, 2005 @ 4:20 pm | Comment


i would say this again about JCH book,
“eating a bowl of rice with 26 grains of sand will surely break your teeth.”
yes, there are a lot of rice, but those are recycled materials, nothing new. every new stuff is sand and stone.

it is perhaps a good pulp fiction to read in the bathroom, but it is just not qualified as an academic publication. put it this way, i would challenge them to publish a any extract to an academic journal.

if in famine and there is no food, we have to eat it. fine.
but there are a lot of rice our there today, in englichs and in chinese.

December 5, 2005 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

I think Raj is right on target about the factor of professional academic envy in all this.

Most PhDs are hacks, and I mean in ALL countries, including the US and UK. They hack out stacks of poorly written, jargonese “publications” which never get read, and which receive almost no pay.

And generally they go crazy when “amateurs” intrude on their turf, and it’s even worse when the “amateurs” outperform them. A GREAT example of this is the British historian/author Simon Schama. (“Citizens”, history of the French Revolution. “A History of Britain” turned into BBC series, etc) He has an MA, never got a PhD, and he doesn’t f—around with fashionable jargonese – he just writes brilliant English and does good research. And conventional academics HATE him, green with envy……

December 5, 2005 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

So, after seeing Chang/Halliday were discredited by those China scholars (actually, they are not alone, the book received poor reviews in New York Time, WashingtonPost, LA Times, …), you guys are trying now to discredit the scholars, haha.

December 5, 2005 @ 5:10 pm | Comment

I think it’s interesting this idea that ‘academics’ bring bias to their criticisms, so shouldn’t be taken seriously. Jung Chang got her Ph.D. in England in linguistics or something, so I guess she would fit into Ivan’s category of being a hack. Also, academics attack each others work all the time – its part of the job. But i think when a community of academics decides something is bad we shouldn’t be cynical about ‘them’ being envious that other people have a brain too, but should take it seriously. Are biologists envious of ‘Intelligent Design’ because they are afraid of it, or becuase they think its not good science? And just because Chang isn’t a historian by training doesnt mean she might not have other biases or reasons to write such a work.

December 5, 2005 @ 6:13 pm | Comment

You say it, Jeff.

December 6, 2005 @ 1:57 am | Comment

I have strong issues with anything that was written by Chang.

She is known for not being objective, and for using second hand sources that she does not verify.

What is more she often does not present sufficient evidence for her claims, and instead goes on what might be described as rumor and heresay.

Chang is a novelist, and a world class one at that given her sales, but she is not a historian and she often just discards material that doesn’t fit here patern of events.

December 6, 2005 @ 2:01 am | Comment

I think that Hongxi should be made to read this book. Her head might exploded.

December 6, 2005 @ 2:02 am | Comment

A minor nitpick: Jung Chang is not a world-class novelist, sales or no.

December 6, 2005 @ 2:32 am | Comment

As in, she is neither “novelist” (“Wild Swans” was nonfiction) nor “world class” (of course, Jan Wong’s prose is worse.)

Unless you were being facetious. 😉

December 6, 2005 @ 2:35 am | Comment

Jan Wong is no barometer for beautiful writing. 🙂

And you’re right, Chung is not a fiction writer/novelist; she’s a memoirist and now, for better or worse, a “historian” or “biographer.”

December 6, 2005 @ 2:54 am | Comment

I think there are two issues here.

1) Chang/Halliday’s challenge to rethink Mao (of which we can safely say they are not in the 70% good, 30% bad camp)

2)all their detailed research etc.

Most historians hope that if they can discredit parts of (2) they won’t have to deal with (1)

(I also grant that C/H do sell books and there is academic envy as well)

Still one man’s battle can easily be another man’s firefight. to say my old lady has a better memory of what happened over 60 years ago than your old lady is hardly historic evidence; as is 2 Brits travelling the same route some 60? years later.

I have been in one part of Dallas when a tornado devasted another part, yet if someone asked me did anything happen that day, I would say, “Not as far as I know” (set aside the fact that I may have been in a drunken stupor)

I personally don’t believe that Chiang would let Mao go; that is not the character of the Chiang that I know. But I do believe that some of Chaing’s generals would, and whether they would tell CKS what reallly happened I doubt.

Chang and Halliday are throwing down the gauntlet on Mao and saying historians cannot gloss over him as they have so easily in the past. The ultimate question will be did China become great “because of” or “in spite of” Mao.

Likewise, could China have become great more quickly if Mao was not the great helmsman?

At one time Mao was 95% right and 5% wrong. Then he slipped to 70% right and 30% wrong.

I am curious what % rate our alleged China historians out there would rate Mao now.

December 6, 2005 @ 3:27 am | Comment

What makes you think any historian gives a damn what % mao was right or wrong? its a totally meaningless number that was put forth by the party. And since when do all china historians believe the party line? I’m sure if a book came out saying mao was 100% wrong and well supported it would be hailed by academics as a breakthrough work. I’m sure they all would be as excited as anyone for new information that would change history.

December 6, 2005 @ 8:30 am | Comment


No offence, but as a “historian” myself you’ll have to forgive me if I take offence when someone says that a “community of academics” has said this book is bad. There is no historical community, and there aren’t even communities of historians/academics.

Academics will however criticise something together if they don’t like it. But they still ONLY represent their own views. Just as when Randy Rummel said that Chang & Halliday got the numbers right he was only putting forward his own views. As another example, when we come to election time letters signed by “leading members of the business community” will inevitably appear in various newspapers supporting one political party. That does not mean that even a majority of the “business community” supports that party.

Also what is this about recycled material? Generally a lot of historical works used “recycled” material. That’s what a bibliography is used for.

December 6, 2005 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

“No offence, but as a “historian” myself ”

Raj, you are a historian. The way you are defending J&C’s book destroyed my last confidence on western historian.

If you can claim J&C’s book as fair history book. Then I will say, by your standards, CCP’s history book is fairly good.

December 6, 2005 @ 3:05 pm | Comment

I’m not sure I get what you’re trying to say, Raj. First of all how can there be no community of academics? What do you call the group of people who teach at universities and publish articles in academic journals? With your logic there is no such thing as a community, but isn’t it fair to call people posting at this site a community of people interested in China?

Second, I haven’t followed this story close enough to be able to tell if Chang’s book is generally denounced by the academic comunity, and I haven’t read the book. But I am very skeptical that when people put forth detailed questions about claims the book makes the authors say ‘look in our notes, its all there’ and think that’s good enough.

December 6, 2005 @ 4:29 pm | Comment


Why can’t you accept that we’re all free to put forward our own ideas? Just because I don’t think Chang and Halliday have written a monstrous book doesn’t mean that all historians outside of the PRC are “bad”. As I’ve tried to say 1000 times, I have no idea as to whether this book is “right” or “wrong”, because the study of history is a very complex issue. Trying to get to grips with the various views of the book does not equal total support.

Anyone trying to say that CCP history books are generally fine is a complete idiot. At least Chang and Halliday were free to write their own book, whereas in China the State tells academics what is acceptable on the subject of Mao.

Also “historian” does not equal historian. I’m trying to show that I am not a professional – that is what “-” signifies. Anyone with a basic grounding in English grammar knows that.

December 6, 2005 @ 4:36 pm | Comment


Of course there are communities some of the time. I never said that there weren’t – don’t put words into my mouth. But that doesn’t mean that there are communities all of the time for everything.

We’re talking about historians. Academics do not automatically = historians. There are networks, discussions, etc between historians. But to say that there is a community or communities implies that there are common attitudes, beliefs, etc. Well it doesn’t work like that. Historians are so different that the worst thing you can do is put them into boxes.

If you must, you can say that there are communities of individuals in this area. But you can’t really go beyond that.

I’m just trying to get you to understand that the views you hear on any subject are not the views of a “community” – no one has the authority to speak for anyone other than themselves in the historical field, unless they give explicit consent.

History is an extremely important area, where there is enough confusion and manipulation as it is. Its saving grace is that there aren’t “right” or “wrong” answers. But when we start talking about “communities”, it’s implying that a minority can speak for the majority. If that became accepted practice, then the individualism in the field would be slowly destroyed.

This makes for history to be difficult to grasp sometimes, contradictory, etc. I know it doesn’t allow you to fit history et al into a nice neat little box, but that’s the way it has to be.

December 6, 2005 @ 4:49 pm | Comment

I agree with you completely that the views of 4 or 5 prominent historians does not represent the view of all historians or any community of historians if there is such a thing. Anyway, my point is that this ‘community’ discussion is completely irrelevant to the criticism I raised of the authors not being willing to give more details about their sources. Did you believe that Iraq had WMDs when Bush was trumping up the war or did you want to see more information?

December 6, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment


Have you read J&C’s book? Have you ever read the history book by CCP?

I suspect you have NOT read either of them. Can you give me an honest answer?

People like you just pick up crumbs from media and rush to a conclusion.

Even if you want to be an amature historian, do some basic homework. Do not be too lazy and so proud of your judgement.

December 6, 2005 @ 8:34 pm | Comment

The difference between the book by Jung Chang/Halliday and the books approved by the CCP, is that Jung Changs book, while controversial and with certain methodological problems, provides a huge number of sources and such that opens up for control and disagreement in a proper scientific way.
The CCP approved books (at least the ones I’ve browsed through) tend to say “This is the way it is. Don’t ask questions.”

December 6, 2005 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

“The CCP approved books (at least the ones I’ve browsed through) tend to say “This is the way it is. Don’t ask questions.'”

First I have to commend you that you actually have done some related reading. Regarding your observation, well, CCP’s history book also quoted many sources, such as someone’s memoir or “Party history”.

The striking similarity between CCP’s history and J&C’s is that their story has a pre-defined theme and all presentation is try to prove this theme.

J&C’s book does quote many source. But in many cases, none of quoted sources supported their argument. This is misleading at best. Their approach is simply trying to deceive readers.

Lots of commentators are attracted to this site because they simply hate CCP. That is fine. But few of them have bothered to do some basic reading and still claim they know more history about China. That is the message I try to communicate.

December 6, 2005 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

Should anyone actually care to hear Jung Chang and Jon Halliday discuss their book on Mao, CSPAN’s BookTV is temporarily making available their Harvard U. presentation. According to the notice in the Public Lives section, the video clip will be available for only two months, so get it before mid-January, 2006.

As of this posting, the pages of the website at is in need of repairs, so you might not be able to manually navigate your way there. However, the video clip (RealPlayer) still seems to work:

December 6, 2005 @ 11:56 pm | Comment


No, I did not believe the WMD claim because Hans Blix had a mandate to investigate that claim and said that he couldn’t find any. History doesn’t work that way, though I would like to hear some more about their sources. Though if it is a question about giving out more information about individuals, I can imagine that could create problems. Given that the CCP so robustly defends the 70/30 view of Mao, could people get into trouble for talking to Chang? Certainly people that can get into trouble for talking to foreign journalists in China.

Anyway hopefully we shall hear some more about this.


Yes, I have read the book. And no I have not read a CCP history book first hand. But I understand a lot of the content from talking to Chinese people my age. An example would be the idea that China was “defending” North Korea from the “evil” Americans in the 50s. A lot of Chinese people are led to believe that America started the war and aren’t taught that North Korea invaded the South first, or that the UN set up a multi-national taskforce to intervene.

And to say that I am an amateur historian isn’t correct either. I studied history at a top British university but decided not pursue it as a career. In all fairness I could call myself a historian, but I choose not to because people seem to think that makes me an expert somehow.

By the way, do you have a history degree? Because if you regard me as a fake/amateur historian, what are you? How many times have you been to archives? How much primary historical research have you carried out? What is the longest piece of primary research based work that you have written?

December 7, 2005 @ 3:29 am | Comment

Sure, names shouldn’t be given out if it could lead to persecution in any way. What is the generally accepted historical methodology of using interviews as sources? Could they leave the person unnamed like in newspapers, but tell a little about them, like it was a 70-year old lady whose husband was in the red army, etc.. Is it bad form to make transcripts of the interviews available without naming names?

I guess I am thinking of it like an archeologist who digs up something completely new. Of course that person should be able to write the first article on the object, but then the object should be available for everyone to examine. Is that the case here, or am I misunderstanding the critiques made of the book? Most academics I have worked with are more than happy to provide more details about how exactly their sources support their claims and where to look if one wants to investigate further. (maybe thats because most people don’t care about their work, so they are thrilled when someone shows some interest, and actually have time to respond to people’s inquiries )

Again, I haven’t looked at the book, so I’m just throwing ideas out here.

I was telling my roomate about the book yesterday, and he said it sounded like a work that came out a few years ago about WW2 that argued that the German public in general had more of a hand in killing of Jews than had previously been thought. I guess it was very controversial and has remained so, without being entirely accepted or thrown away. I guess I’d like to know if this Mao book will be the same or if it is going to go away quietly after a few years.

December 7, 2005 @ 9:58 am | Comment

“Is it bad form to make transcripts of the interviews available without naming names?”

Not as such – I’ve never heard any objections as to doing such a thing! For practicality’s sake it couldn’t be included in the book itself. But I can’t say that it’s standard practice either. Certainly there’s no way that the ten-years’ worth of notes could be released.

In any case, notes wouldn’t necessarily satisfy the critics. If they doubt some of the interviewees exist at all, why would “transcripts” satisfy them?

“I guess I’d like to know if this Mao book will be the same or if it is going to go away quietly after a few years.”

It’s impossible to say. If, as Ivan said, we had access to all the archives such issues would be less controversial – but we don’t so we can’t know either way.

We shall have to wait and see.

Ironically the furor won’t quash sales – people will probably be more likely to read it now. As one of my old tutor’s said, “The issue isn’t how your book is reviewed – it’s that it’s reviewed!”

About the German book. Well there have been some “uncomfortable reality” books like that out recently. I remember seeing a documentary a while ago, where interviewees said that the Gestapo was far too small to have operated without the co-operation of German civilians.

Similarly, in France there were many people that worked against the Resistance, or collaborated with the Germans – especially in Vichy France.

December 8, 2005 @ 11:50 am | Comment

I was led to your site by a Google link to my piece for The Observer you posted. That story was limited in length and was a reporting piece. But I might add a comment from the Republican period which I covered in my biography of Chiang Kai-shek.
If Chiang let the Red Army escape on the Long March in a deal to get his son back from Moscow, as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday assert, why did the Nationalists launch the big attack on the marchers on the Xiang Ribver that wiped out half of them; why did Chiang then prepare a killing field in Hunan on the route he expected Mao to take; and why he did he then set up campaigns against the marchers in Sichuan? Hardly the action a man who wanted to let the Marchers get away. And the account of the Xi’an Incident in 1936 is quite partial, in both senses of the word. There is no mention, for instance, of General Yang who detonated the kidnapping of Chiang, or of the roles played by Mme Chiang, her brother and the Australian, W.H.Donald who was adviser to both Chiang and the kidnapper.

December 13, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Ivan, reference you aside on “amateurs”. Remember T.E. Lawrence’s comment when he termed himself an “amateur”. Professionals do something because they must in order to get paid. Amateurs, as its Latin root suggests, do something because they love to.

Just a thought.

December 16, 2005 @ 12:11 am | Comment

Raj, You make a very good point on going to original sources and doing primary research. But, of course, this requires language and other skills. I am amazed at the number of Asian “experts” I meet who cannot speak, read, or demonstrate any listening comprehension in the language of the country they claim expertise in.

December 16, 2005 @ 12:28 am | Comment

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