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Mao: The Unknown Story Paperback – Nov 14 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (Nov. 14 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746324
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 4.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

In the epilogue to her biography of Mao Tse-tung, Jung Chang and her husband and cowriter Jon Halliday lament that, "Today, Mao's portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital." For Chang, author of Wild Swans, this fact is an affront, not just to history, but to decency. Mao: The Unknown Story does not contain a formal dedication, but it is clear that Chang is writing to honor the millions of Chinese who fell victim to Mao's drive for absolute power in his 50-plus-year struggle to dominate China and the 20th-century political landscape. From the outset, Chang and Halliday are determined to shatter the "myth" of Mao, and they succeed with the force, not just of moral outrage, but of facts. The result is a book, more indictment than portrait, that paints Mao as a brutal totalitarian, a thug, who unleashed Stalin-like purges of millions with relish and without compunction, all for his personal gain. Through the authors' unrelenting lens even his would-be heroism as the leader of the Long March and father of modern China is exposed as reckless opportunism, subjecting his charges to months of unnecessary hardship in order to maintain the upper hand over his rival, Chang Kuo-tao, an experienced military commander.

Using exhaustive research in archives all over the world, Chang and Halliday recast Mao's ascent to power and subsequent grip on China in the context of global events. Sino-Soviet relations, the strengths and weakness of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II, the Korean War, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, the vicious Cultural Revolution, the Vietnam War, Nixon's visit, and the constant, unending purges all, understandably, provide the backdrop for Mao's unscrupulous but invincible political maneuverings and betrayals. No one escaped unharmed. Rivals, families, peasants, city dwellers, soldiers, and lifelong allies such as Chou En-lai were all sacrificed to Mao's ambition and paranoia. Appropriately, the authors' consciences are appalled. Their biggest fear is that Mao will escape the global condemnation and infamy he deserves. Their astonishing book will go a long way to ensure that the pendulum of history will adjust itself accordingly. --Silvana Tropea --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Jung Chang, author of the award-winning Wild Swans, grew up during the Cultural Revolution; Halliday is a research fellow at King's College, University of London. They join forces in this sweeping but flawed biography, which aims to uncover Mao's further cruelties (beyond those commonly known) by debunking claims made by the Communist Party in his service. For example, the authors argue that, far from Mao's humble peasant background shaping his sympathies for the downtrodden, he actually ruthlessly exploited the peasants' resources when he was based in regions such as Yenan, and cared about peasants only when it suited his political agenda. And far from having founded the Chinese Communist Party, the authors argue, Mao was merely at the right place at the right time. Importantly, the book argues that in most instances Mao was able to hold on to power thanks to his adroitness in appealing to and manipulating powerful allies and foes, such as Stalin and later Nixon; furthermore, almost every aspect of his career was motivated by a preternatural thirst for personal power, rather than political vision. Some of the book's claims rely on interviews and on primary material (such as the anguished letters Mao's second wife wrote after he abandoned her), though the book's use of sources is sometimes incompletely documented and at times heavy-handed (for example, using a school essay the young Mao wrote to show his lifelong ruthlessness). Illus., maps. (Oct. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Whatever side of the political fence you sit on (left or right), you will find this book engrossing. This book (years in the making) sets a new standard about the life of the twentieth century's most powerful man.
The research is staggering, and is painstakingly detailed in large sections at the book of the book which lists recent interviews and printed documents (past and present). Despite his accomplishments, there's no denying that Mao caused the deaths of millions of his countrymen, and held back the economic, political and cultural progress of the world's largest nation.
In particular, the Cultural Revolution of the 60s remains the most shameful and horrifying chapter in recent Chinese history. Survivors of that era have recounted their horror stories many times, and this book corroborates their accounts.
One thing remains common in every era of Maoist China: his appetite for power. Mao deserves credit for ousting the "foreign barbarians" uniting China under one flag, but in the end Mao was another Chinese emperor, a despot who clung to power too long for the country's good and wound up destroying whatever legacy he had built in his early life.
This sentiment will offend Maoists -- and there remain many among the Chinese, just like JFK is a sacred cow to the Americans, Trudeau for Canadians, and Churchill to the Brits. But Mao's legacy is covered in blood, not glory, and this monumental book tells why. Recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Chairman Mao is one of the 3 great dictators of the 20th century. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all sociopathic monsters. Each had his own peculiar pathology and genius. Overall Mao was an amoral egomaniac. Although he might enjoy the death of a particular enemy he didn't seek out widespread death with any pleasure as Stalin, and Hitler did. However, he could could not truly care for people; even his own family. The masses were simply a resource to him, the only resource he had an abundance of. Spending 70 million people out of 900 million is no big deal if it helps him achieve his perception of 'greatness'.

To write a true impartial biography of this man though, you have to also address the gravitas and personal energy it takes to take power and keep that power for decades. At the particular skill of power politics Mao was an unprecedented genius. Unlike Hitler, who was also a genius, Mao knew when to step back and live to fight another day. As when his #2 Liu Shao-chi stood up to him in 1962 to stem the tide of famine deaths created by Mao's programs. Mao saw the writing on the wall, smoothly accented, and carefully redirected blame away from himself, while carefully planning revenge. Not enough is written about Deng Xiao-peng's involvement in the Mao regime. He just suddenly appears near the end of the book.

Chang's invective tries to put every single thing Mao does in the worst possible light, which makes this book unbalanced and unprofessional, while still being an excellent read with great scholarship done to back up the book. Even the worst gangster or terrorist has positive character traits as well. Mao was an amoral sociopath... but also a cunning man driven to make China a 'GREAT' nation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is really impressive that, years after years, information about tyrans like Mao leaks out and put Nazisims into perspective. Don't get me wrong, the Shoah was an horrible chapter of human history. However, I often wonder why Hitler is still today talked about in mainstream medias as the ultimate despot when rulers like Stalin and Mao did even more horrible mass killings.

If you are to believe "Mao, the Unknown Story", Mao directly killed for personnal gain and power over 70 millions Chineses. He orchestrated the greatest famine in world's history, he tortured more human being than Hilter, Himmler and Stalin combine. He killed more than 10 times the total of Jews exterminated by Hilter and Nazisims. How come we never hear about that in schools, newspapers etc...?

Why? Who benefits from this?

Regarding the book, I can only find one drawback, a reason why I cannot give it a five star rating. The author many times, like on page 520 for instance, makes a statement without proof or solid evidence :

"...undoubtedly for Mao, as it could not have been done without his authorization."

The author may be right, but there is still doubt that lacking proof, he simply cut the corner as it is simpler to accuse the obvious suspect, even more so when it fits well into the big picture you are trying to draw.
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Format: Paperback
This is the only Mao biography I read, so I cannot compare to other books. However, the book on its own makes for an easy read and a very interesting one at that. It is a true page turner. The authors are biased against Mao, and cannot be blamed for that considering the consequences of Mao's actions and in particular the effect on Jung Chang and her family. Nevertheless, I don't think this distract from the scholarship. The amount of research that went into this book is large. In all, it does show a very dark and selfish character that is quiet shocking. It is a highly recommended book to also understand the history of China in the 20th century.
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