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Mao: The Unknown Story [Paperback]

Jung Chang , Jon Halliday
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 14 2006

The most authoritative life of the Chinese leader every written, Mao: The Unknown Story is based on a decade of research, and on interviews with many of Mao’s close circle in China who have never talked before — and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned, and blackmailed to get his way. After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao’s rule — in peacetime.


Frequently Bought Together

Mao: The Unknown Story + Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China + Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Price For All Three: CDN$ 54.43

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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

Most helpful customer reviews
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a new standard in Mao biographies Dec 25 2005
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A page turner! April 3 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist Quagmire Dec 16 2009
The adage " Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it " has become somewhat more complicated as the speed of revisionism has accelerated through technology. Yet, having access to written records and well researched personal experiences at a far faster pace has not proven to be a definitive academic boundary for accuracy.
Although ' Mao : The Unknown Story ' is a welcome and necessary addition to the the progression of ' truth ' , I must agree with many of the book's critics that many of the intimate projections of a Major Sociopath.... that what Mao embodied ..... is not presented or justified adequately in the book.
The author's attempt to place the reader in the Mao's mind fails.
I recognize the brutality and political devastation he caused.... Mao:The Unknown Story is heavily weighted with well researched documentation of these occurances.
But the insights into Mao's mind, largely alarming and pointed are not convincing.
Overall,I recommend this telling of a major 20th century political explosion, and if ever the writers' claim that Mao was carried in a litter for the majority of ' The Long March ' can be validated, I will order a second copy for my grand-daughter, for Nationalistic Myths can cause a lot of sorrow.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars indepth Dec 14 2005
Very thorougly done. Groundbreaking information... well documented sources to back it up.
Fascinating read--very few uninteresting stretches
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative. Feb. 28 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very well researched. Amazing that such an evil man was able to rise to power the way he did. Scary that some politicians in Canada and the US actually admired him.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Serious but interesting book Dec 31 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read her book Wild Swan, then this, and I am really fond of them, and I think Ms.Jung's writing style is more maturied in this book.
Thanks and we hope she can bring us more great works by then.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Traitor of China Aug. 6 2011
Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang, Jon Halliday, Alfred Knopf Pub., 2005, pp. 814

This book is extremely well-researched supported by many end notes, references, historical pictures and maps. Many sources are recent revealing hitherto unknown facts about this monster. My purpose here is an attempt to induce you to read this book so you truly know what nature mistakenly produced. Unfortunately, in order for the Party not to have to admit years of errors, this notorious person is still worshipped as China's hero.

'All it is, is a big pile of people dying' (p. 414) This is mao's response when ask about the destruction caused by a nuclear attack on China. This is how he saw the people in every confrontation or incident he created. Phrases and poetic lines similar to this were used repeatedly when he was informed the people were starving; this is what he thought of those who died in battles (many designed purposely by him); this is how he felt when shipping new conscripts to the fronts in Korea, Vietnam and India; this is why he could prolong the Korean war and still sleep; this is why he could set quotas for people to be executed under fabricated stories; this why he was a married womanizer (four times) and cared nothing for his children; this is why he could sell billions of dollars worth of food stuff to Russia and virtually give it away to other countries whose patronage he sought, while millions suffered from starvation in his own country; this is why he could feast on gourmet food, some shipped from France, while demanding the people eat tree leaves and not eat any more than 140 g per day; this is why I judge him to be the personification of evil itself. Why does China still honor this epitome of destruction?
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars poor service
I have orderd this book on the 8th of november. It still has not been delivered a month later, nor has the company asnwered my demands for information. RB
Published on Dec 8 2011 by Robert Beauchemin
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent transaction
I purchased the book from this seller because of the excellent reviews it had received, not because had the lowest price. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2010 by A. Grant
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fatally flawed.
This is a fascinating book, though written by a biased and unqualified author. Unfortunately, previous reviewer Allan Tong is way off the mark and unfortunately has no... Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2009 by DF
3.0 out of 5 stars The story in Mao, the Unknown Story is about the Chinese Palace Coup...
The story in Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's Mao, the Unknown Story is about the Chinese Palace Coup on October 6, 1976. However, the story is Chinese folklore. Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2008 by Mark
4.0 out of 5 stars It is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li
Chang and Halliday's Mao, Unknown Story is good, but it is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2007 by Henry Wood
3.0 out of 5 stars impressive story, but lacks insights
Outsiders are little aware of the great disasters that took place in the Mao era. But why did they happen? This book is a serious attempt by studying Mao the person. Read more
Published on May 30 2006 by china-life 20 years
5.0 out of 5 stars From One Who Really Loves China
I found it extremely hilarious that some still insists that Mao brings "peace" to China. What peace? Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2006 by Average Joe
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