Mao: The Unknown Story Paperback – Nov 14 2006
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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.Published 23 months ago by Duncan Jacob
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. Read morePublished on Dec 31 2013 by Sherman.zhou
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,... Read more
I purchased the book from this seller because of the excellent reviews it had received, not because had the lowest price. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2010 by A. Grant
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. Read morePublished on Dec 16 2009 by Alex North
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 morePublished on Aug. 9 2009 by DF
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 morePublished on Jan. 6 2008 by Mark
Chang and Halliday's Mao, Unknown Story is good, but it is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Read morePublished on Dec 8 2007 by Henry Wood
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 morePublished on May 30 2006 by china-life 20 years