31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a new standard in Mao biographies
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...
Published on Dec 25 2005 by Allan Tong
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist Quagmire
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...
Published on Dec 16 2009 by Alex North
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a new standard in Mao biographies,
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A page turner!,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Traitor of China,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)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? Maybe because they have no heroes ' they were all massacred in Nanjing, Korea, on the farms, in the farm prisons, in the universities, in government, like Liu Shaogi and Premier Zhao Ziyang. 'Half of China may well have to die' is what he admitted to push through The Great Leap Forward.
This is the world's worst maniac who was responsible for the deaths of 70 million. From the beginning, even while on the fringes of the fledging party, his ambition was to rule the party, then advanced to ruling all China and once achieved, to rule the world. Yes, this sadistic maniac actually felt he was totally qualified to rule a unified world! He plotted against his comrades; wiped out whole armies for his selfish purpose; lied to everyone including Russia which backed him; he forced unrealistic programs on the people regardless of repercussions and when they failed, used scapegoats; he was a control freak from newspapers, radio, TV, government and yes, even private houses and clothing; he was the supreme hypocrite demanding one thing of the people but living luxuriously in many villas; he distrusted everyone and anyone who came to close to power, were eradicated or imprisoned, except for Chou Enlai; he was devious, a liar, plotter, disloyal, supremely selfish and paranoid as shown Feb 27, 1957 Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom. His plan was to eradicate intellectuals, the educated, writers, artists and historians with the purpose of striking fear into the top echelon who would oppose his movement towards becoming a Superpower. He alone executed the plan, the lies, the trap with expected results. He was a master at this. This book is filled with purges, plots, and terror programs. Each had a specific design and purpose. His right hand man in all this was Chou Enlai who reeks of sympathy as he lay dying but who was a complicit and murderous as his boss.
I am actually becoming worked up as I write this, just as I was when reading of the terror. You cannot help but be moved with horror for the millions of Chinese who suffered torture, imprisonment, humiliating denouncements, separation from family and loved ones, and death. The almighty Party has been able to hide these true facts and promotes loyalty to this monster. I truly wonder how many of this generation in the Party have ever attempted to discover what this monster was truly like? I doubt it. No one can learn of this material and not be deeply affected with abhorrence, shock, disbelief and tears. Read it!
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars indepth,
Fascinating read--very few uninteresting stretches
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From One Who Really Loves China,
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist Quagmire,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)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.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars poor service,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)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
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent transaction,
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)Chang and Halliday's Mao, Unknown Story is good, but it is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li
Chang and Halliday's Mao, Unknown Story provided a brand new version and perspective of Chairman Mao. It is the first time to portray Chairman Mao as a bloody mass-murderer. In their book, Chairman Mao was a large-scale murderer during a Chinese peace era. Nearly 80 million people were dead by his Utopian idealism: that was an unbelievable number. It is four times the number of deaths of the Soviets in the war between the Soviet Union and Germany. He used drastic violence to suppress people who he believed stood in his way for industrializing China. He ignored the death of 30 million people during the starvation period of the Great Famine, which was caused by his foolish "Great Leap Forward" for overtaking the British and catching up to the Americans. After the Great Famine, his lunatic behavior reached new heights. He launched the culture revolution, which was completely insane. He became a maniac. Under his direction, the violence was propelled to its bloodiest high tide. The horror broke historic records. Elementary school students unbelievably beat their teachers to death. The death toll was continuing to pile up until the day he died. From Mao, Unknown Story, the figure of Chairman Mao was drawn as a vicious monster and mass-murderer.
No wonder, horrible bloody killings described in Mao, Unknown Story truly happened in China from 1949, when Chairman Mao took over China, to 1976 when Chairman Mao died. Chairman Mao did everything so lunatic, and insane. From the catastrophe which he brought to China, he deserves to be considered a bloodthirsty monster and a bloody mass murderer. Overall, the book is good and correct.
Even though the book is good and correct, it cannot compare with Dr. Zhisui Li's The Private Life of Chairman Mao in deeply and lively describing of Chairman Mao. No less than Dr. Andrew Nathan pointed out, all of biographic writers have a limitation in deeply and lively describing their objects. Because they have never served their objects, they have no chance to observe them closely. Also they have done a lot of research, but the inherent defect is that they don't really know their objects' personality and psychology. They don't know their objects' courtyard operations; their objects' retainers, and the relationship between their objects, their objects' retainers and the government officials.
Dr. Zhisui Li's The Private Life of Chairman Mao did not portray Chairman Mao as a bloodthirsty monster and a bloody mass murderer; instead of that, it focused on details of Chairman Mao's personality, psychology and his courtyard operation. Owing to Dr. Zhisui Li's position, it made him as so called: inside man. He could know a lot of Chairman Mao's important information that an outsider could not know. Even Chairman Mao's former public health minister told Dr. Li to come see him anytime if Dr. Li wanted to tell him about any of Chairman Mao's activities. In the same way, Chairman Mao's former chief commanding officer of guards also was available to Dr. Li with no appointment.
The deepest impression for me about Dr. Li's book is the Chairman Mao's courtyard and his retainers. Chairman Mao's medical doctor, chief commanding officer of guards and secretaries comprised his retainers. They were called "Group One". Chairman Mao's retainers formed a powerful and vicious retainer circle. Their power was even above party officials. The party officials were not servants of people. Instead they were servants of Chairman Mao. They cared for Chairman Mao's retainers a lot of more than they cared for people. The gossip of those retainers could cause party officials a serious trouble. People were powerless and ignored. The party officials entertained Chairman Mao's retainers with the best Chinese whiskey and the best Chinese cuisine while the Chinese commoners had a little of meat to eat. During the starvation period of the Great Famine, Chairman Mao even stopped eating meat. But his retainers flaunted the banner of celebrating Chairman Mao's birthday, and required the local party officials to hold a grand dinner party for them. The dinner fulfilled the best Chinese cuisine, seafood, and the best Chinese whiskey, wine, beer. The party was in the name of celebrating Chairman Mao's birthday, but Chairman Mao didn't even attend. Dr. Li found it very hard to swallow that tasty food. However his colleague exhorted Dr. Li, saying that unless he wanted to leave "Group One", he had better wallow in the mire with them. Some party officials even colluded with some of Mao's retainers making a fraud deal in secret. The fraud deal deceived party treasurers by saying that Chairman Mao ate more than one thousand chickens in three, four days. Actually, the party officials took chickens for their own meals. Chairman Mao even had never known it until he was dead.
The factions in Chairman Mao's retainers circle were stricken by each other fiercely. Opponents attempted to topple their counter part desperately. A vicious atmosphere permeated daily life. Nobody felt safe. Chairman Mao's wife was frequently involved in the factions' conflicts. In this vicious atmosphere, even Chairman Mao himself suspected somebody of crawling on his bedroom roof at midnight. He did not trust any of his retainers. He even suspected that the swimming pool in his palace was poisoned.
Dr. Li's dream to be a great neural surgeon became a surviving nightmare. Although Dr. Li wanted to avoid touching this vicious politics, he could not stay out from it. For survival he was forced to stay with one faction. Later, the factions' grappling escalated to a cross line battle between the retainer circle and party officials, and eventually led to a palace coup after Chairman Mao was dead. Chairman Mao's wife and her three colleagues were arrested. However, Dr. Li survived successfully.
I feel that Dr. Li portrayed the figure of Chairman Mao and his courtyard operation more close to the true Chinese history, what was really happened in China from 1949 to 1976. Compared to Dr. Li's book, Chang and Halliday's Mao, Unknown Story seems pale.
4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fatally flawed.,
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)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 understanding of Chinese historiography. The book in question is certainly entertaining but to claim it contributes to our historical evaluation of Mao is a complete farce. If anything, Chang has done significant damage to the understanding of this complex figure, portraying him equally as one dimensional as any of his hagiographers. Those propping up this book as revealing do not realize it is more fiction than fact, and clearly know nothing about Chinese history. There are countless academic reviews of this book which have not only countered many of its most sensational claims but also questioned the authors' objectivity and dubious research. For instance, see academic reviews by Andrew Nathan (Columbia), Jonathan Spence (Yale), Perry Link (Princeton), or Steve Tsang (Oxford) among others. For an in-depth analysis, see The China Journal (55) where several scholars collaborated to provide a comprehensive look at the work. Even more recently, consult two new books: "The Battle for China's Past" (2008) by Mobo Gao or "Was Mao Really a Monster: The Academic Response to Chang and Halliday" (2009) edited by Gregor Benton.
As author Jonathan Fenby described in an article for the Guardian, "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." However, as described by Steve Tsang, "the methods used by the authors 'make for bad history and worse biography'." Another reviewer, Andrew Nathan wrote "that many of Chang and Halliday's claims are based on distorted, misleading or far-fetched use of evidence."
Ultimately, no historian will make use of the book, and professors will never consider using this material to teach students. This attempt at "Mao bashing" provides little to the body of work looking at one of the most important figures in the 20th century. Mao: The Unknown Story makes for an entertaining read, but this piece of "pseudo-history" is best ignored. If you are seriously interested in Mao or Chinese history, avoid this book like the plague. For a more balanced narrative, I would recommend Mao Zedong by Jonathan Spence as a good introduction to the topic.
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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jon Halliday (Paperback - Nov 14 2006)
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