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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Thanks and we hope she can bring us more great works by then.
Fascinating read--very few uninteresting stretches
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?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jag Sulla
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