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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(1 star). See all 23 reviews
on August 9, 2009
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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on November 25, 2005
I also born and grew up in China as the first author did. I think the stories told in this book are just stories. Some of them maybe true but most of them are just believed by herself. I learned that she hate Mao. A people who hate another people can write a book to say good words to the people who hate ?
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on December 2, 2005
I've spent a whole hour browsing this book in the bookstore with an intent to buy, but quickly found it nothing more than a collection of short stories. For me it's not an academic work and therefore must be treated as a fiction, so I also take the liberty to make my comments as in a fiction/movie review.

First, the objectivity of the book is questionable. The authors have sucessfully attracted public attention by fabricating some sophisticated stories and myths about Mao's life and work, but the methodology, style and the motive behind differ from serious academic works. Mao is dead and unable to defend himself. The basic truth is, Mao led China's century-long exodus out of imperialist invasion and established lasting peace in the country. Although his experimental economic policies had led to several disasterous results and even personally affected my parents' families, Mao's legacy includes not only a solid foundation of a modern industry, but also a nationwide public education and health care system that the Chinese people have enjoyed for the first time in the history. These suffice to make Mao a special figure for those who really cares about China and the welfare of the Chinese people. Unfortunately, the authors show little interest in these basic facts, but those assorted "unknown stories".

Actually, I'll go to China on vacation next week and I'll share more with you about how those people who live in that land think about him now.
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