Let me make it clear that I fully share the authors' view that Mao was a monster, as were Hitler and Stalin. But, just as \"Hitler was simply a madman\" makes for poor history and unintelligent biography, so this one-sided rant leaves one with no understanding of modern China or its benighted helmsman. To write about Hitler effectively one must enter into his mental world (while condemning it) and provide a detailed social, economic and political context. This is the one thing Chang and Halliday never do when discussing Mao. He comes across as a posturing maniac, a crazed gangster, a hydrophobic, fundamentally stupid (though cunning), mouth-frothing sociopath. The authors cannot decide whether he was just incredibly lucky to have got so far or whether (in at least partial contradiction of their main thesis) he had a steel-trap political mind of Napoleonic calibre. But everything is one-dimensional. It is all Mao and his rages, Mao and his women, Mao and his rivals, Mao and Stalin, but never Chinese social structure or the analysis of the peasantry. Mao's (admittedly dotty) contribution to Marxist-Leninist theory - crucial for understanding the entire Third World notion of peasant revolution, as in Guevara, the Sendero Luminoso in Peru or the guerrillas in contemporary Nepal - is not even dealt with.
There is a lot of bad history in all senses in this volume. Bad not just in the methodological sense - calling the Japan of the 1930s \"fascist\" means nothing unless it is to be read as simply another emotive outburst - but also in the interpretive sense. Everything that can be construed as working in Mao's favour during his struggle with Chiang is freighted with a meaning it cannot bear, whether it is General George Marshal's visit to China in 1945-46 (the authors are meanspirited and misleading about Marshal and do not even mention Vinegar Joe Stilwell, another American general who saw right through Chiang) or Stalin's many vacillating interventions in Chinese affairs. There is, for example, an obvious contradiction between the widespread destruction of plant and material by the Soviet Union when it entered the war against Japan in its last days in 1945 - and which so angered Mao - and the assertion that only with Soviet help did Mao prevail in the civil war. On the Korean war the authors revive the old myth about \"hordes\" of Chinese swamping the American army and defeating them by sheer weight of numbers, which was simply propaganda put out by the Pentagon, embarrassed by the poor showing of the US Marine Corps. And who is their historical source for the Chinese \"human waves\" Michael Caine. Come again Yes, I do mean that Michael Caine, the movie actor, whose personal memories of the Korean War are given the status of holy writ.
But why bother with the tiresome discipline of historical research when you can make wild assertions buttressed by unknown or suspect oral sources that are (in the authors' recurrent mantra) \"little known today\". Maybe that is their gloss on Caine's \"not a lot of people know that\".
If you can believe that Chou-en-lai, the master diplomat who wowed everyone from Kissinger to Orson Welles, really was a hypermasochistic craven nonentity who played lickspittle and toady to Mao for no apparent reason (at least the authors do not suggest one), or are interested in the number of minor actresses Mao bedded, this book has a certain entertainment value. But it is neither serious history nor serious biography.
That they had to deal with a man Mao Zedong and an institution, the Chinese Communist Party which had spent decades constructing a story of both the man and the party and that systematic campaign of misinformation took a while to dismantle, he adds.
Early in its history, the CCP played an important role in anti-imperialist mass struggles that galvanized the Chinese population. During the May 30 Movement of 1925, for example, it helped to bring thousands of protesters to the streets to decry the mistreatment of Chinese workers in Japanese mills, and it spearheaded major boycotts of Japanese goods when that country began making military incursions into north China in the 1930s.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chair of the History Department at the University of California, Irvine, and the author, most recently, of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know. His reviews and commentaries have appeared in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and a wide range of magazines and journals of opinion, including New Left Review, the TLS, the Nation, the Huffington Post, Time and Newsweek. He is the Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and co-founder of the UCI-based China Beat blog/electronic magazine.
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Rolf Strom-Olsen is a co-founder and current president of UR Mobile Services Inc. He obtained his BA cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. After a stint at CNN, he embarked upon graduate studies, first at McGill University, and later at Northwestern University, focusing on the early modern history of Spain and the Low Countries. A Fulbright scholar to Spain in 1998-99, and a Social Sciences Research Council fellow in 2000, he has published a variety of articles and reviews on European history. In 2001, he turned to business, co-founding UR Mobile, a company that focuses on providing digital media services to the medical and scientific community. He has also served as a corporate director and currently sits on the board of PulmoScience Inc, a medical research company. He is an Associate Professor at IE University.
Hanif Kureishi is a playwright, screenwriter, novelist and film-maker. His screenplay for the film My Beautiful Laundrette, directed by Stephen Frears, was nominated for an Academy Award. The film was critically acclaimed for its sensitive depiction of a homosexual relationship between a gay skinhead and a young Asian man. He also wrote the screenplays for Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and London Kills Me (1991), which he also directed. His film My Son the Fanatic was adapted from his short story included in Love in a Blue Time (1997). The film was first shown at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. His play Sleep With Me (1999) was first performed at the National Theatre in London in 1999, and was followed by When the Night Begins (2004), produced at the Hampstead Theatre in 2004.
Dr. Rolf Strom-Olsen is Professor of Intellectual History and Humanities at IE University and IE Business School in Spain. Prof. Strom-Olsen holds a Phd in History by Northwestern University and is a specialist on European History. 1e1e36bf2d