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Mao the Unknown Story Poster Unknown Binding – 2 Jun 2005


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  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (2 Jun 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0224076221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224076227
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)

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Review

"Massive and rigorous biography." -- Sunday Herald

A brilliant portrait
-- Good Book Guide --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The most authoritative life of Mao ever written, by the bestselling author of Wild Swans and her husband (2004-09-22) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roland Nilsson on 5 Oct 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is devastating for Mao and for those who perpetuates the myths about him. Contrary to the image of Mao leading a homegrown revolution, the support of Stalin and Russia appears to have been of crucial importance, both in establishing Mao as the supreme party leader and in securing the Communists' victory in the civil war. As ruler of China Mao caused the worst famine in history. To pay for his rush to build a military superpower Mao squeezed so much out of the peasants that 38 million died of starvation in 1958-61. "The peasants want freedom but we want socialism", Mao said to his comrades. However, Liu Shao-chi and others opposed Mao's policies, which caused Mao to launch a great purge, the Cultural Revolution. Not until Mao died in 1976 was it possible for China to start recovering. Authors Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have done an excellent job.
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791 of 881 people found the following review helpful By Prof, USA on 27 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
Jung Chang's young intellect was formed in an environment where totalitarian propaganda substituted for reason and evidence. After she came west, she was unable to make the adjustment. She still thinks and argues the same way. Her one-sided ram-it-down-your-throat approach, her strained interpretations, and her outright distortion of sources are the very characteristics of Maoist propaganda. She has learned nothing. This approach, and her endless repetition, make it clear that she does not trust the reader to make up his or her own mind. She should stick to reminiscences, at which she is adept, and leave history to competent historians. There are much better arguments against Mao than this. Philip Short, in just one example, makes an equally scathing case against Mao, but uses reason and an honest appraisal of sources. It is a compelling case. Chang's totalitarian mode of argument is so silly that it actually undermines the case against Mao by making it the subject of mockery. She thus gives comfort to the Maoists. Nobody except fanatics can take this book seriously, and the case against Mao should be taken seriously. As for Halliday, he should know better. "What does it profit a man...?"
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684 of 764 people found the following review helpful By Don A. Mele on 10 Feb 2007
Format: Paperback
All history is biased because we observe objective facts through subjective prisms, and because history's real value is interpretation, which is by its nature personal. However, some histories are more biased than others. This one doesn't even attempt to be fair. Its judgements are so extreme that they undermine the reliability of a massive, indeed impressive, body of research. Unreliability makes for poor history. What a waste of so much energy, labor, and potential! Yes, we all know that Mao was evil and the biggest mass murderer in history, surpassing even Stalin and Hitler. We also know that Mao would still have been a disgusting human being even had his politics been admirable, and none of us would have liked to have him home for dinner. Certainly not I. There is no need to excuse or romanticize anything about Mao. He was bad. But his successes were stunning and world-shaking, not only uniting China but freeing it from foreign control, creating the industrial base that allowed the economy to flourish under a less bandit-like regime, and making China a world power to be reckoned with. We are still dealing with the consequences. Does the end justify the means? Of course not. But there should be room in the authors' model for considering political brilliance or anything else positive. There isn't. They see just will, luck, cunning and ruthlessness. And they see everybody else as just gullible, even Chou En Lai. Can it be so simple? The book goes further. It attributes all evil anywhere in Asia like the Korean and Vietnam Wars solely to Mao. Wow! That's a lot of power! I didn't realize he was omnipotent. (Doesn't the looney left make the same assumptions about the CIA?) There is no subtlety in this investigation, and no sense that either human beings or historical causes can in any way be complex.Read more ›
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522 of 583 people found the following review helpful By FH_history on 20 Aug 2007
Format: Paperback
I come from the former British colony Hong Kong. My family members were murdered and humiliated in the Cultural Revolution. I have absolutely no sympathy for Mao. Yet I can tell you this book is heavily biased both in terms of its selection of evidence and its interpretation of historical materials.

As a history graduate of Oxford and a post-graduate at Peking University, I would say this book fails to live up to its promise of representing a historical, truthful Mao. Partial selection of materials in favour of one's argument is no honest history, no matter how abundant the footnotes may seem. For those who can read Chinese, do read some Chinese books for a more balanced perspective. For those who cannot, Philip Short's is a far better (if no less critical) alternative.
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300 of 339 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
The book feels like reading an editorial from the Sun Newspaper.
Find it petty, no historical context. The author expresses her opinion in every sentence.
This seems to be the new "mode" in biographies, based on slanted and biased comments.
Give us a well researched account on somebody's life and keep your comments to yourself. After all it is up to the reader to make up his/her mind.
BAD READ
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123 of 139 people found the following review helpful By C. Connolly on 18 Oct 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book stands to remain the tome of first resort for most casual readers seeking to learn more about Mao Zedong. It is impressively researched, and the authors have clearly gained access to many people whose intimate knowledge of Mao has thus far remained undocumented in the English language, and only to a small degree even in Chinese.
However, the ultimate flaw in this book is its failure to reconcile the differences between a personal biography and a political one: the approach that worked very well in the first half of the book, recounting his personal rise to prominence and leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, is inadequate in explaining the decisions made by 'Chairman Mao' once he had been installed at the head of the government of the most populous nation on the planet.
The narrative of 'Mao the self-serving and ruthless power seeker' gives way in 1949 to the narrative of 'Mao the ruthless tyrant'. While neither of these portrayals are wholly inaccurate, 'Mao the ruthless tyrant' is an inadequate framework within which to analyse the policy choices of the head of the most populous nation on earth. The tyrant's over-riding policy objective is laid out in vague terms as being 'to dominate the world' through massive investment and expenditure on the military in general and nuclear weapons in particular. The main effects of these policy choices are given as the irrefutable suffering that befell the Chinese populace as a result. However, 'world domination' while being an objective, is not in itself a policy; nor is massive military expenditure an end of any worth if it is not to be used to implement a coherent foreign policy. This is where the weaknesses in this book come to the fore.
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