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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chairman with the help of Stalin
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...
Published on 5 Oct 2011 by Roland Nilsson

790 of 879 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totalitarian Mode of Analysis
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...
Published on 27 Feb 2007 by Prof, USA

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Right to be biased?, 23 Oct 2008
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
After being in China and seeing the closed society as well as a brainwashed belief in the system that still exists today, then you know that something irregular had happened. This fired up my interest in China's history. As this book is still banned in China, I waited until I was out of the country to read this epic biography.
Yes, it's biased, but are not all biographies? As Ms. Chang has had lots of family and personal history in the country and lived under the tyrannical rule of a lunatic, whose self- importance mattered more than the astronomical amount of suffering Chinese, then she has every right to vent her anger.
This is a well reasearched book that should not be avoided by anyone who has an interest in China. I hope it is released there soon.
I would also like to comment on one reviewer. If you haven't lived or experienced life under a regime, then you shouldn't be hasty in saying that it brought great things to the world, wouldn't evolution and diplomacy do the same?
This book opened up my eyes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too personal, 1 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
An interesting book with some eye opening statements but due to the personal undertone felt throughout the facts are sometimes overpowered by what seems to be the author's personal vendetta towards the subject matter. Through such personalism the book, for me, loses a lot of its impact and so credit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The horror! The horror!, 17 Aug 2013
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If you are interested in modern Chinese history, read this book. The picture of Mao of a heartless, paranoid Stalinist is unrelenting and horrific. Although the writing style can be annoying, with it's constant invective and insinuation, the facts speak for themselves. It is still a very well told and fascinating story - and one you will never forget.
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226 of 262 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not a history, not a biography, 9 Nov 2006
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
it cannot be called historical book because there is no assessment of source materials, and the author shows no understanding of social and historical background of what happened. Chang Jung's historical understanding is seriously behind time, it is all about hero or anti-hero creating history.

it cannot be called a biography becuase the author is too much one sided. the book doesn't show nor discuss the other source materials which counter her favorite stories.

like chang jung's autobiography, it is a more emotional book than a factual book. Even David Irving's Book on Hitler is more objective and balanced than this book.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the thug revealed, 27 Feb 2007
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
This book shatters the long uncriticised iconography of a loathesome tyrant who set upon his own people with disdain and brutality. It has long been asserted Mao, and seemingly he alone, united China and drove out the foreigners such was his power. Yet perversely when it comes to the torture, imprisonment and death of literally millions (some 70 million are estimated to have died during famine under his rule and then there are all those killed by execution and torture) apologists in both east and west try to have us believe he wasn't responsible, that it was the doing of others. Or worse still, some say that it was neccesary (see the review above which brushes aside issues of human rights and mass murder on the basis Mao did after all 'unite' China and throw out foreign powers. How flippantly people assume the deaths of so many others makes such political 'success' justifiable.
There has been much about Mao and his rule that never made sense to me until this book. It puts into context Mao's fanatical desire to push China into superpower status in as few years as possible. The consequent pouring of China's resources (mainly food) into export was the cause of great famines. And the Cultural Revolution was an exercise in state control of culture, trying to brush aside thousands of years of rich history in order to control the population. When today's friend and colleague is tomorrows enemy to denouncea and when children torture and murder their teachers then a country is living in the evil state illustrated in '1984'. what is there about that to admire?
The book paints a bleak picture of a country under a leader not far removed from Pol Pot and his cronies in mentality. Mao was brutal, cruel and vain, wanting a nation that looked to no one but him. As a result the country experienced what JG Ballard referred to in his review of Jung Chang's 'Wild Swans' as 'the brain death of a nation', when independent thought was suppressed and society became cruel and wildly irrational. [...]Mao set about creating myths about himself which perpetuate to this day. This book is worth reading to find out about the Long March, one of the great communists myths that still has people in awe, which was not as it seems at all. Mao set up a cult of the personality once he was in power. Do you really think we know the truth about him from official Chinese history?
This is a well researched book and backed up by scores of interviews conducted by the authors as well as much other truly substantial research. And lets not forget Jung Chang herself lived through the hell of the 'Cultural Revolution'.
It is not without its flaws and one should read the book with a critical eye and read further material to gain a greater understanding of both Mao, the revolution and China. But for me the most important thing is that it shatters the ridiculous illusions that Mao, a man who oversaw the deaths of more people that even Hitler, was great and should be venerated in any way. He was a tyrant, pure and simple.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Helmsman up the creek, 29 Sep 2009
Tony Floyd "Travis Pickle" (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
The reviews of this book that have already been posted make fascinating reading (as do the very peculiar voting patterns). Are there still people out there who believe all this Great Helmsman rubbish? Clearly so. Perhaps they still take at face value the airbrushed images of the serene, implacably smiling Mao of the propaganda posters. They seem to think this destroyer of culture was a poet, this instigator of mass murder was the peasants saviour, this mercilessly self interested tyrant was a profound political philosopher. If they've read this book and still think this stuff then there can be no clearer demonstration that blind faith can indeed conquer all. All feelings of empathy, sympathy and common humanity that is.

The first thing to note about The Unknown Story is its sheer readability. This is down to another of its strengths, which is its refusal to take the the leaden and dogmatic `Marxist-Leninist' jargon that Mao and his colleagues spouted at face value. This is a study of Mao the devious, power-hungry gangster; it is not particularly interested in his political views or the declared ideological underpinnings of his policies because, as it shows time and again, these were not genuinely held beliefs. And as there is no need to analyse or evaluate the superficial window dressing of `Mao Tse Tung thought', Jung and Hallyday can rightly focus on Mao's actions; what he did, when he did it and under what circumstances. As the authors clearly realise, to take seriously the empty ideological justifications of Mao and his weasel acolytes can only give them a credence that they do not merit and would support the still active propaganda machine around him.

The book convincingly shows that Mao simply wanted power and the CCP was the means for him to achieve that power. The neverending denunciations of his personal enemies as capitalist roaders, right deviationists, imperialist lackeys, running dogs, poisonous weeds, etc, etc, were nothing more than self serving obfuscation, offerings to the genuine party faithful using the terminology they were expecting, to cover his manouevring to strengthen only his own personal power and prestige. The recurrent pattern of comrades being denounced, then embraced back into the fold and then hounded again show all too clearly that it was not their ideological purity that concerned him, simply their status as potential challengers or opponents. I suppose one must therefore credit Mao's superhuman patience and his ability to nurture long term grudges.

In fact, as the book makes plain, such was Mao's hubris he was some kind of Bond villain in the making, with his Machiavellian intrigue and power plays underwriting his ultimate ambition to literally rule the world. The price to be paid in trying to achieve this was the lives of 70 million people. The fact that his own ridiculous `policies' and scheming led to the failure of such ambitions is the only bitter consolation to be had from his story.

Jung and Halliday demolish various other Mao myths along the way - the Long March, the Great Leap Forward, the supposedly self sufficient atom bomb programme - so that one marvels at how tenacious the idea of such hollow `heroics' must be and to wonder how they could have been taken at face value in the first place. They also show that Mao's personal lifestyle was completely at odds with the privations and sufferings he imposed on his `fellow' Chinese. I put the word fellow in quotes because there was no hint of fellow, or any other sort of feeling in him. His lavish lifestyle, hidden by total secrecy and belied by his ostentatiously spartan uniform, was unimaginably indulgent. He had no intention of suffering the hideous conditions that he imposed on the rest of the country. That hypocrisy alone is enough to condemn Mao as an unworthy political figure or hero.

The book is unstinting in its exposure of Mao's hypocrisy, his heartlessness, and his indifference to the suffering he imposed on both the faceless masses and his closest comrades and family. No creed or ideology or political system can excuse or justify the human cost of his actions. And if you think one can or does, you really need to read this book then sit and count to 70 million on your fingers and toes, each time imagining the individual life that Mao was responsible for snuffing out.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rule of Fear, 5 Dec 2009
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Hardcover)
Along with Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein, Mao Tse Tung was one of the most evil men of the 20th century, as anyone with respect for human life will attest.
The auhtors illustrate how Mao's thirst for blood is what led him to choose the Communist Party, over the Nationalists because the Nationalists put limits on the brutality their forces allowed and only the Communists could provide him with a means to assuage his mania for murder and destruction.
From even before his participation in the civil war, he showed a great almost sexual love of murder-'it is wonderful, it is wonderful' he enthused in 1927, during one of the Communists destruction of an entire city and it's population during the Chinese Civil War.
A revolution needed blood he told the local population of Hunan that year, "It is necessary to bring about a reign of terror in every country"
The authors point out how the Communists under Mao during the Sino-Japanese War saw the Nationalists as the main enemy and not the Japanese, and refused a united front with the Nationalists against the Japanese, later when a front was set up Mao ensured it was sabotaged and worked to make sure that the Japanese advanced deep into China.
The authors effectively debunk the myth that the Communists were the main force in resisting Japanese aggression. Mao had hoped for a deal between Stalin and Japan similar to the 1939 deal between Stalin and Hitler-the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact.

During the civil war, and after Mao took control of the country in 1949, the main target of Mao's killing machine was the peasants. Mao saw the peasants as beneath contempt and worth no mercy.
He died production and success in industrialization to a high death rate of the rural masses.
All the granaries were shut down in rural areas and massive quantities of food allowed to rot rather than to feed the starving masses.
In his dream to dominate the world Mao created the greatest famine in world history that killed over 38 million people.

He saw reducing the peasants to starvation as a virtue, and refused to take any measures to improve their well being.
The authors cover the horrors of the Hundered Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward and most horrific of all the Cultural Revolution. It is harrowing to read of tortures and murders of millions of entire families from the oldest to youngest were killed, babies still on milk torn grabbed and torn apart at the limbs or just thrown into wells. His fascination with spreading death can be captured in his words about the famine "A few children die in the kindergarten, a few old men die in the happiness court, if there is no death human beings can't exist".
Mao's aim of world domination lead to the Korean and Vietnam wars.
In 1975 a year before his death, Mao congratulated Pol Pot on his slave labour state. 'You have scored a splendid victory' he just one blow and no more classes'. What Mao meant is that everyone had become a slave.
Mao's 27 year rule brought death to more than 70 million Chinese-in peacetime.
It is mind blowing that so many on the Left did and still do worship him.
It is this same cult of worshipping murder and evil that leads Leftist radicals to laud Saddam Hussein, the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran , terror outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah, and even the Taliban.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still the most monstrous of them all from beyond the grave., 1 Aug 2014
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
Possibly the most comprehensive, mind bogglingly detailed, foot noted, referenced and resourced book I have ever read. Chang and Halliday have done humanity and the future of China a tremendous service by painstakingly deconstructing the myth of Mao and revealing possibly the most monstrous human to have ever walked this planet. Her sources are awe inspiring - the translator present during discussions between Mao and Stalin, KGB and intelligence archives that the Russians are only too happy to divulge now, surviving members of the long march interviewed by her over twenty years ago as well as contemporaries and descendents of Mao's inner circle, defectors, party archivists, Mao's own notes, poems, essays,, intercepted communiques (via Russian, British and American sources) from Mao's ranks and dissenters and so on.

The last two hundred pages of this 900+ page book contains list after list of sources, references, bibliographies of chinese and non-chinese sources, interviewee lists, author notes, archives - and this is outside of the voluminous foot-notes.

The content of the book will speak for itself to those who care to read it. The main purpose of my review is to offer some counterbalance to reviewers who try to paint this work as some self-interested, whimsical, propagandist polemic. This book is a great wall of verifiable fact built brick upon brick of reliably sourced information.

To that end I would also point out that the reference notes also contain lists of historians with special access or special interest, that she consulted with (about sixty of them are chinese scholars) And as well as all of the eye witnesses she names, who would be anonymous on the world stage she also lists historical figures from 37 different countries who met Mao and provided information to her - they are named as prime ministers, leaders of religious orders and so on - all of them happy to put their name to her book.

This book has relatively few reviews (less than 90 at present). The good reviews have few helpful votes. The bad reviews have seven or eight hundred helpful votes. How odd. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else on Amazon. It seems that Mao, the most monstrous of them all is still creating propaganda from beyond the grave. How is that possible you might ask?
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192 of 231 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Desperately biased, does not deserve to be treated as a serious biography, 20 Nov 2007
This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Paperback)
1, The reliability of the evidences and materials collected by this book is highly questionable. In fact, many of the stories are copied from pseudohistories and unreliable tales, which greatly damages the value of this book. The authors seem to use anything that could be found to serve their pre-set opinion.

2, Even if we do not question the reliability of the materials, the pure logic of many of the arguments in this book frequently fails to be correct. The authors seem to be too desperate to lead everything to their negative conclusions, by ruling out any other possible interpretation that is more critical, neutral, and reasonable.

3, A person who is of historical significance to a country and even the whole world, a person who gained huge success in a particular time and in a particular culture, has far more aspects in his personal character, his philosophy, and his system of beliefs and values than what the authors of this book put into their consideration. Such an over-simplification damages the academic value of the book as a serious biography, and even makes its readers question the very motives and qualifications of the authors.

4, When a country's people joined in a political movement collectively and, mostly, out of their own desire and belief, and based on their own basic rationality and argument, such behaviour involves too many economic, psychological, political, and cultural incentives and factors, to be treated purely as a scheme or mistake by a single person.

5, Trying to get more details and materials to give strength to an argument is absolutely right, but it is usually easier to wish, than to do it well and competently. Unfortunately, the authors disappoint me in this work.

6, I am really surprised and literally stunned by the fact that a couple of authors who are supposed to be some kind of scholars or at least serious writers, can possibly give birth to a book desperately biased and far far from critical like this.
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125 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When People are a Natural Resource, 17 Jun 2005
Poldy "Paul" (Darwen, Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mao: The Unknown Story (Hardcover)
To the outside world, Mao was another charismatic, ideological leader, like Stalin and Hitler. The truth, as usual, is far more complicated and bizarre, not to say appalling. Unlike his fellow murderous ideologues, Mao actually had no real interest or belief in the ideology he espoused: his interest was simply in whatever would grant him more power and cement his position as leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and, he intended and schemed, eventually the entire world.
Mao's Communists seized power from Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, a change of rule which most of the population greeted with enthusiasm, believing as many did that Chiang's government was corrupt and power-hungry. From the moment he assumed power right up until his death, Mao was interested in one thing, and one thing only: keeping hold of power.
How he did this makes fascinating and often uncomfortable reading. Although he himself had been born a peasant, he had no interest in the welfare of the peasantry of his country, often telling his closest associates that a few million deaths meant little. As a way of maintaining power, Mao had the dream of gaining nuclear weapons. In what must be a manoeuvre unique amongst even the most insane of world leaders, he actually manipulated both his allies (and his allies were only ever allies for as long as they could be useful to him) and his enemies at the same time. He instigated wars in Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan, correctly predicting that the US would threaten to use nuclear weapons against China. Mao then told Stalin that he, Stalin, having signed the mutual-defence pact with China, would have to retaliate, thus causing a Third War world with nuclear weapons. Stalin, then, had little choice but to hand over the know-how to construct nuclear weapons. Mao thus shrewdly manipulated the US into threatening nuclear war in order to manipulate the USSR into giving him what he wanted. He also made it clear to his closest allies that he would be perfectly happy with a Third World War.
Moa made it clear that he could beat the Americans in a war because he had one thing they lacked: an inexhaustible supply of expendable soldiers. It was this callous disregard for life - and the life even of his own people - that set apart Mao's reign. He even encouraged other totalitarian leaders to be more ruthless, in his mould. Over the years, China gave out millions of tons of food in aid to other countries - many with a higher standard of living than his own people. This aid caused famine on a massive scale, resulting in over 22 millions deaths in one year alone.
As with Stalin, terror on a massive scale was Mao's key to power but, unlike both Hitler and Stalin, Mao liked to have his worst crimes carried-out in public, where they would act as a deterrent to the whole population. There was no fear that the outside world would find out, since all forms of media were strictly controlled, and the rare visits by foreigners were carefully organised so that no word of his murderous ways could escape.
Chung and Haliday have done a sterling job of presenting the true story of this terrible, vicious man. Their hatred of the man and the regime is clear, but a bare presentation of the facts is enough to instil this feeling in the reader. This deserves to become the standard reference work.
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