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Mao: The Unknown Story Paperback – 4 Jan 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099507374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099507376
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The first great political biography of the twenty-first century" (Frank Johnson Spectator)

"This is a bombshell of a book... Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have done this extraordinary country a huge service with this book, which will one day be read as widely within China as it will deservedly be in the outside world" (Chris Patten The Times)

"Chang and Halliday cast new and revealing light on nearly every episode in Mao's tumultuous life... Magnificent... It is a stupendous work" (Michael Yahuda Guardian)

"Devastating... Awesome... Mesmerising... The most powerful, compelling and revealing political biography of modern times. Few books are destined to change history, but this one will" (George Walden Daily Mail)

"A triumph. It is a mesmerising portrait of tyranny, degeneracy, mass murder and promiscuity, a barrage of revisionist bombshells, and a superb piece of research. This is the first intimate, political biography of the greatest monster of them all" (Simon Sebag Montefiore Sunday Times)

Book Description

The most authoritative life of Mao ever written, by the bestselling author of Wild Swans, Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: 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.
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