Based on a decade of research and on interviews with many of Mao's close circle in China who have never talked before, and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him, this is the most authoritative biography of Mao ever written. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned, and blackmailed to get his way. After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao's rule, in peacetime.Combining meticulous research with the story-telling style of Wild Swans, this biography offers a harrowing portrait of Mao's ruthless accumulation of power through the exercise of terror: his first victims were the peasants, then the intellectuals, and finally, the inner circle of his own advisors. The reader enters the shadowy chambers of Mao's court and eavesdrops on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao's character and the enormity of his behavior toward his wives, mistresses, and children are unveiled for the first time.This is an entirely fresh look at Mao in both content and approach. It will astonish historians and the general reader alike.More
"Sweeping." (Publishers Weekly)
"Boasts a monumental marshaling of detail and historiographically overturning revelations." (Booklist)
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Comparable to Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago
On the whole, that this book exists, and that the truths about sinister dictators like Mao will eventually come to light. Though Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago was told in the first person from someone "on the ground," and Mao was told by researchers, it wasn't lost on me that Jung Chang's relatives experienced the terrors of Mao firsthand. In a way, this didn't make the book "enjoyable" so much as "revel in the justice" of this book existing.
For the American left that view Mao as some sort of cultural hero this book should set you straight, and for the American right that view modern China as some sort of ingenious state-capitalism machine -- it would also likely set "you" straight in the realization that "state authority" only comes on the tail of "state violence." Whatever one's political persuasion may be, if you're able to stomach the horrors without brushing them away as the bias of the author, you'll find this book an extremely rewarding experience.
Mao's demonic poems about enjoying and hoping for the destruction of the universe. I've seen reviewers that were critical of the book claiming it wasn't "balanced" yet, what type of "balance" are they looking for if what they mean by balance is omission?
The most memorable event (in hindsight) was a communist party event where the audience basically "clapped down Mao" in order to avoid a famine; this memorable even because the setup for a payoff which was a massive and violent purge where Mao avenged himself against those whom basically clapped against him.
Awesome narration -- no characters, but his voice was strong and made you feel as if you could "stand up" to all the terrible things Mao was doing.
No. I listened to it in less than 2-weeks, but the horrors and atrocities committed by Mao made frequent breaks necessary.
I listened in a midst of listening to other histories of a relatively similar time period -- strangely, this book made me question Franklin Delano Roosevelt's legacy as such a "wonderful president" considering all that's presented here, even though that was not the purpose of the book. This book is a great standalone history of the forces that shaped modern China, but also feels like the missing puzzle piece in terms of World War II events that helped shape not only modern China but the balance of power in the world thereafter.