The Man on Mao's Right

  • by Ji Chaozhu
  • Narrated by Norman Dietz
  • 14 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

No other narrative from within the corridors of power has offered as frank and intimate an account of the making of the modern Chinese nation as Ji Chaozhu's The Man on Mao's Right. Having served Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist leadership for two decades, and having become a key figure in China's foreign policy, Ji now provides an honest, detailed account of the personalities and events that shaped today's People's Republic. The youngest son of a prosperous government official, nine-year-old Ji and his family fled Japanese invaders in the late 1930s, escaping to America. Warmly received by his new country, Ji returned its embrace as he came of age in New York's East Village and then attended Harvard University. But in 1950, after years of enjoying a life of relative ease while his countrymen suffered through war and civil strife, Ji felt driven by patriotism to volunteer to serve China in its conflict with his adoptive country in the Korean War. Ji's mastery of the English language and American culture launched his improbable career, eventually winning him the role of English interpreter for China's two top leaders: Premier Zhou Enlai and Party Chairman Mao Zedong. With a unique blend of Chinese insight and American candor, Ji paints insightful portraits of the architects of modern China: the urbane, practical, and avuncular Zhou, the conscience of the People's Republic; and the messianic, charismatic Mao, student of China's ancient past---his country's stern father figure. Ji is an eyewitness to modern Chinese history, including the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Nixon summit, and numerous momentous events in Tiananmen Square. As he became caught up in political squabbles among radical factions, Ji's past and charges against him of "incorrect" thinking subjected him to scrutiny and suspicion. He was repeatedly sent to a collective farm to be "reeducated" by the peasants.


What the Critics Say

"A true 'fly-on-the-wall' account of the momentous changes in Chinese society and international relations over the last century." (Kirkus)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good for China Beginners

This is the memoir of someone who worked in the Chinese foreign service during and after the Mao era, and still resides in China with his family. The result is a book that gives a moderate version of the official Communist Party story of Chinese history and diplomacy in the 20th century.

Someone who doesn't know much about recent Chinese history would probably learn quite a bit. The book would be especially helpful for someone who couldn't imagine why the Chinese government joined the Korean War, or why Taiwan has been made such an issue--and why most people in China agree with the government position on these topics. As someone already quite familiar with the history, I didn't get any new information from this book.

The author's description of his personal experiences are rather monotonous, without much reflection or psychological detail. Expect to spend a lot of time hearing about the health problems of every member of his family. His political insights are limited to categorizing all the people he discusses as either good (Zhou Enlai, Peng Dehuai, Deng Xiaoping) or bad (Mao, the Gang of Four, and their supporters), and so he explains political events by attributing them to whether the "good" or "bad" people happened to be in control of government at that time. This was much too simplistic for me to feel that the book had deepened my understanding of how the tumultuous politics of the Mao years really worked.

The narrator made some effort to learn how to pronounce Chinese, so about half the names came out fairly well (except for the tones), and half are mangled. This is still better than most audiobooks on China.
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- Delano

Very enlightening

I teach modern Chinese history to high school students and this audiobook has been very helpful in understanding this chapter in China's history. The unique perspective of the author's time in America as a college student and his eventual return to Beijing gives a nuanced, informative outlook that illuminates the 100 Flowers Bloom movement, the Great Leap Forward (Backward, really), and the intensity and insanity of the Cultural Revolution. Very engaging to listen to on my commute every day.
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- Adam

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-30-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio