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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang

Mao: The Unknown Story (original 2005; edition 2007)

by Jung Chang, Jon Halliday

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1,766None3,973 (3.74)1 / 60
Title:Mao: The Unknown Story
Authors:Jung Chang
Other authors:Jon Halliday
Info:Vintage (2007), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 992 pages
Collections:Your library

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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang (2005)




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English (31)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (36)
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Mao the Unknown Story by Jung Chang


Not a dedicated ideologue but a tyrant who needed money, military supplies, and intelligence from Russia in order to get where he wanted to go..

Not a simple man, but one who truly wanted to rule China and would do absolutely anything to make that possible.

His incredibly complex, cut-throat and self-serving machinations throughout his life were awesome.

He also gives a whole new meaning to terms like paranoid, sociopath, sadist, and criminally insane.

This is the guy who shaped China's history and in doing so shaped China past as well as China present and future. The book is fascinating.

Do great men shape history? This one sure shaped China’s history and he did it all for himself and the fact that 70 million people were killed along the way bothered him not one iota. Tolstoy did not think it was the big men in history and for a long time I agreed with him but no longer. I confess he has revised my view of history and how it is made.

Trust me, you cannot imagine what Mao did; not in the deepest part of your darkest imagination could you imagine what this guy did.

This is a fact based tour de force that leaves one staggering.
1 vote Urquhart | Jun 17, 2013 |
I don't know enough about China to know just how historically accurate Chang's work is, but the book makes for a great read and provides considerable insight to Chinese history since about 1930. What I have come across that is contrary to what I've read before does not seem outlandish or implausible. ( )
  bradleybleck | Jun 4, 2013 |
This breathtaking biography of one of the 20th century's greatest villains is written with the fiery passion of personal involvement. Jung Chang's family suffered for their privileged position as intellectual upper party members during the Cultural Revolution. While Mao's life is presented from a hostile perspective, it looks to me firmly grounded in fact. The husband and wife team interviewed hundreds of people in China and around the globe (from Albania to Zaire) about Mao. Page after page of interviewees offers testimony to their exhaustive research as does the 58 pages long bibliography.

The most surprising fact about Mao was that he didn't believe in communism. From his early Randian ramblings on, he was interested in power. Joining the Communists. If another party had offered him a better way to power, he would have jumped ship. Not feeling any allegiance to party and idea proved to be a tactical advantage in the power struggle with his peers who often chose to sacrifice themselves for the party's sake. In contrast to most human beings, Mao only cared about himself, abandoning allies, wives and his children without qualms. Chiang Kai-shek let himself be controlled by Stalin holding his son hostage. Mao didn't care about the fate of his son held by Stalin.

Mao's supreme management incompetence is another unexpected finding of this biography. Time and time again, Mao managed to exhaust and destroy territories and armies put under his command. Most of his rivals were much more capable in command. Like a clumsy cat, Mao managed to land on his feet and walk elegantly away from the debris of his latest catastrophe. Despite a track record of failure, Mao fell upward and upward. Stalin somehow admired his survivor capability. Mao would not quit.

Regarding his management style, he was supreme at using Richard Nixon's Orthogonian technique of relying on building coalitions of less efficient but totally dependent toadies. They knew that they owed their position to Mao, a fact Mao made clear by humiliating them in public, again and again. Mao's meanness knew no bound: He even denied Zhou Enlai cancer treatment.

The biography also reveals that many of the commonly told stories need to be revised, e.g. Mao and the Communist leadership did not march but was carried on litters by starving and dying porters during the Long March. The Communists were also not in danger from Chiang Kai-shek who had pre-arranged the destination of the march with Stalin and used the Communists to gain entry into warlord-dominated Sichuan. Only when Mao foolishly deviated from the script was blood shed. Mao also needlessly prolonged the march by senseless deviations. He also didn't fight the Japanese during WWII, using them to weaken Chang Kai-shek and waiting for the war to end.

Overall, a stunning read about the 20th century's greatest butcher. One wonders where China might be now if its economic recovery process had started at the same time as the Wirtschaftswunder. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote jcbrunner | Nov 1, 2011 |
Forget everything you learned in school about Chairman Mao! This book corrects countless misconceptions and reveals the unvarnished truth about one of the most evil leaders in world history. ( )
  Eagleduck86 | Aug 21, 2011 |
  surlysal | Aug 8, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679746323, Paperback)

In the epilogue to her biography of Mao Tse-tung, Jung Chang and her husband and cowriter Jon Halliday lament that, "Today, Mao's portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital." For Chang, author of Wild Swans, this fact is an affront, not just to history, but to decency. Mao: The Unknown Story does not contain a formal dedication, but it is clear that Chang is writing to honor the millions of Chinese who fell victim to Mao's drive for absolute power in his 50-plus-year struggle to dominate China and the 20th-century political landscape. From the outset, Chang and Halliday are determined to shatter the "myth" of Mao, and they succeed with the force, not just of moral outrage, but of facts. The result is a book, more indictment than portrait, that paints Mao as a brutal totalitarian, a thug, who unleashed Stalin-like purges of millions with relish and without compunction, all for his personal gain. Through the authors' unrelenting lens even his would-be heroism as the leader of the Long March and father of modern China is exposed as reckless opportunism, subjecting his charges to months of unnecessary hardship in order to maintain the upper hand over his rival, Chang Kuo-tao, an experienced military commander.

Using exhaustive research in archives all over the world, Chang and Halliday recast Mao's ascent to power and subsequent grip on China in the context of global events. Sino-Soviet relations, the strengths and weakness of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II, the Korean War, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, the vicious Cultural Revolution, the Vietnam War, Nixon's visit, and the constant, unending purges all, understandably, provide the backdrop for Mao's unscrupulous but invincible political maneuverings and betrayals. No one escaped unharmed. Rivals, families, peasants, city dwellers, soldiers, and lifelong allies such as Chou En-lai were all sacrificed to Mao's ambition and paranoia. Appropriately, the authors' consciences are appalled. Their biggest fear is that Mao will escape the global condemnation and infamy he deserves. Their astonishing book will go a long way to ensure that the pendulum of history will adjust itself accordingly. --Silvana Tropea

10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

Q: From idea to finished book, how long did Mao: The Unknown Story take to research and write?
A: Over a decade.

Q: What was your writing process like? How did you two collaborate on this project?
A: The research shook itself out by language. Jung did all the Chinese-language research, and Jon did the other languages, of which Russian was the most important, as Mao had a long-term intimate relationship with Stalin. After our research trips around the world, we would work in our separate studies in London. We would then rendezvous at lunch to exchange discoveries.

Q: Do you have any thoughts about how the book is, or will be received in China? Did that play a part in your writing of the book?
A: The book is banned in China, because the current Communist regime is fiercely perpetuating the myth of Mao. Today Mao's portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, and the regime declares itself to be Mao's heir. The government blocked the distribution of an issue of The Far Eastern Economic Review, and told the magazine's owners, Dow Jones, that this was because that issue contained a review of our book. The regime also tore the review of our book out of The Economist magazine that was going to (very restricted) newsstands. We are not surprised that the book is banned. The regime's attitude had no influence on how we wrote the book. We hope many copies will find their way into China.

Q: What is the one thing you hope readers get from your book?
A: Mao was responsible for the deaths of well over 70 million Chinese in peacetime, and he was bent on dominating the world. As China is today emerging as an economic and military power, the world can never regard it as a benign force unless Beijing rejects Mao and all his legacies. We hope our book will help push China in this direction by telling the truth about Mao.
Breakdown of a BIG Book: 5 Things You'll Learn from Mao: The Unknown Story

1. Mao became a Communist at the age of 27 for purely pragmatic reasons: a job and income from the Russians.

2. Far from organizing the Long March in 1934, Mao was nearly left behind by his colleagues who could not stand him and had tried to oust him several times. The aim of the March was to link up with Russia to get arms. The Reds survived the March because Chiang Kai-shek let them, in a secret horse-trade for his son and heir, whom Stalin was holding hostage in Russia.

3. Mao grew opium on a large scale.

4. After he conquered China, Mao's over-riding goal was to become a superpower and dominate the world: "Control the Earth," as he put it.

5. Mao caused the greatest famine in history by exporting food to Russia to buy nuclear and arms industries: 38 million people were starved and slave-driven to death in 1958-61. Mao knew exactly what was happening, saying: "half of China may well have to die."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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 life 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 intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed the Japanese occupation; and he schemed, poisoned and blackmailed to get his way. After he conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. 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. --p. [4] of cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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