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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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2,046423,262 (3.75)1 / 69
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 (37)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All (42)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Rather dry but a very detailed reporting on Mao, the butcher of China. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
It was difficult for me to rate this book. On the one hand it's obviously the definitive biography of Mao; on the other it's a punishing, tedious read. My guess is that very few people needed to be convinced that Mao is one of history's worst villains (anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the Cultural Revolution understands the depth of his evil), but Jung Chang enumerates his crimes in such exhausting detail that Mao: The Unknown Story becomes, in places, flat-out unreadable. The author's bias is so overt that she captions a photo of Mao and his henchman Lin Biao thusly: "Note Mao's black teeth, which he rarely brushed. He did not have a bath or a shower throughout his twenty-seven-year reign." When the text is constantly bogged down with these kinds of observations (and it is), I feel that I'm no longer reading a biography but a six-hundred-page tirade. Bring every ounce of your patience to this one. ( )
  Jonathan_M | Mar 26, 2016 |
Very interesting, but difficult to read mostly because of the names. The author also seems very angry and comes off as overly biased in my opinion. But, there can be no denying that Mao Tse-Tung was a monster who caused the deaths of more than 70 million people. ( )
  jpb355 | Nov 2, 2015 |
I read this book side by side with the other biography by Zhi-Sui Li, PhD. Very interesting how they comment on the same issues. Excellent reading. ( )
  fak119 | Feb 5, 2015 |
Review to follow
  BurlingtonReader | Jul 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This huge biography of the 20th-century political giant is based on prodigious research and contains fascinating new material. Jung Chang, who is of Chinese origin, and Jon Halliday, her British husband, offer plenty of passion and detail in their unremittingly negative but engrossing portrait of Mao Tse-Tung. Overall the book is less the "unknown story" promised by the subtitle than a known story distilled into a polemic.

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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:46 -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)

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