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Mao's Last Revolution by Roderick…
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Mao's Last Revolution (2006)

by Roderick MacFarquhar, Michael Schoenhals (Author)

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Recently added byfeekennedy, private library, TheBaseBk, WTChan, mikepillsbury
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I've become a little skeptical of large and sweeping "history of everything" books as I've become older, but this work is an exception as the authors use the most current documentation to try and sort out the chaotic violence that was the Great Chinese Cultural Revolution. The vision that one comes away with is of Mao as an old bandit who could not imagine that his time was ending, and who used parasitic hacks and cronies to attack the professionals who were trying to make Chinese society work, and thus retain power just a little longer.

Most striking is that the authors can demonstrate just how much of an actual civil war had been incited by Mao, particularly during the peak of the Red Guard period; the mind boggles at the image of the story of two competing student groups allegedly building radiological "dirty" bombs to use against each other.

More meat is also put on the whole mystery of Lin Biao, and whether he was a traitor or not. It would appear that Mao actually made the first move, because if all power flowed from the barrel of a gun, Mao wanted to make sure it was civilian leadership that had the finger on the trigger, and setting the marshal aside was the way to try and assure an acceptable succession. This is particularly since no truly workable heir was available and that Mao had done a fine job of destroying the party to save it.

As you watch the Chinese Communist Party tie itself into knots in 2012 over installing a new government, keep in mind that this is the deep background to a damaged institution that has never really recovered since 1966. Let's say that I'm not as hopeful as the authors that liberal developments will come out of the struggle to come to grips with Mao's poisoned heritage. ( )
1 vote Shrike58 | Aug 22, 2012 |
Mao's Last Revolution is the first academic-level full exploration of the Cultural Revolution. It's depth and level of insight is staggering. The authors have made full use of sources as recent as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday's Mao: The Unknown Story as well as recently opened archives in China. I think it would have been helpful to have a detailed timeline (I almost started making one to keep things straight). I greatly appreciated the glossary of names included in the back. I would not recommend it for the casual reader (try Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now by Jan Wong for an easier read) but the student of modern Chinese history or politics would be seriously remiss to not have this on their shelves.

see the full review, and all my reviews, at www.jenrothschild.com ( )
1 vote kidsilkhaze | Aug 30, 2009 |
Mao's Last Revolution is a very good look at the Cultural Revolution and immediate aftermath. Mao kept control through a series of 'one liners' and pithy sayings that had little value in running a country as large as China. His subordinates spent most of their time 'brown-nosing' Mao, plotting against others, or both. The result was a country that was barely functioning with many of the more capable individuals exiled for having a hint of a spine. Had those involved in the Revolution spent as much effort in the progress of the country as they did plotting; it is hard to imagine where China would be today. The only downside to reading this book was trying to keep track of who was who. ( )
  LamSon | Nov 27, 2008 |
Dense, detailed, thorough. It took me a long time to get through this book - which though written well, is not in the engaging, "popular history" style. (Note I mention this only because in the intro the author's state they are attempting to write popular history...) Similarly, the book is dominantly a chronological political history, describing the ups and downs of the various power players in the Chinese government, with little text devoted to the effect of these actions on the average Chinese citizen. As a political history, this is an excellent book on an extraordinarily interesting topic. Like most communist history, it is dominated by machinations amoung a few top players, with death as punishment for failure. If you substitute death for lesser punishments (job loss, out of the clique), these histories are enlightening commentaries on human nature. ( )
  piefuchs | Feb 18, 2007 |
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Roderick MacFarquharprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schoenhals, MichaelAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674027485, Paperback)

The Cultural Revolution was a watershed event in the history of the People’s Republic of China, the defining decade of half a century of communist rule. Before 1966, China was a typical communist state, with a command economy and a powerful party able to keep the population under control. But during the Cultural Revolution, in a move unprecedented in any communist country, Mao unleashed the Red Guards against the party. Tens of thousands of officials were humiliated, tortured, and even killed. Order had to be restored by the military, whose methods were often equally brutal.

In a masterly book, Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals explain why Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, and show his Machiavellian role in masterminding it (which Chinese publications conceal). In often horrifying detail, they document the Hobbesian state that ensued. The movement veered out of control and terror paralyzed the country. Power struggles raged among Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Qing—Mao’s wife and leader of the Gang of Four—while Mao often played one against the other.

After Mao’s death, in reaction to the killing and the chaos, Deng Xiaoping led China into a reform era in which capitalism flourishes and the party has lost its former authority. In its invaluable critical analysis of Chairman Mao and its brilliant portrait of a culture in turmoil, Mao’s Last Revolution offers the most authoritative and compelling account to date of this seminal event in the history of China.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:46 -0400)

"The Cultural Revolution was a watershed event in the history of the People's Republic of China, the defining decade of half a century of communist rule. Before 1966, China was a typical communist state, with a command economy and a powerful party able to keep the population under control. But during the Cultural Revolution, in a move unprecedented in any communist country, Mao unleashed the Red Guards against the party. Tens of thousands of officials were humiliated, tortured, and even killed. Order had to be restored by the military, whose methods were often equally brutal." "Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals explain why Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, and show his Machiavellian role in masterminding it (which Chinese publications conceal). In often horrifying detail, they document the Hobbesian state that ensued. The movement veered out of control and terror paralyzed the country. Power struggles raged among Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Qing - Mao's wife and leader of the Gang of Four - while Mao often played one against the other." "After Mao's death, in reaction to the killing and the chaos, Deng Xiaoping led China into a reform era in which capitalism flourishes and the party has lost its former authority. In its critical analysis of Chairman Mao and its portrait of a culture in turmoil, Mao's Last Revolution offers the most authoritative and compelling account to date of this seminal event in the history of China."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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