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Mao: The Unknown Story (2005)

by Jung Chang, Jon Halliday

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2,639494,744 (3.75)1 / 72
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. This entirely fresh look at Mao will astonish historians and the general reader alike.--From publisher description.… (more)
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 Non-Fiction Readers: Mao15 unread / 15LamSon, January 2008

» See also 72 mentions

English (42)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
An atom bomb of a book is about right. If you are too sensitive to read about corruption and atrocities on an epic scale, and the downright insanity of the megalomaniacal leadership of a totalitarian state - then don't read this book.
The story of communism in China is right up there with the Nazi holocaust, and by far exceeds the elimination of entire social classes by the Bolsheviks. I am very thankful to be living in a democracy where crimes against humanity on such a scale could be prevented by the people removing those responsible from office.
Sadly, that would still not be possible in communist China, where no doubt another Tiananmen Square-type protest movement would once again be crushed by tanks at the behest of their own government. Only the example of successful democracies can save them. ( )
  MatthewFrend | Nov 24, 2022 |
Mao egy dög volt. Ezt persze eddig is tudtuk. De hogy ekkora dög volt, az még számomra is újdonság. Sok szempontból Sztálin updatált verziójának tűnik: az a fajta diktátor, aki felismerte, hogy ha nem hagyja magát korlátozni az ideológiáktól, az növeli stratégiai mozgásterét. Ilyen értelemben ő is elsősorban retorikailag volt marxista, valójában bármilyen kártyát szívesen kijátszott a kultúraellenességtől a nacionalizmuson át a szimpla xenofóbiáig, ha épp attól remélte hatalma megszilárdulását. Ő is, mint a diktátorok általában, állampolgáraira absztrakcióként tekintett – viszont ezt olyan léptékben csinálta, ami ép ésszel felfoghatatlan. Meghal 300 millió kínai egy esetleges atomháborúban? Oda se neki, legalább mindenkinek dupla annyi helye lesz. Hát mivé lenne a világ, ha soha senki nem halna meg? A parasztoknak kevesebb napi kalória jut, mint az auschwitzi foglyoknak? Legalább nem híznak meg, mint a nyugatiak. Úgyhogy csak növeljük háromszorosára a kötelező beszolgáltatást, mert a ruszkiknak élelmiszerrel kell fizetnünk a haditechnikáért. És mellesleg Mao rendelkezett a diktátorok egyéb szériafelszereltségeivel is: paranoiás volt, és bár nem nagyon értett az olyan apróságokhoz, mint a gazdaság vagy a hadvezetés, sosem szűnt meg mégis belepofázni mindenbe. Például mekkora nagy ötlet szerszám nélkül kizavarni a jónépet, hogy a két kezükkel építsenek víztározókat! Igaz ugyan, hogy az első áradás elmosta az egészet, de kit érdekel, én nem ott lakom. Meg micsoda remek idea a kert végében vaskohókat építtetni a falusiakkal, és beolvasztatni velük még a szerszámaikat is, csak mert az acél országa akarunk lenni! Igaz ugyan, hogy az így nyert fém semmire se lesz használható – még a popónkat se tudjuk kitörölni vele, hiszen FÉM. Mindennek végösszege (a szerzőpáros számítása szerint) cirka 70.000.000 kínai holttetem.

A kötettel csak az a baj, hogy nem igazán történelem. Hanem egyfajta ellen-történelem – vagyis a hivatalos maoista üdvtörténet pontról pontra végigvitt cáfolata. Olyan szinten Mao van a középpontjában, hogy az már nemhogy a tárgyilagosság rovására megy, de egyenesen beledarálja a tárgyilagosságot a komposztba. A kuomintang például, való igaz, Mao közvetlen környezeténél jóval kevésbé volt megveszekedett tömeggyilkosok gyülekezete, de e kötet alapján konkrétan cserkészcsapatnak tűnik. Ez pedig azért van, mert a szerzők vélelmezhető szándéka szerint semmi, de semmidesemmi nem terelheti el a figyelmünket Mao páratlan gonoszságáról. Természetfeletti démont csinálnak belőle, de olyan mélységig, hogy még Sztálin agyvérzését is szép óvatosan a nyakába varrják. Komolyan. (Ráadásul Chang és Halliday valószínűleg telepatikus képességekkel is bírnak, mert olyanokat írnak, hogy „Mao az ágyában arra gondolt…” – nos, én elhiszem, hogy Mao se az ágyában, se máshol nem gondolt semmi jóra, de azt azért nem merném állítani, hogy bárki tudhatja, mire gondolt.) Mindez oda vezet, hogy az egész tömeggyilkosságért csak Mao és a legszűkebb slepp felel, maga Kína népe pedig (a legtöbb tisztviselőt is beleértve) a megerőszakolt szűzlány szerepét játssza, akit terrorral és zsarolással térítenek le az igaz útról. No most én ebben mértékkel hiszek – tapasztalatom szerint a diktatúrák nem működhetnek anélkül, hogy a népesség számottevő része (a „számottevőn” lehet vitatkozni) ne állna mellettük. Vagy azért, mert a rosszabbik énjükre erősít rá a Nagy Vezér, vagy azért, mert olyasvalamit ajánl fel nekik, amit az előző kormányzat elmulasztott: munkát, vagy továbbtanulási lehetőséget a legszegényebbek számára is. Például. Nos, ez az elem ebből a könyvből teljesen hiányzik. És szerintem enélkül meg vagyunk fosztva a lehetőségtől, hogy igazán megértsük Mao rendszerének lényegét. Csak a szörnyülködés marad.

Mert szörnyülködni amúgy igazán jóízűt lehet ezen a könyvön: igazi Fekete Könyve az ázsiai XX. századnak. Jó gyomrú olvasók mindenképpen vágjanak bele, mert számos érdekes, releváns információ van benne, még ha néha el is rejti őket a borzalmak monoton sorjázása. Csak épp egyszer szeretnék olvasni egy olyan könyvet is Mao-ról, amiből nem csöpög ennyire az amúgy jogos gyűlölet.
( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
Mao Zedong is alone among the major tyrants of the 20th century never to have faced a historical reckoning. While the crimes of Adolf Hitler’s regime have been well documented and the Russians have at various times acknowledged the famines and purges under Josef Stalin, the full extent of the suffering inflicted by Mao remains uncertain. This is largely due to the degree to which the Communist government in China today zealously protects his image, as though to question it is to undermine the foundations of their state. As a result, many of the details about his life remain overlaid by myth, while his culpability in China’s misery during the quarter of a century he ruled it remains under-explored.

To rectify this, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday spent over a decade combing through archives and interviewing people who knew Mao. Their book embodies the sum of their efforts, offering an comprehensive examination of Mao, his rise to power, and his actions as the leader of the most populous nation on the planet. It’s an impressive work, but also a deeply flawed one that often reads more like a prosecutor’s brief than it does a historical study designed to illuminate the life of the man and how he came to exert such an outsized role in China’s history.

These flaws become evident early in the book when the authors set out to explain how Mao rose to power. As they make clear, Mao was hardly destined for greatness. Not only was his background relatively humble, but Mao lacked the oratorical or organizational skills that have been the path of many to power. Nor was he an energetic go-getter, as he preferred an indolent lifestyle. What Chang and Halliday demonstrate Mao possessed in abundance was an eye for the main chance and a ruthlessness in destroying anyone who he perceived as a competitor. Time and again Mao outmaneuvered more capable colleagues and competitors, steadily accruing power even at the cost of thousands of lives.

Mao did little to endear himself to his contemporaries or his superiors in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Yet as Chang and Halliday argue, their opinions mattered less than those of the Soviet advisers aiding the Communists in the 1920s and their superiors in Moscow. The authors’ description of the role the Soviet Union played in Chinese politics during this period is one of the main features of this book, and reflects their extensive work in Russian archives. Impressed with reports of Mao’s effectiveness, time and again they favored him over their rivals – and with Moscow’s continuing support for the CCP vital to its survival, their preferences could not be ignored. As Chang and Halliday demonstrate, their support was a key factor in Mao’s rise to the leadership of the CCP and the war against the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek.

Once in command, however, Mao hardly distinguished himself as a general against the Nationalists or the Japanese then occupying large portions of China, and by 1946 his forces were on the verge of being crushed by the Nationalists. Then how did the Communists ultimately triumph over Chiang’s forces? Here Chang and Halliday credit two factors: an untimely American intervention for a cease-fire, and the planting of moles within the Nationalist military command. The former gave Mao’s forces a much-needed breathing space and an opportunity to rearm with Soviet aid, while the latter often spared threatened Communist forces while leading their own men into traps. The result was Nationalist collapse and Mao’s victorious declaration of the People’s Republic in 1949, beginning his long and disastrous reign over China.

Yet ruling over China was not enough for Mao, as he aspired to nothing less than global domination. In this he was restrained by both the devastated condition of his country and Stalin’s reluctance to support the development of an indigenous arms industry. Mao sought to overcome both through a combination of adroit diplomacy and a callous exploitation of his people. Leveraging Nikita Khrushchev’s need for allies, Mao from him won the technical advice and resources he needed to develop an atomic bomb program. This he paid for by requisitioning enormous amounts of agricultural produce from the peasantry, beggaring the populace in order to support his ambitions. When others in the CCP leadership pushed back against the cost of this, Mao solidified his power with the Cultural Revolution, which threw the nation into chaos and inflicted yet further trauma upon the people. Their suffering continued largely unabated until Mao’s death in 1976, at which point his successor Deng Xiaoping soon began to reverse his policies and launch China onto the path that has brought it to the present day,

Chung and Halliday’s book is a damming indictment of its subject. Yet in painting such a uniformly negative portrait of Mao what they produce is a caricature. Nowhere in it do they consider why many people chose to follow him absent some form of compulsion, or why his second and third wives – the former of whom refused to renounce Mao even under torture, the latter a capable guerrilla leader in her own right – fell in love with him. Equally problematic is the authors’ overreliance on Soviet sources, which results in a very Russian-centric view of Mao’s life that, in the absence of similar materials from Chinese archives, likely exaggerates the Soviet Union’s influence in Communist Party politics in the 1920s and 1930s. Not that the authors allow the absence of archival material to prevent them from engaging in speculation about some of the shadowier aspects of Chinese history (such as the possibility of Nationalist moles sabotaging their war effort), provided that it fits their interpretation of Mao. Taken together, these issues make Chang and Halliday’s book one that should be treated with caution, and that for all of its research should not be regarded as the final word on Mao’s life and career. ( )
  MacDad | Jan 31, 2022 |
Comprado no sebo do Ita-Uba, em 01/11/2021 ( )
  Nagib | Nov 7, 2021 |
I didn't get very far with this one, but that's a fault of mine, not the book. I did get far enough to start to get a picture of just how much of a *freak* this guy was! It's really scary how someone like that could get into a position of such power!
  catzkc | Mar 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (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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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. This entirely fresh look at Mao will astonish historians and the general reader alike.--From publisher description.

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The most authoritative life of the Chinese leader every written, Mao: The Unknown Story is 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. 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.
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