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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.
 

Published: Random House Publishing Group on Jan 5, 2005
ISBN: 9780307807137
List price: $14.99
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A very engaging book, I read it daily until I finished it. Though it was a biography of Mao, it was also a well researched, very revealing look at how Communism (the Maoist version in particular) works. Mao made Hitler look like an amateur (as did Stalin) yet there are those who still defend him. Its amazing to me that no one can defend Hitler without being marginalized as a nut (and rightly so) yet people who defend Mao and Communism in general are seen as having a valid point of view. This book makes that impossible to continue to do. Everyone should read it in my opinion. The world will see more men like Mao and as the saying goes, if we don't understand history we're doomed to repeat it.read more
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A minutely researched story of how Mao came-to and stayed-in power, with a lot of behind the scenes information, detailed accounts from diplomatic meetings and interviews of people who came into contact with him. Is it well written? Not sure. A wealth of interesting information, yes, but some repetitions, some unclear stuff, some information willfully omitted. I have never had any doubts about Mao being a ruthless tyrant, and I didn’t need to be explicitly reminded of it every second sentence- I am perfectly capable of forming my own opinion given the facts, thank you very much. The account oozes with hate, and as a result there is a feeling of a biased view there, even if there is a possibility that it isn’t. That said, it’s definitely worth persevering through, especially if someone is a history buff, especially if they harbour any illusions about Mao’s good intentions, or the quality of life he brought to the Chinese. Having lived in a communist country, I found it very interesting and I fully appreciate that everything written there is a true account of what was happening. Nobody in Poland has had any doubts what life in China under Mao looked like anyway, and if anybody complained that there was no meat or ham to buy in the stores, because there were endless transports of pigs going to the Soviet Union as the repayment for mostly obsolete technology, people jokingly reassured themselves that the life was better there than in the Soviet Union, and definitely better than in China where all the people had to eat were the flies they could catch and the leaves on the trees.I’m sure the book is not only written to open Western eyes to the true nature of Mao’s regime, but it’s also written to open the eyes of the Chinese, and especially the Chinese youth, who are still brought up in the cult of Mao, and I can testify to that claim having taught scores of Chinese students from the mainland.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Well written, even glib, this bio shows all of Ms. Chang's deep hate for Mao most probably based on the extreme pain, even death, suffered by her parents during the Cultural Revolution, which most agree was unleashed by Mao.read more
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A very engaging book, I read it daily until I finished it. Though it was a biography of Mao, it was also a well researched, very revealing look at how Communism (the Maoist version in particular) works. Mao made Hitler look like an amateur (as did Stalin) yet there are those who still defend him. Its amazing to me that no one can defend Hitler without being marginalized as a nut (and rightly so) yet people who defend Mao and Communism in general are seen as having a valid point of view. This book makes that impossible to continue to do. Everyone should read it in my opinion. The world will see more men like Mao and as the saying goes, if we don't understand history we're doomed to repeat it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A minutely researched story of how Mao came-to and stayed-in power, with a lot of behind the scenes information, detailed accounts from diplomatic meetings and interviews of people who came into contact with him. Is it well written? Not sure. A wealth of interesting information, yes, but some repetitions, some unclear stuff, some information willfully omitted. I have never had any doubts about Mao being a ruthless tyrant, and I didn’t need to be explicitly reminded of it every second sentence- I am perfectly capable of forming my own opinion given the facts, thank you very much. The account oozes with hate, and as a result there is a feeling of a biased view there, even if there is a possibility that it isn’t. That said, it’s definitely worth persevering through, especially if someone is a history buff, especially if they harbour any illusions about Mao’s good intentions, or the quality of life he brought to the Chinese. Having lived in a communist country, I found it very interesting and I fully appreciate that everything written there is a true account of what was happening. Nobody in Poland has had any doubts what life in China under Mao looked like anyway, and if anybody complained that there was no meat or ham to buy in the stores, because there were endless transports of pigs going to the Soviet Union as the repayment for mostly obsolete technology, people jokingly reassured themselves that the life was better there than in the Soviet Union, and definitely better than in China where all the people had to eat were the flies they could catch and the leaves on the trees.I’m sure the book is not only written to open Western eyes to the true nature of Mao’s regime, but it’s also written to open the eyes of the Chinese, and especially the Chinese youth, who are still brought up in the cult of Mao, and I can testify to that claim having taught scores of Chinese students from the mainland.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Well written, even glib, this bio shows all of Ms. Chang's deep hate for Mao most probably based on the extreme pain, even death, suffered by her parents during the Cultural Revolution, which most agree was unleashed by Mao.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
At first, I was put off by the heavily polemical style and constant sneers at Mao. But I pushed on, and I'm glad that I did. Read the book, not as academic history or as a scientific investigation, but more as a bill of indictment. Chang and Halliday spent ten years digging up an extraordinary wealth of material, and I doubt anyone will ever match what they have done. They had access to Russian archival material and various aging eye-witnesses in China that have not been available to previous historians. Of course, it's possible that the authors' attitude to their subject impaired their ability to work, but I think that the sweep of their narrative, combined with the details that they have uncovered, make the whole work compelling. Adding up the plusses and minuses, I would still give it a strong recommendation. I read Jonathon Spence's book on Modern Chinese History, which I liked very much. His NYRB review was guardedly critical, mostly because of their attitude, but he didn't seem to criticise specific elements in terms of their veracity.
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This is one of those biographies that astounds. Many of the common assumptions about Mao are turned on their head. He is portrayed as a selfish, sadistic, monomaniacal leader who cared only about his own rise to power--and damn the consequences! According to the authors, he killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined! Some reviewers have called this a polemic rather than a definitive, academically sound biography because so many of the authors' conclusions are based on unverifiable interviews. But I don't think anyone disagrees with the basic assumption, that Mao was a master myth maker and liar, and his ability to absorb events into his legend was his greatest gift. His Machiavellian activities continued to his last breath on his deathbed. Well written and compelling, if a bit long.
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Long, exhaustive biography. It becomes very fast clear how the person Mao works, though never how he thinks. Patterns continues for long pages... Not a beauty, but needs to be read. Should be distributed free all over China.
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