Read Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang Jon Halliday Online


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 shThe 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....

Title : Mao: The Unknown Story
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ISBN : 9780679746324
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 801 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Mao: The Unknown Story Reviews

  • Natasha
    2019-05-09 09:03

    I was very much looking forward to this highly touted book, as it's widely considered to be the most thorough and in depth study of Mao ever done. It's true, actually. The amount of detail is pretty incredible.The thing that has been turning me off of this book is that it falls victim a little too much to the author's personal feelings for Mao. I understand that a lot of what he did was atrocious. I just wish that I didn't feel like I was being force fed the author's point of view quite so blatantly.

  • فهد الفهد
    2019-05-24 07:07

    ماو تسي تونغ سيرة ذاتية كتبتها مؤلفة (بجعات برية) يونغ تشانغ بالتعاون مع زوجها البريطاني جون هوليداي، الشعور الذي سيشعر به القارئ حالما يفرغ من الكتاب هو مزيج من عدم التصديق لكل هذا الشر الذي كان يحتويه ماو، وحجم الكوارث التي تسبب بها للصينيين، وشعور آخر بأن المؤلفة بالغت بشكل ما، وجعلت ماو مدركاً لعواقب كل قرار كان يقوم به، فما تعرضه لنا هذه السيرة ليس إلا رجل طموح جداً، رجل لا يهمه إلا مجده الشخصي، رجل لا تهمه الشيوعية ولا الوطن، لا يهمه العامل أو الفلاح، كل ما يهمه هو صورته الشخصية، وقيمته التاريخية، ومن أجل هذا قام بكل ما قام به، تكشف لنا المؤلف كيف ولماذا انضم ماو للحركة الشيوعية، كيف ولماذا حطم كل الشيوعيين الذين سبقوه حتى لا يقفوا في طريق زعامته للحزب، كيف كانت المسيرة الطويلة غير ضرورية ومدمرة لكوادر الحزب، كيف كانت قرارات ماو اللاحقة من الحرب مع اليابانيين ومن ثم القوميين، ثم دخوله الحرب الكورية، وعلاقته بالسوفييت، كل هذه كانت مدفوعة بحبه للسلطة ورغبته في تقوية مركزه، حتى الأحداث الكارثية اللاحقة بعد الانتصار الشيوعي والسيطرة على الصين القارية، مثل القفزة الكبيرة للأمام والثورة الثقافية كلها كانت مدفوعة بأحلام وطموحات ماو الجنونية، وكيف دفع الملايين من الصينيين ثمن هذه الأحلام من أمنهم وطعامهم وحياتهم أحياناً.

  • Horace Derwent
    2019-05-02 12:58

    As we all know, he was the man who killed the mostBut many people might not know this:The only right thing he ever did was DIEStill there many many many many many people here are worshipping and adoring him, seeing him as a God~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Finally received the tome today thru by a longtime shipping freight, expensive and risky(you got it), but worthy and deservingThis book of untold stories of him tells the world a lot about(not only about the dictatorship of his fucking and murdering) the Evil legacy of his and his making sense of Devil~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The couple authors are amazing, I can taste sarcasm on every page and in each sentence and pic annotation, some can really make me laugh my ass off, such as he regarded himself as the Leader of Third World, he proclaimed this World were actually nations of poverty(to be continued)

  • Caroline
    2019-05-15 12:50

    Okay, I put my hands up...this book has me defeated. At page 228 I am giving up. It is just too dense, and too filled with battle and political strategy to be my cup of tea.I have however gleaned some interesting points from what I have read. (view spoiler)[* I had not appreciated the degree to which Soviet Russia and Stalin were involved with the setting up and support of The Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army. The early Chinese Communists were born out of Russia's passion for communism, and their desire to spread it to other countries. The Chinese communists got support from Russia in terms of propaganda, intelligence, arms and expertise. In many ways they were standing on the shoulders of Russia.* I have never before read about anyone as manipulative, self-serving and Machiavellian as Mao. He was a wheeler-dealer every inch of the way, pushing around people and situations to suit his own ends - frequently pretending to do one thing, but in reality doing something completely different. He was a real conniving trickster.* He was brutal - he never shied from using torture and death to further his ends.* He had four wives. The first one he married when still barely a child, and she died before they got together, but he was ruthlessly dismissive of the middle two, and the children they had between them. After he lost interest in them, he just dropped them without a second thought. He left them in dire situations when he could have helped them. One was killed by Chinese Nationalist troops, the other ended up in a mental hospital.* Whilst ostensibly being opposed to the invasion of China by Japan, in reality he welcomed the Japanese. During much of the invasion the Nationalists (the government's army), and the Red Army agreed to stop fighting one another; but Mao did everything he could to undermine the Nationalists."Most of the Red Army leaders wanted to fight the Japanese - but not Mao. This period of history is now known as "The Three Warring Kingdoms" (the Red Army ,the Nationalists and the Japanese). In later years Mao said he was grateful to the Japanese. He said he thanked them for 'lending a big hand', and without them 'we would still be in the mountains today.' He ordered the Red Army commanders to wait for the Japanese troops to defeat the Nationalists, and then, as the Japanese swept on, to seize the territories behind the Japanese lines. The Japanese could not garrison the vast areas of China they conquered. They could only control the railways and big cities, leaving small towns and the countryside up for grabs........ Mao's plan was to ride on the coat-tails of the Japanese to expand Red territory. He said years later that his attitude had been 'the more land Japan took the better.'* Throughout the book one is faced with sentences to the effect "the history books say this, but in reality quite the opposite happened." It is no accident that the book is called "Mao: The Unknown Story". I imagine that apologists for Mao find it extremely provocative. As anyone who has read the horrors of Jung Chang's earlier book "Wild Swans" will understand...she is no fan of Mao or the Chinese Communist Party.(hide spoiler)]Those of you who have read the spoiler may well think "Why has she stopped reading this book? She is obviously getting something constructive from it." Well, I stopped because it was a jolly hard slog to wade through all that detail. All the time I was reading I was aware that 99% of the information was just slipping away from me. I am not going to give the book any rating though. Were I an academic doing research on Mao's life I am sure it would be an invaluable resource; it just totally defeated me. (Sorry Mikey!)

  • Jessica
    2019-05-22 14:44

    I can't decide whether to keep going with this book, which is one of the most annoying biographies I've ever read. The tabloidish whiff of the subtitle -- The Unknown Story! -- is misleading: this book should have been called Mao: What a DICK! Its tone is bizarrely vitriolic and hysterical, as the authors take every single conceivable opportunity to spell out after each example that, see, look, Mao was a real DICK.Here's the thing: we already know that Mao was a dick! And if we somehow didn't, simply giving us evidence of his dickishness -- e.g., the time he starved 38 million people to death? -- would do an infinitely more effective job of convincing us. This is really an instance where the hated writing advice to "show" and "not tell" should've been heeded, because somehow all the authorial raging about what a dick he was makes Mao seem almost sympathetic. More to the point, it makes him seem like a flattened cartoon character and cuts off any speculation about why he was such a dick. He's presented as a kind of Damian hellchild who just pops out of his seemingly very nice mother filled with all this bloodthirsty ambition, and there's no exploration of where his immense dickishness came from, or how it might have either derived or deviated from the society he lived in. This did the opposite of what a biography is supposed to do, and made the question of why Mao was who he was moot by just painting him as so inherently, insanely evil and awful and bad that there was no point trying to understand anything else about him. Of course I think it's perfectly reasonable to be astounded by the horrible acts and low character of a person responsible for so much death and suffering, but I still think you need to be able to modulate your tone when you're writing a book like this, or you just wind up undermining the power of all your points.BUT! Except for this very annoying tic, the book is well-written, clear, interesting, and easy to follow for someone with almost no knowledge of any of the history being described. Maybe I'll return to it again at some point...?

  • pinkgal
    2019-05-10 09:05

    How do I review a book like this? I don't know, because I have decidedly mixed feelings about Mao myself. Jung Chang wrote the amazing "Wild Swans" biography/autobiography, but her voice there falls far short of the voice here. I'll be honest. It's very, very biased. She presents the work as *factual* when it's not actually quite that factual. Much of her interpretation and statements are based off of things like, "a dear friend of Mao's said..." and yet, the friend is *not* named or referenced. Just that alone made me uneasy. It was an interesting read, don't get me wrong. I felt it was worth the time I spent on it, but I can't say that Jung did the best she could have. Her biases and hatred for Mao was all-too clear and for any book that claims to be a 'true' story, that makes it wrong in my books. Obviously, others will disagree with me and I know many people who find it a brilliant piece of work. The amount of work Jung put into it is admirable, but I can't say that this didn't bother me. Overall? I'd say read it and judge for yourself.

  • James Murphy
    2019-05-08 10:55

    This isn't balanced biography. This is more like character assassination. It reminded me of the harsh biographical treatment Albert Goldman gave Elvis Presley some years ago. Whatever detail of Mao's life Chang writes about, the negative aspects are emphasized. The facts of his marriages are glued together with the ways he crippled them and damaged the wives. Writing about his children, the author underlines the ways he mistreated them. Every lash of the whip is here: not writing to his children or neglecting a wife during childbirth. All the family dirt is reported here, just as it's reported that he controlled and abused political allies and colleagues. Many he tortured and had killed when he no longer had use for them. The harsh lives of the Chinese people in general, even starvation, were sometimes caused by Mao's policies. It's estimated his years of government were responsible for 70 million deaths. Was he a monster? Sure, I suppose so, as much as Stalin and Hitler and Pol Pot and others. But he was also a man. He was a husband, a father, and a friend to someone. He loved someone, sometime. It's okay to picture a leader's policies and direction as monstrous, but I believe at some level he's still a human being. Just as Hannah Arendt saw and pointed out the banal in Adolph Eichmann, Chang should have been willing and able to show the same banality in Mao. But she fails to allow him that. In my mind it makes for unbalanced, incomplete biography. The life and events punctuating that life are here--the young communist, the Long March, the Civil War, the Korean War, Chairman, the Cultural Revolution. I was surprised to learn how important Soviet help was to the Chinese Communist Party during the 30s. And also at how instrumental Moscow's steps were in keeping the Japanese bogged down so that they wouldn't be able to attack north into the Soviet Union. I also thought the analysis of Sino/Soviet motivations in Korea in the 50s interesting, if chilling. Some of the story is well-told. But because I feel Chang's over-emphasis on the negative approaches expose and polemic rather than comprehensive, complete biography, I wonder if exaggerations aren't present in accounts of Mao's administration of the country as a whole. Mao isn't a fun read--it's relentlessly negative. It's biased and imperfect because of that and because it leaves out part of the man.

  • Andrew Macneil
    2019-05-22 12:50

    This is a comprehensive hatchet job on the Western myth of Mao's "making of modern China". It should be read by everyone who grew up in the post-war years, with the recurrent fascination our society had with the internal convulsions of the "People's Republic" and its growing influence on its neighbours. It is well written - I noticed a few repetitions, but nothing annoying, and it kept my interest throughout. I'm sure the passion that comes through the book's relentless examination of Mao's behaviour and its consequences comes from Jung Chang's experiences (read "Wild Swans"), and of course it makes for a one-sided picture. Maybe examples of statesmanship and concern for the welfare of the Chinese people, or even of individual colleagues, are to be found in Mao's past, and have been omitted because they didn't fit the picture. But after reading this book, frankly, I doubt it - there doesn't seem to have been any time for good deeds. I am not a historian, and historians are divided on some of the claims (see Wikipedia), but the authors do give extensive references and have interviewed many participants in the events, some very close to Mao. The details are given in appendixes, which make the book look even longer than it is, and maybe give it a scholarly appearance that isn't borne out by its tone. But they do show the authors' seriousness of purpose and willingness to expose their work to examination and criticism.

  • Jeff Chappell
    2019-04-28 08:48

    I'm going to have to come back to this; it's an exhaustive read. I will say this: I would have given it five stars but for the fact that the writing itself is extremely textbookish. At times, reading it was a chore that ranks up there with getting through John Galt's 60-page speech in Atlas Shrugged. But Mao is so well researched and such an interesting topic, covering a fascinating period in Chinese history ...Update: If you really are a glutton for punishment and want to read what I really think about this book, you can go here [link:]And if anyone knows of a less retarded way to insert a link here (I tried all the coding tricks I could think of -- not sure what version of html/php is going on here), please contact me ...

  • Mikey B.
    2019-05-01 07:38

    “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” Quote of Mao Tse-tung“Long Live Chairman Mao”“Chairman Mao Tse-tung is the Saviour of the Chinese People”During the 1960’s and ‘70’s Mao was a much revered world leader – particularly adored by the college crowd (I know I was one of them) who put Mao on a pedestal. He was placed among the great leaders of the 20th century like Gandhi. His stature in Western society was likely similar to that of Stalin who was also glorified during the 1930’s and 1940’s.The authors of this book do much to disabuse us of this notion – in fact Mao is vilified on almost every page.We come away with a portrait of a megalomaniac who did very little to help China. The man was conniving and devious. For instance he instituted a short period in 1957 called “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom” where he invited the people to speak out. They did. And Mao took notes.Page 419 (my book)Mao ordered an editorial for People’s Daily to be broadcast that evening, saying that challenging the Party was forbidden. Once he pressed this button, the persecution machine started rolling... As a result at least 550,000-plus people were labelled as “Rightists”... To Mao, writers, artists and historians were superfluous.Mao was obsessed with making China a world power, with himself at the helm. Being a superpower to Mao meant acquiring military hardware and first-most - the Atomic bomb. In order to attain this he traded much needed food to the U.S.S.R. for their expertise and knowledge of the bomb. This was called the “Great Leap Forward.”Page 438Close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork in the Great Leap Forward and the famine, which lasted four years [starting in 1958]. ..Had this food not been exported (and instead been distributed according to humane criteria), very probably not a single person in China would have had to die of hunger.So much for the myth of Mao helping the Chinese peasant.Mao’s struggle to attain power in the 1920’s and 1930’s was also a product of help from Stalin’s Russia. Stalin wanted to spread the gospel of Marx and communism to the world; eventually Mao wanted to do the same.There are many similarities between Mao and Stalin - in the way they made their underlings cringe before them (Chou En-lai was a prime example); both created a cult of personality with abundant images and placards; there was censorship and immobility in that travel within and without the country was prohibited.But there were differences. Mao created many vast villas for himself across China, which were sealed off from the general population.Page 333Mao was the only millionaire created in Mao’s China.Mao also used public violence. Denunciations were followed by public beatings and executions with the people being encouraged to participate. This instilled a “cult of terror” and fear – as in who is to be next. This started in the areas Mao’s army occupied in the 1920’s – and never stopped evolving.During the long war with Japan Mao did little to attack the Japanese. He saw advantageously that Japan could do his work in defeating his arch-rival Chiang Kai-shek (leader of the Nationalist side). Also Mao allowed Nationalist forces to destroy rival communist groups. This allowed him to become the sole communist leader by the end of World War II. Mao’s primary goal was power for himself only.The authors erroneously claim that after the conclusion of the war the U.S., under their emissary General George Marshall, could have prevented Mao’s communists from winning the Civil War against the Nationalists by providing more aid. Chiang Kai-shek Nationalists’ were extremely inept and corrupt, and the U.S. had already provided millions of dollars in aid to them that was largely wasted. In essence Mao was too smart, and thoroughly outplayed Chiang Kai-shek, much like he did with his rivals in the Communist Party.This book gives us an alternate view of Mao than that provided by earlier historians – it lays waste to Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow which eulogized Mao. It chronologically gives us Mao’s acquisition to power from the 1920 ‘s to 1947; and then how he relentlessly wielded it after. It’s a sobering read of a 20th century tyrant. Page 525 (the 1960’s)Leisure disappeared. Instead, there were endless mind-numbing – but nerve-racking – meetings to read and reread Mao’s works and People’s Daily articles. People were herded into numerous violent denunciation rallies against “capitalist-roaders” and other appointed enemies. Public brutality became a part of daily life...Moreover, there were no ways to relax, as there were now virtually no books to read, or magazines, or films, or plays, opera; no light music on the radio. For entertainment there were only Mao Thought Propaganda Teams, who sang Mao’s quotations set to raucous music, and danced militantly waving the Little Red Book.Mao by Warhol

  • Pamela
    2019-05-15 06:43

    Just like when I read Wild Swans byt Jung Chang, there were times when my eyes almost crossed when she is writing of politics and military maneuvers. However, I felt that anyone interested in 20th Century China should read both. There has been some controversy about the accuracy of some of the information, but overall, from what I have read, there is some new information that has been verified (Russia's involvement in Chinese politics during the civil war, for example). Sometimes, I think Jung Chang's personal involvement colors her commentary. There are times when she states that Mao is a monster or cold-hearted--editorial and personal commentary that is not only unnecessary but distracting. Anyone who can tackle this hefty book is quite capable of drawing these conclusions on their own and not having it hammered into their skulls. Still, I found it a riveting though not easy book to read. Not easy because of it's length and complicated explanations of political intrigues and military machinations but also because of the cold-hearted way in which Mao ruled--and nearly ruined--China. But it is a good book for anyone who wants to understand recent Chinese history.

  • Leslie
    2019-05-15 13:01

    This book is anti-Mao, for sure, but from what I've read in other books, that seems to be justified. Mao is responsible for the worst man-made famine in all of history--30 million people died. He caused the deaths of more people than Hitler and Stalin put together. A lot of people don't know that because it isn't part of Western history, but it is true. My only problem with the book was the exhaustive detail. Sometimes it was just too much. But I found it well-researched and informative.

  • Tom
    2019-04-26 14:06

    Man, this was a 2 1/2 month project to slog through. That's not to say it isn't a good book, I just had a hard time in the first half when we just have example after example of Mao killing thousands of his own men because he's either scared of losing power, scared of Stalin, scared of Chiang Kai-Shek, or greedy for something or other. It actually gets sort of redundant. The book really picks up in the second half when things get considerably more interesting with the Russians and when, little by litte, every single ally he ever had turns against him (and Mme. Mao) and eventually kick him around a bit like an old dog. Not nearly the punishment he deserves for eventually starving millions of his own people (because of exporting all their food to Russia in exchange for weapons technology), but somewhat satisfying. I can see how some would take issue with the editorial license of the authors, as they do take things a bit too far and state (not speculate) what Mao was thinking at various times with various decisions. I don't think there's any need for that and it somewhat compromises the otherwise rigorously well-researched feeling you get when reading the book (and when looking at the list of interviews in the back, man). Also, I agree with what someone else said that to understand Russia you should read this book. I think this book makes me want to do some more reading on Stalin.

  • Mag
    2019-04-26 08:48

    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? It’s good, but not outstanding, and it feels biased. There is a wealth of interesting information on how his regime functioned, but Mao as a person doesn’t come fully through. There are some repetitions, some things are unclear, some information seems willfully omitted. 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; there is a lot to be learned from it; and especially, if someone is a history buff, and 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 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 definitely better than in China where all the people had to eat were the flies they could catch and the leaves on the trees.The chief purpose of the book seems to be to open Western eyes to the true nature of Mao’s regime, but I don’t think many people have a romantic view of it anymore anyway. I suppose that many Chinese would benefit from reading it, though, and especially the Chinese youth who are still brought up in the cult of Mao.

  • John Farebrother
    2019-05-25 13:49

    An excellent read - thorough, painstaking research and incisive insight presented in a manner that tells the story of one of the leading historical figures of the twentieth century. Even readers with little or no knowledge of Chinese history will conclude this book with a thorough understanding of how we got to where we are today in the Far East, and of the inside life of this most evil of men. Like Hitler and Stalin, he not only wiped out entire communities in their millions, but also tended to exert a highly destructive influence on anyone unfortunate enough to get close to him.

  • Mkp
    2019-04-28 07:59

    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 Spence's book on Modern Chinese History, which I liked very much. His NYRB review was guardedly critical of the Chang & Halliday work, mostly because of their negativeattitude, but he didn't seem to criticise specific elements for their veracity.Overall: a must read.

  • Jeffrey Mollerup
    2019-05-24 12:56

    I once owned a t-shirt that I bought while vacationing in China that had a picture of Mao that is identical to the one on the cover of this book. Had I known how narcissistic, evil, diabolical, cruel and ruthless this man really was, I would have torn the shirt to shreds. I thought Hitler was evil...Mao Ze Dong was responsible for at least 10 times the number of deaths that Hitler was. In the tradition of the cruel emperors of China's past, Mao set himself up to be a god who required unquestioning loyalty of his citizens ruling with an iron fist and killing millions, even those devoted to him, because of his raging insecurities. Even on his death bed he was scheming of ways he could avenge his enemies. It's shocking to think that this man is still revered and reverenced in China with his giant portrait looking out over Tian An Men square, and his corpse lying in state in his mausoleum. It will be interesting to see how this man fairs in the day of judgment. I would not want be him at that day.

  • Margitte
    2019-05-19 13:44

    MaoShocking, traumatizing, depressing, text-bookish but brilliant. This is the sequal to Jung Chang's first international best seller, "Wild Swans - Three Daughters of China". It was not an easy read and certainly a challenge to empathize with Jung Chang's anger and open contempt for Mao. Her intense personal feelings established this book as a personal journey of discovery which took her ten years of intense research. Although most of the facts can be verified, there are others, supplied by people who wished to remain anonymous, that prevent this book from being regarded as a historical masterpiece. Yet, being known for her honesty and meticulous skills as researcher, there is no doubt in my mind that all her sources are trustworthy and true. The actual relationship between Stalin and his newly acquired 'hand-horse', Mao, is revealed in this book and how the events in both countries were masterbrained in Moscow. When Mao decides to go on his own and imposes his version of Communism on a country, the Russian counterpart withdrew, due to the excessive violence used in Maoism. The latter's success inspired him to go bigger than China and rule the world with the events very well documented in this book.It took me several weeks to finish this book. It was so demoralising and shocking on the mind and body that I really had to gather up courage and persistants to finish it. The tone in the book is much different from her first book, which made it more difficult to absorb. The content is amazing though especially since she had access to Russian archives which closed soon after her research was complete. She had, therefor, a rare insight into documents that not many people will ever see in their lives. She also interviewed people close to Mao, a rare opportunity. The book is described as "An atom bomb of a book" and it truly is.For people who still believe in the ideal of communism, this book will be a lesson in how it did not work and why. For those who do not know anything about real communism, this book will be equally an eye-opener. After acquiring this knowledge and background it will be very hard for anyone to defend it. Besides, other forms of communism exist, but none of those models have SUCCESSFUL written over it. Reading this book through Jung's eyes, after reading her own personal family history in "Wild Swans", it is difficult to demand objectivity of her in this book. That is my personal opinion. It is the one -ism in the world which killed more people than all the world wars from the beginning of time combined. You must have a real interest in world affairs to read this book. This history is violent, shocking, torturing, excruciating, mind blowing. What Mao did to his own people, even his family, defies every single law of freedom and logic, and even drove all three his children eventually insane. The world knew about Hitler, but after "Mao - the Unknown Story" was published, Hitler's life and deeds became Valentine's stories in comparison. After all, Maoism lead to the deaths of 38 million Chinese of famine alone and 70 million people in total until 1967.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-25 08:52

    Right, this is not an unbiased and objective look at the life of Mao. This is the necessary counterpoint so that there might one day be an unbiased and objective account of the life of Mao. This opened my eyes to just how ignorant I am about a lot of the history of that region and the role of Mao especially. The book opens with Chang positing that Mao killed more than 60 million of his own people, more than any other dictator during peace time. He deliberated starved his own people, taking the harvest they had worked for to pay for the development of nuclear weapons. This famine which lasted between '58 and '61 killed 38 million alone, peaking in 1960 at 22 million, a greater number to die of starvation in one year than any country in the world at any time in recorded human history. He not only got away with this, and much more besides, but was allowed to die an old man in his bed, still in power of a country which continues to honour him to this day, with his portrait hanging in Tiananmen Square. This is the reason it has been nearly impossible to write an unbiased history of Mao - he killed anyone who spoke out against him or had anything on him, he demanded no written records be taken of much of his orders, had complete and ultimate control over all records, documents and publications relating to himself and his personality cult, and had the better half of the 20th century to weed out anything not to his liking and indoctrinate a quarter of the world's population into accepting his word as gospel. Chang does first-hand investigative reporting, interviewing people from the time (most of whom are now well into their old age) who knew Mao or were present during the major events of his reign, dredging up released Soviet intelligence files and researching the archives of post-Mao China to put together a case against Mao, as not the saviour of the People's Republic, but the scourge of it. She does somewhat overegg her case, at one point even trying to suggest that Mao drove Stalin to have his fatal stroke, because he wouldn't quit craiking for the atom bomb. Nonetheless, this remains a well written, compassionately humane, and thoroughly investigated examination of one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century, a monster to some and a saviour to others.

  • Czarny Pies
    2019-04-26 10:53

    I am giving this book four stars for two reasons. The first is that the research effort by Ms. Chang was extraordinary. The second is that her husband conducted exhaustive research in the Russian archives something that I suspect no other Western academic following China would have been able to do. The result is a book which is rich in detail on Mao and which presents the best description of Mao's relations with the Russians thus providing the best explanation of how the communists were able to seize power in China.Ms. Chang talked to great many sources which is commendable. However, she appears to have taken all stories at face value. Thus along with the credible material, the reader is bombarded with a great deal of highly improbable stories. Ms. Chang is right to have a personal dislike of Mao. Most sources estimate that his disastrous agricultural policies, work camps and cultural revolution were responsible for roughly 30 million deaths. However, evil the man may have been, a historian must take a more critical stance towards the quality of the nasty stories related to her about Mao's personal life than Ms. Chang has.Nonetheless there is great value to the book's analysis of Russia's role in the success of the Chinese Communist revolution. Chang Kai Shek never captured Mao because the Russians made it clear that they would end their subsidies to him if they did. The legendary long march is nothing more than that. Mao did not come to power because he mobilized the peasants. He always hated them and they always hated him. Mao came to power because the Russians captured Japan's Manchurian army after Japan surrendered and handed it over to Mao. Moreover the Russians had bribed or kidnapped close relatives of most of Chang Kai Shek's generals to that they all switched sides when ordered.This is an extremely valuable book that could have been a great book if Ms. Chang had been more critical in judging her sources.

  • Slackyb
    2019-05-06 11:52

    This long, detailed biography of Mao contains loads of information. It also goes at a good clip. Mao is presented as a sadist who used both terrorism of large groups and elimination of competing individuals to solidify his position alone at the top. The content is as gruesome as that of any war history book. Mao's sadistic side is brought out in a number of ways: his enjoyment of viewings of torture and killing; his treatment of his wives and close relatives. Mao is presented less as a strict communist than as a radical libertarian who focuses only on pleasing himself. His quirks — refusal to learn languages; insomnia; constipation; lack of ability at oratory; occasional seizures and fits — are described. Chang argues that Mao killed at least 70 million Chinese, which would make him the most murderous dictator. The major events of modern Chinese — the Long March, the Cultural Revolution, the rise of Deng — are all interwoven with Mao's story. The readers only gets some feeling or pity for Mao at the end as Mao is dying, and sees himself as a fallen leader and perhaps just a failure in general. (Yet he dies seeing the Cultural Revolution as his greatest success.) Obviously a complex personality. The book is a great read and an education. Highly recommended.

  • Tom
    2019-05-12 13:57

    Wow. I bet Batman would write a less biased hate filled book about his parents killers then what Changs got here. But both do deserve to be in a pulpy comic book world due to the sensationalism and over the top delivery they'd contain. This book doesn't stray too far away from Mao's life, but it does often take a break from history and dive off the deep end into hate fueled digression. Does Mao deserve such ferocious posthumous honors? You'll certainly think so after spending time with him in these pages, and being force fed an opinion (however justified) isn't what I want in a biography. Obviously the author will have deep feelings about their subject, but such things should blend in, not stand out like the Bat Signal.

  • FotisK
    2019-05-17 14:40

    The Horror...the Horror!

  • loafingcactus
    2019-05-06 11:07

    It is very peculiar that a book could be written of such length and full of such needling and petty detail while touching its subject so shallowly. The authors seem to view their job as to ascribe all evil to Mao, but it is not enough to say he was evil- what drove him? The book reaches a hilarious level of propaganda language. No opportunity for universal hyperbole is missed; no closing statement of doom is left unsaid. Some of them made me laugh out loud, probably not the authors intention but the spitefulness is absurd when describing acts of evil that march into the "evil" category quite well on their own.The authors claim in the book that they are correcting a history that glosses Mao too positively, and they demand Red China to shake its founding myth before it moves on. In 2006 when the book was published it is difficult to make an argument on the first point, and they do not provide a good argument for the second point. Should the people of China stand in corporate shame that their suffering stemmed from the meaningless rantings of a mad man, or should they move forward with pride building on what they themselves have suffered greatly to build themselves? The authors seem to think you can crush the memory of Mao without crushing the memory of the people; I doubt the two can be cleaved so easily.As a final review of the book, it is a useful history, but it most certainly does not stand on its own and as I have explained does not meet or adequately argue for its stated aims.Footnote: I happened to read this book at the same time as Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972, leading to a couple of days of unremitting negativity. If you love to feel hopeless about history, these two books are for you!

  • Apokolypes
    2019-05-14 13:07

    Jung Chang and her husband are both respected university professors who attempt to present a biography over 20 years in the making. Every comment in their book is also extensively sourced with a bibliography at the end that illuminates they extensive span of their work. The problem is readership be it by academics or otherwise fails to differentiate that the book is not her opinion but rather a collection of other authors facts, many of them from unclassified documents in Russian KGB archives. Unfortunately, it will be maybe another 50-100 years before modern history teachers will have a curriculum that matches the sources she documents. This added with the fact that the current government of China [the PRC] is founded on the 'cult of mao' ideology presents challenges to the progress of work as comprehensive as this one. This book is not for the light of heart, and is not an easy read. I would describe it as literally like reading a history text where each chapter depicts a more gruesome side of human nature after another, and the absolute worst case scenario when good people fail to act.

  • Jana
    2019-05-06 13:39

    Jung Chang wrote a beautiful story in Wild Swans, the biograpy of her own family through the Mao era, but this biography she has written of Mao Zedong is flawed in that she clearly lets her overwhelming hatred for what her family went through keep her from being an objective biographer. Chang paints Mao as a monster. He did fail as a leader, but he also did many good things for China. A historian--the role Chang is attempting to assume here--needs to look at all sides of these issues of power and place. That said, this is still a book worth reading, especially if you read it up against the solid historical texts of sinologists like Jonathan Spence or Patricia Ebrey.

  • Stephen
    2019-05-03 10:41

    I hated this book. The author felt like the least objective person in the world, which was crazy, because her source material is one of the nastiest people to walk the face of the earth. All she really had to do was present her copious research to the reader and then let the reader fill in the blanks on how despicable Mao was. Instead, it was endless speculative leaps and questionable conclusions.

  • Christy
    2019-05-06 10:59

    Here is a man with NO redeeming qualities. Like, stood by when his own sons died and then seduced their wives kinda bad (never mind 70 million murdered). Pretty much the nicest thing about him that I found was: he would have have his bodyguards break in his shoes for him because he didn't like new clothes. I know, it's weak.

  • Gary
    2019-05-27 13:54

    Along with Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein, Mao Tse Tung was one of the most evil men of the 20th century, as anyone with respect for human life will attest.The auhtors illustrate how Mao's thirst for blood is what led him to choose the Communist Party, over the Nationalists because the Nationalists put limits on the brutality their forces allowed and only the Communists could provide him with a means to assuage his mania for murder and destruction.From even before his participation in the civil war, he showed a great almost sexual love of murder-'it is wonderful, it is wonderful' he enthused in 1927, during one of the Communists destruction of an entire city and it's population during the Chinese Civil War.A revolution needed blood he told the local population of Hunan that year, "It is necessary to bring about a reign of terror in every country"The authors point out how the Communists under Mao during the Sino-Japanese War saw the Nationalists as the main enemy and not the Japanese, and refused a united front with the Nationalists against the Japanese, later when a front was set up Mao ensured it was sabotaged and worked to make sure that the Japanese advanced deep into China.The authors effectively debunk the myth that the Communists were the main force in resisting Japanese aggression. Mao had hoped for a deal between Stalin and Japan similar to the 1939 deal between Stalin and Hitler-the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact.During the civil war, and after Mao took control of the country in 1949, the main target of Mao's killing machine was the peasants. Mao saw the peasants as beneath contempt and worth no mercy.He died production and success in industrialization to a high death rate of the rural masses.All the granaries were shut down in rural areas and massive quantities of food allowed to rot rather than to feed the starving masses.In his dream to dominate the world Mao created the greatest famine in world history that killed over 38 million people.He saw reducing the peasants to starvation as a virtue, and refused to take any measures to improve their well being.The authors cover the horrors of the Hundered Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward and most horrific of all the Cultural Revolution. It is harrowing to read of tortures and murders of millions of entire families from the oldest to youngest were killed, babies still on milk torn grabbed and torn apart at the limbs or just thrown into wells. His fascination with spreading death can be captured in his words about the famine "A few children die in the kindergarten, a few old men die in the happiness court, if there is no death human beings can't exist".Mao's aim of world domination lead to the Korean and Vietnam wars.In 1975 a year before his death, Mao congratulated Pol Pot on his slave labour state. 'You have scored a splendid victory' he just one blow and no more classes'. What Mao meant is that everyone had become a slave.Mao's 27 year rule brought death to more than 70 million Chinese-in peacetime.It is mind blowing that so many on the Left did and still do worship him.It is this same cult of worshipping murder and evil that leads Leftist radicals to laud Saddam Hussein, the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran , terror outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah, and even the Taliban.

  • Steven Peterson
    2019-05-18 10:01

    This is a long, detailed biography of Mao Zedong--coming in at 617 pages. It is hard hitting and very critical of its subject. And their rendering of the Long March is very different than the view of Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine. On the other hand Pantsov and Levine also have a critical take on Mao--although not as unrestrained as Chang and Halliday. Both volumes speak to his marital infidelity and his ceaseless struggle to gain power.This book takes a chronological view of Mao, with each chapter normally covering 2-3 years of his life. The book describes the difficulties he had at the outset of his career in politics. He was often frustrated and would "become ill" and drop out of action from time to time. Slowly, in fits and starts, he became more entrenched in leadership.The book describes a number of events: Chiang Kai-Shek's allowing Mao's Communist soldiers to escape to join the rest of the forces during "the Long March," the horrible demands on the troops and families as they carried out the march. The early part of the book explores his first two marriages and his apparent lack of concern for his families.One theme that recurs is the ups and downs of his career as a leader. The vagaries in who had power left him sometimes vulnerable. By a certain point in time, he became Josef Stalin's favorite to assume leadership of the Community party. Stalin was a key figure for Mao's accession to and maintenance of power. Later in his life, he would make things miserable for those who had earlier crossed him, including his super-loyal comrade, Zhou En-lai (indeed in Zhou's last few years alive, he felt Mao's wrath for things that had happened many years earlier).There is detailed coverage of two disasters occurring later on in Mao's career--the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Very different events, but in both cases millions of people perished.The book is very well documented. Some events are described very differently from other biographies (e.g., the Long March) and I do not know enough to determine which view might be more correct. Still, a powerful biography of one of the most important political figures in China's history.