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P 385

Name: ____________________

p. 385

Chang, Jung, and Jon Halliday. Mao: the unknown story. New York: Anchor Books, 2006, pp. 385-389

  • Task:

  • Read: Publishers Weekly Review, Excerpt from Mao: The Unknown Story (War on Peasants pp. 385-389), Excerpts from: ‘Mao’ the Real Mao review, and The Foreign Affairs Mao: Unknown Story review

  • Consider HISTORIOGRAPHY and LIMITATIONS as you read

  • Answer the questions on the last page

From Publishers Weekly:

Jung Chang, author of the award-winning Wild Swans, grew up during the Cultural Revolution; Halliday is a research fellow at King's College, University of London. They join forces in this sweeping but flawed biography, which aims to uncover Mao's further cruelties (beyond those commonly known) by debunking claims made by the Communist Party in his service. For example, the authors argue that, far from Mao's humble peasant background shaping his sympathies for the downtrodden, he actually ruthlessly exploited the peasants' resources when he was based in regions such as Yenan, and cared about peasants only when it suited his political agenda. And far from having founded the Chinese Communist Party, the authors argue, Mao was merely at the right place at the right time. Importantly, the book argues that in most instances Mao was able to hold on to power thanks to his adroitness in appealing to and manipulating powerful allies and foes, such as Stalin and later Nixon; furthermore, almost every aspect of his career was motivated by a preternatural thirst for personal power, rather than political vision. Some of the book's claims rely on interviews and on primary material (such as the anguished letters Mao's second wife wrote after he abandoned her), though the book's use of sources is sometimes incompletely documented and at times heavy-handed (for example, using a school essay the young Mao wrote to show his lifelong ruthlessness).

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Mao: The Unknown Story

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

Reviewed by Lucian W. Pye

Foreign Affairs

November/December 2005

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61160/lucian-w-pye/mao-the-unknown-story

This massive biography of Chairman Mao will alter how both laymen and specialists think about the founder of communist China. The husband-and-wife team of Chang and Halliday have nothing good to say about Mao, whom they depict as a cruel tyrant who did not even believe in the ideology he imposed on China; they make no effort to explain how so many people, both Chinese and foreigners, fell under the spell of him and his myth. They have done a major job of researching various archives and interviewing several hundred people, and Halliday's command of the Russian language led him to material that depicts Stalin as having had a bigger hand in the founding of the Chinese Communist Party than previously thought. But they tell a story that is not too different from what is found in standard histories of the period -- except for their unrelenting personal criticism of Mao. Thus, for example, while most histories treat "factional struggles" as standard procedure in Chinese party politics, Chang and Halliday present them as the work of the evil tyrant Mao. In the end, they may exaggerate his faults, but their work will surely succeed in tarnishing the legacy of the Great Helmsman.

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P 385

'Mao': The Real Mao

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

New York Times Book Review

Published: October 23, 2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/books/review/23cover.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Excerpts

If Chairman Mao had been truly prescient, he would have located a little girl in Sichuan Province named Jung Chang and "miejiuzu"- killed her and wiped out all her relatives to the ninth degree.

But instead that girl grew up, moved to Britain and has now written a biography of Mao that will help destroy his reputation forever. Based on a decade of meticulous interviews and archival research, this magnificent biography methodically demolishes every pillar of Mao's claim to sympathy or legitimacy.

Almost seven decades ago, Edgar Snow's "Red Star Over China" helped make Mao a heroic figure to many around the world. It marked an opening bookend for Mao's sunny place in history - and this biography will now mark the other bookend.

This is an extraordinary portrait of a monster, who the authors say was responsible for more than 70 million deaths. But how accurate is it? A bibliography and endnotes give a sense of sourcing, and they are impressive: the authors claim to have talked to everyone from Mao's daughter, Li Na, to his mistress, Zhang Yufeng, to Presidents George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford. But it's not clear how much these people said. One of those listed as a source is Zhang Hanzhi, Mao's English teacher and close associate; she's also one of my oldest Chinese friends, so I checked with her. Zhang Hanzhi said that she had indeed met informally with Chang two or three times but had declined to be interviewed and never said anything substantial. I hope that Chang and Halliday will share some of their source materials, either on the Web or with other scholars, so that it will be possible to judge how fairly and accurately they have reached their conclusions.

My own feeling is that most of the facts and revelations seem pretty well backed up, but that ambiguities are not always adequately acknowledged. To their credit, the authors seem to have steered clear of relying on some of the Hong Kong magazines that traffic in a blurry mix of fact and fiction, but it is still much harder to ferret out the truth than they acknowledge. The memoirs and memories they rely on may be trustworthy, most of the time, but I question the tone of brisk self-confidence that the authors use in recounting events and quotations - and I worry that some things may be hyped.

Take the great famine from 1958 to 1961. The authors declare that "close to 38 million people died," and in a footnote they cite a Chinese population analysis of mortality figures in those years. Well, maybe. But there have been many expert estimates in scholarly books and journals of the death toll, ranging widely, and in reality no one really knows for sure - and certainly the mortality data are too crude to inspire confidence. The most meticulous estimates by demographers who have researched the famine toll are mostly lower than this book's: Judith Banister estimated 30 million; Basil Ashton also came up with 30 million; and XizhePeng suggested about 23 million. Simply plucking a high-end estimate out of an article and embracing it as the one true estimate worries me; if that is stretched, then what else is?

Another problem: Mao comes across as such a villain that he never really becomes three-dimensional. As readers, we recoil from him but don't really understand him. He is presented as such a bumbling psychopath that it's hard to comprehend how he bested all his rivals to lead China and emerge as one of the most worshipped figures of the last century.

Finally, there is Mao's place in history. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao's legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao's entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world's new economic dragon.


P 385

Name: ____________________

Chang, Jung, and Jon Halliday. Mao: the unknown story. New York: Anchor Books, 2006, pp. 385-389

  • Task:

  • Read: Publishers Weekly Review, Excerpt from Mao: The Unknown Story (War on Peasants pp. 385-389), Excerpts from: ‘Mao’ the Real Mao review, and The Foreign Affairs Mao: Unknown Story review

  • Consider HISTORIOGRAPHY and LIMITATIONS as you read

  • Answer the questions below

  • Based on the materials presented:

  • What key evidence was provided regarding the peasantry in the excerpt from Mao: the unknown story?

    • --Keep track of key vocabulary and terms that can be used as outside information for Paper 1, Q4

  • What are some potential limitations of the source: Mao: the unknown story?

    • --Be analytical

  • How would you reference Chang and Halliday in regards to historiography (In a Paper 2 essay)?

    • --How do you address evidence as well as critiques?


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