Matt's Reviews > The Private Life of Chairman Mao

The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhisui
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M 50x66
's review
Mar 05, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: china-non-fiction
Read in November, 2008

Wow. This man is insane. Forget the failed economic policies. Forget 30 million people killed (some say 60 million and I've even heard 90 million) as a result of his tyranny. Forget the underground city he built. This man's private life is more insane. His insanity seemed quite contagious as the book starts out with the author in charge of preserving the man's corpse with pressure from other high officials. This was immediately hilarious as you read about Mao's face falling off and his body becoming bloated. Preserving a leader's corpse for further senseless worship is just the beginning to the book's hilarity. Don't expect any 20th century Chinese history as the author in this book was not in a position to learn about what was going on throughout the country except through Mao who was a horrible source for that sort of information. For example, the author was surprised when Mao told him, "Good news, we liberated our brothers in Tibet." This may fall under the category of sick humor if you have read anything about the brutal Chinese takeover of Tibet. It's harder to find a book more insightful to the potential madness power can create. Also, this book satisfies curiousity of those who know of Mao's policy and want to know what the hell were officials thinking, or how someone could be so heartless as well as stupid to implement these plans. The author exposes the inner politics of Beijing and the political logic of Mao. Last, this book shows how people became so obsessed with this figure. I don't think there is another book that digs as deep and exposes so much of a historical figure. Maybe Mao's rule is less a product of political ideology but more of Chinese culture. Mao, according to The Private Life, modeled himself after Chinese emperors especially the nut Qin Shi Huang, who ordered the construction of the beginning of the great wall and the terracotta warriors.
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