The History Book Club discussion


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message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
Interesting Jerome - thank you

message 16: by Jerome (new)

Jerome | 3841 comments An upcoming book:
Release date: April 1, 2015

China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed

China Under Mao A Revolution Derailed by Andrew G. Walder by Andrew G. Walder (no photo)


China s Communist Party seized power in 1949 after a long period of guerrilla insurgency followed by full-scale war, but the Chinese revolution was just beginning. China Under Mao narrates the rise and fall of the Maoist revolutionary state from 1949 to 1976 an epoch of startling accomplishments and disastrous failures, steered by many forces but dominated above all by Mao Zedong.

Mao's China, Andrew Walder argues, was defined by two distinctive institutions established during the first decade of Communist Party rule: a Party apparatus that exercised firm (sometimes harsh) discipline over its members and cadres; and a socialist economy modeled after the Soviet Union. Although a large national bureaucracy had oversight of this authoritarian system, Mao intervened strongly at every turn. The doctrines and political organization that produced Mao's greatest achievements victory in the civil war, the creation of China s first unified modern state, a historic transformation of urban and rural life also generated his worst failures: the industrial depression and rural famine of the Great Leap Forward and the violent destruction and stagnation of the Cultural Revolution.

Misdiagnosing China's problems as capitalist restoration and prescribing continuing class struggle against imaginary enemies as the solution, Mao ruined much of what he had built and created no viable alternative. At the time of his death, he left China backward and deeply divided.

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
Yes, very true Jerome - I read the first one and it was interesting.

message 14: by Jerome (new)

Jerome | 3841 comments Both Pantsov and Chang's biographies have gotten relatively good reviews. Of course, both have been criticized for not being completely objective, but any truly objective analysis of Mao must conclude that he was anything but a saint.

Mao The Real Story by Alexander Pantsov by Alexander Pantsov (no photo)
Mao The Unknown Story by Jung Chang by Jung ChangJung Chang

message 13: by Jin Young (new)

Jin Young Suen (suenjinyoung) | 2 comments Hi, I'd like to read about Mao Zedong, the Chinese communist revolutionary and the founding of People's Republic of China.

Would love to hear recommendations about good books regarding the aforementioned subject.


message 12: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11689 comments Mod
Thanks, Tim, it is good to get other member's opinions on this difficult topic.

message 11: by Tim (new)

Tim Schultz | 26 comments Based on this description alone, I am VERY skeptical of Mao The Real Story by Alexander Pantsov by Alexander Pantsov. The historiography of Mao Zedong in the West includes some of the most biased and unprofessional works of history being published anywhere in the world today. The most cursory knowledge of this man's life and career reveals that far from being a Stalinist, Mao constantly promoted 'Communism in a Chinese context'. His entire military strategy throughout his wars with the nationalists and the Japanese was in direct conflict with the desires of Soviet Union. I already mentioned this above, when discussing the deeply flawed Mao The Unknown Story by Jung Chang by Jung ChangJung Chang, but by far the best biography of Mao that I've read is Mao Zedong A Life by Jonathan D. Spence by the esteemed historian Jonathan D. SpenceJonathan D. Spence. It is brief, but unbiased. These other books are what their titles claim they are: stories. Good for fueling one's anti-Chinese xenophobia perhaps, but they do not lend themselves to an understanding of Mao Zedong or Chinese History.

message 10: by Jerome (new)

Jerome | 3841 comments A recent biography:

Mao: The Real Story

Mao The Real Story by Alexander Pantsov by Alexander Pantsov (no photo)


This major new biography of Mao uses extensive Russian documents previously unavailable to biographers to reveal surprising details about Mao's rise to power and his leadership in China.

Mao Zedong was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, the most important in the history of modern China. A complex figure, he was champion of the poor and brutal tyrant, poet and despot.

Pantsov and Levine show Mao's relentless drive to succeed, vividly describing his growing role in the nascent Communist Party of China. They disclose startling facts about his personal life, particularly regarding his health and his lifelong serial affairs with young women. They portray him as the loyal Stalinist that he was, who never broke with the Soviet Union until after Stalin's death.

Mao brought his country from poverty and economic backwardness into the modern age and onto the world stage. But he was also responsible for an unprecedented loss of life. The disastrous Great Leap Forward with its accompanying famine and the bloody Cultural Revolution were Mao's creations. Internationally Mao began to distance China from the USSR under Khrushchev and shrewdly renewed relations with the U.S. as a counter to the Soviets. He lived and behaved as China's last emperor.

message 9: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11689 comments Mod
Thanks, Tim. Don't forget to add the author link, as well:

Mao Zedong (A Penguin Life) by Jonathan D. Spence by Jonathan D. SpenceJonathan D. Spence

I might have to add this to my To Read list.

message 8: by Tim (last edited Aug 29, 2011 10:43PM) (new)

Tim Schultz | 26 comments I read Mao The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and did not think very highly of it at all. It was extremely biased and based in large part upon unreliable sources. For a briefer, but much more balanced look at the man, I would recommend Mao Zedong (A Penguin Life) by Jonathan D. Spence by Jonathan D. Spence.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
Thank you for the add Michael.

message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) Read a great book on the man called Mao The Unknown Story by Jung Changby Jung ChangJung Chang goes a long way to debunk some of the Myths surrounding the legend. Was not received well by the Chinese government.

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
Thank you for these adds Bryan.

message 4: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11689 comments Mod
I read this years ago and I highly recommend it. It is based on memory, so there probably is some distortion, but overall, a fascinating read:

The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Zhisui LiZhisui Li

Product information:
From 1954 until Mao Zedong's death 22 years later. Dr. Li Zhisui was the Chinese ruler's personal physician. For most of these years, Mao was in excellent health; thus he and the doctor had time to discuss political and personal matters. Dr. Li recorded many of these conversations in his diaries, as well as in his memory. In this book, Dr. Li vividly reconstructs his extraordinary time with Chairman Mao.

message 3: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11689 comments Mod
Here is a new book that is on my "to read" list:

Mao's Great Famine by Frank DikötterFrank Dikötter

Product info:
“Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives."

So opens Frank Dikötter's riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that "fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era." Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world's superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of "one of the most deadly mass killings of human history,"--at least 45 million people were worked, starved, or beaten to death--but also of "the greatest demolition of real estate in human history," as up to one-third of all housing was turned into rubble.

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2011 05:59AM) (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
This is an interesting old film on youtube about China:

What is also interesting is that this is in the CIA archives! The footage in this film is quite something. One can understand a lot about the situation with China today from this footage. Hearing Pearl Buck speak was a surprise too.

Write-up from DVD:

The Boxer Rebellion, also called The Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" (義和團 - Yìhétuán), or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" (known as "Boxers" in English), in China between 1898 and 1901, opposing Western imperialism and Christianity. The uprising took place in response to European "spheres of influence" in China, with grievances ranging from opium traders, political invasion, economic manipulation, to missionary evangelism. In China, popular sentiment remained resistant to Western influences, and anger rose over the "unequal treaties" (不平等條約), which the weak Qing state could not resist. There existed growing concerns that missionaries and Chinese Christians could use this decline to their advantage, appropriating lands and property of unwilling Chinese peasants to give to the church. This sentiment resulted in violent revolts against Western interests.

The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party), the governing party of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China (CPC), for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China (now commonly known as Taiwan) and People's Republic of China (Mainland China). The war began in April 1927, amidst the Northern Expedition. The war represented an ideological split between the Western-supported Nationalist KMT, and the Soviet-supported Communist CPC. In mainland China today, the last three years of the war (1947 - 1949) is more commonly known as the War of Liberation.

The civil war continued intermittently until the Second Sino-Japanese War interrupted it, resulting in the two parties forming a Second United Front. Japan's campaign was defeated in 1945, marking the end of World War II, and China's full-scale civil war resumed in 1946. After a further four years, 1950 saw a cessation of major military hostilities—with the newly founded People's Republic of China controlling mainland China (including Hainan Island), and the Republic of China's jurisdiction being restricted to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and several outlying Fujianese islands. To this day, since no armistice or peace treaty has ever been signed, there is controversy as to whether the Civil War has legally ended. Today, the two sides of the Taiwan strait have close economic ties.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or simply the Cultural Revolution was a violent mass movement that resulted in social, political, and economic upheaval in the People's Republic of China starting in 1966 and ending officially with Mao's death in 1976. It resulted in nation-wide chaos, economic disarray, and stagnation.

It was launched by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party of China, on May 16, 1966; he alleged that liberal bourgeoise elements were permeating the party and society at large and that they wanted to restore capitalism. Mao insisted, in accordance with his theory of permanent revolution, that these elements should be removed through revolutionary violent class struggle by mobilizing China's youth who, responding to his appeal, then formed Red Guard groups around the whole country.

The movement subsequently spread into the military, urban workers, and the party leadership itself. Although Mao himself officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, its active phase lasted until the death of Lin Biao in a plane crash in 1971. The power struggles and political instability between 1969 and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976 are now also widely regarded as part of the Revolution.

After Mao's death in 1976, forces within the party that opposed the Cultural Revolution, led by Deng Xiaoping, gained prominence, and most of the political, economic, and educational reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution were abandoned by 1978. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since. The people involved in instituting the policies of the Cultural Revolution were persecuted. In its official historical judgment of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, the Party assigned chief responsibility to Mao Zedong, but also laid significant blame on Lin Biao and the Gang of Four for causing its worst excesses.

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 30, 2011 08:43PM) (new)

Bentley | 35548 comments Mod
This is a thread dedicated to the discussion of Mao Zedong.

Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung listen (help·info), commonly referred to as Chairman Mao (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), was a Chinese revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, poet, political theorist, and leader of the Chinese Revolution.

He was the architect of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949, and held authoritarian control over the nation until his death in 1976. His theoretical contribution to Marxism-Leninism, along with his military strategies and brand of political policies, are now collectively known as Maoism.

Mao is credited with commanding the Long March and leading the Communist Party of China (CPC) to victory against Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, defeating an assortment of powerful regional warlords, and helping repel a Japanese invasion. Later, through his policies, he laid the economic, technological and cultural foundations of modern China, transforming the country from an underdeveloped peasant-based agrarian society into a major industrialized world power. However, he remains a controversial figure to this day, with a contentious legacy that is subject to continuing revision and fierce debate.

He is officially held in high regard in China as a great revolutionary, political strategist, military mastermind, and savior of the nation. Additionally, Mao is viewed as an intellectual, poet, philosopher, and visionary.[1] Conversely, nationwide political campaigns led by Mao, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are blamed for millions of deaths, causing severe famine and damage to the culture, society and economy of China. Moreover, although China's population almost doubled during the period of Mao's leadership[2] (from around 550 to over 900 million),[3] his rule from 1949 to 1976 is believed to have caused the deaths of 40 to 70 million people.[4][5]

Despite the ongoing dispute, he is still regarded as one of the most important figures in modern world history,[6] and was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine.[7]

Source: Wikipedia

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Books mentioned in this topic

Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958 62 (other topics)
The Private Life of Chairman Mao (other topics)
Mao: The Unknown Story (other topics)
Mao Zedong: A Life (other topics)
Mao: The Real Story (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Frank Dikötter (other topics)
Li Zhisui (other topics)
Jung Chang (other topics)
Jonathan D. Spence (other topics)
Alexander Pantsov (other topics)