Posted by: qmaxim | May 19, 2014

Mao-The Unknown Story – my take on the book

Recently I read a book ‘Mao- The unknown story’  by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday first published in 2005.

 
Even though Mao died way back in 1976, the book is relevant even today as the Communist party of China is in power  in China even now. CPC  even now declares that it is Mao’s heir.
This well researched book  could only  be  published 30 years after his death  probably due to secrecy involved. This biography  of almost 1000 pages,  meticulously tracks the life of chairman Mao  Tse–tung from his birth in a peasant family in Hunan province  to his death as the  undisputed leader of China  at the ripe old age of 82. The biography is written in the form of a  story which is interwoven with the story of birth of communist China and subsequent rule by  Mao & reds for decades.

When    Mao began is long journey to grab power and unite it under communist rule,  parts of  China were  occupied by foreign powers – Japan, Soviet union and Britain. Many parts were semi independent and  there was a weak  central government lead  by General Chiang Kai-Shek. The foreign occupiers were brutal and hated by the people.

The authors track the birth of communist party of China,  growth of reds and the important role played in its success by Soviet union lead by  dictator Stalin. Stalin funded the CPC in the  initial years. The story tracks brutal military campaigns  of People’s liberation Army (PLA) and the so called long march in which  millions lost their lives. It becomes clear that Mao was completely unconcerned about loss of lives, personal freedom, human rights and destruction of  property. Many ancient monuments and religious sites were destroyed. He used terror   at first to unite China under communist totalitarian state then to solidify his grip on power. In the process several communist rivals/ opponents also were purged, banished or  killed. On becoming the supreme ruler Mao became obsessed in making China a military superpower. Former Soviet Union played an important role in arming China, training of experts and providing cutting edge technology (e.g. providing technology for atomic bomb & fighter planes)  for this purpose. This aspect is not so well known. Payment for this assistance was made mainly by supplying  food  grains. Grains were  forcibly taken from peasants resulting thousands starving to death. Second round of purges and deaths occurred during the so called cultural revolution unleashed by gang of four lead by Mme Mao. In all, over 70 million perished under Mao’s rule. Mao had extravagant life style similar to that of former emperors of China. He had  specially constructed houses in many parts of China with attendant concubines at his beck and call.

Towards the end of his life Mao appointed a relatively unknown official Huo Guo-Feng as his chosen successor bypassing many seniors in the politburo. At the time of his death economy was in shambles. However, soon after his death Deng Xio-Ping took over the reins as the  paramount leader. Diminutive Deng reversed most of  Mao’s policies and  disbanded state control of the economy in most sectors. This lead to economy  growing at double digits for decades, now becoming the second  largest economy in the world. However, other aspects   like supremacy of CPC remained.

Though many of Mao’s thoughts are no longer of relevance in modern day China, still, many of the reasons why China behaves the way it does can be traced to the history of China and that of Communist party.

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