MONSTER MAO UNKNOWN STORY
"A triumph. It is a mesmerizing portrait of
tyranny, degeneracy, mass murder and promiscuity,
a barrage of revisionist bombshells and a superb piece of research.
This is the first intimate, political biography of
the greatest monster of them all."
Jung Chang & Jon Halliday demolish Mao in new book
(and set Beijing a new problem)
by Jonathan Fenby, Sunday Times, Jul 24, 2005
Three decades after his death the face of Mao Tse-tung still stares out over the huge expanse of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. Though the authorities now admit that the founder of Communist China was “70% right, 30% wrong”, the man who led the greatest revolution since the second world war remains a sacrosanct figure in the world’s most heavily populated nation.
This summer, though, his reputation has been comprehensively demolished in the West by the bestselling biography, Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang, author of the perennial bestseller Wild Swans, and her historian husband, Jon Halliday. It blames Mao for 70 million deaths — far more than Hitler or Stalin.
Though travellers have brought in copies in their luggage, and it has been reviewed in newspapers in Hong Kong, the book is not on sale in mainland China. English-language newspapers in the Far East that carried articles about it were banned. On internet chat sites the censors have moved in to delete any postings critical to the man hailed as the Great Helmsman of China.
Chang’s book, published by Jonathan Cape, has attracted most attention for its portrayal of Mao as an utterly ruthless, evil figure who eliminated enemies by purges, poison and murderous traps, abandoned three wives and was driven by ambition, not ideology. But the shock might not be so great in China as in the West, given the killings and disasters the country suffered in the 20th century, the general absence of humanity among its leaders, and the personal experience so many people had of the disasters of the past half-century.
In its 70-30 valuation of Mao, Beijing is willing to admit to one major fault — the Cultural Revolution he launched in 1966 to assert his authority by unleashing the Red Guards on the political establishment, which he feared was escaping his control. But this disavowal is used for a political purpose, to argue how important it is to maintain stability and how dangerous political reform would be.
Otherwise, Mao remains untouchable in China, though it has become increasingly clear he is a figure surrounded by self-created myths that no longer hold water. There is a very good reason for this, which explains why the new biography and other recent research represent a real and present danger for the rulers of the last leading state run by a Communist party. Remove the props of Maoist history and you bring into question the foundations of the party’s legitimacy to govern 1.3 billion people and head an emerging global economic superpower.
Four elements lie at the heart of the Mao story. All are totally or largely false.
A key assertion is that he was a pure nationalist who put his country first and led the only true resistance to the Japanese invasion of China from 1931 to 1945. This is particularly important today, when the wilting appeal of communism has led the authorities to promote nationalism to win public support, particularly against Japan. Mao as patriotic hero is a potent recruiting sergeant.
But this new biography shows how a foreign leader, Joseph Stalin, aided and directed Mao’s rise. Halliday is a Russian expert, and has extracted a wealth of documentation from the Moscow archives. The Soviet role in establishing the Chinese Communist party around 1920 was already known, but what is new is how, despite some divergences, Mao followed Stalin’s dictates to win power.
Only the Kremlin could provide the political backing, money and arms he needed. Since Stalin played a double game in China, maintaining relations with the Nationalists and supplying Mao’s great opponent, Chiang Kai-shek, with arms, Mao’s greatest fear must have been that Moscow would desert him in the name of realpolitik. To avoid that, he kowtowed to Moscow — even after he achieved power he rose to his feet during a visit by a Soviet envoy to cry out three times "May Stalin live ten thousand years".
Another big hole in the Mao-as-patriot story comes during the full-scale war that broke out with Japan in 1937. Apart from one offensive, of which the Chairman disapproved, the Red Army avoided conflict, saving its resources for civil war with the Nationalists after Tokyo’s defeat. Petr Parfenovich Vladimirov, the main Soviet adviser at Mao’s headquarters, makes this evident in his diary, which was published in 1974 in India but escaped attention until recently. Communist forces, Vladimirov noted in 1942-43, “have long been abstaining from both active and passive action against the aggressors”. Instead, they were ordered to retreat and seek truces. Visiting battle areas a little later, a US unit found that Communist units had struck non-aggression agreements with the invaders. Trade flourished across the lines. Nor was this all. The Communists maintained contacts with the collaborationist regime set up by Japan. Mao even floated the idea of a ceasefire with Japan in northern China. Similarly, the base from which the Chairman operated during the war years at Yenan in north China turns out to have been very different from the model society of selfless idealists portrayed in official writing, and reproduced by many western accounts. The truth was that the base writhed with political intrigue as Mao used terror and mass indoctrination to get unquestioning allegiance.
On top of this, the politburo decided to go into the opium trade. Vladimirov records a cadre telling him narcotics would “play a revolutionary vanguard role”. Trading as the Local Product Company and describing its output as “soap” in its records, the Communist drug enterprise exported millions of boxes of opium a year, supplying it to itinerant merchants or using the Red Army for transport through enemy lines. A Taiwanese researcher estimates this provided 40% of the base’s revenue.
The war against Japan over, the orthodox story is that, led by the all-wise Chairman, China’s peasants overthrew the reactionary Nationalists in a template of rural revolution. In fact, Mao had a low opinion of the peasantry, amounting to contempt. While the masses in the Communist rural areas were needed to provide manpower and act as bearers, the Chairman preferred attacking cities to waging war in the fields as the Chinese civil war unfolded after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Initially, he was not very successful.
Though it was exhausted by the long war with Japan, Chiang’s regime pushed the Communists to the far north of the country, and was poised to finish them off. At that moment, a powerful American emissary, the future secretary of state George Marshall, forced Chiang to call a truce, which allowed the Red Army to escape.
Stalin then came through as Moscow provided large quantities of supplies to the Chinese Communists. Using Russian arms and tactics, Communist forces swept south, crossed the Great Wall, took Beijing and defeated the Nationalists in an epic battle involving millions of men in east China. Despite the peasant legend, this was the victory of a modern army using American equipment captured from the Nationalists, as well as Soviet supplies — the first troops to enter Beijing rode in US trucks.
A hidden element in that victory, as Chang and Halliday lay out, was that key Nationalist generals were secret Communist agents or switched sides. These defections hammered the final nail in the Nationalist coffin and, at the end of 1949, Chiang flew to Taiwan to dream fruitlessly of reconquering the nation he had lost.
It is also clear that the most important plank in the Maoist platform is deeply worm-eaten. The year-long Long March out of southeast China to a safe haven in the north of the country in 1934-35 is extolled as one of the great heroic feats of the 20th century, in which the Red Army, under Mao’s leadership, scaled mountains, forded torrents and crossed murderous swamps as it fought off Chiang’s troops. Fanned by uncritical reports from western writers, the trek became proof of the Chairman’s genius and his natural-born aptitude to lead the cause. The reality was that regional warlords allowed the Red Army to escape for fear that Chiang’s central government troops would set up permanent camp in their domains. The Communists killed huge numbers of peasants along the way. Far from trekking with his men, Mao was carried on a litter. When his wife was severely wounded by shrapnel, he paid her no attention. Chang and Halliday even report that the most celebrated incident of the journey, in which intrepid soldiers were said to have climbed across the chain links of a demolished bridge above a foaming river, simply never happened. They also say that Chiang let the Communists escape because he hoped that, in return, Stalin would release his son, who was being held in Moscow.
Confronted with such a charge sheet, what would Beijing be left with if it allowed the myths to be stripped away? An inhuman dictator who cared nothing for the ideology on which the post-1949 state is supposed to be based. A revolution achieved by armed force, not popular support. A wartime leader who dealt with the enemy, and presided over a drug empire. A serial murderer who dreamt up torture methods and exulted in the suffering of victims. A man for whom relationships had no meaning, who despised the masses and who fabricated his own image for posterity.
Given that, it is no wonder the government and party hold back from allowing the founding myths of the regime to be brought into serious question. The party is intent on controlling any move towards openness for fear of being engulfed by a tide of change. But if China is to become a modern state, its leadership will have to recognise that, so long as it does not come to terms with history, it will be moored to the past and to a deeply distorted account of events.
Still, behind the censorship, there are some openings in the curtain. Mao’s misdeeds are becoming better known among the Chinese people. Jung Chang is working on a Chinese version of her book, which she hopes will be smuggled into the mainland.
Last month a Chinese publisher said it wanted to bring out a translated edition of my book Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost. Given its warts-and-all picture of the generalissimo [Chiang Kai-shek], this may not seem surprising: he is still officially regarded on the mainland as an enemy of the people. But I wait with interest to see what the publisher does with the passages on the Red Army’s hands-off approach to the Japanese, the Communist opium business, the Long March, and the nature of the Communist victory.
Stalin, the ghost who haunts China (Jung Chang not only demolishes Mao with her new book, she sets Beijing a new problem), by Jonathan Fenby, Sunday Times Jul 24, 2005
CHINA'S INVISIBLE BLACK HAND
SECRET WORLD CHINA COMMIE PARTY
CHINA FOODFIGHT FOR CANADA POTASH
LENIN-MAO MAN-MADE STARVATION
CHINA IN CANADA SAY SPY CHIEF
THE LONG MARCH
(eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes)
...We listened to the booktape THE LONG MARCH about the brutal situation in China under Mao, an adherent of Lenin, who led the Communist Party (with help from the Capitalist West) to power there. These (including THE LONG WALK FROM STALIN'S GULAG) aren't particularly relaxing stories to be listening to, but the system of Communism is a huge component of many of Orwell's books - especially NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR (around which my ORWELL TODAY website is based) and for research purposes I have to knock off the required reading - and listening to the books, instead of reading them - is a great way of doing that. See CANADA COMMIE LENIN-MAO STATUE and LENIN-MAO MOCK CANADA OLYMPICS
6.Super-States & 7.Systems of Thought
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