Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
In 1998 I started reading 2 books on Chinese History or Chinese Cultural per year. For a long time the only affect seemed to be that I usually knew more Chinese history than almost all Chinese under about 55 (and quite a bit less than many over about 65). It didn’t even endeared me to Chinese; it was much more likely to lead to arguments about revisionism, often devolving towards the absurd.
About 3 years ago I had my first significant breakthrough in this implicit quest when I read, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Mao: The Unknown Story completes the Genghis Khan book. The Khan dynasty and the Mao indulgency are the Yang and the Yin of the hard to see thing that differentiates China, Chinese Culture, and most modern Chinese from the rest of the world. Americans for example are incapable of this degree of dichotomy with respect to anything, but especially with respect to our leaders. (The only plausible expectation is dichotomy with respect to ourselves (individualism seems to facility a greater capacity for dichotomy with respect to ourselves)).
If you read both books back to back and then try to fuse the insights you’ll understand most of Chinese history, a lot of Chinese Culture, and a great deal more than you did about modern Chinese.
1) IMHO this book is better than Wild Swans.
2) I have trouble recommending this book to others as strongly as its actual impact, because it’s such a painful reed.
3) Both Genghis Khan and Mao conflated history and propaganda to an extent that most of the rest of the world cannot. Although Genghis Khan may have believed in secret non-propaganda histories for their strategic value.
4) I think the first step in understanding these two books is to embrace the More is Different principle. All peoples, cultures, and governments have their moments and their dark sides, but orders of magnitude simply matter. Some numeracy with respect to scale is required to even start to understand.
Yes, well researched and lots of information.
A very detailed history. The most frustrating part is the author's continual minimizing of any of Mao's achievements. Mao's history is undeniably disgusting in how he treated his own people, there is no real need to put everything he does in the least flattering light, it takes away from the credibility.
Yes, very informative.
Despite issues with some of the pronunciation of names (both individual and of cities), this was a very well researched history of one of the more fascinating men of history. While I don't agree with everything the authors wrote, they told their side of the story well and I certainly see all the effort they put into it.
As mentioned above, this reader did not use the current system or romanization of Chinese names. For those who know Chinese, this can be distracting.
Mao is "complex", "sophisticated", and "Nefarious".
I felt the story was told from an objective first hand experience.
The depth and understanding that Robertson Dean brought to the story is something that would take a great deal of effort to bring out from the written text alone.
The moment that particularly moved me was more like a gradual realization of the momentum of the story as a whole that brought me to the point of understanding that Mao was the culmination of what happens when a mind accepts no principles but his own. Left to rule himself by his own desires, Mao caused the deaths of millions of people in China and left a nation wrecked by moral degradation: the country we now see before us today.
Mao may have been one of the most influential people in the modern world because of the profound effect he had on the political philosophy of China, and even beyond. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper insightful understanding of China should listen to this book!
I lived through the era of Mao! But, I'd never heard that he killed 22 million Chinese in one year...1960, and then killed 14 million more the next year! A lot of other information is in this book....and it's the best I've read.
The book is excellent and important, but the audio is marred by the absence of the book's several hundred pages of endnotes and references which are desperately needed to understand the quality of the authors' claims. That's the problem with this kind of book in audio. Also, the narrator has no clue how to pronounce Chinese names, so Zhou/Chou Enlai's name is pronounced "Chow," Peng and Deng are similarly butchered, etc. It hurts.
No, The performance was weak with very poor and confusing pronunciation of the Chinese names. The account that is afforded the reader appears to be highly biased be the authors tragic personal experience. The many, highly serious flaws in Mao and his policies is well documented in the West but, Jung does not deliver an objective account in these matters the way, for example, a Barbara Tuchman could. This writing is to an historical account what Fox News is to journalism. It is designed more to excite and entertain for commercial gain than to actually explain the facts.
Objectivity is difficult to maintain if one has been personally and profoundly impacted by the subject. In this case, however, it would appear that objectivity was never an intended outcome and so the book comes closer to historical fiction than revelation. This is unfortunate because there appears to be a good deal of research that went into its construction.
Learn how to pronounce Chinese proper nouns.
The highly biased tone of this book left me curious for a motive. I searched the web for a history of Jung's life which is where I (believe I) found a possible explanation for the slanted interpretation she delivers.
For someone who knows nothing about Chinese history this is a wonderful book. It is fascinating to see behind the scenes what happened and help me find China to be the country it is today. Clearly Mao was an evil and power hungry individual as this book portrays. The author though seems to have a personal vendetta to vilify Mao Zedong rather than portraying the history with objectivity. I'm also not too sure whether there is enough information to verify certain parts of this history but the author seems to use what makes most logical sense without discussing that there is room for other ways in which the history could have occurred.
This books tells a good story with vivid details. I can imaging it enjoyable if you read it as a fiction or if you knew little about related history. Apparently, a lot of research went to the construction of the book, which makes it valuable in its own way. Some parts of the book are excellent, which I enjoyed.
Unfortunately, the book choose to tell a convenient story and in the process ignored a huge amount of historical facts. Too often, this book oversimplifies, makes the whole thing feel like a third rate Hollywood movie.Too often, this book over exaggerates. One example is the the role played by "super moles".
Another major flaw of the book is lack of context. You can't write a bio about Mao without a significant amount of comparison with Chiang Chung-cheng. Or CCP with KMT. You can't write a bio about Mao without a basic introduction of Chinese culture. This lack of Chinese background is extremely disappointing since the leading author is Chinese.
Mr. Dean did a good job narrating the book. The only flaw is his pronunciation of Chinese names. Of all the major names of people and places, 5-10 are easy to understand. The rest takes quite some head scratching.