This is an impeccable biography of Mao Zedong. Chang tells the story that
in fact has never been told, unmasking many distortions of the official record,
and detailing the brutal ascent to power by one of history's most murderous
dictators. It was not difficult to uncover the disturbing truth about Mao's
psycopathic nature, since he openly took pride in his murders and tortures.
But the author (and the historian who helped her) also reveal unknown facts
about the beginnings of Mao's career (he was handpicked by the Soviet Union
to lead the Chinese communist party, which in 1921 was almost entirely funded
by the Soviet Union, and he never took part in some of the heroic battles
that he boasted about).
Mao didn't even "march" the long march: it turns out that he was carried, just
like the emperors that the revolution had deposed.
And, of course, the "long march" never truly happened: Mao's troops were simply
running away from the Chinese government's troops and took the only way that
the government opened for them. The battles of those "long march" had been
wildly exaggerated by Mao's official biographers, and are here deconstructed
with surgical precision. Very little was heroic about Mao's leadership, and
nothing was heroic about his fighting. He simply ordered to kill and torture
as many enemies (or suspected enemies) as possible.
Once he seized power, Mao showed zero compassion for his people (and even less
than zero for the rest of the world). When Chinese were starving, he wrote
"The State should try to prevent peasants from eating too much." When he
launched one of his senseless campaigns of "modernization", he admitted
"Half of China may well have to die."
He even dreamed of destroying the entire Earth with nuclear weapons.
He went far beyond anything that Hitler and Stalin had ever imagined.
By the end of the book, Mao is found responsible for the death of 70 million people. By comparison, Hitler was an amateur.
Needless to say, one has to admit that Mao was important for the development of modern China. Even if today China has totally rejected communism and is one of the most capitalistic places in the world, it owes to Mao a fundamental shift in attitude that made today's economic boom possible: Mao took two Europeans (Marx and Lenin) as models, revolutionizing the traditional Chinese view that only Chinese classics should be taken as models, and that the rest of the world (including Europe) was not worth being studied. This opened the floodgates to studies of foreign science, technology and, ultimately, economics. Basically, Mao told the Chinese that westerner had been smarter. This was perhaps the only smart thing that Mao ever said, but its impact is being felt today all over the world.