[Marxism] Hatchet job on Mao lacks veracity

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 9 07:10:22 MDT 2005

(One of the co-authors of this mess is Jon Halliday, who was a very capable 
Marxist scholar earlier in his career. His history of Japan is excellent.)

(Australia ) The Age
Throwing the book at Mao
October 8, 2005

China scholars across the world are questioning the veracity of historical 
accounts in a controversial biography of Mao Zedong, writes Hamish McDonald.

A TINY widow aged 85, living in two rooms, an electric rice cooker her only 
modern appliance, may be a crucial witness to a key dispute involving 
wealthy Chinese author Jung Chang, who lives in great comfort in London's 
plush Notting Hill from the proceeds of her worldwide bestselling book Wild 

The dispute is one of many being picked by some of the world's most eminent 
scholars of modern Chinese history, who say Chang's latest blockbuster 
book, Mao - The Unknown Story, co-authored with her British historian 
husband Jon Halliday, is a gross distortion of the records.

Few are disputing that their subject, the late Chinese communist party 
chairman Mao Zedong, was a monster as a human being and a leader who put 
first, his party comrades, and later, the whole country, through hell. Or 
that this is an extraordinarily powerful book, one that seems destined to 
be highly influential.

But many agree with Thomas Bernstein, of Columbia University in New York, 
that "the book is a major disaster for the contemporary China field"."

Because of its stupendous research apparatus, its claims will be accepted 
widely," he said this week. "Yet their scholarship is put at the service of 
thoroughly destroying Mao's reputation.

The result is an equally stupendous number of quotations out of context, 
distortion of facts and omission of much of what makes Mao a complex, 
contradictory, and multi-sided leader."

As well as factual errors and dubious use of sources - which even 
favourable reviewers such as Princeton's Perry Link (an editor of the 
Tiananmen Papers) have felt compelled to criticise, many scholars point out 
that much of what Chang and Halliday present as a previously "unknown 
story" has in fact been exposed long ago by academic researchers and in 
popular works such as the memoirs of Mao's personal doctor, Li Zhisui, or 
John Byron's book on Mao's secret police chief, Kang Sheng. But no credit 
is given to these earlier writers.

These disclosures include Mao's endless supply of young female bed partners 
and his appalling personal hygiene, his callousness towards wives and 
children, the vital support of Stalin in his rise as party leader, his 
party's trade in opium, its terror-tactics applied to its own members, its 
shirking of the war against the Japanese, Mao's ruthless diversion of 
resources to building the atom bomb, and the disastrous campaigns of the 
1959-61 Great Leap Forward and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution."


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