Mao by Philip Short
A Life

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Synopsis

The definitive biography of the man who dominated modern Chinese history.

When the Nationalists routed a ragtag Red Army on the Xiang River during the Long March, an earthy Chinese peasant with a brilliant mind moved to a position of power. Eight years after his military success, Mao Tse-Tung had won out over more sophisticated rivals to become party chairman, his title for life. Isolated by his eminence, he lived like a feudal emperor for much of his reign after a blood purge took more lives than those killed by either Stalin or Hitler. His virtual quarantine resulted in an ideological/political divide and a devastating reign of terror that became the Cultural Revolution. Though Mao broke the shackles of two thousand years of Confucian right thinking and was the major force of contemporary China, he reverted to the simplistic thinking of his peasant origins at the , sustained by the same autocratic process that supported China's first emperors.

One cannot understand today's China without first understanding Mao. Attempts to view Mao's life through Western lenses inevitably present a cartoonish monster or hero, both far removed from the real man. Philip Short's masterly assessment-informed by secret documents recently found in China-allows the reader to understand this colossal figure whose shadow will dominate the twenty-first century.
 

About Philip Short

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Philip Short has been a foreign correspondent for The London Times, The Economist, and BBC in Uganda, Moscow, China, and Washington. He resides in Paris and has lived in China for seven years.
 
Published January 1, 1999 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. 782 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mao

Kirkus Reviews

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Short skillfully traces the ways Mao used that dominance to promote policies many of his colleagues knew were absurd: to surpass Britain in steel production, for example, in a year, Russia in two years, the US in four;

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The Guardian

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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday Jonathan Cape £25, pp832 During the first week of June 1966, pupils from a middle school in Beijing felt suddenly impelled to declare themselves part of Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution.

Jun 05 2005 | Read Full Review of Mao: A Life

The Guardian

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Its claims were doubted by those who could not accept the sheer monstrous scale of the calamity visited on the Chinese people as a result of the Great Leap Forward launched by Mao in 1958 to propel China into the ranks of major industrial nations.

Sep 05 2010 | Read Full Review of Mao: A Life

The Guardian

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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday 832pp, Cape, £25 The author of Wild Swans and her historian husband, Jon Halliday, have torn away the many masks and falsehoods with which Mao and the Communist party of China to this day have hidden the true picture of Mao the man and Mao th...

Jun 04 2005 | Read Full Review of Mao: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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Short (The Dragon and the Bear), who has lived in China, tries hard to judge Mao in a Chinese rather than Western context, noting that Mao presided over an ""era when China's history was so compressed that changes which, in the West, had taken centuries to accomplish, occurred in a single generat...

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The Independent

Conversely, Mao's contribution to military tactics is skimmed, as is China's emergent role in world politics.

Nov 18 1999 | Read Full Review of Mao: A Life

The New York Review of Books

In their comprehensive, judicious, and finely detailed new biography of Mao, Alexander Pantsov and Steven Levine have a phrase for the commercialization of the Mao cult in Tiananmen Square, where hawkers and souvenir shops “do a brisk trade in kitsch: Mao badges and posters, busts, and Quotations...

Oct 25 2012 | Read Full Review of Mao: A Life

Reviews in History

(By contrast, I reproach myself for not having explored more fully Mao's view of China's place in the world, apropos his foreign policy.) 'Mao's own life' is a different matter.

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Reviews in History

But not only could the problem have been tackled and minimised if Mao had acted when the problems were publicly aired at the Lushan Plenum in July 1959, but there is evidence that Mao had seen and heard the reality when he had visited Shaoshan and talked to the very ...

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