The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

Sun Shuyun, Author . Doubleday $26 (270p) ISBN 978-0-385-52024-9

The Long March—the 8,000-mile trek by 200,000 Communist soldiers in 1934 while fleeing the Nationalists—is still legendary in Chinese Communist Party lore, but there are a lot of myths surrounding it, as the Chinese-born author discovers when she retraces the march's steps. Meeting wizened march veterans, the author, raised on the heroism of the march, is shocked to discover the reality: stories of starvation and desertion, violence against women and unnecessary deaths. For years afterward, some of the veterans didn't receive full pensions. A filmmaker and television producer who divides her time between London and Beijing, she also finds that Mao made strategic mistakes attributed to others, and used the march ruthlessly to defeat his rivals and cement his hold on Communist power. Her interviews with veterans are among the book's highlights, but just as fascinating as the interviews and archival research is her travel through China. She colorfully describes the countryside, which in her eyes maintains its ancient beauty even amid creeping 21st-century modernity. Some readers may need to do a little background reading on 20th-century Chinese history, but the rewards make it worthwhile. Map. (June 12)

Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 06/01/2007
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