Mao: A Life

Philip Short, Author Metropolitan Books $37.5 (782p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3115-7
In an epic biography, Short draws on a wealth of hitherto untapped sources to fashion an uncanny portrait of Mao Zedong. His Mao is a warrior-poet who gradually lost vital components of his humanity in his exclusive devotion to a cause. By Short's reckoning, Mao's megalomaniacal ambition led to such disasters as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1960), the collectivization and production drive that ended in apocalyptic failure as 20 million Chinese starved to death, and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), during which hundreds of thousands were tortured, arrested or executed. 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 generation."" Though Short describes Mao as a ""visionary, statesman, political and military strategist of genius,"" he also points out that Mao's rule ""brought about the deaths of more of his own people than any other leader in the history of any country in the world."" And yet he concludes by distinguishing Mao's culpability from that of Stalin and Hitler, evoking the distinction in Western law ""between murder, manslaughter, and death caused by negligence."" Short's dramatic biography will reward readers with its fresh perspectives on China's civil war, Mao's treacherous relations with Stalin, party infighting and the power struggle following Mao's death. It not only sheds valuable light on Mao's character but also serves as an illuminating and sweeping history of modern China. Photos. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Paperback - 782 pages - 978-0-8050-6638-8
Paperback - 1046 pages - 978-84-8432-858-2
Ebook - 768 pages - 978-1-4299-0092-8
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