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The Man on Mao's Right: From Harvard Yard to Tiananmen Square, My Life Inside China's Foreign Ministry Hardcover – July 15, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065844
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Born in 1929 China to a privileged family of Communist sympathizers, Chaozhu has witnessed a country transform while catapulting to its newly-emergent centers of power. Chaozhu's memoir begins during the 1937 Japanese occupation, when his father sent him and his brothers to the U.S. to help raise money for the communists and get "a first-class education," after which they would return to "help build the new China." Returning to China in 1950, after dropping out of Harvard, Chaozhu began working as an interpreter in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, before rising to become a deputy director. After Nixon's ground-breaking 1972 visit to China, Chaozhu had several postings to the U.S. and was appointed as an Ambassador to the U.K. His last position was a 1991-94 stint as under-secretary-general of the United Nations. Chaozhu paints a vivid picture of life in China, both the extreme poverty (by 1958, 30 million Chinese had starved to death) and the civil unrest generated by Mao's draconian economic measures and purges of so-called dissidents. Chaozhu describes hard times but also exciting, eye-witness to history stories featuring Kissinger's and Nixon's first meetings with Enlai. This absorbing book should make an invaluable political (and personal) primer for anyone dealing with today's China.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

To Westerners, the actions of the Chinese government since the 1948 Communist triumph are often confusing and seemingly contradictory. So an account by a Chinese insider is to be highly valued, even if it must be viewed with a critical eye and a healthy dose of skepticism. Chaozhu was born in China but fled to the U.S. as a youth when the Japanese invaded. He was educated at Harvard but returned to China, where his knowledge of the West and his mastery of English led him to a variety of high governmental posts in the Foreign Ministry, including acting as Chairman Mao’s interpreter. Chaozhu describes some of the key events in recent Chinese history with a curious detachment, including the violent collectivization movement and the Cultural Revolution. Chaozhu’s greatest admiration and affection is reserved for Premier Zho Enlai, whom Ji describes as sensible, tolerant, and blessed with the warmth and compassion that Mao seemed to lack. Although there are few startling revelations, this is a useful account of some of the inner workings and conflicts within China’s ruling elite. --Jay Freeman

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Customer Reviews

If you are interested in Chinese history and politics, this book is well worth reading.
Robert Reynolds
Nonetheless, Ji maintained his career through the disastrous land reform, "Great Leap Forward," "Great Famine," and the "Cultural Revolution."
Loyd E. Eskildson
Ideologues on both the left and the right will find much to quibble about in this book.
Lowell P. Beveridge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Lowell P. Beveridge on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Read this book if you want to understand the foreign policy of the Peoples Republic of China, or want guidance from an expert on how to keep your sanity and morality in a bureaucracy, or if you just want a very good story.

In the fall of 1950, at the age of 21, Ji Chaozhu returned to his native China after an absence of 12 years. He left a comfortable middle class life as a Harvard undergraduate scholarship student at a time of increasingly virulent anti-communism in this country. China was on the verge of a shooting war with the USA in Korea, and he literally stepped through the looking glass into an upside down world of opposites. In China it was politically dangerous even to be suspected of intellectual or bourgeois tendencies; membership in the Communist Party was a privilege which it took him years to achieve; to fight against the USA backed forces in Korea was a patriotic duty for which he quickly volunteered. On a more personal level, Chaozhu had to relearn his first language, get used to a new and substantially reduced diet, and - perhaps most difficult of all - adapt to the use of a traditional "squat" toilet.

This is the story of his 50 year odyssey through the hierarchy of the Chinese Foreign Ministry from lowly translator at Panmunjom to Ambassador to the Court of St. James and Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. His original intention when he returned home was to earn a Ph.D.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Roger W. Sullivan on August 22, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
I knew Ji back in the 70's. At that time none of us, I suspect, had any idea the hardships he had endured in China, particularly during the Cultural Revolution. Toward the end of the book, however, when he gets to Tiananmen, I felt he was trying to set up his readers to conclude (incorrectly) that the Tiananmen demonstrations were essentially a reenactment of the Red Guards/Cultural Revolution excesses and as such deserved to be suppressed by whatever means necessary. This of course is the party line in China and it was disappointed to see someone like Ji parroting it. Toward the end I even began to wonder if the whole purpose of the book was to justify the Tiananmen massacre.
I was also disappointed that Ji denigrated Han Xu, his colleague and sometime superior in the Foreign Office. He depicts Han as hard line, but it was Han (now dead) who was disillusioned by the Tiananmen suppression and, according to people I trust, contemplated seeking refuge in the United States or some other democratic society.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Walter H. Kuenstler on July 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Who would imagine the autobiography of a leading Chinese government figure would read like a novel, engaging us with humor, suspense, surprise and the triumph of one man's love for his wife? With a great assist from ghostwriter Foster Winans, that is the difficult literary feat that Ji Chaozhu's "The Man On Mao's Right" accomplishes.

This is also the first true "insider's account" I have read of the creation and evolution of modern China. Thanks to his work as a translator for Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, Ji was literally the fly on the wall during such historic occasions as Nixon's historic visit to China, the negotiations seeking an end to the Korean conflict, and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.

Having fled the Japanese invasion of China with his parents, Ji spent much of his childhood in the United States, where he attended Harvard University. Devoted to the cause of Chinese socialism, Ji returned to his native land, where he was uniquely able to translate not just the language of the Chinese, but their culture and belief system, for Western leaders.

I cannot but wonder how history might have been different if not for his participation at so many pivotal moments in the evolution of the delicate relationship between China and the US.

"The Man On Mao's Right" is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the modern history of China, its motivations, its people and culture. Best of all, this is such an enjoyable read, that it is certain to find an audience far beyond Chinese history buffs.

Ji's life story is the epic odyssey of a Chinese Homer whose quest for his home, and to be with the woman he loves, literally spans the globe and encompasses several generations. "The Man On Mao's Right" is destined to become a classic of its genre.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Yafeng Xia on August 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ambassador Ji Chaozhu's personal journey in the Chinese Foreign Ministry provides vivid and rich details for our understanding of the inner working of Chinese foreign policy-making establishment. From this book, we learn not only real stories of top leaders such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, but also personal relations between Ambassador Ji and other senior PRC diplomats such as Huang Zhen, Han Xu, Zhang Wenjin, Nancy Tang and Wang Hairong, and etc. This book is a major addition to the growing literature on PRC diplomacy, and will become an essential reading for any one interested in 20th century China, especially its diplomacy.
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