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The New Emperors: China in the Era of Mao and Deng Hardcover – February 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Salisbury's crowning achievement, this incredibly vivid, gripping dual biography of China's two modern emperors--Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping--is also a revelatory history of modern China's transformation. As Mao's young lieutenant, Red Army commander Deng (b. 1904) led the Long March that cost Chiang Kaishek one million men. Although Deng tirelessly fought for Mao's political viewpoints, Mao (1892-1976) during his dementia of the 1970s ousted his acolyte, subjecting Deng to torture, imprisonment and exile. Mao believed himself infallible. His hero was China's first emperor, barbaric Qin, who slaughtered Chinese by the hundreds of thousands. Deng, "at heart a small dragon, not a supreme dragon like Mao," is nevertheless another absolutist emperor. Drawing on years of travel, interviews and research in China, Salisbury ( Tiananmen Diary ) provides countless new details on key events. Among Salisbury's findings: Mao was excluded from the initial planning of the Korean War, which took him by surprise; Deng played a major role in Mao's brutal "anti-rightist" campaign of 1958. This epic double portrait deserves to become a classic. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

After writing a dozen or more memorable books on the history of Russian communism, veteran New York Times writer Salisbury turned his attention to China about ten years ago. A consummate reporter, Salisbury knows when he has a good story, and this book is brimming with good stories about the personalities, intrigues, and conflicting aims of Mao Tse-Tung and his successor. No other Western journalist has mastered the China story as expertly as Salisbury. He uses his rich background knowledge and privileged access to a wide array of Chinese leaders to write a fascinating insider's history of events that are sometimes epic and sometimes anecdotal but always related with style and depth. This is a wonderful introduction to China's current situation--and how it got there. A helpful guide to the cast of characters is included. For general and informed lay readers. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/91.
- John H. Boyle, California State Univ., Chico
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (February 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316809101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316809108
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,982,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Bruske on October 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book set me off on a binge of Chinese history reading. I had to know more about Kang Sheng, for example, and "Claws of the Dragon" helped shed light on this "immortal". Then there were: Zhou Enlai's hagiography 'Eldest Son' at the hands of Han Suyin; The White Boned Demon, about Jiang Qing; Mao's doctor's self-glorifying account; Deng's biography. Nothing compares to this book for readability and sense of magnitude. You meet the twenty or so people who decided the fates of a billion Chinese. Modern democracy has nothing to compare. The personalities in recent Chinese history, the importance of them, are staggering. The Great Leap, the Cultural Revolution--these hellish mass movements affected hundreds of millions of people. You get to see the tiny coterie which ordered the lives of a significant portion of the Earth's inhabitants for fifty years. An amazing book.
I wish Harrison Salisbury were still around to write an update. TNE stops in 1991 as the economy is slowing and the hardliners are asserting themselves. Deng visited the "new cities" on the South China Sea in 1993-4, invigorating them and the "capitalism with Chinese characteristics" which they represented. What followed, of course, is our recent history of China thinking itself as a great power.
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Format: Hardcover
The thesis of The New Emperors is in its title. Harrison Salisbury depicts the lives and careers of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping as belonging to the ancient Chinese tradition of absolute monarchy. He repeatedly shows how both men, though nominally Marxists, drew guidance and inspiration from the same classical Chinese texts as their imperial forbears. Neither man, according to Salisbury, was very familiar with the teachings of Marx and Lenin.

The New Emperors begins in 1949 with Mao's victory in the Chinese Civil War and his proclamation of the new People's Republic. However, there are extensive flashbacks to the early careers of Mao and Deng, as well as several of their compatriots. The chronology of the work is rather loose, as the author prefers to follow a separate theme in each chapter. Salisbury was a journalist, not a professional historian, and this is a journalistic treatment. The author highlights individuals and events of interest, rather than presenting a comprehensive history of modern China. There is no mention, for example, of China's development of nuclear weapons or of its ongoing problems with ethnic minorities in Tibet and other regions.

Salisbury portrays Mao as a larger-than-life visionary who fell victim, finally, to his own physical appetites and weaknesses. Mao was a known user of sleeping pills, presumably opium derivatives, which the author postulates led to a full-fledged opium addiction by the last decade of Mao's long life. Not one to shy away from bloodshed, Mao nonetheless would not have let the brutality of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) get as far out of hand as it did had he not been out of touch with reality himself.
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