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Initial post: Oct 30, 2005 11:56:24 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2005 11:19:17 PM PST
I plan on reading this book soon, I come in with a bias, being born in Taiwan and familiar with the history regarding Mao. Maybe the reason why the author had such a bias is because Mao was evil, and not because her family had received ill treatment underneath communist rule. After I read the book I will post again.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2005 9:01:04 PM PST
When I walk into the "history" sections of bookstores and see popular works like this or Gavin Menzies' fictional "1421," it makes me wonder why these stores do not carry any of the dozens of good academic titles that are produced by professional academic historians of China every year. Chang Jung is heavily biased, Menzies is a flat out charlatan -- so why do stores stock only these books? One important advantage of is that you can find something that looks reliable and buy it directly -- without having to worry that a bookstore buyer thinks it is too smart for the non-academic market.

My advice if you want to read real history - done by people with the language and research skills - is to only purchase books published by university presses. These are the only ones that worry more about reputation than making a quick buck!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2005 11:35:17 PM PST
The answer to your question is quite simple, the average layman is either to lazy or unable to pursue rigorious intellectaul activity. I have posted a similiar comment for the book "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. One of my majors is Economics and after borrowing this book and skimming through it (as well as similiar text), I was horrified that such a book would be considered 'informative' or authoratative.

One would think that since history does not require much of anything other then ability to read effectively and think critically, that there would be more of the actual literature that would be surveyed by the general population. But for whatever reason, it dosn't seem to be the case.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2005 11:41:58 PM PST
ck says:
If it is a history book published by university press, then it will not be a best seller. To be best sellers, the authors have to write sensational stories to appeal to the audience, in this case, mostly the westerners who have great bias against Mao or anything Communist.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2006 5:16:14 PM PST
polk says:
Even the Chinese government is biased against communism.Look at the rampant capitalism in China which is called Chinese style socialism.Visit China and then tell me how many people still believe in Maoism.I have and I found a lot of cynicism about cadres whose main concern is making money through their connections.When the Chinese Communist Party talks about it's past it sounds a lot like the Japanese government.Both are responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese but refuse to admit it.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2006 5:17:26 PM PST
polk says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2006 2:38:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2006 6:50:01 PM PDT
The bizarre fantasies promoted in this book would require a major demographic study to be able to support them. This book does not provide that and the conclusions which one draws from reputable demographic sources do not support anything in this book. The primary starting point for all demographics on China is Judith Banister, CHINA'S CHANGING POPULATION. Published in 1987, Banister's book made a critical reevaluation of the official Chinese data which had been published a year earlier in STATISTICAL YEARBOOK OF CHINA 1986. Many of the more Cold War propaganda tracts such as THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM don't even go beyond the official STATISTICAL YEARBOOK when investigating Chinese mortality but simply treat that as their source. Banister's book is much more accurate than the official data however, because she takes clearer account of the way that in old China people used to be born and die out in the countryside without any official registration. As a result, the official statistics greatly underestimate both births and deaths. What is important to realize is that these underestimations in the official statistics usually tend more to give unwarranted credit to the pre-1949 Koumintang than anyone else, simply because the underestimations are most serious in the immediate post-1949 years.

Some specific statistics are warranted here. For the year 1949, the official statistics give a mortality rate of 20 per thousand. Banister revises this up to 38 per thousand. The official statistics here are actually exculpating Chiang Kai-Shek when he doesn't deserve it. For the year 1957, the official statistics give a mortality rate of 10.8 per thousand. Banister revises this up to 18.12 per thousand. Again, it has to be noted here that even though Banister assigns a higher mortality figure to both years than the official statistics do, the net percentage improvement from 1949 to 1957 is actually more impressive with Banister's revised data. The official Chinese data implies a mortality reduction by 46% from 20 to 10.8 per thousand. Banister's revised data implies a mortality reduction closer to 52.32% from 38 to 18.12 per thousand.

Now the key point where both the official statistics and Banister's revised statistics agree upon is that in 1958 there was a slight rise in mortality over the previous year, although the mortality rate was still well below that of 1949. In 1959 there was another slight rise, again still substantially below the 1949 level. In 1960 a real famine occurred, although the question now of how to evaluate requires that one specify very clearly what standard is being used. This is because with the mortality rates of 1957, 1958 and 1959 being so visibly well below the mortality rate of 1949, it makes no sense to use any of these years as a measuring standard if one's goal is to argue that China was somehow better off with the Kuomintang. Rather one should use the 1949 standard as a base for measuring the famine of 1960 if one really wants to argue that this was the worst famine in Chinese history.

All of the death counts from previous Chinese famines, such as the usual estimate of 5 million dead in the 1936 famine, assume a much higher pre-famine mortality rate. Hence certain deaths are simply not counted as famine deaths when evaluating the earlier pre-1949 famines. But if the mortality standard of 1957 is used one would have to count many more allegedly "normal" deaths as "famine" deaths.

This is exactly where con jobs like THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM and MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY seek to fool the reader. Banister herself was somewhat careless on this point, probably seeking to pander to Cold War attitudes, when she wrote on page 85 "an estimated 30 million excess deaths during 1958-61." This sloppy phrase has, unfortunately, outlived every other piece of work which Banister ever did as varying shysters have quoted and embellished it without any of the supporting demographic data that appears in Banister's classic study.

What one can quickly determine if you actually bother to read Banister's reconstruction of the demographic data is that two different "famine" death counts can be computed, depending upon whether one fixes 1949 or 1957 as the base standard. By the 1949 standard, the only genuine famine year in this period 1958-61 was 1960. The other three years show mortality well below that of 1949. The famine death toll for 1960 which one would compute from Banister's data using 1949 as the base standard is 4.35 million. Using the same data by Banister and the year 1957 as a base reference one would compute 25.4 million deaths. Banister's figure of 30 million is obviously a rounded version of this. But again, it means nothing to use such figures as evidence for claiming that the famine in the Great Leap Forward was the worst in Chinese history, because all of the earlier famines would have had many "normal" deaths happening side-by-side with the "famine" deaths. Those same "normal" deaths are being re-registered as "famine" deaths when you use the 1957 standard.

None of the above is honestly addressed in MAO: THE UNKNOWN STORY. The book is a snowjob from beginning to end.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2006 9:38:38 PM PST
Bobby Orr says:
I borrowed this book from our library because my wife was becoming annoyed by the number of books that I've purchased over the years on tyrannical leaders of the likes of Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Lenin, Mao, and Hitler. It was a book that I could not put down. In comparison to three other books about Mao where I had a disconnection between what was written to the history reported by my grandparents and parents. My parents had fled China, while my grandparants stayed behind. From them, I heard stories about atrocities, starvation, and depravity. Among them, the starvation resulted in the loss of children that would have been my aunts and uncles. This was something that my late grandmother refused to talk about. But, nothing about the tragedy of starvation by Mao's regime was discussed in the books by Mao's doctor, Breslin's Profile in Power, and "No Tears for Mao." Instead, it was Jung Chang's book that had pieced it together for me. There wasn't anything that she had written that was inconsistent with what other authors had written about Mao. Even certain details about his personal life from women to eating to hygiene to scatological manner in which he talked. Everything in Dr. Chang's book was completely consistent. Her book provided details that I had long searched for, but couldn't find. I recalled when I was quite young (six years old) when I was living in Hong Kong, a riot had broken out on the street. Tear gas was fired and all I heard was that communist activists were rioting. At that time, there was a general warning to the residents to not pick up unattended bags. It turns out that Jung Chang did discuss this incidence in detail and presented the surprising cause for it. I guarantee that the reader will never be disappointed in reading this very enjoyable book. I am truly disapointed that I am coming to the end of it. This will be a few books that I will pick up again a few years down the line.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2006 10:59:00 PM PDT
C. Alexander says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2007 1:58:24 PM PDT
B. Lynch says:
I've noticed that Mr. McNally has copy and pasted his "debunking" in many not-so-flattering books re: Communism across

His copy & paste job is well written, seemingly well-researched, and self-assured to the point that you'll readily believe that books like this one or the Black Book on Communism are "snow jobs" or "cold war propoganda"


"The death toll should be 25.4M, not 30M. Total snow job man! Blah blah blah."

He doesn't deny millions of people were killed, just that the figures are overinflated. THAT, people, is also a "snow job"

It always amazes me that people who so fear our government now and what it's capable of are ardent supporters of a political and economic system that gives said government MORE power.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2007 9:44:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2007 8:45:04 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 6:45:39 AM PST
I knew little about Mao so I didn't come to read this book with prior conceptions. I do have a degree in history, so I think I am reasonably able to assess outright confabulations. I will read more and weigh the different versions of mao's story and perhaps get an accurate picture - if this is possible. It is an enormous canvas that the writers depict and so complex and complicated. I do admire even the effort. But some of my friends who fans of Mao will not have a bar of him being an evil genius, which to me is what the book portrays.

Posted on May 9, 2009 4:58:06 PM PDT
For those that are having a hard time finding history books that are real page turners and historically accurate I suggest you pick up a copy of any of the following:

Armageddon by Max Hastings. (WWII, European Theater)
Retribution also by Max Hastings. (WWII, Pacific Theater)
Barbara Tuckman and The Guns of August. (WWI)
Almost a Miracle by John Ferling. (American War of Independence)
Embracing Defeat by John Dower. (Post war Japan)
A War Like no Other by Victor Davis Hanson. (Peloponnesian War)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 4:52:05 PM PDT
compsciguy says:
Of course the author is heavily biased. She suffered during Mao's communistic atheistic evil.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 5:05:48 PM PDT
compsciguy says:
I could ANONE look up to Mao or any other of the commuist rulers of WWII? They massacred millions of ppl and still there are fans of them out there? They must not have suffered during their reign of atheism and power.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 5:06:56 PM PDT
compsciguy says:
You have friends that are fans of Mao? How can anyone be fans of a mass murderer of millions of ppl?
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Participants:  13
Total posts:  17
Initial post:  Oct 30, 2005
Latest post:  Jun 30, 2011

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Mao: The Unknown Story
Mao: The Unknown Story by Jon Halliday (Paperback - 2006)
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