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Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary Hardcover – October 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 345 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs / Perseus Books; 1St Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158648415X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484156
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"(t)he story of this great survivor is celebrated in a new biography written by Gao Wenqian, a former insider in the Chinese Communist Party's research department... (A)s Gao points out, the collapse of the former Soviet Union and East European Communist countries began with the demystification of official history and the re-evaluation of major historical events and people. This is his contribution to that process in his native country." -- Tribune, December 30th, 2007

"Mr Gao's biography does supply some new information about how Mao's closest lieutenants, notably Zhou Enlai, usually obeyed him, at first because they shared his ruthlessness, and later, understandably if contemptibly, to save themselves." -- Far Eastern Economic Review, December Issue

"a valuable and revealing book on the brutish and incredibly cruel nature of the Maoist regime... For a sense of what life as a top Communist leader under Mao was like look no further." -- BBC History Magazine, January Issue

"an incredibly fascinating eyewitness or well researched account about a man the West knew little about." -- Daily Kos, December 12th, 2007

About the Author

Gao Wenqian is the former official biographer of Zhou Enlai at the Chinese Institute of Central Documents. He participated in preparing the official versions of Biography of Mao Zedong and Biography of Zhou Enlai, granting him access to highly classified archives of the Chinese Communist Party. Gao came to the U.S. in 1993 as visiting scholar at Columbia University. Later, he received funding from the Wilson International Center at Princeton University and Harvard University. He lives in Queens, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Maybe, but why did he terrible things happening like he did?
Chris Reinewald
He had to toe the line and support Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution which had created "great chaos under heaven".
Zest-Zipper
It is a good book worth reading if you are interested in modern Chinese history.
yi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It appears that once the revolutionaries took hold of China, they had no idea what to do with it. In the absense of any program for bettering the country, Mao chose a legacy of power and adulation over one of public works. The result was a wholey dysfuctional bureaucray where participants schemed not for corner offices, but for their lives. This book documents those internal battles.

Unless you have some background in this, not all the dynamics will be accessible. What is clear to the general reader is that at the core was the insatiable ego of the revolution's presumed hero.

The Author's Note tells about the brave people who helped to assemble this book, bringing notes from China index card by index card. The list of sources shows the impressive primary materials that were used. You also learn of the author's mother, herself a victim of the Cultural Revolution, who despite being harrassed, encouraged him to write this book.

The title is misleading. This is not a bio of Zhou, there are pages and pages where he is hardly mentioned. The subtitle is strange since the author says he is trying to show Zhou as not the perfect man he is thought in some quarters to be. While not the main subject, Zhou is an organizing personality for this story, since he is, perhaps, the only enabler of Mao who could have done him in.

The big mid-twentieth century revolutions, China, Russia and Cuba ended in similar ways. The revolutionaries who put their lives on the line to remove autocracies easily surrendered those same dictatorial reins to their victorious generals. The generals had psychopathic needs for power and could not tolerate anything but a cadre of enablers. Fresh from fighting horiffic revolutions they were inured to bloodshed and suffering and saw them as legitimate political tools. Perhaps these are the mindsets it takes to wage a revolution against a despot, but as history shows, they are disasterous in running a country.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on December 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Zhou joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the 1920s and served as the head of the armed forces until victory over the Nationalists in 1949 and then as Premier until his death in 1976. He was involved in almost every major battle (and the Long March) fought against both the Japanese and the Nationalists, and survived the purge of the pro-Soviet wing in the 1950s, the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

His survival was based on (at least publicly) unwavering loyalty to Mao Zedong during the purges and upheavals of Mao's permanent revolution. He was always the mediator and conciliator who knew that in some ways he was invaluable to Mao and therefore was always the 'next' to be purged but Mao always had some one in front of Zhou.

Having been Zhou's official biographer for the CCP, Gao had access to the secret archives of the Party and was able to read the 'revised' histories that were contained there. The archives, and access to Zhou's journals and his widow, allows Gao to understand how Zhou and Mao spent years in a dance of political power versus economic growth. Zhou was always ready to submit himself to self-criticism and humiliation as long as he could keep his position. Mao never fully trusted Zhou's loyalty but he needed him to run the government while Mao determined the direction of the Revolution politically.

The second half of the book is truly intriguing as Gao demonstrated how total power ended up corrupting Mao. Having seen what happened to Stalin after his death, Mao was determined that there would be no Chinese 'Krushchev' to denounce him after his death. Each time that Mao chose a successor, he became paranoid that there was a conspiracy to overthrow him and therefore determined to eliminate that successor. Zhou was able to survive by never being named to succeed Mao. An absolutely fascinating book.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Berring on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has tons of inside information about Zhou En Lai and his times but it is written with the assumption that the reader already knows modern Chinese history well. Ergo I enjoyed it, but I have decided not to assign it to my class. Without knowing the "standard story" this behind the scenes look is hard to follow. But for one who does know the terrain, it is of great interest.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John Jorgensen VINE VOICE on February 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The book seemed to represent itself as a biography of Zhou. Thinking that's what I was reading, I threw myself into the first few chapters, about his early revolutionary life, with great interest, and was then perplexed when the book glazed over major events like the Long March, the Civil War, the Korean War and the Paris Peace Conference and omitted the Second Sino-Japanese War altogether. Barely a quarter of the way into the book the focus shifts to Maoist machinations, and whole reams of pages went by with nary a mention of the Premier. This seemed terribly odd to me because based on the excerpt on the back I thought the author was trying to show that Zhou was his own man and to dispel the perception that he was Mao's sidekick. Eventually I skipped ahead and read the author's notes, and did some more research on the book, and learned that the Chinese edition was specifically the story of Zhou's role in the Cultural Revolution. The promotional material surrounding the English edition made me think otherwise. (I should mention by the way that I received the book for Christmas and did not buy it, otherwise I would have researched it a bit beforehand.)

What I still couldn't figure out was why the book was seen as so edgy and controversial and why the CCP seemed to feel it's a hatchet job. Eventually I realized that the author and others involved in the writing and translating of the book view their expose of Zhou's "enabling" of the Cultural Revolution by not opposing it unequivocally is damning by itself. Here I disagree and take great issue with the contention by Introduction-writer Andrew Nathan that Zhou should have allowed himself to be purged, deprived the PRC of its ablest administrator, and allowed the Cultural Revolution to collapse under its own weight.
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