- Hardcover: 693 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1St Edition edition (August 18, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674023323
- ISBN-13: 978-0674023321
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mao's Last Revolution 1St Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Given the hostile biographies and debunking histories that have recently appeared, it's safe to say that Mao's long honeymoon is over. In this exhaustive critique, MacFarquhar (director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard) and Schoenhals (lecturer on modern Chinese society at Sweden's Lund University) cover the terrifying Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, when Mao unleashed the Red Guards on his people. As the unceasing, pointless intrigues between Mao and his chief henchmen unfolded, the violence and denunciations, the staged humiliations and mass executions raged remorselessly out of control, and the country lurched into turmoil. Even today, no one knows the final death count of the Mao cult. In rural China alone, according to a conservative estimate, 36 million people were persecuted, of whom between 750,000 and 1.5 million were murdered, with roughly the same number permanently injured. In the end, the authors, ironically, take comfort from one of the chairman's favorite sayings: "Out of bad things can come good things." For out of that dreadful decade, the authors conclude, "has emerged a saner, more prosperous, and perhaps one day a democratic China." 57 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From The New Yorker
MacFarquhar and Schoenhals successfully synthesize the many plotlines of the Cultural Revolution in a narrative that shuttles from the endless micro-maneuvers of the Party elite to the marauding teens of the Red Guard; and from the Revolution's macro-economic fallout to such bizarre manifestations as the cannibalizing of counter-revolutionaries in Guangxi. Carefully orchestrating the pandemonium and fuelling it with his "deliberate opaqueness" is the figure of Mao Zedong. Utterly unfazed by violence"China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people," he remarkedhe hoped the Revolution would perpetuate his legacy. But the arbitrary brutality of the regime insured the opposite. One weary subject recalled that when Mao died, in 1976, "the news filled me with such euphoria that for an instant I was numb."
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Top customer reviews
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The book is well-written and useful, though more for those with a special interest in the Cultural Revolution than for the general reader.
The Kindle version does not contain any of the book's photographs. To add insult to injury it does contain their captions -- with an instruction to refer to the printed version for the photos themselves! Nothing on the product page (now, at any rate), reveals that. In my opinion this is essentially misrepresentation on Amazon's part. The Kindle version also contains the formatting errors that we are becoming accustomed to seeing -- hyphens between paragraphs, gaps between words, etc. I read it on an iPad but at least one other review here also complains about this so its apparently not an iPad-only problem. And the footnotes are not hyperlinked.
I've been reading Kindle books since they were introduced. You would expect the technology to improve over time. But as Kindles are becoming more expensive they are also becoming shoddier.
One problem I have is that there appear to be no "notes" in the footnotes-section, simply references to publications that most people will have almost no ability to access. Frequently, the text will state something as a conclusion, without any background on why that particular conclusion was reached. In many, many cases there should be anywhere from a sentence to a couple of paragraphs of elaboration, not merely a reference to a specific page in some obscure text.
Common sense was in short supply during the time of Chairman Mao's Great Cultural Revolution and the victim of ideological purity is always the common people. The Cultural Revolution came soon on the heels of the "Great Leap Forward" which itself lead to widespread famine, starvation, and countless acts of individual terror against the very people who could have provided some improvement to their circumstances.
The failure of Mao's ideas in the late 50s and the horrors it inflicted on the Chinese people lead to the rise in power of both Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaping who were pragmatists and who wanted to undo some of the more glaring errors of Mao's programs. Deng made the statement that it did not matter what colour the cat as long as it catches mice. Such intelligent and pragmatic thinking was an anathema to an ideologist like Mao, however as the authors point out this was only a portion of the motivation behind the Great Cultural Revolution.
Mao feared revision for three main reasons, that he could be sidelined from real power by Liu and Deng (much as Khrushchev was following his policy failures) was the first of these, followed by concerns arising the Sino Soviet split. He was willing the sacrifice the well-being of his country to satisfy an ideological whim Once Liu was gone and Deng sidelined, the people at the heart of the cultural revolution came under Mao's scrutiny leading to the minister of defense, Lin Biao's unsuccessful flight to the Soviet Union. Deng was back in 1973 and then he wasn't in 1975. In the end it was the leaders of the Great Cultural Revolution who were arrested, the so-called Gang of Four (which included Mao's wife and her cronies from Shanghai). These people were surprised when the country expressed delight at their passing. Ideologues are always among the most self delusional of people.
This book by Roderick Macfarquhar and Michael Schoenhals aside from going over familiar ground also adds considerably to the understanding of this disastrous period in Chinese history in which experts were beaten and humiliated, temples were razed and no one was sure quite what was going on. Where new ground is established is largely over the role of Zhou Enlai, which was less activist than is currently portrayed in official histories. This is likely to be the definitive study of the subject until the archives in Beijing are opened for extensive inspection. Although Mao did view the Great Cultural Revolution as one of his great accomplishments it is not quite sure what was accomplished and why if any of the results should be considered praise worthy. Were Mao to have won his battle with history to maintain China in a state of continuous revolution, China would never have scaled the heights that it has today. Such are the ironies of history.
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