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The Unknown Story


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Chinese society made Mao possible. Mao indelibly marked Chinese society. You can`t know one without knowing the other.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This excellent book is difficult to read only because it catalogs such an exhausting array of tortures, mutilations, betrayals, adulteries, treasons, murders and other crimes. Authors Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have done an extraordinary job of compiling a wealth of information. They had access to Soviet archives that shed new light on Mao’s rise to - and ruthless exercise of - power. If the book has a defect, it is that despite the authors’ 10 years of exhaustive research, readers may find this report of staggering cruelty almost impossible to believe. There’s no denying that it’s thoroughly reported. However the authors have a distinct negative bias. No matter how well backgrounded, it can also be perceived as a form of anti-Mao propaganda. Yet if even a fraction of what is here reported were true, it could all be true. getAbstract finds this book relevant, not only to historians, but also to anyone doing business in China or simply curious about the country. Chinese society made Mao - one of history’s worst mass murderers - possible and Mao, in turn, indelibly marked Chinese society. It is impossible to know one without knowing the other.


Consistent Themes

The life of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Mao Zedong) plays out certain consistent themes: selfishness, violence and betrayal. He despised the people of China, Chinese traditions and his father, though he loved his mother. As a young student, he wrote, "I do not agree with the view that to be moral, the motive of one’s actions has to be benefiting others...there are people and objects in the world, but they are all there only for me." He lived this philosophy consistently, with horrible consequences.

  • Selfishness - No evidence exists that Mao ever gave any thought to anything but his own comfort, convenience and ambition. A bright pupil, he was lazy and ran away from school or was expelled for disobedience. He refused to work and insolently told his father that the old man should do more work than he, the younger. He once called his father names in front of guests and ran out of the house. When his father pursued Mao, he threatened to drown himself in a lake, deliberately manipulating the old man’s traditional Chinese attachment to his eldest son. Mao laughingly observed that he had attacked the foe’s weak point, and "won." Throughout his life, Mao would...

About the Authors

Jung Chang was born in Sichuan in 1952. She was a Red Guard, a barefoot doctor and electrician before becoming an English language student and teacher at Sichuan University. Her book, Wild Swans, was published in 1991. Her husband, Jon Halliday has written or edited eight previous books.

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