Monday, September 6, 2010

"The Great Helmsman" and "The Great Leap Forward"

Jonathan Mirsky reminds us that "between 1959 and 1962, at least forty-three million Chinese died" — 'Livelihood Issues'. "The cause of this disaster, the worst ever to befall China and one of the worst anywhere at any time, was Mao..."

The article is a review of a new book by Frank Dikötter, of which the reviewer says, "In terms of Mao's reputation this book leaves the Chairman for dead, as a monster in the same league as Hitler and Stalin - and that is without considering the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when hundreds of thousands more Chinese died." The reviewer calls it "for now the best and last word on Mao's greatest horror" and says its author "has put everyone in the field of Chinese studies in his debt, together with anyone else interested in the real China." The reviewer concludes, "Sooner or later the Chinese, too, will praise his name."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sooner or later the Chinese, too, will praise his name."

The Chinese Government praises nothing that does not increase their prospects. Dikötter's work will not be welcomed there.

2:29 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Back in '98, on my first and only trip to the PRC, I visited a Chou Enlai retrospective near Tiananmen Square. A caption read something to the effect, "Mao's leadership of the anti-Japanese struggle was heroic, his promotion of the Great Leap Forward was tragic, his instigation of the Cultural Revolution was criminal."

The Chinese Government's official view of Mao is the "70-30" policy: 70% of what he did was good, 30% bad. I expect those numbers to change over time.

3:26 PM  

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