The Battle for China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution eBook –

The Battle for China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution Great book on correcting myths about the Chinese Revolution Absolutely a must read. Mobo Gao, who holds the chair in Sinology at the University of Adelaide and is known for his thorough, Hinton like study of Gao village Gao Village Rural Life in Modern China during the modern period, wrote The Battle for China s Past out of frustration over the anti Mao consensus prevailing among specialists and popular views alike For this reason, the book is on the one hand a defense of the Cultural Revolution s successes, particularly in the immense Chinese countryside where the vast majority of the people lived at the time , as well as an attack on popular writers and colleagues on the history of modern China for failing to look critically at anti Mao sources.Interspersed between some generic considerations on points of view in historiography are, for this reason, solid and readable attacks on two very popular history works on the Maoist period Chang Halliday s Mao The Unknown Story Mao The Unknown Story and Li Zhisui s The Private Life of Chairman Mao The Private Life of Chairman Mao He reveals, as most competent experts in the field have done, the Chang Halliday book to be a string of lies and made up nonsense, with unscientific use of sources and misleading if not outright fraudulent attributions It is indeed much to be regretted that this poor and incompetent book has had such a popular impact Li s work is critically examined, in particular with an eye to refuting Li s claims about his closeness and intimacy with Mao, and his low office not allowing him nearly as much access as he would have needed to have to write the things he did.So far, so good The book suffers however from significant flaws The first is the excessive reliance on vague and altogether rather dubious sources Gao seems particularly impressed by what he calls the e media , and half the book is taken up by discussing what people have been posting in favor of Mao on various internet fora It is however not explained what the value of these statements are and why anyone should care about them, especially since anyone can post anything on the internet It makes a silly impression for Gao to lambast others, sometimes remarkably pedantically, in their use of sources, and then to go on to demonstratively include large amounts of internet posts and emails What is also annoying is the enormously large amount of obscure Chinese sources used, partially as a result of this approach, which makes it impossible for anyone to properly estimate the relative value of the claims made on his part Indeed the level of detail in the book is often very high, with relatively little being explained, so that one wonders exactly what kind of public this book was written for An index of Chinese names and terms at the back does help a little, but not enough by any stretch to alleviate this The third problem is the lack of structure of the book a part of it consists of articles Gao had already written on Chinese history writing, a part of it of the e media stuff mentioned above, and part of it on random observations about how authors get the Mao period wrong, often in useless detail.The book is not bad as such, and Gao is clearly motivated to write it out of a very palpable sense of frustration and anger with anti Mao ideology, but it still leaves much to be desired Especially considering the import of the topic, it is too bad that the only really interesting considerations, namely why Maoist policy can be seen as having made a great improvement for most people despite the Great Leap Forward and so forth, are quoted only from Amartya Sen Indeed Gao would probably have done his case a lot good if he had arranged his criticisms of Chang Halliday and Li around a systematic discussion of that topic. A splash of cold water reality for Mao s naysayers Just one of a growing corpus of works that point out the lack of historical and biographical credibility of Jung Chang s Mao the Unknown Story.My own research shows that there was indeed a 20th century Chinese character that deserved the demonization Jung Chang dealt out, but it wasn t Mao Her description fits Chiang Kai Shek to a T Her book bagged the wrong target. Shows that the Mao era was benficial for most Chinese citizens A powerful mixture of political passion and original research, a brave polemic against the fashionable view on China Aims a knockout blow at Jung Chang s recent book on Mao, which B

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