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« A Comparative Reading of Japanese and Korean Dramas | Main | Game Theory .net »

November 29, 2005

Comments

Andrew

I think I've been to Berkeley Revolution Books, or maybe passed by it... it looks like a pretty disreputable place...

"Tom Gold, associate dean of international and area studies at UC Berkeley, said he visited China on a guided tour in 1975 and was impressed."

My parents were sort of communist (or socialist, maybe) in college, I think as a way of being rebellious against the KMT dictatorship. Then they went to China in the late 1970s and discovered that, as they put it delicately to me, "communism isn't so great, after all."

The other thing that's funny about the article you linked to is that the only person whose name sounds like he was born in mainland China (Qiang Xiao) agrees with Jung Chang's book (who also grew up in China), while the Maoist defenders all have white-sounding or ABC-sounding names (Gary Miller, Raymond Lotta, Tom Gold, Connie Wu, Seyron Foo) and from their quotes have only been tourists in China.

I think it's safe to say that almost everything positive that the CCP accomplished in China happened in spite of Mao, not because of him. Here's a guy who launched the Cultural Revolution because he thought the country was recovering too nicely from the Great Leap Forward, due to the relatively more sensible policies of his rivals Liu, Deng, and Zhou!

Jim

" ABC-sounding names"

Bingo. Conni Wu's reamrk to the effect that everything is materialistic now is telling. It tells that she has no concept of Marxism, which has always touted itself as a materialistic philosphy, and it tells that she also has no understanding of Confucian philosophy, which is so militantly secular that it even turns religious rituals such as ancestor worship to a social purpose.

What is ABC about the comments of both Connie and "Seyron" (well that at least cannot be an ABC name)is that it refelcts a Western stereotype of China. It is a type of Orientalism: West = materialistic / China = spiritual. Also it is always the "West" that is rapacious, an Asian country can never invade anyone else, expropriate their land, wipe out their culture or do any other bad thing, so the roel of the US in destroying Japan, even more effective than the Soviet Union's land grab in Manchuria, cannot be the cause of any liberation of China.

Then there are the white radical die-hards. They are just plain, old-fashioned romantics. They can't imagine that anyone other than a "a scheming, bloodthirsty opportunist" could have taken power and accomplished anything in the chaos that was China. They must be closet libetarians, who seem to think that if you just think good thoughts and play nice, a serene and prosperous liberal democracy will evolve all on its own. They are so romantic and clueless that they don't know that one of China's major problems is that it is not all one big sweatshop, with people making a survival wage; people in the inland provinces would give their left nut to get more sweatshops, and failing that have migrated illegally in swarms - the current estimate is something like 100 million - to coastal areas.

Andrew

"Also it is always the "West" that is rapacious, an Asian country can never invade anyone else, expropriate their land, wipe out their culture or do any other bad thing"

That doesn't sound right. After all, Seyron is talking about Japan's brutal invasion of China...

Merry

Er, speaking of historical revisionism, where on earth did you get your version of Chinese history? Three cheers for the Japanese for throwing out the Western Imperialists? If only dear, noble Chiang Kai-shek could have focused on the Japanese and not had to deal with the communist threat? Are you kidding me?

These modern day American Maoists are idiots, yes. Very true.

But there are not criticizing "Mao: The Untold Story" without good reason. The book is a rant, and one that one one hand relys too heavily on unnamed and undocumented sources and heresay, and on the other hand really does fail to take into account historical forces that lead to China's communist revolution.

I think that *we* can all agree that Mao was far more than 30% wrong (the official decree of today's CCP), but that doesn't change the fact that there is more to this history than Evil Communists and the Noble Nationalists who lost China.

Abiola Lapite

"Three cheers for the Japanese for throwing out the Western Imperialists?"

What a stupid and brazenly dishonest thing to say! Where have I given "three cheers" to Japan? Are you so ignorant you don't realize it was Japan which put an end to the Western enclaves in places like Shanghai? Clearly nothing in any way positive can be considered a side benefit of Japanese activities: next thing you know you'll be saying Japanese aggression had no effect on the Western colonial presence throughout East Asia ...

"If only dear, noble Chiang Kai-shek could have focused on the Japanese and not had to deal with the communist threat? Are you kidding me?"

Are YOU kidding ME? Which orifice you pulled that "dear, noble" crapola out of I don't know, but one has to be a total ignoramus to compare Chiang Kai-Shek even at his worst to the murderousness of Mao and company: just look at today's Taiwan against mainland China and tell me what the difference is.

"The book is a rant, and one that one one hand relys too heavily on unnamed and undocumented sources and heresay, and on the other hand really does fail to take into account historical forces that lead to China's communist revolution."

So say you, without providing a scintilla of evidence to back up your claims, and yet I'm supposed to believe you *why* exactly? While we're at it, "historical forces" also lead to the rise of Hitler and Stalin, but I doubt you'd be chastizing anyone who wrote critical books about them - or at least I hope you wouldn't ...

"there is more to this history than Evil Communists and the Noble Nationalists who lost China."

Again, the "Noble Nationalists" bit is entirely a fiction of your own imagination. Chiang Kai-Shek's government may have been rife with corruption and incompetence, but it was not a murderous totalitarian dictatorship which starved tens of millions of its own subjects, nor was it an aggressive hypernationalist regime which invaded Tibet, Korea, Vietnam and India, to name just a few of the modern victims of "peace-loving" Communist China. Finally, you know what's the worst thing of all about the Chinese Communist Party? It hasn't even managed to do any better at corruption than the Nationalists it spent the 1920s and 1930s destabilizing!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4728025.stm

PS: Communism *is* evil, as evil as National Socialism, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China count as Evil Empires, monstrous tyrannies which strive to crush the minds and spirits of hundreds of millions of people. Anyone who wants to argue otherwise is a loony as far as I'm concerned.

Andrew

"nor was it an aggressive hypernationalist regime which invaded Tibet, Korea, Vietnam and India"

Well, it might have become one if it had succeeded in taking over China. Until very recently, the official maps of the Republic of China still included Outer Mongolia, which is analogous to Tibet in having been under the control of the Qing dynasty and breaking away after 1912. If the KMT had won in China, the West may well have supported an attempt to bring Outer Mongolia out of the Soviet sphere. And I'm not aware of a reason why the KMT wouldn't have invaded Tibet, though I would agree that the KMT probably wouldn't have invaded Korea, Vietnam, or India.

About the book itself, almost all reviews I've seen have been very positive, with the sole exception of this one from the Independent on Sunday -

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/reviews/article224522.ece

Haven't read it myself so can't really judge. (I must say I'm not sure I have the appetite to wade through 832 pages of pure evil, though I really enjoyed Wild Swans.)

Abiola Lapite

"I'm not sure I have the appetite to wade through 832 pages of pure evil"

Though you're probably far too knowledgeable of Chinese history to be in need of the lessons such a book can provide, I do think there are quite a few people for which such a thing is called for, not all of whom are necessarily dupes or ignoramuses. Drawing from my own personal experience, for example, although I'd been aware of the incredible death toll of Stalin's reign of terror for many years, the sheer scale of the awfulness of it all didn't really hit me until I read Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago": suddenly all those nameless masses "disappearing" under the watch of agencies with acronyms like OGPU and NKVD became almost unbearably concrete, and from then on I could no longer stomach people who snootily dismissed Reagan's "Evil Empire" label for the Soviet Union as so much gauche "simplismé." Any book that can manage to do the same for CCP rule will be worth many times its weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.

J.Cassian

God, those people are cretins. Surely any academic who seriously believes in the Cultural Revolution is asking to be beaten up and tortured by their own students.

"until I read Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago": suddenly all those nameless masses "disappearing" under the watch of agencies with acronyms like OGPU and NKVD became almost unbearably concrete"

Yeah, the book that brought home what Maoism was all about for me was "Grass Soup" by Zhang Xianliang, the story of an intellectual sentenced to "re-education through labour" in a concentration camp during the Great Leap Forward. Having read that and other books I'd be tempted to say Maoist China was the most morally perverted and systematically idiotic regime in the whole of human history were it not for the existence of the Chairman's even more vicious and moronic disciple, Pol Pot.

Mad Minerva

To follow up on J. Cassian's comment...

For Cassian, the book was "Gulag Archipelago." For me, the book that illustrated the evil of Maoism was Nien Chang's "Life and Death in Shanghai." Some years ago I had the honor of meeting this remarkable woman, who had suffered terribly during the Cultural Revolution.

Maoist China was a dreadful place, of persecution in the cities and starvation in the countryside. But apparently not all the books like Nien Chang's or Jung Chang's "Wild Swans" will convince the Mao-lovers that their "hero" was a monster.

Mad Minerva

To follow up on J. Cassian's comment...

For Cassian, the book was "Gulag Archipelago." For me, the book that illustrated the evil of Maoism was Nien Chang's "Life and Death in Shanghai." Some years ago I had the honor of meeting this remarkable woman, who had suffered terribly during the Cultural Revolution.

Maoist China was a dreadful place, of persecution in the cities and starvation in the countryside. But apparently not all the books like Nien Chang's or Jung Chang's "Wild Swans" will convince the Mao-lovers that their "hero" was a monster.

Jim

"Also it is always the "West" that is rapacious, an Asian country can never invade anyone else, expropriate their land, wipe out their culture or do any other bad thing"

That doesn't sound right. After all, Seyron is talking about Japan's brutal invasion of China..."

....and ignoring the role of Westerners in ending that invasion, because Westerners cannot be capable of any noble action in the eyes of this little Han chauvinist.

Seyron F.

It is to my great surprise to see my comments provoking such criticism and ad homimen attacks. The comments I made in the SF Chronicle, if read carefully, reflect the sentiments of the elderly (hence, "according to the elderly I've met") not my own. The elderly I met in Singapore, who fled Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution, viewed some end to the humiliation of the Chinese.
At the same time, they fled for obvious reasons: the terror that Mao caused.

And I'm not at all neglecting the role of the United States (in response to Jim). If not for the United States, Japan would have continued its devastation all over the Pacific. However, in China, Mao's Communist did fight the Japanese (hence the use of the world "helped" in the original comment). The United States role in the Pacific and in Europe in WWII was decisive in ending the war.

In further response to other comments, I'm not an ABC.

As for my own opinion of Mao, I'm no fan (and certainly did not intend to convey that I am "Maoist defender). I do not subscribe to communism, and by extension Maoism.

As a final note, I'm a grateful, appreciative American citizen, certainly not the last of the Maoists.

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Notes for Readers