Unmasking the Monster

Unmasking the Monster

In 755 the Tang dynasty poet Tu Fu wrote about the corruptions of court life:

In the central halls there are fair goddesses; An air of perfume moves with each charming figure. They clothe their guests with warm furs of sable, Entertain them with the finest music and pipe and string, Feed them with the broth of camel’s pad, With pungent tangerines, and oranges ripened in frost. Behind the red-lacquered gates, wine is left to sour, meat to rot. Outside these gates lie the bones of the frozen and the starved. The flourishing and the withered are just a foot apart—It rends my heart to ponder on it.1

Twelve hundred, and four years later, on December 26, 1959, far from Peking in Zhejiang province, Mao Zedong celebrated his sixty-sixth birthday. At a banquet he did not attend there were eighty guests, eating what Mao’s doctor, Li Zhisui, described as “the finest, most expensive delicacies Chinese cuisine can offer.” These included bird’s-nest soup with baby doves, and shark’s fin soup. The commander of Mao’s security guards, Wang Jingxian, said to Dr. Li, “It’s shameful for us to be consuming such a feast…. So many people are starving to death.” The doctor recalls that outside the gates of Mao’s villa,

beyond the special privileges of the country’s leaders, the peasants of China were starving…. The deaths were now in the millions, and before the famine was over tens of millions would die. And as so many of my countrymen starved, I sat…celebrating the sixty-sixth birthday of the absent emperor Mao…. I lived in a world apart. We in Group One had no rules. There was no law. It was a paradise, free from restraint, subject only to the whim of Mao and the guilt that gnawed those of us whose consciences remained intact.

* * *

Mao is famous for saying that he was subject to neither “law nor god.” That is what Dr. Li’s astounding book is about. I say astounding deliberately. Dr. Li was Mao’s doctor for twenty-two years, and although it is not exactly true to say, as he does, that he saw Mao every day from 1954 until his death in 1976, he was with him most of the time as a truly intimate member of the inner court, of Group One, or the Swimming Pool (Mao spent much of his time in the building housing his private pool), and there is nothing about Mao that his doctor did not know. He never brushed his teeth or bathed; he transmitted venereal infections to his dozens or hundreds of young women; his wife Jiang Qing had six toes on her right foot; he fondled his handsome male guards; and he couldn’t sleep just before he did something especially horrible, either to a person or to the whole country.

I agree with the Columbia scholar Andrew Nathan, who writes in his introduction, “No other dictator has…been as intimately observed as Mao is in this memoir…. No authorized account offers a portrait of Mao that rings as true as Dr. Li’s. It is the most revealing book ever published on Mao, perhaps on any dictator in history.”

But is it true? Dr. Li’s account, in which he only rarely describes events where he was not present or conversations which he did not hear, can often be corroborated from the existing Mao literature. That he was constantly around Mao is proved by photographs taken over the years, including some of the most famous, of Mao in Tiananmen or Mao swimming, when Dr. Li was at his side. There are few surprises so far as major events such as the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution are concerned. When Dr. Li was there, or off-stage, or behind the door (as when Mao was holding mumbled conversations with Richard Nixon in 1972), what he reports is usually a decision by Mao that is now part of the historical record. But Dr. Li gives for the first time a day to day account of Mao’s attitudes toward people and events, and he provides fascinating details not previously reported.

Mao was a millionaire, says Dr. Li, one of the richest men in the country, from the sales of his Selected Works and his little red book of quotations. Mao believed that Edgar Snow, author of Red Star Over China and many other works that displayed his unique access to the Chairman, was a CIAagent. In 1959, while Deng Xiaoping was recovering from a broken leg, he made pregnant the special nurse Dr. Li had obtained for him.

The main problem in assessing Dr. Li’s evidence is his copious use of quotations (often with references to accompanying gestures) which he recalls from as long ago as fifty years. Between 1954 and 1966 he compiled forty volumes of notes; fearful that these would be found by Red Guards who were ransacking the quarters of those who served Mao, he burned them at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, the year after Mao’s death, he began composing what would come to be twenty more volumes. Dr. Li says, “Because Mao’s language was so colorful and vivid and deeply etched in my brain, I was able to recall verbatim much of what he had said.” This sounds far-fetched but still, Mao was Mao.

Dr. Li extends this total recall, however, to conversations with relatives, friends, and colleagues starting in 1949 up to Mao’s death in 1976, and he includes a great many quotations from them: “‘It’s been a long hard day,’ Luo Ruiqing said [in 1955], turning to us. ‘Be back here at six-thirty. Don’t be late.”’

Reading such quotations, one must be deeply skeptical. But the scholars who have worked with Dr. Li or have closely examined his account find his book convincing, quite apart from its quotations. These experts include Anne Thurston, a well-known writer on contemporary China, who meticulously edited the book during two years of collaboration with Dr. Li; his research assistant, Xu Yamin, whose own knowledge of the Cultural Revolution is extensive; and others who have met Dr. Li, such as the China specialist Emily MacFarquhar, or have read his book in the light of their own detailed knowledge of the period, such as Lucian Pye of MIT and Roderick MacFarquhar of Harvard.

* * *

Jiang Qing understood her husband only too well. Mao had already been married three times by the time he met her in 1937, and she knew his habits both personal and political. She told Dr. Li, “In the matter of political struggle, none of the Chinese and Soviet leaders can beat him. In the matter of his personal conduct, nobody can keep him in check either.” Wang Dongxing, the official in charge of Mao’s security, who was as close to Mao as his doctor, similarly commented, “Mao considers no one in the whole Communist party indispensable to the party except himself.”

Until recently most of the many studies of Mao and reports did not take this view. Other words were used to describe him, such as “heavenstorming,” “unique,” and “thoughtful.” Foreigners who met him often insisted that he was modest, warmhearted, even Lincolnesque. In 1981 the Party issued a carefully drawn up “Resolution” on Mao, whose composition was supervised by Deng Xiaoping in order to ensure it was not too destructive of the myth of the founding warrior-sage. The judgments in this document are surprisingly harsh, although it says that Mao “was a great Marxist and a great proletarian revolutionary, strategist, and theorist….His merits are primary and his errors secondary.” The Resolution says that during the ten years leading up to the Cultural Revolution, which happen to coincide with Dr. Li’s first ten years as his doctor, Mao’s “personal arbitrariness gradually undermined democratic centralism in Party life and the personality cult grew graver and graver.” As for the Cultural Revolution, between 1966 and 1976, the document describes it as the largest catastrophe for the Party, state, and people since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949; it says of this “error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration” that the “chief responsibility… does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong,” although it promptly adds that “after all, it was the error of a great proletarian revolutionary.”2

In China, few if any of the roughly eighty monographs published in this, Mao’s centennial year or the many anniversary articles come up to even this standard of judgment. The studies are cautious and one finds in them no criticism at all of Mao’s record in the years before 1958, the year when the official evaluation says that the “tragedy” of his regime began. Still, a reconsideration has begun and many taboo subjects can now be explored. Throughout the Eighties it was no longer a near-capital crime in China to damage a piece of paper bearing Mao’s picture or words, and until the last year or two no one wore a Mao badge. And new documents began to emerge.

Some Western scholars have been disturbed on reading them. Professor Benjamin Schwartz of Harvard, for example, who had devoted his scholarly career to examining Mao’s Thought with the care usually accorded serious philosophers, said in 1989 of some of Mao’s unedited remarks, which had recently come to light, “I will confess at the outset that, for this reader, a perusal of these hitherto unpublished, informal utterances of Chairman Mao…do not, on the whole, enhance his stature.” He wondered if Mao’s thought “had any autonomous inertial weight of its own…” apart from “the menacing and bullying tone of his sarcasm directed against individuals and groups.”3

Stuart Schram, now at Harvard, and the other leading Mao specialist, maintained that “despite the terrible cost of his reign, Mao did in some ways move the country forward,” and he called Mao “a modernizing despot.” More damningly, he writes that the “appalling catastrophes of his later years” arose from twenty-seven years of “faulty judgment, refusal to face the facts and errors caused by arrogance, impetuosity and vindictiveness towards those who dared to cross him.”4

Frederick Teiwes, a specialist on Party politics at Sydney University, writing in 1978, two years after Mao’s death, was one of the few scholars who portrayed “a Mao who dominated his colleagues.” More information began to appear in China, and it became increasingly common for Western scholars, Teiwes later wrote, to accept the image of “the imperial palace, of the emperor surrounded by anxious courtiers seeking to gain and retain his favour…based on a political culture of submissiveness [which] existed at both high and low levels within the CCP.”5

But by far the keenest early observer of Mao was Lucian Pye of MIT, who in 1976 wrote,

Throughout Mao’s career the most persistent pattern has been one of building and then breaking personal ties with associates, first with superiors and then with subordinates, and especially potent successors…. The…story of Mao’s falling out with colleagues is in fact the history of the Chinese Communist movement. For once Mao achieved some position of authority in the Party, he began a remarkable pattern of intimacy followed by abandonment.6

But what we see in Dr. Li’s book goes well beyond an imperial court and a culture of submissiveness and beyond Pye’s insights. Here Mao is clearly a monster—egomaniacal, oblivious to twentieth-century science, technology, and language, paranoid, cruel, cunning, deceitful, and a sexual predator. His redeeming qualities, such as his occasional great charm and simplicity, were mostly used to instill false confidence, create gratitude, or extract information.

* * *

Dr. Li left a job in Australia to return to China in 1949. He was chosen as Mao’s doctor in 1954 when he was only thirty-four and he adored Mao during the first few years he treated him; but from the beginning he feared him and before long came to despise him. By 1959, he says, “My dreams for China and the party had been destroyed. My image of Mao had been shattered. My only hope was to save myself.” He had worked for Mao only a few years; there were to be seventeen more.

Dr. Li found that Mao’s determination to have his own way had no limits: Mao was convinced that he was China and China was his. This explains Mao’s passion for swimming in dangerous rivers in the face of alarmed advice not to do so. Taking to the water was Mao’s show of infantile insistence on having his way no matter what; he could not imagine anything within Chinese life that he could not change. Here again Lucian Pye’s early analysis is perceptive. When dealing with Mao as the charismatic leader who told Edgar Snow that in human affairs there is always “the desire to be worshipped and the desire to worship.” Pye sees both dependency and narcissism. In infancy, “when the self has not been differentiated from others or from the environment…there is a confusion of impotence and helplessness…[the] hero’s joy in being worshipped barely masks his anxieties over being ignored.”7 The best Dr. Li can say for Mao is that he may not have known what the worst effects were of some of his policies—but the policies themselves could have led to nothing but disaster, especially because Mao created an atmosphere in which everyone constantly lied to him.

* * *

Dr. Li does not portray himself heroically in this book, although his stamina was remarkable, nor does he see himself as a man who maintained his moral sense while others were losing theirs. For the first few years he worked for Mao, he writes, “I still revered him. I had no independent will or opinions. What Mao thought, I thought. It was not that I had contrary opinions that I had to suppress or keep to myself. Mao’s opinions were mine. The possibility of differing with the Chairman never crossed my mind.” But even during this period Dr. Li felt he was being forced to attack colleagues

for my own survival and for the survival of my family. I had to lie. It was the only way to save my job and be promoted. I wanted, above all, to survive…. I know I would behave that way again. I felt I had no other choice…. If I were to return today and be asked to support the atrocities committed by the Chinese army on June 4, 1989, I would do so. Even today, the Communist party continues to demand that people attack the innocent. It requires people to pledge public support for policies with which they do not agree. Survival in China, then and now, depends on constantly betraying one’s conscience.

There is much truth here—Deng Xiaoping warned his own children to testify against him once he realized that he was about to be purged by Mao in 1966. But it must be said that a significant number of Chinese did not, and do not, behave this way.

Dr. Li came from a long line of rich Chinese doctors, although he received his own medical education under Western doctors at a hospital in western China. He was flattered to be asked to care for the highest Party leaders, and although uneasy he was even more flattered to be asked to look after Mao. “My whole world had changed. The sky had opened up and the earth had embraced me. I was no longer a nobody…. I was Chairman Mao’s doctor. I was ecstatic!” This was more than simple ambition. Dr. Li was very eager to show himself to be a patriotic Chinese. He was ashamed of his father, a high official under Chiang Kai-shek and a faithless husband. Because of this family history Dr. Li had undergone careful screening before he was allowed to join the Party in 1952. But having a “bad class background,” which in Mao’s China could be literally lethal, tormented Dr. Li throughout his time with the Chairman, who reminded him of it when they met and artfully earned his doctor’s groveling gratitude by assuring him—Mao often used forgiveness as a way of binding people to him—that it made no difference.

Almost immediately after joining Mao’s entourage he received a warning he never forgot. Ren Bishi, one of the top five officials in the Party, died in 1950, and soon after Dr. Li entered Mao’s entourage Ren’s widow told him that Mao “has a terrible temper and can turn mercilessly against you at the slightest provocation.” Even though she was the widow of a revolutionary hero, Dr. Li notes, for speaking to him like this “she could have been accused of being a counter-revolutionary, anti-party element….”

* * *

Dr. Li describes a dangerous psychopath. “…Mao had no friends and was isolated from normal human contact…. So far as I could tell, despite his initial friendliness at first meetings, Mao was devoid of human feeling, incapable of love, friendship, or warmth.” Dr. Li was sitting next to Mao at the Shanghai circus when a child acrobat fell and was badly hurt. The crowd was horrified, “Mao continued talking and laughing without concern, as though nothing had happened. Nor, to my knowledge, did he ever inquire about the fate of the young performer.”

Of course, Mao could be actively cruel, and on a large scale. At first, when Mao told Dr. Li that he didn’t believe in killing people, he thought the Chairman was a generous man who actually wanted his enemies to reform. Thus, for example, when Mao ordered “reform” for the “Rightists,” the intellectuals who in 1957 and 1958 had dared to criticize him when invited to do so, Dr. Li supported him. “Mao was good and the Communist party was good. They had saved China.” But he was to learn that 500,000 people had been “falsely accused” of being Rightists; and while “it is true that Mao did not kill his opponents right away,” the reforms—that is, backbreaking hard labor for long periods—”often meant a torturously slow and painful death.”

Later, Dr. Li heard Mao estimate that there were 30 million bad elements, counter-revolutionaries, rich peasants, and Rightists in China who would now be the objects of attack. “We have so many people,” Mao said. “We can afford to lose a few. What difference does it make?”

This was not mere hyperbole on Mao’s part. The historian of Party affairs, Dai Qing, told Perry Link of Princeton that at Yan'an, Mao’s headquarters during the guerrilla period between 1936 and 1947, “Chinese communists numbering as many as ten thousand and including ‘many excellent, independent-minded people,’ were accused of being ‘Trotskyites’ or ‘Nationalist agents’ and ‘eliminated by drowning, burying alive, or death in squalid prisons.”’8 This was the purge in which the father of Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans, was arrested. He was so terrified that he warned his wife not to weep while she was having a miscarriage. He gave her a handkerchief to stifle her sobs; if she did not her “comrades would say she was not worthy of ‘being in the revolution,’ even a coward.”9

* * *

In their remarkable new book on the meaning of Yan'an to those who remember and survived it, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic, David Apter of Yale and Tony Saitch of the University of Leiden observe that in the four key inner-Party struggles that took place in Yan'an while Mao was consolidating his power, “‘each…ended in the death or exile of Mao’s designated opponent. In each case his victory was complete.” As a result, “no one doubted where power lay and the consequences of standing up to it.” This created a culture of violence within the Party which Apter and Saitch argue dominates the thinking and feeling of the old men—Mao’s former comrades—who ordered the Tiananmen killings in 1989.

Locked into their historical memories they are plagued by guilty knowledge. For only they know what they have done to one another, both before Yan’an, when communist plotted against and killed communist as well as other enemies… and afterwards, when they came to power.”10

The inner circle “spent their lives lying, saying things weixinhua, against their hearts.”

Andrew Nathan in his book China’s Crisis writes that Bo Yibo, a high Party official, “was the only leader to admit publicly to a guilty conscience for anything that happened in the years since 1949.”11 In the most telling passage in their book, which sums up the experiences of those who cast their lot with Mao, Apter and Saitch describe China as “a country of angry widows. Each shift in the party produced its own legacy of such widows whose husbands were pulled down, humiliated, subjected to trials, committed suicide or died of beatings, or were atrophied by long prison sentences.”12

* * *

What is particularly fascinating about this cruelty is the extent to which it was necessary to lie about it, either by denying that it happened at all, covering up the causes, or in some way explaining that it was both exaggerated and necessary (as with the Tiananmen repression). But the 1958 Great Leap Forward, which the Party’s official 1981 statement on Mao now condemns, and which caused vast suffering to millions because of its consequent famine (of which the document, however, makes no mention) was based on contemporary lies. One of the biggest had to do with the efficacy of the notorious backyard furnaces which were irrationally constructed because Mao was determined that China must catch up with Britain in steel production within fifteen years. According to another false claim, stupendous increases in the production of grain would result only if new and, as it turned out, crazy agricultural methods were employed.

“History was being made,” Dr. Li recalls the mood of the time. “China had finally found the way from poverty to abundance. The salvation of the Chinese peasantry was at hand.”

Millions of Chinese were swept into melting household implements into nuggets which were arbitrarily called steel. “I was astounded,” recalls Dr. Li. “…I had no idea whether the ingots were of good-quality steel, but it did seem ridiculous.” Eventually even the scientifically ignorant Mao was forced to ask, “If these small backyard furnaces can really produce so much steel…why do foreigners build such gigantic steel mills. Are foreigners really so stupid?”

But the damage was done. China, as the doctor observes, had become possessed with a mass hysteria provoked by Mao, to which the Chairman himself succumbed. No one dared question the absurdity of the backyard furnaces—not Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai, or Liu Shaoqi. Everywhere Mao went on his imperial train he could see flames from the furnaces brightening the night sky. Male farmers left the fields, in which the harvest had been unusually good to tend the furnaces. Later, to disguise the disaster, it was claimed that the weather, in fact excellent, had been unusually bad. Although the women and elderly men left in the fields could not bring in the harvest, the figures on agricultural production given to Mao were obviously false but Mao—supposedly a repository of peasant wisdom—believed them. One of his secretaries, Tian Jiaying, who would commit suicide during the Cultural Revolution, said to Dr. Li—but not to Mao—”In the past, our party has always sought truth from facts, but this isn’t what we are doing now. People are telling lies, boasting. They have lost their sense of shame.” Tian blamed the Chairman himself, comparing him to an ancient king whose concubines all starved themselves to death because he wanted a slim consort. “When the master lets his preference be known, the servants pursue it with a vengeance.”

China had become a gigantic Potemkin Village. Another of Mao’s secretaries, Lin Ke, told Dr. Li that what Mao was seeing out the train window “was staged, a multi-act nationwide Chinese opera performed especially for Mao. The party secretaries ordered furnaces constructed everywhere along the rail route…” In Hubei province the Party secretary

ordered the peasants to remove the rice plants from faraway fields and transplant them along Mao’s route, to give the impression of a wildly abundant crop. The rice was planted so closely together that electric fans had to be set up around the fields to circulate air in order to prevent the plants from rotting…. And what was coming out of the backyard steel furnaces was useless…. The finished steel I had seen…was fake, delivered there from a huge, modern factory.

Dr. Li admits he did not believe Lin Ke, and one of the guards warned Lin that such talk was dangerous.

* * *

Although the 1958 harvest was potentially the greatest in history, by winter the displacement of peasant labor had caused serious food shortages. Crops lay in the fields and rotted because the women and children could not harvest them. And because the claims of high production had to be substantiated, many districts were giving all of their harvest to the state, much of which was then exported to the Soviet Union to pay off debts. “It was a question of face,” says Dr Li. “Mao could not admit that the communes Khrushchev had so vigorously opposed [during a secret visit to China in July 1958] were anything less than a success.” In that first ominous winter, when even those living within the supreme leaders’ compound in the Forbidden City, including the doctor’s family, began to starve, Mao held his sixty-sixth birthday party in the southeast. It was on this occasion that his guard commander remarked that the feast being served was a scandal with people starving just outside the walls.

Dr. Li’s narrative helps to explain what happened in China’s villages. In the book Chinese Village, Socialist State, there are details of what happened in Raoyang county where, only 120 miles south of Peking, temples and town and school walls were dismantled so their bricks could be used to construct kilns in which house gates and pillaged coffins from the rich were burned for fuel. Farmers were drawn from the fields to make useless lumps of metal. In Raoyang the harvest was excellent, but the crops rotted. Among other reasons the sickles had been melted down and the wheat had to be yanked out of the soil by people with bleeding hands. And yet villagers, as elsewhere in China, were compelled to send twice as much grain to the state as the previous year.

People starved to death [in Raoyang]…trapped and killed by a system promoting rapid progress toward communism…. The cruel treatment of individuals and their families who were branded as class enemies for pointing to hunger and disaster forced people and officials to swallow their cries.

Although people in Raoyang did not dig up corpses for food, as in neighboring regions, “the sound of politics had the ring of death. The countryside fell silent.”13

When he learned there were food shortages Mao gave up eating meat. But, says Dr. Li,

Mao’s greatest fear was not that food was short or that targets were too high or that backyard steel furnaces were wasting labor and producing worthless iron. He was afraid that the creative energies of the masses, unleashed by the Leap, would somehow be dampened. If he knew the country was careening toward disaster, he gave no hint. I did not really know either…I remained oblivious to the world outside.

This strikes a rare false note in the book. The doctor had heard what was going on from Mao’s secretaries and knew his own family was going hungry. His only explanation is that “I still thought the problems were temporary, a result of misreporting at the lower levels.” Elsewhere, however, he says that “Mao knew that people were dying by the millions. He didn’t care.” The doctor’s claim of obliviousness is puzzling.

* * *

In a recent article Richard Pipes of Harvard, writing about the ultimate failure of Soviet communism, makes two observations of particular relevance to the Chinese experience and to Mao in particular. Like the tsars, says Pipes, Lenin thought of his personal rule as “unconstrained by either constitution or representative bodies….the Soviet ruler claimed title to the country’s productive and income-producing wealth…. He also owned its people.” Pipes writes that “Lenin showed no human feelings…. A high Cheka official… stressed with unconcealed pride how Lenin ‘mercilessly made short shrift of philistine party members who complained of mercilessness of the Cheka, how he laughed at and mocked the “humanness” of the capitalist world.”’14 For his part Mao, according to Dr. Li,

had grandiose ideas of his place in history…. He was the greatest leader, the greatest emperor, of them all….His own greatness and China’s were intertwined. All of China was Mao’s to experiment with as he wished. Mao was China…. He was ruthless in disposing of his enemies. The life of his subjects was cheap.

This is why he was able to say on more than one occasion that if there were a nuclear war resulting in the death of tens of millions or even half the population “the country would suffer no great loss. We could produce more people.” Many members of his immediate family, including his second wife and two brothers died violently at the hands of Chiang Kai-shek’s executioners. One son was killed in Korea, and two children disappeared. Dr. Li says, “I never saw him express any emotion over those losses.” Perhaps Dr. Li does not know that one of Mao’s poems expresses deep sadness about the murder of his second wife.

Mao’s favorite rulers, whose biographies comprised much of his reading from the piles of books that littered his huge bed, and lined his study, were China’s most cruel emperors. Emperor Zhou of the eleventh century BC, for example, mutilated his enemies, but these and other excesses, including his habit of filling his swimming pool with wine, were negligible, said Mao, because the emperor “greatly expanded China’s territory.” Similarly, Emperor Qin in the third century BC, regarded by most Chinese as their history’s most brutal, was justified in the killing of his scholars, Mao insisted to Dr. Li, “because they got in the way of his efforts to unify China and build the Chinese empire.” As for Emperor Sui Yang, in the seventh century AD, who caused many to die in constructing the Grand Canal—he liked to have beautiful women pull his barge along it—Mao said that he, too, was “a great unifier.”

Having made such judgments, Mao could then permit himself an imperial style of life even while his subjects starved. An important element was the pose of simplicity which took in so many visitors. Edgar Snow, interviewing Mao for Red Star Over China, was impressed by his shabby clothes, his taste for ordinary food, and his habit of reaching into his baggy trousers to scratch himself. Even in those days nothing aroused Mao’s fury more than having someone mention the hypocrisy of this seeming simplicity and call attention to the greedy reality. At Yan'an the essayist Wang Shiwei fell foul of Mao and was finally executed, with the Chairman’s implicit approval, for saying: “The ‘great masters’ take ‘inevitability’ as an excuse for being very lenient with themselves…. men with heavier responsibilities ought to share the life-style of lower level comrades….”15

The only other man who dared confront Mao about his personal life was Marshal Peng Dehuai, one of the greatest of the revolutionary commanders, and according to Dr. Li “the most honest man on the politburo, the only top leader who consistently dared to confront Mao. He accused him of behaving like an emperor, with a harem of three thousand concubines.” In 1959 Peng paid a high price for such frankness. He was accused of being a “bourgeois democrat,” and disgraced until his posthumous rehabilitation in 1978. “I knew Peng was not an enemy of the party,” writes Dr. Li. “I knew him to be a good and honest man.”

* * *

The imperial Mao lived in great seclusion and great comfort, often, as Pipes also showed with Soviet rulers, behaving in much the same way as his imperial predecessors. He paid little attention to time. His movements were unpredictable and kept secret. When he traveled by train, all rail traffic on the line was diverted for days if not weeks. When Mao flew, all other planes were grounded. His food, which came from a special farm near Peking, was shipped to him wherever he was in China. Because Mao was deeply paranoid it was always tested for poison. He rarely met the other top leaders—it is not true, as was supposed by some experts until now, that until the late 1950s they met somewhat like the knights of the Round Table with Mao first among equals. He usually communicated with them by sending written orders, and he spied on them constantly. Contrary to a widespread impression, Zhou Enlai was, in Mao’s presence, a groveling yes-man.

The Chairman never bathed, preferring to be rubbed down with a hot towel by one of his handsome guards, whom he occasionally fondled sexually. (Dr. Li asserts that Mao had “an insatiable appetite for any form of sex.”) He never brushed his teeth, which appeared to be covered with green lacquer and oozed pus. “Everything was done for Mao,” says the doctor. “He never had to raise a hand, never put on his own socks or shoes or trousers, never combed his own hair.” Wang Dongxing, his security chief, said, “To serve Mao, then, is to serve the people, isn’t it?”

He was addicted to sleeping pills and spent weeks and months in bed, often in a state of depression which exhibited itself in insomnia, dizziness, itching, impotence, and anxiety attacks. Dr. Li believed such disorders, which he calls “neurasthenia,” were a “peculiarly communist disease, the result of being trapped in a system with no escape” (the doctor himself was often ill). Mao’s particular neurasthenia, which Dr. Li also calls depression, arose from “his continuing fear that other ranking leaders were not loyal to him…” Until he had settled in his mind how his enemies were to be destroyed Mao could not sleep.

One of the ways Mao attempted to rid himself of depression, foil impotence, and generally indulge himself was to have a great many sexual partners, invariably very young, pretty, and uneducated. This was well known among the inner circle, a few of whose members gave Harrison Salisbury enough information for him to write about it two years ago in The New Emperors. One of Salisbury’s sources was Li Rui, a secretary of Mao’s. But when Dr. Li appeared on a BBC film last year for a little more than two minutes and spoke of Mao’s sexual habits, the government in Peking was outraged. Several BBC reporters were banned from China, and Rupert Murdoch, who is eager to do business in the People’s Republic, dropped all BBC programs from his TV network based in Hong Kong.

* * *

Even when Mao was old, fat, gross in his personal habits, and continually promiscuous, the young women who were brought into his service felt they had been chosen for “an incomparable honor, beyond their most extravagant dreams.” As with the emperors, Mao’s courtiers knew his tastes, and wherever he went he was supplied with women, sometimes from official acting and dancing troupes, sometimes from the servants who were carefully selected to work on his trains and in his villas. “They never loved Mao in the conventional sense. They loved him rather as their great leader, their teacher and savior, and most knew the liaison would be temporary.” One of them said to Dr. Li, “The Chairman is such an interesting person…. But he cannot tell the difference between one’s love of him as the leader and love of him as a man. Isn’t that funny?”

Mao studied texts of the Daoists—followers of Zhuang Tze and Lao Tze—describing a variety of sexual practices that were said to increase orgasmic pleasure, and he recommended them to his nearly illiterate companions, who begged Dr. Li to help them with the difficult classical language. One of Mao’s young concubines told Dr. Li, “He is great at everything— simply intoxicating.” Mao loved dancing parties and after an hour or two with a new partner would take her into one of the rooms which was always ready for this purpose when he wasn’t at home in his huge bed. Room 118, the Beijing Room, in Peking’s Great Hall of the People, was reserved for Mao’s sexual encounters in case there was a state occasion that required his presence.

Mao believed the Daoists were right when they advocated that men have as many sexual partners as possible, and that they absorb the woman’s secretions, ejaculating only rarely. “He encouraged his partners to introduce him to others for shared orgies, allegedly in the interest of his longevity and strength.” Wang Dongxing, the security chief, was outraged at some of Mao’s antics. After Mao had indulged himself with two sisters he said, “If the girls’ mother were still alive, the Chairman would have her, too…” But Wang also saw the Chairman’s sexual adventures as “a fear of death…leading Mao to grab as many young women as he could.”

* * *

Here again we see Mao’s dangerous combination of scientific ignorance, egomania, and cruelty. Dr. Li says that venereal infections were common within the Chairman’s entourage, and that Mao had genital herpes as well. Once Mao was infected he spread the venereal diseases to the women he slept with and then sent the women to Dr. Li for treatment. “But treating Mao’s women did not solve the problem. Because Mao was the carrier, the epidemic could be stopped only if he received treatment himself. I wanted him to halt his sexual activities until the drugs had done their work.”

Mao simply scoffed. “If it’s not hurting me,” he said, “then it doesn’t matter. Why are you getting so excited about it?”

The doctor suggested that at least Mao should wash himself. “His genitals were never cleaned. But Mao refused to to bathe. ‘I wash myself inside the bodies of my women,’ he retorted…. Mao remained a carrier the rest of his life.”

Mao had always mixed sex with brutality and political persecution. Dai Qing has written about his sexual promiscuity at Yan'an and his punishment of those who condemned him for such habits. Agnes Smedley, the radical American journalist at Yan'an, told Edgar Snow that in 1937, when Mao was married to his third wife, He Zizhen, he was already involved with the actress Lily Wu. One night He Zizhen surprised Mao creeping into Wu’s cave. He Zizhen was not a person who would easily tolerate betrayal. She was one of the few women to have survived the Long March, and she had been forced to abandon two of her and Mao’s children. She began beating Mao with a flashlight. She also accused Smedley, an “Imperialist,” of arranging the assignation and hit her as well. “Not one to turn the other cheek, Smedley flattened Mrs. Mao with a single punch.”

Pleading that he and Lily were just chatting, Mao told his wife, “You’re acting like a rich woman in a bad American movie.” But the event caused a scandal in Yan'an. People asked if Mao “can’t control his own wife, what sort of order can he impose on other people?” The Central Committee treated the quarrel as “a secret matter.” Lily Wu was banished. Mao asked the Central Committee for permission to divorce He Zizhen. According to Snow, many of the Yan'an wives wanted to save her, but the Central Committee “made a quick and simple decision…. Mao’s wife was reprimanded for acting inappropriately for a Communist and revolutionary.” She was sent to Moscow “for continued ‘political education.’ ” In fact she underwent psychiatric treatment as a schizophrenic at the hands of Stalin’s specialists.16 The following year Mao married Jiang Qing, who years later confessed to Dr. Li that she lived in dread that Mao would abandon her.

In 1961 He Zizhen was reunited for a few minutes with Mao at a mountain retreat. He had been supporting her in a house in Shanghai. When she saw Mao her face lit up. “He gave her a little hug,” and soon she lapsed into incoherence and left. The doctor describes the event as an unusual example of Mao being kind. He asked Dr. Li what was wrong with his ex-wife and learned that, like Mao’s surviving son, Anqing, she was “schizophrenic.” Mao had never heard of it. He commented only that He Zizhen “is so old.” The only other time Dr. Li ever saw him in a nostalgic mood was the next year, 1962, when the very first woman Mao had ever slept with, fifty years before, was taken to meet him. He had given He Zizhen 1000 yuan. He gave the earlier lover 2000 and again commented on how old she looked.

Dr. Li was holding Mao’s hand when he died on September 9, 1976. “I felt no sorrow at his passing.” The doctor was filled with dread. For allowing the bloated, diseased tyrant to die he could be executed. Instead, he had to oversee the grotesque taxidermy which produced the corpse now lying in Tiananmen Square. In the cellar of the mausoleum, he tells us, is an exact copy in wax. If the stuffed Mao decomposes, he can be slid away and the Big Lie can continue.

Is it possible after reading Dr. Li’s book to regard Mao with anything except horror and rage, mixed with curiosity that such a person could, through the skillful use of propaganda and terror, have stayed in power? Richard Pipes finds it intolerable to consider the calamity of Soviet Bolshevism with dispassion. He agrees with Aristotle: “Those who are not angry at things they should be angry at are deemed fools.”17 And it would, indeed, be foolish not to be angry at the death, suffering, and deception caused by the most destructive tyrant in recorded history.

  1. William Hung, Tu Fu: China's Greatest Poet (Harvard University Press, 1952), p. 88.
  2. BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, July 2, 1981, FE/6764/pp. C/21, C/12, C/15.
  3. Roderick MacFarquhar, Timothy Cheek, and Eugene Wu, editors, The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forward (Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 19, 21. Reviewed in these pages, June 29, 1989.
  4. Stuart Schram, "Mao Zedong a Hundred Years On: The Legacy of a Ruler," The China Quarterly, No. 137 (March 1994), pp. 143, 135.
  5. Politics and Purges in China: Rectification and the Decline of Party Norms, 1950–1965, second edition (M.E. Sharpe, 1993), pp. xv, lxii, lxiii.
  6. Lucian W. Pye, Mao Tse-Tung: The Man in the Leader (Basic Books, 1976), pp. 271–272.
  7. Pye, Mao Tse-Tung: The Man in the Leader, pp. 12, 13.
  8. Perry Link, Evening Chats in Beijing (Norton, 1993), p. 145. For a recent description of the Yan'an persecutions see Dai Qing, Wang Shiwei and 'Wild Lilies': Rectification and Purges in the Chinese Communist Party, 1942–1944 (M.E. Sharpe, 1994).
  9. Wild Swans (Flamingo, 1993), p. 192.
  10. Harvard University Press, 1994, pp. 35, 292, 29.
  11. Columbia University Press, 1990, p. 13.
  12. David Apter and Tony Saitch, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's Republic, p. 20.
  13. Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, Mark Selden, editors, Chinese Village, Socialist State (Yale University Press, 1991), p. 240; reviewed in these pages, March 23, 1993.
  14. Richard Pipes, "Did The Russian Revolution Have to Happen?" The American Scholar (Spring 1994), pp. 229–230.
  15. Dai Qing, Wang Shiwei, pp. 17, 19.
  16. Janice R. MacKinnon and Stephen R. MacKinnon, Agnes Smedley: The Life and Times of an American Radical (University of California Press, 1988), pp. 190–191.
  17. Pipes, "Did the Russian Revolution Have to Happen?" p. 23.
Jonathan Mirsky was born in New York in 1932 and educated at Columbia University, Cambridge University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught Chinese and Vietnamese history, Comparative...

Reviewed in This Article

The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician, Dr. Li Zhisui
translated by Tai Hung-chao, with the editorial assistance of Anne F. Thurston, foreword by Andrew J. Nathan
Random House, 682 pp.

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This article was first published in the November 17, 1994 issue of the New York Review of Books.



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On Fang Lizhi (1936–2012)

Perry Link
Fang Lizhi, a distinguished professor of astrophysics, luminary in the struggle for human rights in contemporary China, and frequent contributor to The New York Review, died suddenly on the morning of April 6. At age seventy-six he had not yet...

Debacle in Beijing

Ian Johnson
The story of a blind Chinese lawyer’s flight to the US Embassy in Beijing is likely to ignite accusations and recriminations until the US presidential election in November. But what few will acknowledge is a harsher truth: that for all our desire to...

Beijing Dilemma: Is Chen Guangcheng the Next Fang Lizhi?

Perry Link
The Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng, blind since childhood, self-taught in the law, defender of women’s rights to resist forced abortion, thorn in the side of local despots in his home district of Linyi in Shandong province, veteran of a four-year...

Bringing Censors to the Book Fair

Jonathan Mirsky
When I arrived at the London Book Fair on Monday, I saw a huge sign outside showing a cute Chinese boy holding an open book with the words underneath him: “China: Market Focus.” The special guest of this year’s fair was the Chinese Communist Party’s...

‘Worse Than the Cultural Revolution’

Ian Johnson
Tian Qing may be China’s leading cultural heritage expert. A scholar of Buddhist musicology and the Chinese zither, or guqin, the sixty-four-year-old now heads the Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center, an institution set up by the...

A Master in the Shadows

Jonathan D. Spence
How should one assess the best ways to survive in a revolution? What exactly is the tipping point between obedience and outright sycophancy? When does one try to hold on to the values that gave meaning to one’s upbringing, and when is it best to...

China’s Death-Row Reality Show

Jonathan Mirsky
Until it was taken off the air last December, one of the most popular television programs in China’s Henan province, which has a population of 100 million, was “Interviews Before Execution.” The presenter was Ding Yu, a pretty young woman, always...

China’s Falling Star

Ian Johnson
In China, the year is traditionally divided into periods based on the moon’s orbit around the earth and the sun’s path across the sky. This lunisolar calendar is laden with myths and celebrated by rituals that allowed Chinese to mark time and make...

Learning How to Argue

Ian Johnson
One of China’s most outspoken public intellectuals, Ran Yunfei was detained last year after calls went out for China to emulate the “Jasmine Revolution” protests sweeping North Africa. He was held without trial for six months until last August...

The Chinese Are Coming!

Richard Bernstein
The day after the Russian parliamentary elections in early December, the Chinese publication Global Times, an English-language newspaper and website managed by People’s Daily, the official organ of the Communist Party official, ran an editorial on...

He Told the Truth About China’s Tyranny

Simon Leys
Better than the assent of the crowd: The dissent of one brave man!—Sima Qian (145–90 BC)Records of the Grand HistorianTruth will set you free.—Gospel according to JohnThe economic rise of China now dominates the entire landscape of international...

Is Democracy Chinese?

Ian Johnson
Chang Ping is one of China’s best-known commentators on contemporary affairs. Chang, whose real name is Zhang Ping, first established himself in the late 1990s in Guangzhou, where his hard-hitting stories exposed scandals and championed freedom of...

Notes from a Chinese Cave: Qigong’s Quiet Return

Ian Johnson
Lift up your head Calm your eyes Look far away, as far as you can Look beyond the walls What do you see?The Jinhua caves are located in a wooded, hilly area about 200 miles southwest of Shanghai. The most famous cave, Double Dragon Cave, is entered...

The New York Review of Books China Archive

Welcome to the New York Review of Books China Archive, a collaborative project of and The New York Review of Books. In the archive you will find a compilation of full-length essays and book reviews on China dating from the Review'...

Banned in China

Jonathan Mirsky
In late December, a foreign correspondent in Beijing emailed me to say that a four-page article on China I’d written for a special New Year’s edition of Newsweek had been carefully torn from each of the 731 copies of the magazine on sale in China...

China Gets Religion!

Ian Johnson
This autumn, China has been marking the one hundredth anniversary of the collapse of its last imperial dynasty, the Qing, with a series of grand celebrations. The government has released an epic film showing how the revolution of 1911 prepared the...

Do China’s Village Protests Help the Regime?

Ian Johnson
Over the past two weeks, the Western press has focused on a striking story out of China: a riveting series of protests in Wukan, a fishing village in the country’s prosperous south. The story is depressingly familiar: Corrupt cadres sell off public...

The Real Deng

Fang Lizhi
When a scientific experiment uncovers a new phenomenon, a scientist is pleased. When an experiment fails to reveal something that the scientist originally expected, that, too, counts as a result worth analyzing. A sense of the “nonappearance of the...

My ‘Confession’

Fang Lizhi
From reading Henry Kissinger’s new book On China,1 I have learned that Mr. Kissinger met with Deng Xiaoping at least eleven times—more than with any other Chinese leader—and that the topic of one of their chats was whether Fang Lizhi would confess...

Making It Big in China

Jonathan Mirsky
Jianying Zha describes China as “way too big a cow for anyone to tackle in full.” Therefore, Ms. Zha says, she omits “the rural life, the small-town stories, the migrants working in huge manufacturing plants…continued poverty in parts of interior...

Are China’s Rulers Getting Religion?

Ian Johnson
With worsening inflation, a slowing economy, and growing concerns about possible social unrest, China’s leaders have a lot on their plates these days. And yet when the Communist Party met at its annual plenum earlier this week, the issue given...

From Tenderness to Savagery in Seconds

Ian Buruma
Much nonsense has been written about the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking. We know this much: in December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army, after taking the Chinese Nationalist capital of Nanjing, went on a six-week rampage,...

China’s Tibetan Theme Park

Richard Bernstein
In the international press, China’s tensions with Tibet are often traced to the Chinese invasion of 1950 and Tibet’s failed uprising of 1959. But for the Chinese themselves, the story goes back much further—at least to the reign of Kangxi, the Qing...

China’s ‘Liberation’ of Tibet: Rules of the Game

Robert Barnett
Much of the talk about Vice President Joe Biden’s four-day visit to China last week centered on the man who hosted him: Xi Jinping, expected to become the country’s next president in 2012. Biden’s office has said that the principal purposes of his...

‘I’m Not Interested in Them; I Wish They Weren’t Interested in Me’

Ian Johnson
Amid the recent crackdown on dissidents by the Chinese government, the case of Liao Yiwu, the well-known poet and chronicler of contemporary China, is particularly interesting. For years, Liao’s work, which draws on extensive interviews with...

Murdoch’s Chinese Adventure

Jonathan Mirsky
During a Parliamentary hearing last week in London, the Murdochs, father and son, riveted television audiences with their combination of wide-eyed, hand-on-heart innocence (James), and long silences and “Yups” and “Nopes” (Rupert). After the elder...

China’s Political Prisoners: True Confessions?

Jonathan Mirsky
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s ankle-deep heap of porcelain sunflower seeds bewitched recent visitors to London’s Tate Modern. But in early April Ai’s strong criticisms of the regime led to his disappearance somewhere in Beijing. On June 22, eighty-...

The High Price of the New Beijing

Ian Johnson
One recent weekend, I went for a walk through the alleys around the Qianmen shopping district, once Beijing’s commercial heart and still home to nationally known traditional shops. One of its chief side streets, Dazhalan, had been turned into a Ye...

The Past and the Future

Fang Lizhi
Concerning the Past:I have maintained that China should move forward with the reform of society. In many speeches before 1988, I openly expressed my advocacy of reform in China.I acknowledge that the following are my principal views:Marxism—whether...

Kissinger and China

Jonathan D. Spence
It is hard to fit Henry Kissinger’s latest book, On China, into any conventional frame or genre. Partly that is because the somewhat self-deprecatory title conceals what is, in fact, an ambitious goal: to make sense of China’s diplomacy and foreign...

China’s Glorious New Past

Ian Johnson
I first went to Datong in 1984 and was immediately taken by this gritty city in China’s northern Shanxi Province. Along with half a dozen classmates from Peking University, I traveled eight hours on an overnight train, arriving in a place that felt...

Will There Be a ‘Duel of Dalai Lamas’?

Jonathan Mirsky
On March 10 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama made front-page news throughout the world by saying,As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have...

Quality of Life: India vs. China

Amartya Sen
The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s over 10...

Recharging Chinese Art

Jonathan D. Spence
Retirement was not usually a concept of pressing concern to Chinese emperors. Succession and survival were normally quite enough to keep them occupied, and death—when it came—was often unexpected and frequently brutal. But Emperor Qianlong, who...

China Misunderstood: Did We Contribute to Ai Weiwei’s Arrest?

Ian Johnson
Like many artists, Ai Weiwei enjoys provoking. It isn’t just his finger-to-the-Chinese-government images that he has become known for but also how he does it: his obsessive-compulsive documentation of himself in photos, blogs, tweets, and rants into...

On the Sacred Mountain

Pico Iyer
A powerful, unexpected scene suddenly surfaces near the beginning of Colin Thubron’s characteristically beautiful, though uncharacteristically haunted, new book of travel. As he walks through the mountains of Nepal, toward the holy peak of Mount...

How China Fears the Middle East Revolutions

Perry Link
Chinese authorities have done what they can to stop news—and worse, from their point of view, any influence—of Tunisian and Egyptian people-power from spreading to China. They have been worrying especially about what social media like Twitter and...

The Secret Politburo Meeting Behind China’s New Democracy Crackdown

Perry Link
In an NYRblog post on February 17 (“Middle East Revolutions: The View from China”), I discussed Chinese government’s efforts to block news of the democracy uprisings spreading across the Middle East and speculated how China’s rulers might view those...

Middle East Revolutions: The View from China

Perry Link
Chinese authorities have done what they can to block news of Egyptian people-power from spreading to China. Reports about Egypt in China’s state-run media have been brief and vacuous. On February 6, at the height of the protests, the People’s Daily...

The Worst Man-Made Catastrophe, Ever

Roderick MacFarquhar
When the first waves of Chinese graduate students arrived on American campuses in the early 1980s, they were excited at entering an unfettered learning environment. After the recent ravages of the Cultural Revolution, political science students had...

China: From Famine to Oslo

Perry Link
Each year around the “sensitive” anniversary of the Beijing massacre of June 4, 1989, Ding Zilin, a seventy-four-year-old retired professor of philosophy, is accompanied by a group of plainclothes police whenever she leaves her apartment to go buy...

Finding the Facts About Mao’s Victims

Ian Johnson
Yang Jisheng is an editor of Annals of the Yellow Emperor, one of the few reform-oriented political magazines in China. Before that, the seventy-year-old native of Hubei province was a national correspondent with the government-run Xinhua news...

At the Nobel Ceremony: Liu Xiaobo’s Empty Chair

Perry Link
On December 10, I attended the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, for the Nobel Peace Prize, which the government of China had a few days earlier declared to be a “farce.” The recipient was a friend of mine, the Chinese scholar and essayist Liu Xiaobo...

Unveiling Hidden China

Christian Caryl
Napoleon famously described China as a sleeping giant that would shake the world when it finally awoke. Well, now the giant is up and about, and the rest of us can’t help but notice. 2010, indeed, could well end up being remembered as the year when...

A Hero of Our Time

Jonathan Mirsky
On October 8, Liu Xiaobo became the first Chinese to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and one of only three winners ever to receive it while in prison. The Oslo committee had already received a warning from Beijing not to give Liu the prize because he...

How Reds Smashed Reds

Jonathan Mirsky
July and August 1966, the first months of the ten-year Cultural Revolution, were the summer of what Andrew Walder, a sociologist at Stanford, calls “The Maoist Shrug.” Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, told high school Red Guards, “We do not advocate...

A Very Superior ‘Chinaman’

Richard Bernstein
Charlie Chan, the fictitious Chinese-American detective from Hawaii, makes his first appearance in the movie Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) looking out the window of an airplane while flying over the Pyramids and the Sphinx. We next see him, looking...

Rumblings of Reform in Beijing?

Ian Johnson
Over the past six weeks, China’s thin class of the politically aware has been gripped by a faint hope that maybe, against all odds, some sort of political opening might be in the cards this year. Monday’s conclusion of a key Communist Party meeting...

‘A Turning Point in the Long Struggle’: Chinese Citizens Defend Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link
It would be hard to overstate how much the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo on October 8 has meant to China’s community of dissidents, bloggers, and activists. Not only has it lifted their spirits tremendously; many also view it as a...

A Hero of the China Underground

Howard W. French
As a poet and chronicler of other people’s lives, Liao Yiwu is a singular figure among the generation of Chinese intellectuals who emerged after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Unlike the leaders of Beijing’s student movement, people like...

The Question of Pearl Buck

Jonathan D. Spence
The announcement by the Swedish Academy in November 1938 that Pearl Buck had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature was met with sarcasm and even derision by many writers and critics. They were not impressed that this was the third choice by...

Jailed for Words: Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Jonathan Mirsky
On October 8, Liu Xiaobo became the first Chinese to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and one of only three winners ever to receive it while in prison. The Oslo committee had already received a warning from Beijing not to give Liu the prize because he...

Beijing’s Bluster, America’s Quiet: The Disturbing Case of Xue Feng

Richard Bernstein
Quiet diplomacy, as it’s called, has served for years as the principle guiding U.S. relations with China: the theory is that it is far better to engage the Chinese government quietly, behind the scenes, rather than through more robust public...

The Party: Impenetrable, All Powerful

Ian Johnson
In the next few weeks, an event will take place in Beijing on a par with anything dreamed up by a conspiracy theorist. A group of roughly three hundred men and women will meet at an undisclosed time and location to set policies for a sixth of...

Booming China, Migrant Misery

Richard Bernstein
At the beginning of September, a Beijing criminal court announced a decision that called attention to the difficult and sometimes tragic circumstances of millions of migrant workers in China who have left their countryside homes to work for low...

Waiting for WikiLeaks: Beijing’s Seven Secrets

Perry Link
While people in the U.S. and elsewhere have been reacting to the release by WikiLeaks of classified U.S. documents on the Afghan War, Chinese bloggers have been discussing the event in parallel with another in their own country. On July 21 in...

The Message from the Glaciers

Orville Schell
It was not so long ago that the parts of the globe covered permanently with ice and snow, the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greater Himalayas (“the abode of the snows” in Sanskrit), were viewed as distant, frigid climes of little consequence. Only the most...

Talking About Tibet: An Open Dialogue Between Chinese Citizens and the Dalai Lama

Perry Link
Following is an English translation of an Internet dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese citizens that took place on May 21. The exchange was organized by Wang Lixiong, a Chinese intellectual known for his writing on Tibet and for theorizing...

Brutalized in China

Jonathan Mirsky
She wonders if this is what people call falling in love, the desire to be with someone for every minute of the rest of her life so strong that sometimes she is frightened of herself.“She” is Granny Lin, a fifty-one-year-old Chinese woman who has...

The Triumph of Madame Chiang

Jonathan D. Spence
Charlie Soong, born in 1866, was a new kind of figure in Chinese history, an independent-minded youngster with an openness to the world who came to Boston from Hainan Island at the age of twelve to work in a store. At fourteen he stowed away on a...

Locked Out: Beijing’s Border Abuse Exposed

Perry Link
On February 12, Chinese human rights campaigner Feng Zhenghu was allowed to return to Shanghai after a 92-day stay in diplomatic limbo at the Tokyo Narita airport. Having left China last April to visit family in Japan, Feng, who is a Chinese citizen...

What Beijing Fears Most

Perry Link
On December 29, four days after being sentenced to eleven years in prison for “subversion of state power,” the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo filed an appeal to a higher court. For many familiar with the Chinese regime, the decision seemed quixotic: it...

The Trial of Liu Xiaobo: A Citizens’ Manifesto and a Chinese Crackdown

Perry Link
One year ago, the Chinese literary critic and political commentator Liu Xiaobo was taken away from his home in Beijing by the Chinese police, who held him without charge for six months, then placed him under formal arrest for six more months, on the...

Copenhagen: China’s Oppressive Climate

Perry Link
As the UN’s Climate Change Conference opens in Copenhagen this week, much attention will focus on China and the United States, who are, by a wide margin, the world’s two leading emitters of greenhouse gases. The success of the conference will depend...

Specters of a Chinese Master

Jonathan D. Spence
1.Luo Ping, who lived from 1733 to 1799, was perfectly placed by time and circumstance to view the shifts in fortune that were so prominent in China at that period. He grew up in Yangzhou, a prosperous city on the Grand Canal, just north of the...

China: The Fragile Superpower

Christian Caryl
Some China watchers believe that China’s dramatically rising prosperity will inevitably make the country more open and democratic. President Barack Obama’s highly-scripted trip this week provided little to support that claim. As The Washington Post...

The Empire of Sister Ping

Richard Bernstein
The headquarters of what was once the global people-smuggling operation of Cheng Chui Ping, aka Sister Ping, who is serving thirty-five years at a federal prison for women in Danbury, Connecticut, is now the Yung Sun seafood restaurant at 47 East...

China’s Boom: The Dark Side in Photos

Orville Schell
I have seen some woeful scenes of industrial apocalypse and pollution in my travels throughout China, but there are very few images that remain vividly in my mind. This is why the photographs of Lu Guang are so important. A fearless documentary...

The Enigma of Chiang Kai-shek

Jonathan D. Spence
Back in 1975, when he died in Taiwan at the age of eighty-seven, it was easy to see Chiang Kai-shek as a failure, as a piece of Chinese flotsam left awkwardly drifting in the wake of Mao Zedong’s revolutionary victories. Now it is not easy to be so...

Obama’s Bad Bargain with Beijing

Perry Link
As the echoes of China’s spectacular military parade on October 1 were subsiding, officials in the Obama administration, in quieter settings in Washington, D.C., were telling representatives of the Dalai Lama that the president was not going to meet...

China at 60: Who Owns the Guns

Perry Link
The most striking feature of China’s October 1 celebration of sixty years of Communist rule was the spectacular and tightly choreographed military parade in the center of Beijing. The display of crass militarism—paralleled only by parades in...

China’s Dictators at Work: The Secret Story

Jonathan Mirsky
Prisoner of the State is the secretly recorded memoir of Zhao Ziyang, once holder of China’s two highest Party and state positions and the architect of the economic reforms that have brought the country to the edge of great-power status. The book...

The Mystery of Zhou Enlai

Jonathan D. Spence
{vertical_photo_right}Through the ups and downs of the unpredictable Chinese Revolution, Zhou Enlai’s reputation has seemed to stand untarnished. The reasons for this are in part old-fashioned ones: in a world of violent change, not noted for its...

‘A Hell on Earth’

Pico Iyer
“The situation inside Tibet is almost like a military occupation,” I heard the Dalai Lama tell an interviewer last November, when I spent a week traveling with him across Japan. “Everywhere. Everywhere, fear, terror. I cannot remain indifferent.”...

The Death and Life of a Great Chinese City

Richard Bernstein
Judging from the evidence of Michael Meyer’s portrait of life in a narrow backstreet of Beijing as China prepared for the Olympic Games, old Beijing has been vanishing for a very long time. “Peking you simply would not be able to recognize except by...

The China We Don’t Know

Jonathan Mirsky
In the late 1990s, Chinese peasants in the village of Da Fo, many of whom between 1959 and 1961 had survived the twentieth century’s greatest famine, felt free enough to install shrines to Guangong, the traditional war god of resistance to...

China’s Charter 08

Liu Xiaobo, Perry Link
The document below, signed by more than two thousand Chinese citizens, was conceived and written in conscious admiration of the founding of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, where, in January 1977, more than two hundred Czech and Slovak intellectuals...

An Asian Star Is Born

Christian Caryl
Ian Buruma’s life would itself make a nice subject for a novel. His father was Dutch; his mother was British, from a family that emigrated from Germany in the nineteenth century; as an undergraduate in the Netherlands he focused on Chinese...

The Passions of Joseph Needham

Jonathan D. Spence
It is now a little over four hundred years since a scattering of Westerners first began to try to learn the Chinese language. Across that long span, the number of scholars studying Chinese has grown, but their responses to the challenges of Chinese...

China: Humiliation & the Olympics

Orville Schell
The IncidentOn a snowy winter day in 1991, Lu Gang, a slightly built Chinese scholar who had recently received his Ph.D. in plasma physics, walked into a seminar room at the University of Iowa’s Van Allen Hall, raised a snub-nose .38-caliber Taurus...

Why Didn’t Science Rise in China?

Jonathan D. Spence
In response to:The Passions of Joseph Needham from the August 14, 2008 issueTo the Editors:In his illuminating essay on Joseph Needham [ NYR, August 14], Jonathan Spence notes that early in his career Needham posed the question: “What were the...

How He Sees It Now

Jonathan Mirsky
It is open season on the Dalai Lama and not just for Beijing, for whom he is “a monk in wolf’s clothing,” or for Rupert Murdoch, who dismissed him as a “very old political monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes.” During his trip to London in May, when...

Casting a Lifeline

Francine Prose
Sixty pages or so into Ma Jian’s novel Beijing Coma, the hero, Dai Wei, is troubled by the memory of a harrowing anatomy lecture that he attended as a university student. Taught by “a celebrated cardiovascular specialist,” the class observed the...

Sentimental Education in Shanghai

1.In April 1924 Rabindranath Tagore arrived in Shanghai for a lecture tour of China. Soon after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, Tagore had become an international literary celebrity, lecturing to packed audiences from Japan to...

Thunder from Tibet

Robert Barnett
1.Every so often, between the time a book leaves its publisher and the time it reaches its readers, events occur that change the ways it can be read. Such is the case with Pico Iyer’s account of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet...

Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation, by Some Chinese Intellectuals

Wang Lixiong
At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national...

He Would Have Changed China

Perry Link
In trying to make sense of their country’s turbulent modern history, Chinese intellectuals sometimes resort to counterfactual speculation. How might things have been different if one or another accidental event had happened differently? For decades...

He Won’t Give In

Jonathan Mirsky
On June 4, 1989, having heard that the Tiananmen demonstrations had been lethally crushed, Kang Zhengguo, a professor of literature at a university in Shaanxi province, pinned a piece of paper to his chest displaying the words “AIM YOUR GUNS HERE.”...

The Quiet Heroes of Tibet

Earlier this year, shortly before boarding the new Chinese train from Beijing to Lhasa, I met Woeser, a Tibetan poet and essayist (she uses only one name). Unusual among Tibetans in China, who tend to avoid talking to foreigners, she spoke frankly...

‘Ravished by Oranges’

Simon Leys
How can we be informed? Chesterton famously observed that when we read in today’s newspapers that one window-cleaner fell to his death, our general understanding of window-cleaning is distorted; the information that 35,000 window-cleaners actually...

The Amazing Wanderer

Christian Caryl
1.I could tell you a lot of potentially useful things about Colin Thubron’s latest travel memoir—for example, that he’s a gifted linguist, a dogged reporter, and an elegant writer. For a start, though, perhaps it’s enough to point out that his shoes...

China’s Area of Darkness

Jonathan Mirsky
The very first anonymous star on the CIA’s wall of honor at Langley, Virginia (the agency rarely identifies its dead heroes), refers to Douglas MacKiernan, the agency’s man in Urumqi, the capital of what is now called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous...

The Dream of Catholic China

Jonathan D. Spence
From the later sixteenth century until the end of the seventeenth, the Jesuit educational system was the most rigorous and effective in Europe. As one senior Jesuit wrote proudly in 1647, each Jesuit college was a “Trojan horse filled with soldiers...

Mission to Mao

Roderick MacFarquhar
“This was the week that changed the world” was Richard Nixon’s summing up at the end of his trip to China in February 1972.1 The hyperbole was justified, for this visit to China by an American president was a turning point in the cold war. Hitherto...

Chinese Shadows

Perry Link
In 1920 a young Chinese poet named Guo Moruo published a poem called “The Sky Dog,” which begins:Ya, I am a sky dog!I have swallowed the moon,I have swallowed the sun.I have swallowed all the planets,I have swallowed the entire universe.I am I!After...

Court Favorite

Jonathan Mirsky
At seven feet six inches tall and about three hundred pounds, Yao Ming, the basketball superstar who plays for the Houston Rockets, is, for many Americans, the most famous living Chinese. In 2002 he was the number-one overall pick in the National...

China’s Great Terror

Jonathan D. Spence
Long before August 1966, when immense chanting crowds of young Chinese Red Guards began to mass before Chairman Mao in Tiananmen Square, alerting those in the wider world to the onset of the Cultural Revolution, senior figures in the Chinese...

Why They Hate Japan

Ian Buruma
1.Those who think that the Japanese are a little odd will have been confirmed in their prejudice by the behavior of Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro during his June visit to the United States. The social highlight was a trip to Graceland, home of...

‘June Fourth’ Seventeen Years Later: How I Kept a Promise

Pu Zhiqiang
The weekend of June 3, 2006, was the seventeenth anniversary of the Beijing massacre and also the first time I ever received a summons. It happened, as the police put it, “according to law.” Twice within twenty-four hours Deputy Chief Sun Di of...

China: The Shame of the Villages

Jonathan Mirsky
1.Published fifteen years ago, Chinese Village, Socialist State, as I wrote at the time, not only contained a more telling account of Chinese rural life than any other I had read; it also produced a new understanding “of the methods by which the...

Liu Binyan (1925-2005)

Perry Link
Liu Binyan, the distinguished Chinese journalist and writer who died of cancer on December 5, 2005, in exile in New Jersey, at the age of eighty, was an inveterate defender of the poor and the oppressed, a man with a powerful analytic mind. But the...

Portrait of a Monster

Jonathan D. Spence
1.It is close to seventy years since Edgar Snow, an ambitious, radical, and eager young American journalist, received word from contacts in the Chinese Communist Party that he would be welcome in the Communists’ northwest base area of Bao-an...

China: The Uses of Fear

Jonathan Mirsky
Instilling deadly fear throughout the population was one of Mao Zedong’s lasting contributions to China since the late Twenties. In the case of Dai Qing, one of China’s sharpest critics before 1989, fear seems to explain the sad transformation in...

Chinese Shadows

Ian Buruma
There are many reasons for getting tattooed. But a sense of belonging—to a group, a faith, or a person—is key. As a mark of identification a tattoo is more lasting than a passport. This is not always voluntary. In Japan, criminals used to have the...

China: Wiping Out the Truth

Perry Link
Somehow poison got into the food at a snack shop in Nanjing, China, on September 14, 2002, and more than four hundred people fell ill. After forty-one of them died, the official Xinhua News Agency posted a notice warning of contaminated food in...

Passage to China

Amartya Sen
1.The intellectual links between China and India, stretching over two thousand years, have had far-reaching effects on the history of both countries, yet they are hardly remembered today. What little notice they get tends to come from writers...

Taiwan on the Edge

Jonathan Mirsky
The events in Taiwan since March 19, the day before the presidential election, can be seen as a Taiwanese version of the long wrangle between Al Gore and George W. Bush more than three years ago. No matter how the election is resolved, something...

The Party Isn’t Over

Jonathan Mirsky
1.Early in the years following China’s post-Mao reforms, a Chinese sociologist told Princeton’s Perry Link, “We’re like a big fish that has been pulled from the water and is flopping wildly to find its way back in. In such a condition the fish never...

Chiang’s Monster

Jonathan D. Spence
1.During the late 1930s and World War II, it was common to call Dai Li “China’s Himmler,” as if Chiang Kai-shek’s secret police and intelligence chief during that period performed functions similar to the head of the Gestapo and the SS under Hitler...

The Hong Kong Gesture

Jonathan Mirsky
On September 5, in an astonishing victory for liberty in Hong Kong and an equally unexpected defeat for Beijing and its hand-picked chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, the Hong Kong government withdrew a proposed new law against subversion and treason...

On Leaving a Chinese Prison

Jiang Qisheng
“What I did, what landed me in prison, was really quite simple—I just said in public what my fellow citizens were saying in all those other nooks.” —Jiang Qisheng

A Little Leap Forward

Nicholas D. Kristof
The Communist dynasty is collapsing in China, and in retrospect one of the first signs was a Chinese-language computer virus that began spreading when I was a reporter in Beijing in the early 1990s. The virus would pop up on your screen and ask a...


Ian Buruma
To stand somewhere in the center of an East Asian metropolis, Seoul, say, or Guangzhou, is to face an odd cultural conundrum. Little of what you see, apart from the writing on billboards, can be described as traditionally Asian. There are the faux-...

How the Chinese Spread SARS

Jonathan Mirsky
Communist China’s long obsession with secrecy is one cause of the present SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis. This passion for secrets—protected by lies—can involve events more than forty years ago, and it is heightened by a conviction...

China’s Psychiatric Terror

Jonathan Mirsky
1.At its triennial congress in Yokohama last September, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) overwhelmingly voted to send a delegation to China to investigate charges that dissidents were being imprisoned and maltreated as “political maniacs”...

China’s New Rulers: What They Want

Andrew J. Nathan, Bruce Gilley
Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of...

China’s New Rulers: The Path to Power

Andrew J. Nathan, Bruce Gilley
Following are the members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, whose election is expected in November 2002, listed by their rank according to protocol, with their main Party and future state positions. Ages are given as of...

Taking Rights Seriously in Beijing

Ronald Dworkin
Last May I was invited to China for two weeks, first to take part in a two-day conference at the law school of Tsinghua University in Beijing, and then to give several public lectures there and in other cities. The Tsinghua conference was arranged...

There Were Worse Places

Jonathan Mirsky
In the mid-1980s I made occasional trips to Harbin in Manchuria to report on the Orthodox White Russians who lived there, the remnant of a community that had fled from the new Soviet Union after the revolution. There were once so many of them that...

China: The Anaconda in the Chandelier

Perry Link
In China’s Mao years you could be detained and persecuted for talking with your neighbor about your cat. The Chinese word for “cat” (mao, high level tone) is a near homonym for the name of the Great Leader (mao, rising tone), and a tip to the police...

Inside the Whale

Jonathan Mirsky
Ian Buruma is a powerful storyteller and much of his story about Chinese rebels is very sad. This sadness persists throughout his long journey, starting in the United States, where he met most of the well-known dissident Chinese exiles, and ending...

China’s Assault on the Environment

Jonathan Mirsky
In 1956 Chairman Mao wrote the poem “Swimming,” about a dam to be built across the Yangtze River. This is its second stanza:A magnificent project is formed. The Bridge, it flies! Spanning North and South, and a Natural Barrier becomes a thoroughfare...

Un-Chinese Activities

Jonathan Mirsky
In the first week of November 1728, China’s Emperor Yongzheng (who reigned between 1723 and 1735) ruled over something like 200 million people and the vast territory that Beijing today claims as the People’s Republic. He had plenty on his mind. He...

On the Road

Pico Iyer
Books that “follow in the steps of” a well-known traveler are more and more ubiquitous these days, but many of them are slightly suspect. Following in the footsteps of some distinguished predecessor can look a little like a gesture of defeat,...

Writers in a Cold Wind

Jonathan Mirsky
Early in 1979 the Chinese officials in charge of culture declared that the Maoist ban on nineteen traditional classics and sixteen foreign works, including Anna Karenina, was lifted. On the day the books became available at a Beijing bookshop, a...

Tibet Disenchanted

Ian Buruma
The first time I visited Tibet, in the fall of 1982, scars of the Maoist years were still plain to see: Buddhist wall paintings in temples and monasteries were scratched out or daubed with revolutionary slogans. Now that new winds are blowing, these...

Found Horizon

Ian Buruma
Traveling recently by bus from Shigatse to Lhasa, squeezed in between a heavily made-up bar hostess from Sichuan who was vomiting her breakfast out the window and a minor Tibetan official in a shiny brown suit who asked me about Manchester United...

‘Taiwan Stands Up’

Jonathan Mirsky
Politics in Taiwan is a deadly business, sometimes literally. Chen Shui-bian’s first public act, on the morning of his inauguration as president on May 20, was to carry his wife in his arms to their waiting car. In 1985 she had been run down by a...

China’s Dirty Clean-Up

Sophia Woodman
Every year, millions of China’s poorest and most vulnerable people are arrested on the streets of the nation’s cities merely because the way they look or speak identifies them clearly as “outsiders,” not native to the city in question, or because...

A Lamas’ Who’s Who

Jonathan Mirsky
A one-l lama, he’s a priest. A two-l llama, he’s a beast. And I will bet a silk pajama, There isn’t any three-l lllama. —Ogden NashThe only Tibetan lama most Westerners knew of until recently was the fourteenth Dalai Lama, the genial Nobel Prize...

East Is West

Ian Buruma
Chang-rae Lee has an extraordinary talent for describing violence. Here is his account of the gang rape and murder of a Korean sex slave (“comfort woman”) in a Japanese army camp during World War II:I ran up the north path by the latrines, toward...

Divine Killer

Ian Buruma
“If there was anything Mao wouldn’t want to see, it was tears. Mao said on one occasion, ‘I can’t bear to see poor people cry. When I see their tears, I can’t hold back my own.’ “Another thing which upset Mao was bloodshed.” —From Mao Zedong: Man,...

Misfortune in Shanghai

Jonathan Mirsky
Connoisseurs of traditional Peking opera would have enjoyed the recent meeting in Shanghai sponsored by Fortune to consider “China: The Next 50 Years.” The audience of approximately three hundred CEOs of US and other companies and over a dozen...

China in Cyberspace

Ian Buruma
It is not widely known that the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan are now at war. The battles are not being fought on land, however, or at sea, or even, strictly speaking, in the air; they take place in cyberspace, where nobody so far has ever...

Room at the Top

Pico Iyer
The last time I was in the Himalayas, I met a young, highly Westernized Tibetan who, misled perhaps by my Indian features (born in England, I’ve never lived in the subcontinent), started talking to me about the strange ways of the exotic foreigners...

The Jiang Zemin Mystery

Orville Schell
Since the Chinese Communist Party leaders will not allow themselves to be criticized in the press or on television, critics have had to find other means to express their political grievances. Historically speaking, one of the most telling ways to...

The Dalai Lama on Succession and on the CIA

Jonathan Mirsky
This year is the fortieth anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet into Indian exile. He is sixty-five and some day even god-kings must die. But in the eyes of Tibetans he is also the fourteenth incarnation of the first Dalai Lama, who died...

Message from Shangri-La

Jonathan Mirsky
On October 6, 1939, on the outskirts of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, Hugh Richardson, who is now ninety-three and the West’s foremost living Tibetanist, saw the arrival in the city of the five-year-old boy who in early 1940 would be installed as the...

Talking with Mao: An Exchange

Henry Kissinger, Jonathan D. Spence
In response to:Kissinger & the Emperor from the March 4, 1999 issueTo the Editors:No China scholar has influenced my own thinking more than Jonathan Spence. My comments on his review of The Kissinger Transcripts edited by William Burr [NYR,...

Kissinger & the Emperor

Jonathan D. Spence
From the moment when they first began to keep historical records, the Chinese showed a fascination with the complexities of diplomacy, with the give-and-take of interstate negotiation, the balancing of force and bluff, the variable powers of human...

Sex and Democracy in Taiwan

Ian Buruma
Fairly or not, sex scandals in politics have acquired a peculiarly Anglo-Saxon ring. The French boast of taking a more sophisticated view of the private lives of public men—that is to say, those lives are shielded from public scrutiny. Germans smack...

Democratic Vistas?

Jonathan Mirsky
In August 1980 Deng Xiaoping laid down the Communist Party’s view of democracy. It continues to cripple China and is used both inside the country and by its apologists abroad to avoid the issue of repression. Deng said: Democracy without...

Goodfellas in Shanghai

Jonathan D. Spence
Just over two thousand years ago, China’s first great historian, Sima Qian, decided to include a chapter on assassins in his long history of his newly united homeland. He chose five men as representative examples of those who had tried to kill...

Talking with Wei Jingsheng

Jonathan Mirsky
Speaking to a small group in London this January, nearly two months after he was expelled from China, the Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng told his somewhat startled listeners, “The earliest human rights movement in the world was the ‘People’s...

The Mark of Cain

Jonathan Mirsky
1.In Hong Kong’s China Club, fashionable people have lunch beneath pictures of Mao Zedong after a drink in the Long March Bar. Most of the members are refugees from Mao or the children of refugees. In Russia, or Germany, or Cambodia, there is surely...

Lost Horizons

Pico Iyer
Tibet has always cast a dangerously strong spell upon visitors from abroad. When the first major European expedition marched on Lhasa in 1904, led by Colonel Younghusband at the behest of his old friend Lord Curzon, it ended up slaughtering in just...


Jonathan Mirsky
It is unusual in British political life for a high official to leave his position and immediately reveal in his own words or through an intermediary what in his opinion really happened while he was in office. Furthermore, unless he has been roughly...

Selling Out Hong Kong

Ian Buruma
And so it finally came to pass, at midnight, June 30, 1997, in the brand-new Hong Kong convention center, resembling, local people say, a giant cockroach: the red flag of the People’s Republic of China, snapping in the breeze of wind machines, went...

Holding Out in Hong Kong

Ian Buruma
Flicking through the April issue of the Hong Kong Tatler, a glossy high life magazine modeled after the London Tatler, I was reminded of a story I once heard about the Rothschild house in Paris. When Victor Rothschild visited the Avenue de Marigny...

Peking’s Choice

Jonathan Mirsky
The recent sentence to six years in prison of one of Tibet’s supreme monks shows Peking’s determination to dominate all events in the region and bring to an end a period of intense confusion within the Chinese Communist Party. For a brief time the...

Peking, Hong Kong, & the US

Jonathan Mirsky
No recent book has blown a bigger hole in the proposition that the US must follow a policy of “positive engagement” with China than The Coming Conflict with China. It is a mark of the wound they inflicted on Peking that the authors, ex-reporters in...

What Confucius Said

Jonathan D. Spence
1.The first Western-language version of Confucius’ sayings—later known as the Analects—was published in Paris in 1687, in Latin, under the title Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, with a brief dedication to King Louis XIV, thanking him for supporting...

Demolition Man

Roderick MacFarquhar
Deng Xiaoping was eulogized by his colleagues as the “chief architect” of China’s reform program and its opening to the outside world.1 This was misleading. Deng was no master builder. Unlike his patron, Mao Zedong, and fortunately for his...

China: The Defining Moment

Jonathan Mirsky
The evolution of the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949 has been tumultuous and bloody, and marked by the suffering of millions. It has been anything but peaceful. Yet it is precisely the prospect of “peaceful evolution,” which in...

The Risks of Witness

Jonathan D. Spence
With this, the third book that Harry Wu has published about China’s forced-labor prison camp system, we can see that he has been moving on a discernible trajectory, one that has taken him from the world of reality to the world of appearance. In this...

The Hope for China

Fang Lizhi, Perry Link
1.“Some people,” declared Mao Zedong in 1959, “say that we have become isolated from the masses.”1 By “some people” Mao meant Peng Dehuai, a subordinate who had dared to criticize Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” which was just then creating in China the...

How China Lost Taiwan

Jonathan Mirsky
1.For foreign correspondents who had been present in Peking’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the events of the night of March 17, 1996, in the plaza in front of the Taipei city hall, showed more clearly than any other what the China-Taiwan crisis is...

One More Art

Simon Leys
1.The discovery of a new major art should have more momentous implications for mankind than the exploration of an unknown continent or the sighting of a new planet.1Since the dawn of its civilization, China has cultivated a particular branch of the...

River of Fire

Jonathan Mirsky
In her introduction to a collection of Karl Marx’s newspaper dispatches on China, Dona Torr conceived a charming fantasy in which Marx speculates thatWhen our European reactionaries have to take refuge in Asia and at last reach the Great Wall of...

Is There Enough Chinese Food?

Vaclav Smil
1.Many Americans think they know something about Chinese food. But very few know anything about food in China, about the ways in which it is grown, stored, distributed, eaten, and wasted, about its effects on the country’s politics, and about its...

The Beginning of the End

Ian Buruma
Failed rebellions are often like failed marriages: former partners and their friends blame the other side for what went wrong; old tensions are magnified; the past is rewritten; feuding camps are formed. This pretty much sums up the situation among...

In China’s Gulag

Jonathan D. Spence
Near the end of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn includes a chapter he calls “The Muses in Gulag.” Most of the chapter describes the absurdity and uselessness of the Communist Party’s Cultural and Educational Section, but he also briefly reflects...

Jumping Into the Sea

Jonathan Mirsky
“Be sure to prevent any contact between the barbarians and the population,” the Emperor Qianlong ordered in 1793. This is one of the many pointed epigraphs in China Wakes, and it shows what Chinese rulers knew for centuries: that, for the emperors,...

The Underground War for Shanghai

Jonathan D. Spence
During the night of November 21–22, 1928 a steamer moored at the docks in the Chinese section of Shanghai, and a group of harbor coolies, flanked by a squad of thirty armed guards, began to unload chests onto the dock. Alerted by a tip some weeks...

The Bottom of the Well

Jonathan Mirsky
Do Chinese women, as the Communist Party has held for decades, “hold up half the sky?” Or, like the frog at the bottom of a well in a famous Daoist legend, do they see only a little blue patch? Why is it that tens of millions of them are said to be...

Remembrance of Ming’s Past

Jonathan D. Spence
To many readers in the past, The Plum in the Golden Vase has seemed an inchoate mass of a story. Even if it was clearly “about” a wealthy urban merchant Hsi-men Ch’ing, his six consorts, and numerous other sexual companions, it was also full of...

The Old Man’s New China

Perry Link
The Communist Party of China has regularly warned Western observers like Merle Goldman not to interfere in China’s internal affairs. China, it says, has its own culturally distinctive ideas on topics like freedom, democracy, and human rights. So how...

The Prodigal Sons

Jonathan Mirsky
What do Xi Yang, Wei Jingsheng, and Wang Juntao have in common? Yes, they are all “counter-revolutionary elements, subversives, splittists, black hands”—whatever Peking cares to call them—and all three are familiar with the Party’s prison...

The Battle for Hong Kong

Jonathan Mirsky
1.Hong Kong—The first weekend of the Year of the Dog, February 11–13, was not a good one for those of us who live in Hong Kong. The annual fireworks display, sponsored by the Bank of China (in Peking fireworks are banned), was muffled in mist. In...

Where the East Begins

Jonathan D. Spence
Between 1965 and 1977, Donald Lach published the first two volumes of his Asia in the Making of Europe, an illuminating and erudite survey of the various ways that Asia has affected scholarship, literature, and the visual arts in the West. Beginning...

The Chinese Miracle?

Jonathan D. Spence
Over the last few months the news and reportage about China have become almost incomprehensibly divided between two points of view. According to one set of reports, China is now confirmed as an economic “colossus,” shaking off all the trammels of...

Unjust Desserts

Jonathan D. Spence
Can there be any justice in today’s China? It is the deepest question that the film director Zhang Yimou has asked so far. His best-known earlier films, sexually supercharged, suffused with violence or the threat of it, always found some politically...

The Party’s Secrets

Jonathan Mirsky
Not long after Mao Zedong died in 1976, one of the editors of the Party’s People’s Daily said. “Lies in newspapers are like rat droppings in clear soup: disgusting and obvious.” That may have been true of the Party’s newspapers, which Chinese are...

Deng’s Last Campaign

Roderick MacFarquhar
China had its own form of grueling political campaign this year, which ended when the Fourteenth Congress of the Communist Party (CCP) took place in October. There, too, the issue was “change” and the main concern the economy. But in China the...

Squaring the Chinese Circle

Jonathan Mirsky
“China,” according to Lucien Pye, “is a civilization pretending to be a state.”1 This is an elegant formulation of an idea which eventually occurs to most people who have studied, read about, or traveled and lived in China. In the late sixteenth...

The Other China

Jonathan D. Spence
On the same late fall day in 1991, two stories about China appeared in the Western press. One announced that thirty-five drug dealers had just been executed in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, probably by a single police bullet fired into...

Blazing Passions

Geoffrey O’Brien
In a coincidence of programming in New York City a selection of the commercially most successful Hong Kong movies of the 1980s ran at the same time as a retrospective of work (some of it only marginally released in its country of origin) by the...

Literature of the Wounded

Jonathan Mirsky
In Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic, Bette Bao Lord’s memoir of her three years in Peking as the American ambassador’s wife, she recalled that “all Chinese were in pain, and taking their pulse, reading their temperature, charting every change and finding...

John King Fairbank (1907–1991)

Roderick MacFarquhar
John Fairbank, who died on September 14 at the age of eighty-four, read virtually all serious Western works on China. Reviewing them, principally for The New York Review in the last several years, was for him one way of keeping abreast of China...

The Anatomy of Collapse

Roderick MacFarquhar
In Moscow, 1991, as in Beijing in 1989, eight hard liners made a last-ditch stand to preserve communism. Yet in both cases, the Communist party was left on the sidelines and no appeal was made for support in the name of Communist doctrine. Politics...

China on the Verge

Jonathan D. Spence
During the play-off matches for the intercollegiate East China soccer title in the early 1920s, passions ran high. The president of Shanghai’s prestigious Communications University was no less a soccer fan than anyone else, but he was also a...

The Myth of Mao’s China

Jonathan Mirsky
In China Misperceived Steven Mosher strikes back at the profession, clan, or family of China watchers that cast him out. The official reasons have never been made public, although his university, Stanford, hinted at academic misconduct when it...

Brutality in China

Merle Goldman
At the same time that President Bush is speaking up against Saddam Hussein’s human rights atrocities, he is appeasing China’s octogenarian leaders on the very same issue. In order to persuade China to cooperate in the United Nations actions against...

History on the Wing

John K. Fairbank
Golden Inches is a charming memoir of an American couple who built up the YMCA in Chengtu and Chungking. Their careers on America’s farthest Western cultural frontier in Szechwan province give us a sense of the day-to-day texture of Chinese-American...

Lost Horizons

Jonathan Mirsky
Except for the Chinese Communists, who call him names like “the wolf in monk’s robes,” or “the criminal Dalai,” virtually everyone speaks well of the Dalai Lama. The latest incarnation is the Fourteenth in a line that began in 1351 and exists...

The Art of Interpreting Nonexistent Inscriptions Written in Invisible Ink on a Blank Page

Simon Leys
1.In any debate, you really know that you have won when you find your opponents beginning to appropriate your ideas, in the sincere belief that they themselves just invented them. This situation can afford a subtle satisfaction; I think the feeling...

The Chinese Amnesia

Fang Lizhi
The following was written while Fang Lizhi was staying in the American Embassy in Beijing, before his release last June.In November 1989, during the fifth month of my refuge inside the American Embassy in Beijing, I received two letters from New...

From the Ming to Deng Xiaoping

John K. Fairbank
When I began teaching Chinese history at Harvard in 1936 my first students turned out to be the brightest I would ever have—Theodore White as an undergraduate and Mary Clabaugh as a Ph.D. candidate. Mary Clabaugh was a Vassar graduate from...

In A Cruel Country

Jonathan Mirsky
In her disturbing memoir of three and half years in Beijing, Bette Bao Lord, the author of the novel Spring Moon and wife of Winston Lord, the American ambassador until just before the Beijing killings, retells a traditional story which is wholly...

The Last Days of Hong Kong

Ian Buruma
May 1983: It was exactly seven months after Mrs. Thatcher stumbled and fell on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that I arrived in Hong Kong to take up a job. The prime ministerial fall; which preceded a fierce quarrel with Deng...

The Empire Strikes Back

Jonathan Mirsky
“President Bush still regards you as his friend, a friend forever,” Brent Scowcroft told Deng Xiaoping in Beijing on December 10, six months and seven days after Deng ordered the People’s Liberation Army into Tiananmen Square. In Washington, the...

Keeping the Faith

Fang Lizhi
I am proud and deeply moved to have this opportunity to speak with you here today; but at the same time, I am also filled with a sense of sorrow and shame. I am moved because you have chosen to honor me with the 1989 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights...

Vengeance in China

Merle Goldman
While China’s leaders try to assure the outside world and themselves that “everything is back to normal,” the national problems that existed before the June 4 crackdown have become much worse. China’s students and intellectuals were already...

Stories from the Ice Age

Jonathan Mirsky
Since the Tiananmen Square killings it has become fashionable within the Chinese leadership to refer to dissident intellectuals as “scum.” That was Mao’s view, too. In 1942, the chairman, his armies besieged by both Chiang Kai-shek and the Japanese...

China Witness, 1989

Jonathan D. Spence
In response to: China’s Spring from the June 29, 1989 issueTo the Editors:The absolute cynicism displayed by the current Chinese leadership as they present their version of this spring’s events in Beijing and other cities offers a special challenge...

After the Massacres

Simon Leys
A historian of contemporary China who is considering the events of three years ago, of ten years ago, of twenty years ago, must feel dizzy: each time, it is the same story, the plot is identical—one needs only to change the names of a few characters...

Why China’s Rulers Fear Democracy

John K. Fairbank
To try to understand is not to condone or forgive. Quite the contrary. In this bicentennial year when a euphoria for democratic rights seemed to be sweeping the world, why was it stopped in Tiananmen Square? Why do China’s rulers attack their...

The End of the Chinese Revolution

Roderick MacFarquhar
When Deng Xiaoping suppressed the Beijing Spring last month, he thought he was putting down a new Cultural Revolution. Pirated notes from a Party meeting in late April quoted him as telling his colleagues:This is not an ordinary student movement. It...

The Curse of the Man Who Could See the Little Fish at the Bottom of the Ocean

Simon Leys
Since the Beijing massacres, the question has already been put bluntly to me several times: “Why were most of our pundits so constantly wrong on the subject of China? What enabled you and a tiny minority of critics to see things as they really were...

Letters from the Other China

Fang Lizhi
During the student demonstrations that swept China toward the end of 1986, the brilliant astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, who was then vice-president of the University of Science and Technology, emerged, through his speeches to student groups, as the...

China’s Spring

Orville Schell
To stand, in early May, atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which guards the entrance to the Forbidden City, and look across the vast crowd of people jammed into Tiananmen Square was to have a historically new sense of what Mao called “the broad masses...

The Chinese Intellectuals and the Revolt

Perry Link
The Beijing revolt of 1989 has caught the world’s attention, but the malaise that led to the emergency is broader and deeper than any of its conspicuous slogans can suggest. For foreigners like myself who live in Beijing, it was already clear nine...

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Jonathan Mirsky
Just before the recent demonstrations in Beijing and other cities, which shook the Party to its foundations, a rumor ran through the capital: Mao Zedong’s body, embalmed and mounted in the ugly Memorial Hall which disfigures Tiananmen Square...

Mao and Snow

John K. Fairbank, Jonathan Mirsky
In response to:Message from Mao from the February 16, 1989 issueTo the Editors:Edgar Snow was set up by Mao and mugged by the Cold War. I first met him in 1932 in Peking and kept more or less in touch during the next forty years of his life. I think...

Message from Mao

Jonathan Mirsky
In Kansas City, Missouri, the family of Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China was to introduce Mao Zedong to the world, employed a black washerwoman, Crazy Mary, who hated one of her Chinese competitors. To enrage the man she taught young Edgar to...

China’s Despair and China’s Hope

Fang Lizhi
Nineteen eighty-nine is the Year of the Snake in China. It is not clear whether this snake will bring any great temptations. But this much is predictable: the year will stimulate Chinese into deeper reflection upon the past and a more incisive look...

The Price China Has Paid: An Interview with Liu Binyan

Nathan Gardels
Liu Binyan is a sixty-two-year-old writer and journalist who is regarded as the preeminent intellectual advocating reform in China today. During the mid-1950s and again throughout the post-Mao period, he has strongly criticized Communist party...

Roots of Revolution

John K. Fairbank
The books by Frank Ching and Zhang Xianliang are vastly different in content, aim, and style, as opposite as yang and yin. Yet each casts light on the Cultural Revolution. Considered together, they may even begin to explain it.Mao’s venomous “class...

Passing the Baton in Beijing

Roderick MacFarquhar
Succession has become an omnipresent problem not only in China but throughout Asia. Long-lasting regimes under aging rulers are entering their twilight zone in North Korea, Burma, and Indonesia, and face a period of weakness and uncertainty, for the...

China on My Mind

Jonathan D. Spence
Almost forty years have passed since John King Fairbank’s first book, The United States and China, was published in 1948. A careful blending of Chinese institutional history with diplomatic history, the book proved immediately popular among...

Surviving the Hurricane

Judith Shapiro
At a time when the new freedoms of the post-Mao years are in jeopardy, many issues of intense concern to Chinese can freely be discussed only abroad. Of these, among the most important is the Cultural Revolution, about which Nien Cheng has written...

Turbulent Empire

Jonathan D. Spence
Among the great and enduring questions in the study of Chinese history are these: In an agricultural country of such extraordinary size how was the land farmed and what were the patterns of ownership and tenancy? How was the rural revenue extracted...

The End of the Long March

Roderick MacFarquhar
In Peking last September, China’s supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, pensioned off the surviving generals of the Long March. Fifty years after their epic exploit, these old soldiers finally agreed to fade away. Deng must hope that the legend has now...

Our Mission in China

Jonathan D. Spence
This is the bicentennial year for contacts between the United States and China, since it was in 1784 that the merchant ship Empress of China sailed to Canton from New York. It was an auspicious beginning, at least for the American backers of the...

China: Mulberries and Famine

Jonathan D. Spence
Near the beginning of the Chinese “Classic of Historical Documents” (the Shujing), where the doings of early mythic rulers are being described, there is a brief passage that stands out among the others for its precision and clarity. The focus of...

China: How Much Dissent?

Jonathan D. Spence
In the year 278 BC an aristocrat and poet named Qu Yuan took his own life by throwing himself into the waters of the Milo River. Qu Yuan had once been the powerful adviser to the ruler of the Chu kingdom, specializing in legal affairs and diplomacy...

His Man in Canton

John K. Fairbank
In the Chinese united front of the mid-1920s, the Soviet agent Borodin has been a protean figure. Bringing Leninist skills, arms, and advisers to Canton, he seemed to be the priceless ingredient that finally catalyzed Sun Yat-sen’s revolution...

Take Back Your Ming

Jonathan D. Spence
Until very recently the great expanse of the Ming dynasty, which ruled in China from 1368 to 1644, was largely uncharted in Western historiography. The dynasty was seen either as having come at the end of a great tradition that had been dominated by...

Forever Jade

Jonathan D. Spence
A central crisis in modern Chinese letters has been caused by the need to take account of Western forms. Some writers adjusted eagerly to Western literature out of a sincere admiration for Western culture; some grudgingly, out of a total rejection...

Why Confucius Counts

Jonathan D. Spence
One would be hard pressed, surveying any of the political cultures in human history, to find a parallel for the continuity, longevity, and vitality of Confucianism. This moral and ethical system was given initial shape in the fifth and fourth...

The Chinese Dream Machine

Jonathan D. Spence
Simple-looking questions make good starting points for books; for simple questions are usually very hard to answer, and if the author is skillful enough he elaborates the simple question until it is overlaid with hovering qualifications, doubts, and...

Chinese Shadows: Bureaucracy, Happiness, History

Simon Leys
In the sixth century BC, at the time the Tso Chuan refers to, China’s social hierarchy had only ten degrees. We have progressed since then: the Maoist bureaucracy today has thirty hierarchical classes, each with specific privileges and prerogatives...

Chinese Shadows

Simon Leys
In handbooks on Chinese traditional painting, an advice commonly given to the artist who wishes to learn to paint trees is to sketch them in winter, for then, without the seductive yet confused and blurry effect of their leafy masses, through their...

Sitting on Top of the World

Harold L. Kahn
Remoteness is often a condition of status and an attitude cultivated by parties to inequality. Chinese peasants, for more than twenty centuries subjects not citizens of the realm, were being literal when they said, “Heaven is high and the emperor...

Traveling Light

Martin Bernal
With the exception of Joseph Kraft’s short work, all the books on China mentioned here have been padded. Barbara Tuchman includes a fascinating historical essay. Galbraith has animadversions on San Francisco, Paris, TWA, and many other matters, and...

Rules of the Game

John Gittings
On September 18, 1931, a very small bomb caused a very minor explosion on the South Manchurian Railway just north of Mukden, a railway controlled by the Japanese and crucial to their economic domination of Manchuria. The explosion was denounced as...

Up Against the Wall at Tsinghua U.

Ross Terrill
Some Chinese refer to their lives before and after the Cultural Revolution as if that storm of the Sixties were a religious conversion. Like John Bunyan writing with enthusiastic horror of his unregenerate days, the cadre or craftsman today says he...

A Shameful Tale

John Gittings
On the contents page of the latest issue of Foreign Affairs1 the new shape of American diplomacy is writ large and in italics. In this prestigious house organ of the international affairs establishment—and by coincidence it happens to be its...

Who’s Who in China

Martin Bernal
Written Chinese is extremely difficult. Before the revolutions of the twentieth century, the literary language was a barrier protecting the Confucian elite. Anyone who could jump over that barrier by passing the official examinations immediately...

Bringing Up the Red Guards

John Gittings
Everyone who has studied the Chinese Cultural Revolution has his own favorite quotation from the Red Guard press. Those who want to make fun of it can always pick one of Mrs. Mao’s ridiculous pronouncements (“‘P'an T'ien-shou’ is a...

Peanuts and the Good Soldier

John Gittings
In 1927, the province of Shantung was under the control of the warlord Chang Tsung-chang, a ferocious ex-coolie with a taste for white mercenaries and white women. His forces included a Russian brigade with four armored trains; he himself went to...

How Mao Won

Martin Bernal
In response to:Was Chinese Communism Inevitable? from the December 3, 1970 issueTo the Editors:Although pleased by Martin Bernal’s laudatory reference to my piece criticizing Chalmers Johnson’s thesis concerning the reasons for the Communist triumph...

Was Chinese Communism Inevitable?

Martin Bernal
It is likely that, even now, many people in America and Britain still hold to the simple formula that people are good and communism is evil. And, just as good cannot support evil, people cannot support communism. Therefore any political movement...

Mao and the Writers

Martin Bernal
By the 1930s the intolerable quality of life and the inefficiency, corruption, and conservatism of the Kuomintang had driven nearly every serious creative writer in China to the Left. Most turned toward some form of Marxism, which not only offered...

Report from the China Sea

Jonathan Mirsky
Since the Communist victory in 1949 there has been very little contact between Americans and Chinese. Although a tiny community of aging Americans continues to live in Peking, no American, except for Edgar Snow, has traveled widely in the People’s...

Still Mysterious

John K. Fairbank
Within mainland China today the ratio of Westerners to Chinese is probably no greater than it was in Marco Polo’s time seven hundred years ago. Sino-foreign contact is so minimal that it almost meets the old Taoist stay-at-home ideal, “to live...

A Mao for All Seasons

Martin Bernal
{vertical_photo_right}A psychologist and an expert on the Far East, Mr. Lifton believes that the most fruitful way to look at Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution is to combine the investigation of psychological motives with historical analysis...


Martin Bernal
Mr. Pye is disarming and sensible in his description of his method. From the start he makes it clear that The Spirit of Chinese Politics is an “interpretive and largely speculative essay.” He refuses to cite specific examples to strengthen his case...

The Great Wall

John K. Fairbank
China is so distant, big, and complex that each Marco Polo nowadays tells a different tale. The authors of the three books under review—a cool Swedish journalist, a passionate Chinese true-believer, and a philosophical Frenchman—give very different...

Puritanism Chinese-Style

Martin Bernal
Specialists in the USSR and East Europe have both helped and hindered modern Chinese studies. Many scholars such as Benjamin Schwartz came to the serious interpretation of Chinese Communism from Slavic studies. On the other hand, less sensitive East...

Chinese Checkers

Martin Bernal
In Response to:Contradictions from the July 7, 1966 issueTo the Editors:Martin Bernal in his review [July 7] describes Franz Schurmann’s brilliant new book Ideology and Organization in Communist China as “easily the most provocative work…yet seen on...


Martin Bernal
Professor Schurmann is not modest. Near the beginning of his book he writes: “translations from Chinese, Russian and Japanese are my own, and hundreds of articles had to be read in the original Chinese with precision and at the same time extensively...

How to Deal with the Chinese Revolution

John K. Fairbank
The Vietnam debate reflects our intellectual unpreparedness. Crisis has arisen on the farthest frontier of public knowledge, and viewpoints diverge widely because we all lack background information. “Vietnam” was not even a label on our horizon...

Down There on a Visit

Martin Bernal
In many ways this is the book that everybody interested in China has been waiting for, a book describing what it feels like to be a peasant living through the Chinese Revolution. In the summer of 1962 Jan Myrdal, the thirty-year-old son of the...

Mao’s China

Martin Bernal
To most Westerners China is not a part of the known world and Mao is not a figure of our time. The ignorant believe he is the leader of a host of martians whose sole occupation is plotting the destruction of civilization and the enslavement of...

The Popularity of Chinese Patriotism

Martin Bernal
Fundamentally China is a sellers’ market. The first half of this century, when there was a glut of books, seems to have been the exception. Since 1949 a veil has once more been drawn over the center of the mysterious east, and the situation has...