Mao Tse-Tung and His China – Review
Publisher: Viking – Penguin Group
Cover: Viqui Maggio
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 11/5/1996
You can pickup a couple of things by reading this book.
First and farmost, you might get to appreciate why historians love history. There is no such thing as truth in history, only perspective. Albert Marrin’s Mao Tse-Tung and His China has managed a balanced perspective on the three competing forces at work in China during and after the communist revolution. The warlords, the communist and the nationalist–all vying for the hearts and minds of the Chinese people–or if not their hearts, merely their submission.
Second, you might get some idea as to why the Communist Chinese are so agitated by any hint that the Republic of China based in Tiawan is in any way legitimate. The volatil relationship between the two continues to make headlines as mainland China plans takeover of Hong Kong in 1997. Tiwain has come a little to late to democracy for the world to howl in protest whatever mainland China decides to do to regain the island. It’s coming. The only question is when.
Finally, if your historical perspective is similar to that of this reviewer, you might get a glimpse of that gossamer golden thread weaved in the French Revolution, beginning to fray in the Communist and Nazi revolutions early in this century and is just now beginning to lose its tinsel strength. Bosina and its three factions may be the last filaments in this thread but events are blowing those filaments ever so closely to the flames of war. We have yet to witness the final “nationalistic” war to be waged based on the tenets of the French Revolution.
In a brief section of Mao Tse-Tung and His China, Marrin describes the Reds (Communist Chinese) arriving in Szechuan (“Four Rivers”) Province during the Long March and having to transgress Lololand. The Long March of 6,000 miles lasted a year, from October 1934 to October 1935, starting with 87,000 communist troops heading northwest and ending with 4,000 arriving in Shensi Province. The Lolo, or Vi peoples, had an unabiding hatred for the Chinese and were fierce warriors. Red troops freed Lolo warriors and some of their chiefs being held in Kuomintang (warlord-nationalist forces) prisons in the surrounding area. “Mao fed them, treated them as human beings, and sent them home with gifts” , writes Marrin. It was just one of many instances in which the Reds broke with expected behavior to win “the hearts and minds” of the people of China.
Marrin’s treatment of the Szechuan Province incident and other seemingly surreal events occurring during the Long March makes very entertaining and exciting reading. Lifted out of its historical context, it would make an incredible “Raiders of the….” type movie.
Some would call Marrin’s work history with a small “h”, and indeed it just may be. But it is informative history without the pedantics of the scientific “attitude” that subscribes to the belief that we can look into the past and discover truth. It is all perspective. Marrin comes across in this work having the perspective of the explorer–discovering one-quarter of the earth’s population as it were.
In a sense Mao Tse-Tung and His China is meant for those who think of China as some big, monolithic blob of humanity we blithely think of as the land of the Chinese. It may be the land of the Chinese but it is not a monolith and there are many cultural and societal forces at work. China has always played a significant role in world culture and history. What distinguishes China from other nations of the world is that China has a three-thousand-year plus history as an authoritarian dictatorship–emperors, warlords and, the latest crop, communists.
As China goes, so goes the world. Remember, you read it here first.