This is for all you muesli-eating Guardian readers:
The author of Wild Swans and her historian husband, Jon Halliday, have torn away the many masks and falsehoods with which Mao and the Communist party of China to this day have hidden the true picture of Mao the man and Mao the ruler. Mao now stands revealed as one of the greatest monsters of the 20th century alongside Hitler and Stalin. Indeed, in terms of sheer numbers of deaths for which he responsible, Mao, with some 70 million, exceeded both.
Far from being the first Chinese communist leader to stand up for the Chinese peasantry and to respond to their needs and lead them out of exploitation, Mao is exposed as a man who disdained the peasants, despite his protestations to the contrary. He is shown during his command of armed forces in the countryside in the late 1920s and early 30s to have lived off the produce of the local peasants to the extent of leaving them destitute. He consciously used terror as a means to enforce his will on the party and on the people who came under his rule. In the course of the Long March, Mao is shown to have had no qualms in sacrificing thousands of scarce fighting men in fruitless diversions to serve no other purpose than to advance his bid for leadership.
His callous disregard for the lives of comrades and fellow Chinese became more evident once he commanded the larger stage of China itself. Against the advice of his commanders on the ground, Mao persisted in prolonging the Korean war in the expectation of tying down hundreds of thousands of American troops, regardless of the disproportionate sacrifice of far greater Chinese casualties. The livelihood of China’s peasants was tightly squeezed through most of Mao’s rule, not simply to meet the needs of industry and the urban population, but also to pay the Soviet Union and the east Europeans for the development of advanced weapons – especially for the development of nuclear weapons.
More people need to know this.