China’s Monster, Second to None – Michiko Kakutani
In their new book, “Mao: The Unknown Story,” Jung Chang and Jon Halliday make an impassioned case for Mao as the most monstrous tyrant ever. They argue that he was responsible for “well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other 20th-century leader,” and they argue that “he was more extreme than Hitler or Stalin” in that he envisioned a brain-dead, “completely arid society, devoid of civilization, deprived of representation of human feelings, inhabited by a herd with no sensibility, which would automatically obey his orders.”
Ms. Chang, the author of “Wild Swans,” a best-selling memoir that chronicled her family’s sufferings under Mao, and her husband, Mr. Halliday, a British historian, drew upon newly available material from secret Chinese and Soviet archives for this volume, and they interviewed hundreds of people, including intimates, colleagues and victims of Mao. Their hefty if tendentious and one-dimensional book contains a plethora of valuable new information that helps flesh out the record of devastation left by this heinous tyrant.