A comprehensive, authoritative new study that challenges the received wisdom regarding Mao’s relationship with Stalin and the Soviet Union.
With rare access to the newly consolidated Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, Pantsov (History/Capital Univ.; The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution, 1919-1927, 2000) and Levine construct an “up-to-date” take on the Chinese Communist Party and Mao’s rise in it as being essentially dictated by Stalin and financially supported by the Soviet Union through the 1950s. Stalin manipulated Mao to his own ends; only after Stalin’s death and Mao’s increasingly antagonistic relationship with Khrushchev did the Chinese pull away from the Soviet Union as part of an “emancipation of consciousness.” The authors’ detail is minute and the characters proliferate mind-bendingly, especially in the careful reconstruction of Mao’s rise from rube and community organizer to national leader. Pantsov and Levine depict Mao with all his conflicting facets, from the early bookworm and idealist who initially scorned the “stupidity” of the masses, to becoming the party’s self-made prophet on the agrarian question, espousing the proletarian confiscation of land from the landlords. He was a man of enormous energy and capacity for love who was nonetheless hardened by the intraparty struggle against Chiang Kai-shek; he was also a utopian socialist who embarked on the modernization scheme of the Great Leap Forward in 1957 after a stimulating trip to Moscow. The great famine that ensued did not dampen Mao’s enthusiasm for revolutionary incentives, as played out tragically in the Red Guards’ devastation, and his “irrepressible lust for violence” has been largely forgiven by history because he consolidated China’s “national liberation.”
The Great Helmsman fully fleshed, still complicated and ever provocative.