MAO VS. CHIANG by Robert S. Elegant


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Another foray into the shifting sands of 20th century Chinese history, this one by skeptic Robert Elegant (Los Angeles Times correspondent and author of The Center of the World, 1964), who sees both the Chinese Communist Party's program and Kuomintang's corruption as incidental offshoots of their decades-long power struggle. Elegant's own sympathies may be discerned from his benevolence towards Chiang (even if he had wanted to institute reforms, he was never in a position to do so; ""loyalty"" was his greatest political virtue), his contention that Americans who favored support of the Mao regime after World War II were victims of propaganda, and the implication that the U.S. should have given military support to the KMT during the same period (though based on his own account of Stilwell's frustrations and the KMT's lack of popular support it's hard to see why). Nevertheless, there is more detailed background here -- on Stalin's attempts to play off communists and nationalists against each other, on the internecine struggles before the Long March, and on military strategies during World War II (including a critical view of Chennault's fascination with air power) -- than has ever been offered in previous juveniles. This strength must be balanced against an inadequate, almost wholly negative summary of events since the end of the civil war, the absence of any historical or cultural perspective and the limitations of political history which largely ignores social conditions (while the personalities of Mao and Chiang remain as enigmatic as ever). You might want to add this to a representative collection to balance, say, Orville Schell and Joseph Esherick's enthusiastic account of Modern China (p. 593, J-201), but because of its narrow focus and definite hard-line slant it cannot be recommended as a first book for anyone on the Mao vs. Chiang controversy.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap