Mao: The Real Story

. October 2012. 768p. 978-1-45165-544-9. 35.
Pantsov (history & political science, Capital Univ., OH; The Bolsheviks and the Chinese Revolution 1919–1927) put decades of research into his comprehensive 2007 Russian-language biography of Mao, here translated and adapted by Levine (senior research assoc., Maureen & Mike Mansfield Ctr., Univ. of Montana; China’s Bitter Victory), himself the author of key studies on the Chinese revolution. Pantsov not only synthesizes Chinese, Russian, American, and European sources and scholarship but also delves into Moscow’s previously closed inner-party files on the Communist Party of China going back to the 1920s, which are stunning in their personal and organizational reporting. China scholars now will have to reassess every element of Mao’s career, both his strategies, which were indispensable to revolutionary success, as well as his dependence on Soviet leader Stalin. More important than Pantsov and Levine’s scholarly chops, however, is that they spin a balanced and utterly compelling story larded with telling and often newly uncovered anecdotes about Mao’s family, wives, comrades, rivals, and victims. The analytical common sense of the authors’ judgments on Mao’s crimes and achievements builds on their insights into Mao’s complex personality (and, yes, sex life).
VERDICT One of the most important China books of recent years and a page-turner, too. [See Prepub Alert, 4/30/12.]

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