[First published Novmber 21, 2005]The Monstrous, Hidden Mao Tse-tung In a previous blog, wrote that I was convinced by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s <I>Mao</I> that China’s Great Famine was a democide, and that this raised the communist democide 1923 to 1987 to 73,000,000, exceeding by over 10,000,000 the democide total for the Soviet Union 1917-1987. There is much more in this book and its predecessor, Chang’s <i>Wild Swans</I> that I will reveal here.
I should note that I’m not doing book reviews, although I need to give some background from the books. My interest is only in what I learned from the books that are new and surprising. First, as to the <I>Wild Swans</I>, this is a story of the lives of three Chinese women, Chang’s grandmother who had her feet bound, and became a concubine; her mother who along with Chang’s father became high officials in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and Chang herself who became a CCP member, a Red Guard, and was tortured, incarcerated, persecuted, underwent forced labor, and finally with Mao’s death was able to get a university education and be awarded one of the first foreign fellowships, this to England. What is so absorbing about this is what is revealed about China’s history through its effect on this one family. This includes the downfall of the Manchu Dynasty, China’s brief flirtation with democracy, the warlord years, Chiang Kai-shek’s rise to power, Mao’s gradual seizure of power over the communists, the civil war, Japanese invasion and occupation, the post-war battle against Chiang for China, Mao’s takeover of China, and the various bloody campaigns to solidify Mao’s rule and impose communism, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, and aftermath.
Here the perspective is bottom up. The top down perspective, that is of Mao and those around them, is given in <I>Mao</I>. These books are essential to each other and I strongly recommend that anyone interested in China today or its recent history, in pure evil, in communism, in totalitarianism, or in how mass murder and torture can become a routine operation of government, must read these books.
With that as background, what have I learned?
1. Some of the highest CCP members were dedicated to improving the lives of the people, but they soon became disillusioned by the killing, and corruption that infected the whole CCP, even at the top where the lust for power and fear of Mao determined almost every policy. They soon became cynical and were executed.
While the people’s welfare deteriorated year by year, those at the top ate the best of meals, lived in the best of resorts, mansions, and homes, and even took over what had been public parks for private strolling and relaxation. By the end of Mao’s regime, the people lived in hovels, wore rags, some having to go naked, and were always on the verge of starvation, or so weakened that an ordinary cold meant death. At great expense, Mao had huge mansions built all over China for his private use, sometime spending no more than a few days in one, and had special food brought to him from remote areas. Moreover, he had his guards or cadre secure pretty young women for his sexual pleasure
The total income of China’s government was Mao’s to spend as he wished. All public property was his. All CCP members and government officials, military and police, was his to command.
2. The 1933-1934 Long March of 368 days over about 5,600 miles that you have read about, that “heroic march” of 87,000 communist soldiers from Yuda, Hangxi, led by Mao through much of China, “winning battle after battle against Chiang’s forces,” until finally only 10,000 reached security in Wuqi, Ningxia (Yenan came later). This is almost all a lie, perpetuated by Mao’s propaganda machine and Edgar Snow’s <i>Red Star Over China</I>. This popular and influential book established a favorable impression of Mao in the West. Snow was a communist sympathizer and the book was practically all dictated by Mao.
Virtually none of the well-known battles were fought. They were almost all lies. Chiang was not trying to destroy the communists but preserve them (his beloved son was a captive of Stalin), and guide them to where he could use their presence to overcome warlords that opposed him.
Mao used the march as a means to gain more power against his rivals, even killing or leading their communist soldiers into ambushes or hopeless battles with Chiang. He thus led to destruction a whole Army. So, the most notable battles on the march were the defeats he set up to insure his power. He could do this because of his spies close to Chiang who kept Mao informed of all Chiang’s plans and military movements.
During and after the march, Mao carried out purges of communists, including many young people who joined the communists out of dedication to helping the people. Once they saw what Mao’s communism was like, they tried to escape. When caught they were usually executed by being buried alive.
3. Perhaps one of the most influential acts of any communist mole was that of a general in charge of Chiang’s army around Shanghai. When the Japanese invaded China from the north, they were not interested in a war or taking over all of indigestible China, but in reaching some kind of agreement with Chiang. However, at Mao’s command the mole had his troops attack the Japanese in Shanghai against Chiang’s orders. It became a great battle and the Japanese won. This attack on Japanese forces was to the Japanese a cause for war, for it communicated that Chiang was not interested in an agreement, and since they had secured Shanghai as a sea base, they decided to move into the rest of China and on a full scale war. This is what Mao wanted. He never really fought the Japanese, but used the war to attack Chiang and prepare for the postwar struggle against him.
When I was in Japan during the Korean War a former Japanese soldier who had fought in China described how he and other soldiers would sit on a hill and watch Mao’s and Chiang’s soldiers fight each other. Chiang did not want these battles, Mao did.
4. In the post war struggle, Chiang had virtually defeated communist troops in Manchuria, when the US intervened. President Truman saw Mao as a peasant reformer and sent General George Marshall to arrange a cease-fire, and seek accommodations between Mao and Chiang. Neither Truman nor Marshall had any idea of Mao’s nature and aims. Under threat of the withdrawal of American aid, Marshall made Chiang stop fighting Mao for four months, during which he was to arrange a meeting between both sides. It didn’t happen, but the delay saved Mao’s army. Over the four months, it was massively reinforced by Stalin, and trained by Soviet officers. It was then almost a match for Chiang’s battle hardened forces.
But, Chiang had three generals high in his command that were communist sleepers. In western, central, and Northern China including Manchuria they kept Mao informed of their movements, while maneuvering for the defeat of forces under their command. Chiang was not only a poor judge of those leading his forces, he refused to take any action against those he suspected of communist leanings. Mao never had such a problem. He killed anyone of whom he had slightest suspicion, and even those who might be so disposed by class background, friendships, family, and previous occupation.
So, Moa won China with the help of communist propaganda, communist moles, sleepers high up in Chiang’s regime and army, Stalin, Truman, and Chiang himself.
4. I need not go into the bloody land reform, and successive movements all dedicated to increasing communist, and thus Mao’s power. I should mention the Korean War, however. Mao was not satisfied with his power over China, he wanted it over the world. He thus tried to use all China’s resources to build up China’s industrial capacity and military capability. He tried to woo Stalin to help him build the atomic bomb, a huge navy, including 50 submarines, and the factories to produce tanks, cannons, airplanes, and so on. American power, however, stood in his way. But, he thought he knew how to weaken it. He wanted a Korean War in order to chew up American forces by the hundreds of thousands with is own. He therefore persuaded Stalin to give Kim Il-sung the go ahead to launch an invasion of the South, which would surely result in the United States getting involved.
This is a remarkable revelation. It had become axiomatic in strategic studies that when in early 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave his famous Aleutians speech in which he excluded South Korea from the US Pacific “defense line” or “defensive perimeter,” it encourage Stalin to support Kim’s desire to launch the invasion. This lead to the national security principle: well define who you will defend, but otherwise keep your enemy guessing at to what you will do and how. There has been virtually no appreciation of the Korean War being on Mao’s initiative, or that the Acheson speech had nothing to do with it. Mao believed that American forces would be involved, and indeed, it was to draw them into mass slaughter that he wanted the war.
5. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog about Mao’s taking food out of the mouths of his people, condemning 38,000,000 to death, in his insatiable drive for power. And those close to him in power, finally regardless of the risk, turning on him to end the famine. He later got his revenge by the Cultural Revolution. He created a force of young high school and college students who had been so brainwashed as to love Mao as a god. He gave these Red Guards free reign (police and army were ordered not to interfere) to seek out capitalist roaders, spies, rightists, anti-Maoists, and anyone they suspected of counter-revolutionary beliefs, to thus to cleanse the CCP and government no matter how high the officials.
The Red Guards, young boys and girls, beat and tortured their victims, incarcerated them, had them transported to remote and inhospitable regions to do forced labor, publicly humiliated them, and murdered them. Red Guards formed factions and fought, tortured, and killed each other as to who were the truer Moaists. Even army units got involved either directly in the fighting or by supplying their favorite faction with weapons.
China fell into chaos. All schools were closed for years, and factory production ceased in some areas. Although the impoverished peasants were left undisturbed in most areas, without any additional food or help, they still had to take care of those sent to their area for hard labor or incarceration. No high official, except Mao, and a few closest to him, such as his wife Jiang Qing and Premier and Foreign Minister Chou En-lai, were exempt.
6. The Cultural Revolution was not just a cleansing of the CCP, it also wiped the culture clean of that which Mao did not approve. Classical books and art were destroyed, classical theater was forbidden, as was dancing, and only movies extolling the CCP or Mao were allowed. Anything cultural from the West was trashed. Normal forms of recreation were all but denied. About 80 percent of ancient monuments were eliminated. China’s priceless heritage was gone as Mao turned China into a cultural desert.
7. Until I read <i>Wild Swans</I>, I knew about the brainwashing of China’s people, but I had no feel for it nor did I know how thorough it was. Regardless of Mao’s monstrous evil, the people seemed to generally love him. He was deified. He was “the great savior of China,” the “great helmsman,” the “great provider.” “He loved his people, and had fought for them.” “Everything he did was for the good of the people.” He was China with all its virtues, and none of its faults. The brainwashing was such that people simply could not have negative thoughts about him. What was happening to them was due to Western agents and Chiang’s spies, rightists, and capitalist roaders, or bad people high in the CCP. Mao was as much a victim as they were.
8. In effectiveness, the way Mao controlled information, and deceived and lied to his people, went far beyond what Hitler and Stalin had achieved. It is worthy of close study as to how Mao so controlled information and communications. I believe it was by fear, the trembling fear resulting from systematic and deadly purges. No one could know when he or she would be the next one arrested and tortured to divulge their alleged plotting and counter revolutionary contacts. One might even fall under a quota to be arrested, as Mao dictated that between 1 and 10 percent of all intellectuals had to be arrested. In one province, the army was told that a third to a quarter of all class enemies were to be put to death by bludgeoning or stoning — about 100,000 were thus killed. This method of killing was chosen because it would instill fear and terror in survivors. People were thus turned into obedient robots.
9. Chou En Lai was the face of Mao to the world. He was handsome, a good conversationalist, cultured, and an accomplished diplomat. Mao used him to deal with visiting dignitaries, and he did much to mislead the world about Mao’s aims and character. He was also Mao’s hatchet man and supported Mao’s deadly policies and mass murder. How could this man who so impressed diplomats, and especially Americans do this. He was blackmailed. Mao held him under tight control by threatening to reveal anti-CCP statements he had once made, which would have meant torture and a miserable death.
10. Ho Chi Minh was under Mao’s influence and in some ways control. It was Mao that directed Vietnam’s bloody land reform, with all the same techniques and horror he had inflicted on his own peasants. I had thought that Ho alone was responsible, and only relied on the Chinese for advice.
11. Pol Pot was equally under Mao’s influence, and the story that Chou En Lai tried to get Pol Pot to moderate his revolution and killing is not true. Mao encouraged it.
12. Then there was the United States as represented by Henry Kissinger and President Nixon. Everyone knows about the famous Nixon visits to China, but what is not known is what was involved. Mao’s ability to catapult China into superpower status was stymied by conflict with the Soviets. He feared a Soviet invasion from Mongolia that could easily seize Beijing. He then looked to the U.S. for protection and for help to achieve his superpower goal.
Nixon saw China as a balance against the Soviets, and declared that we would help defend China if it were attacked, as Mao wanted. Even in the case of weapons Nixo provided help. It was against the law to export weapons and related products to China. Nonetheless, Nixon did so by applying pressure to American allies, like Britain, to do the exporting instead.
13. I remember well this time of the Kissinger and Nixon visits. It is sickening in retrospect how this monstrously evil man was extolled, toasted, complemented, and helped by Nixon, Kissinger, and the Western media in their train. This went beyond the real politics of an enemy of my enemy is my friend. It was a virtually a love fest.
To understand this is to understand the pro-Mao propaganda that had infected Americans and American leaders over the previous five decades. Much of this was due to outright gushing treatment of Mao, as by the aforementioned <i>Red Star Over China</i>. But it was also due to the dominance of China studies by fellow travelers, those who hated the Chiang Nationalist regime (and their was much to hate), and were thus sympathetic to Mao; or those experts who rarely tried to look beneath the information they were getting on China. When I wrote my book on China, even some of the anti-communists I read did not realize how some of what they believed was propaganda, as for example on the Great Famine, or Long March.
Anyway, Mao’s reputation had been failing and he was losing favor in the Third World when Nixon “played his China card.” The Nixon visits were just what Mao wanted. They boosted his worldwide reputation, including in the U.S.
14. I’ve never counted suicides as democide, but I should have. Families were torn apart; loved ones tortured and persecuted, if not killed; officials, professionals, students were jailed for no reason at all, and many were publicly beaten, dishonored, and humiliated. Suicides were everywhere, but remain uncounted. When you have as many as 100,000,000 persecuted in just the Cultural Revolution, I would guess that the number for all of Mao’s time in power must be in the millions. This would make the democide estimate of 73,000,000 conservative.
The biography of Mao ends with this Epilogue: <blockquote>Today, Mao’s portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates the myth of Mao. </blockquote>
What is the lesson from all this? Never trust an absolute dictator. Don’t believe a word they say, nor any good or sympathetic thing said about them. Do nothing to increase their credibility or reputation. Diplomacy will not work with such dictators. And if push comes to shove, a war against them is just. It will save lives, and free people from their bloody chains.
Pray tell, my brother,
Why do dictators kill
and make war?
Is it for glory; for things,
for beliefs, for hatred,
Yes, but more,
because they can.</pre></blockquote>