Analysis: Chang and Halliday on Mao and the Great Leap Forward
No one can deny that Mao Zedong was of enormous significance in shaping the history of China in the modern era or that he was equally significant an actor on the international geopolitical stage. What is debatable is whether or not Mao deserves to be revered as the man who led China out of feudalism and into new prominence as a world power, or despised as a callous man whose only real commitment and passion was for personal power (Wilson, 499). Indeed, Thomas P. Bernstein (24) states that "getting Mao Zedong right has been a formidable challenge" because in the not so distant past he was regarded as a philosopher-king who created an egalitarian and bureaucratic state but more recently is seen as "a member of the monstrous trinity that includes Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, and as responsible for more deaths than either of them."
The purpose of this particular essay is threefold: first, a critical analysis of a recent book by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday titled Mao: The Unknown Story will be presented on these authors' interpretation of the Great Leap Forward. Next, given that several authors do not accept the version of the Great Leap Forward described by Chang and Halliday, other analyses of this seminal movement in Maoist China will be explored. Finally, the report will conclude with an assessment of which particular view of Mao's role in the Great Leap Forward is correct.
Chang and Halliday (3) introduce the first chapter of their book by stating that Mao, "who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader." This single introductory statement sets the tone for the analysis provided by these authors who argue in effect that Mao's only goal was to consolidate power in his own hands and to impose his visio...