An instructive introduction to China's "savior"
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 10/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just as Red China's history and culture remains a mystery to most in the West, so does Mao Tse-Tung stand as little more than a footnote to world history - a great big footnote, of course, but one little studied and even less understood than most by Westerners. Some may only know him as the grandfatherly fellow who met with President Nixon in 1972. Mao was and is one of the most significant leaders in modern world history, a monster and a genius who made China a world power while bringing about the deaths of more people (his own people) than Hitler and Stalin combined.
Mao was born a peasant, and in many ways he ruled as a peasant; he was a man of "charming vulgarities" who almost single-handedly saved the Communist movement in China. As a youth, he was part of the first wave of Communists working to bring about revolution in a country overseen by corrupt and generally ineffectual leaders. As Chiang Kai-Shek sought to rid the country of this growing Communist menace in the early 1930s, Mao became an outlaw who led the remnants of the revolutionaries on "the long march" - which only 20,000 out of 100,000 survived; he then established a new base in the north and began mobilizing an army. Vastly outnumbered by Chiang Kai-Shek's superior forces, Mao was able to avoid total defeat thanks to the Japanese invasion of mainland China - Mao joined the fight against the foreign aggressor. The U.S. inadvertently helped arm the man who would, in 1949, claim control of the entire country and establish the People's Republic of China.
This video draws a great contrast between Mao the revolutionary and Chairman Mao. His strengths did not lie in managing a country, as was soon made clear by his radical changes to Chinese society. Rebuffed by Stalin, Mao set about forging his own Communist reshaping of the country, asking more of his people than was possible. His massive farm collectivization efforts and zest for overnight industrialization quickly led to a horrendous famine; some 40 million Chinese died of hunger between 1959 and 1961. Mao did not see the reality of the disaster at first because people were afraid to tell him the truth. His invitation to the intellectuals to speak their mind in 1956 resulted in an "anti-rightist" purge that tore apart over one million families, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without a job and tens of thousands consigned to labor camps. The true state of affairs soon became apparent, however, and Mao was forced to the sidelines.
After five years of careful planning and a calculated mobilization of China's young people, Mao reclaimed ultimate power and disposed of the moderates he viewed as having rolled back many of his reforms. This new Proletarian Cultural Revolution marked a return to Mao's paranoid dictatorship. The moderates and intellectuals had again been purged, and over one million Chinese had been killed or imprisoned. Mao did manage to do some good, despite himself, in his old age. The visit by President Nixon and the opening of Chinese-US dialogue after three decades of silence marked Mao's turn to diplomacy and his hope of gaining China an important seat on the world stage. He would die four years after Nixon's historic visit. The Chinese mourned the loss of their great savior, and Mao's influence has never abated in the country, even as the new generation of leaders seeks to come to terms with Mao's true legacy.
I think this video does a good job of summarizing Mao's and China's history in the short time allotted. It also does a fine job revealing Mao the man to viewers. He was a great mobilizer of men who never lost his peasant ways. He was also a notorious womanizer. Was he, like Stalin, evil, though? This video would seem to indicate that he was not. He seemingly did try to do what he thought best for China; the problem was that he became, after 1958, a paranoid tyrant divorced from the reality of his land and his people. He certainly had little problem justifying the destruction of his enemies, but he did not bring misery to his people intentionally. Mao was a simple yet highly complex man, and this video makes for an instructive introduction to the subject at hand."
Dont waste your time
Guillermo A. PUYANA RAMOS | Bogotá COLOMBIA | 06/30/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Apart from some interesting early 20th century footage, this video is just a waste of time. Commentaries are superficial and obvious, useless for those who know a little more than Mao existence. Producers lost the wonderful oportunity in the interviews with outstanding sinologist Roderick McFarquhar, and dissident journalist Liu Binyan, who were asked mostly for well known anecdotaries that cannot explain the role Mao played in modern China.
The story jumps suddenly from the Greart Leapt Forward to the Cultural revolution, and from here to the Nixon-Mao meeting in 1972 and then Mao dies. Nothing about the significant facts which ocurred from the restoration Deng Xaioping by Mao in 1975 and the death of the Great Helmsman. No reference of the strong relationship between Mao and Zhou Enlai, the Gang of Four role in Cultural Revolution, or to the Lin Biao plot and his death, nothing about the Corean War, the diplomatic strategy for the recovery of the UN seat for C!hina. The sino soviet split is explained in a superficial and annecdotical manner. The role of US advisory of the communist in WW II is also exagerated. Data about deaths in the Mao regime is taken from unexplained sources that diverge from respected scholars, even the most critical of Mao and China. In conclusion, if you think the lifes of political leaders is a good way to understand a society, is better to go to the China Box Sets produced by History Channel entitled China Rising or the China: A Century of Revolution by WindStar Home VIdeo. But if you just want three or four gossips about how Mao liked young girls and other sensasionalists stories, you can get some entertainment in this video."
Suzanne M. Lowrie | La Jolla, California United States | 05/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I loved this video with its emphasis on the personality of Chairman Mao and his early experiences. His childhood and young adulthood are viewed as determinants of his attitude toward intellectuals, the university, city dwellers and the peasantry. Mao was revealed as the man. A word of caution to the use of this video in a classroom or as the only source of information on Mao's life. Only in passing does this video explain the Cultural Revolution and the decentralization of industry into small scale enterprises as caused by theories of development in vogue or internal power struggles. The causation of the Cultural Revolution and the reasoning behind Mao's attempt to make steel in small smelters located in the countryside is complex. Mao's wife's nuttiness or Mao's early childhood doesn't have sufficient explanatory power. The need for political control to achieve stability is ignored. Wonderful photography, however, makes up for these shortcomings."
Mao Tse Tung
Suzanne M. Lowrie | 12/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A&E Bibliography captures the essence of Mao's life and the chinese people of his time. This video provides insight into China's communist government and the peoples reaction to it by interviews with chinese students, peasants, and former goverment officals all who knew Mao. The bibliography of Mao Tse Tung gives a living history that is a must see."