Monday, January 14, 2008


The Book: SELECTED READINGS FROM THE WORKS OF MAO TSE-TUNG. Foreign Languages Press (Peking), 1971. Very good condition; owner's signature, telephone number and "Spring 1985" on front fly-leaf. Some margin notes and light underlining.
First read: 1985
Owned since: 1985

Here's the thing about Chairman Mao: the ideas sound great on paper. He was, without a doubt, one of the true evil geniuses of the human race -- a man who united a vast country under a new secular religion, who turned neighbors and families against each other in support of his cause, and a man who understood the best and worst of human nature.

I bought and read this book for a class on Marxism and the Marxist Tradition, which was one of the best courses I took in college. What surprised me most about this book is how readable Mao is, and how sharp his perceptions were.

Here he is in 1949, warning against cultural imperialism: "It has been proved that the enemy cannot conquer us by force of arms ... There may be some Communists ... who cannot withstand sugar-coated bullets."

The sugar-coated bullets are flying in modern-day China, but it would be a mistake to assume that Mao's endless revolution is over. Am I the only person wondering why none of the presidential candidates have said one word about China, which is likely to be our most important international relationship within the next five years? Sure, Middle Eastern terrorists might blow us up; China is the largest single holder of U.S. foreign debt. Not to be paranoid, but shouldn't we be paying a little more attention to that than we are?

And how will the world respond to the Beijing Olympics? Will everyone just go there and eat the food and drink the beer and congratulate the organizers on their modernization, or will anyone insist on seeing what's behind the shiny new buildings?

The Chinese government spent more than 50 years telling its citizens to ignore the seductions of the West. Now China is opening its doors to welcome the world in, and the world will be firing its sugar-coated bullets. It'll be interesting to see which direction the revolution goes from there.


larry said...

As for being/ becoming an industrialized country, I see China being where Japan was in the 1950s & 60s. With their population and global markets, they will eclipse the US as the world's economic power house... and then?


Moira said...

I think your right Clair, China is the third rail of politics (and business).

barras said...

Hi Clair, sorry to join in so late .. I just googled "selected readings .." and you came out top!

Yes why are we not discussing China more? I am a lecturer(UK) with scores of post grad Chinese students .. I get a chance to discuss their views with them, and their views of our views! China is a fascinating and complex nation, and, judging by the students, without doubt one with great potential. They have so many internal tensions .. if they can 'manage' themselves .. then they can manage the world. For many of my students Mao is a "much maligned by the west"hero ..

Brendan Bombaci said...

Hello! I have been reading a portion of this work by Zedong for a World Civilization (post-1300) class, emphasizing revolutions. Great stuff! It's interesting to see how much the west attacks ideas of socialism and communism... overall, nationalism seems to be the key to imperial successes, whether the empire be called Fascist, Republican, Democratic, or whatever. And, anything outside that box is "evil." Especially, though, I suppose, when the West has idealized and romanticized notions of Tibet, and paid great attention to how China has squashed its people (and their urbanized own, in more 'civil' ways).

China is a great power now, none the less. The organizational murmurs of attacking Pakistan, coming from the USA's own governance, pushed by the CFR (of course), would be a convenient way to undermine their connections with Russia and the rest of the industrialized/militarized world, too. America would become both the host and target of various peoples... and an internal revolt from the influx and liberty-reducing laws byproduct to such an irrational decision would be devastating in the extreme least, during such an economic and climatic bafflement...

Thanks for the site! I was actually just looking for some reference information, but hey. Talk is always good.


Brendan Bombaci

AnswerGirl said...

Thanks for stopping by, Brendan!