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.