Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Re-Writing of Mao

Just published, a few months ago:

Mao
The Unknown Story
Written by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

TVO is giving this some major coverage. Steve Paikin interviewed the two authors and Big Ideas broadcast a symposium of experts on all matters Mao.

Before leaving today, I did not have time to view the symposium. I will do that shortly as I did record the show.

Some premonitions however, I would not be surprised if the discussion grates on me. There is, or at least I perceive there to be, a tendency to give Mao the benefit of the doubt. I don't have any evidence to point to so I may be talking through my hat. Most western experts seem to believe that Mao was a great man who was unfortunate in that he lived in difficult times. Times that were so difficult that he was occasionally forced to do harsh things. That's an oversimplification but again, that's my perception. Incidentally, in the interview by Paikin, one of the authors stated that when she first came to the west, she denied being Chinese as she could not tolerate the adoration of Mao that she encountered in westerners. She claimed to be Korean.

I suspect that the view of the books will be that they are poorly researched and therefore, not very meaningful. Another perception of mine is that historians will always resist the re-writing of history. In my observations, they do so by attacking the technique of those who would re-write.

Every time that I see someone described as being an expert, I cannot help but assume that they will be utilising their expertise to defend their turf. Not kind but those are my observations. We'll see.

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