Mao & China

I've been reading up on Mao & China .. since we (the U.S.), and especially our children, are so heavily indebted to them.

Mao & NixonFascinating character, Mao. The George Washington of Communist China.

Similar trajectory (.. military » to » political & founding father of a new nation). Similar hardships.

Most interesting is the Long March. Six thousand miles, averaging 17 a day. Crossing 24 rivers and 18 (freezing) mountain ranges.

95% of the 86,000 soldiers who began the trek died along the way (.. '34-'35).

That's like walking the length of the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, then turning around and walking back again. My dogs would be barking after the first day.

The hike to the top of Half Dome (in Yosemite) is 17 miles, round trip. Takes all day. You start at the trailhead at first light (in the summer). By the time you get back, it's starting to get dark again (.. after hanging out for a couple of hours at the summit, where you eat lunch).

Would be considerably more difficult if you had to do it every day, including winter months, on starvation rations, with people shooting at you.

Mao had malaria. Needed to be carried, at times, on a litter.

They actually lost most of their number while crossing the vast grasslands, where one wrong step sent you plunging deep into mud. If it got up to your chest, nobody could help you.

Mao was one of the 5% who survived. Did it when he was 40. Stories like this make me feel better when I feel like whining about my own trials & tribulations.

He began as an idealistic student. The book I'm reading says his revolution took the lives of more of his subjects than did any other leader in human history, including Hitler & Stalin. 70 million is the number I heard. That would be every 4th or 5th American. Hard to believe. Peacetime.

I know China has lots of people, but they make it sound like all these (country-wide) executions were no big deal. Matter of course. "What are we having for dinner, hun? I'm starving."

I definitely get the feeling that life does not mean much there .. maybe cuz there's so MUCH of it. In that sense, China seems a little scary.

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Mao, who came out of the peasant class, claims the revolution would not have endured with 'purging' the wealthy land owners (.. called Masters of the Earth).

You must admit: Mao does not LOOK like a cold-hearted bad-ass .. such as Lenin, for example. No, he looks like someone who'd be fun to play checkers with. Or chess.

Mao Tse-tung as childFrom what I've read about him, the photograph that best captures his personality is the earliest known one .. taken when he was a child.

It is the one I've posted here. But this digital copy that I found on the web is not as good quality as the one contained in the book .. which is bigger, and does a much better job at revealing the coldness in his young eyes.

It's very clear in the book. You can actually match the actions of the man to the coldness of the boy in that photograph.

It's the very first photo presented in the book, which contains many others.

It reveals depth, patience (.. tho not the kind we espouse as a virtue), unflinching determinaton & vision. Remarkable for only a youth.

There's the "military mastermind" I could not find in any of his older (kindly uncle-like) photos.

He has been described as "bewilderingly complex" and a "fiendishly clever politician". Also » "a man who combines a fierce temper with infinite patience .. who combines vision with an almost pedantic attention to detail .. an inflexible will with extreme subtlety." And he was a poet.

The Nationalists (.. led by Chiang Kai-shek) put a price on Mao's head .. before executing his wife and vandalizing the tomb of his parents.

I was not planning on this massive 800-page tome. Rather I thought I was ordering Mao's Little Red Book (.. from the library). This one is also red. Was surprised to find it waiting for me there on the hold-shelf, bending from the weight of the load.

Way more than I was looking for, yet fascinating & enlightening. Might do a Rad ditty on Mao, but not planning on it.

Does it not seem ironic .. with the trumpeting of sustained economic growth in China, and the grumbling about lasting economic troubles here in the US & Europe .. that the Communists (Marx & Co.) seem to be beating the Capitalists (Adam Smith & Co.) at their own game? ($money.)

Mao on cover of Time MagazineMaybe it just seems that way.

Some of the people with whom I chat claim they feel our government is reaching into their pockets, taking their money, and giving it to wealthy Wall Streeters & bankers.

But that's not true. They're actually borrowing it from China (and others), and simply putting it on our tab .. or our kids' tab. Something about that seems immoral.

Our goverment is broke (.. in more ways than one). As is California, where I live. Debt-to-GDP is near 100% and rapidly approaching the record levels set during WW II. But hey, we got great credit. For now, anyway.

What might be the consequences if we default on our financial obligations to China?

I get the feeling China is not about money .. at least, not like we are here in the States, where it is worshipped round the clock, and some value it above above all else.

Impossible to understand China without understanding Mao (1893-1976), the book says, whose revolution "dragged a quarter of mankind out of medieval squalor."

Whether for better or worse (depending on your perspective), he changed the world.

China has ~1.3 billion people .. about 4 times as many as we have here in the States.

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » mao zedong, and another for » mao tse-tung. Same dude.

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on December 13, 2010 12:13 PM.

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