We have heard of Hitler, the man who sent, by one account, some nine million Jews to concentration camps and then to the gas chambers in an uprecedented act of genocide. Stalin was his contemporary and Stalin in his time sent several millions of his own countrymen to death to establish Marxist order in the Soviet Union. But in the matter of killing no one surpasses Mao Tse-tung who for decades held absolute power over the lives of over 700 million Chinese and was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, enough to make both Hitler and Stalin jealous of him.
If ever there was brute, a tyrant and an unprincipled murderer at large, surely his name would be Mao Tse-tung. Violence, it would seem, came naturally to him. Born to a peasant father whom he intensely disliked, Mao'slife was one long journey into the kingdom of Hate. In 1968, when he was taking revenge on his political foes on a vast scale he told their tormentors that he would have liked his own father to have been treated just as brutally. The suggested torture was ?jet-planning? where the subject'sarms were wrenched behind his back and his head forced down.
As an egoist there was none who could hold a candle to Mao who, according to the authors of this fantastic biography ?shunned all constraints of responsibility and duty? and ?did not believe in anything unless he could benefit from it personally?. Mao became a communist while still young but he had no particular sympathy for peasants. When ?tens of millions? of Chinese were starved to death under his rule, Mao couldn'tcare less. In the early years, Mao was a poor organiser and was dropped from the Chinese Communist Party'sIInd Congress in July 1922.
The book tells us how he managed to stay in the good books of his seniors and superiors in the party through hook and by crook. Violence came naturally to him. ?The propensity? say the authors, ?sprang from his character? which was a love for ?blood-thirsty thuggery?. Mao'sslow rise to power and his ascendancy in his party is described in great detail and makes for fascinating, if painful, reading.
It is one long story of loot, killing and large-scale destruction. When his brigands captured a rich town called Tingzhou, he had the city'sdefender, Brigadier Kuo captured alive, then killed. A rally was then held at which Kuo's body was hung upside down from a chestnut tree by the dais where Mao made a speech. Much has been made of the Long March; an American journalist Edgar Snow romanticised it but the truth about this adventure has now been laid bare. It would seem that Chiang Kai-shek who was then heading the Nationalist Party allowed the communists to go as part of his ?goodwill gesture? towards Russia.
Actually, the Russians had held Chiang Kai-shek'sonly son as a hostage in Moscow and Chiang did not want to take any chance over his safety. And if Mao survived, it was largely because Moscow subsidised him with a monthly donation of $ 300,000, then quite a substantial sum. But when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and the Moscow subsidy dried up, Mao went for opium production and sale which brought him and his followers ?loads of money?. For Mao, ends justified means.
Many politicians are power hungry, but Mao Tse-tung would beat anybody at the game of not only acquiring power but holding on to it whether from friend or foe. Mao had no friends. The day he felt he was being challenged, saw the end of his rival. Even Chou En-lai on whom Mao depended to such a great extent was constantly humiliated. When it was discovered that Chou had cancer of the bladder, instructions were given to the doctors and hospital authorities not to let either Chou or even his wife of many years know what was the nature of the ailment. They were also bluntly told: ?No examination, no surgery?. The authors of this work aver that ?one reason Mao did not want Chou to go to hospital and be treated was in order for Chou to be available to work round the clock to deal with foreign statesman who were queuing at the gate after Nixon'svisit?.
What is clear is that the authors have done a tremendous amount of research but strangely enough nowhere is there a mention of M.N. Roy who had been sent by the Comintern to China to help organise the Communist Party there. There are a couple of references to Jawaharlal Nehru who had gone out of his way to decline the Permanent Membership of the Security Council and vote in favour of China. Literally hundreds of people have been quoted, but not a single Indian. Equally interesting, among the hundreds interviewed there is only one unknown name, that of Sonny Mehta.
There are just five brief references to Nehru: one, showing Krushchev'sappreciation of India'staking over of Goa, another a one-line reference to Nehru'sdeath, a third, Chou telling Americans that ?Nehru was getting very cocky? and China was trying ?to keep down his cockiness? and a fourth, Kruschchev telling Chou that if China got into a war with India, Moscow would stand by Peking. There is more information on the Nixon-Kissinger love affair with Beijing, fascinating by itself. For all that, this book tells not much about China'sdealing with foreign affairs or the reason why China chose to invade India. But we know a great deal about the character of Mao which is best described in one word: Despicable. Mao was not just a disgrace to China. He was a disgrace to all mankind. No wonder, he is being quietly forgotten.