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Mao’s Pleasure

Leslie Wilson, 5 October 1995

The Private Life of Chairman Mao 
by Li Zhisui, translated by Tai Hung-Chao.
Chatto, 682 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7011 4018 6
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... In 1949, when many of China’s citizens were running from the newly-victorious Communists, Dr Li Zhisui returned to his homeland. He had been making good money as a ship’s doctor with the Australian Oriental Company, and he could have stayed there or joined his wife in Hong Kong. But since Australia only admitted white people to citizenship, and in Hong Kong he could have become only the ‘disenfranchised subject of a foreign king’, he decided to take part in the reconstruction of his own country: this, he writes, was more important to him than making money ...

Business as Usual at the ‘People’s Daily’

Jasper Becker: The Chinese cultural revolution, 29 July 1999

The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. Vol. III: The Coming of the Cataclysm 1961-66 
by Roderick MacFarquhar.
Oxford, 733 pp., £70, October 1977, 0 19 214997 0
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... and so much else remains obscure. The exception which proves the point is Mao’s personal doctor, Li Zhisui, who retired to America and there wrote a devastating record of everything he had witnessed. Much, for example, has been written about Premier Zhou Enlai, but only someone as prominently placed as ...
Hungry Ghosts: China’s Secret Famine 
by Jasper Becker.
Murray, 352 pp., £19.99, June 1996, 0 7195 5433 0
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... few people were fooled by the persisting reports of huge crops. From the memoirs of Mao’s doctor Li Zhisui, published last year, we know that Mao himself realised in 1960 that there was a famine. But the pretence of bumper crops, together with other fanciful claims about a resoundingly successful Great Leap, continued, like any set of emperor’s new ...

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