Mao and Snow

During one of our trips to Shanghai, China, my wife and I went to see a film called Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow.

Edgar Snow (1905 – 1972) was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He is believed to be the first Western journalist to interview Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and is best known for Red Star Over China (1937) an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.

The film was in Mandarin and wasn’t subtitled, so I had to watch carefully to understand what was going on. I Googled the move and found little about it on the Internet.

However, I discovered that Edgar Snow’s wife threatened to sue China if the movie was released but that didn’t stop the Chinese.

There’s no doubt that Mao had to have charisma to lead so many men in battle for so many years to win the civil war.

Edgar Snow and Mao

However, Mao changed after he became a modern emperor, and the power corrupted him. The evidence—the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the purges that killed so many.

There was a positive side too.  Mao’s success in the CCP’s war against poverty, the increase in life expectancy that almost doubled during Mao’s rule and the health programs that were implemented such as the bare foot doctors. The reason so many Chinese still think of Mao as the George Washington of China was because life after 1949 was better than life before the CCP won the Civil War.

Students of China may want to see this movie, but the only place one may buy a DVD of this movie is probably China.

When Edgar Snow came down with pancreatic cancer, Zhou Enlai dispatched a team of Chinese doctors to Switzerland to treat him.

The next best thing would be to read Snow’s book about Mao, Red Star Over China and/or discover about Health Care During Mao’s Time.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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3 Responses to Mao and Snow

  1. Godfree Roberts says:

    “The evidence—the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the purges that killed so many.”?
    These are examples, not of corruption but of what happens when a revolutionary (and Mao was the greatest revolutionary in history) tries his hand at government. They were revolutions because that’s the only way Mao knew to accomplish things that needed accomplishing.
    Incidentally, the purges killed many in Russia. Not in Mao’s China.

    • Godfree,

      The purges in China were under Stalin, right? But what happened in Russia did not happen in China.

      From what I understand, most of the people that died during The Cultural Revolution committed suicide or were killed by overzealous Red Guard members that were mostly teenagers and did not belong to the CCP. Mao may have engineered the Cultural Revolution but once he set it in motion he stayed mostly out of sight and let his wife manage it.

      In addition, Mao threw most of the party members he suspected of wanting to take over into prison for long terms.

      One example was Sidney Rittenberg who says Mao was a genius, a hero and a criminal. But Rittenberg never called him a monster like Stalin or Hitler were and Rittenberg spent 16 years in a prison during the end of the Mao era.

      Another example was one of my wife’s uncles. He was a Nationalist (KMT) police chief in a small town and did not flee to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek in 1949. The CCP sent him and thousands of others like him who were members of the KMT to prison. Thirty years later, he was released and lives with his son and daughter in law today in Shanghai. The CCP even gave him a small pension. In Russia, people like my wife’s uncle were executed and buried in mass graves.

      The big difference in China was that Mao never went to Moscow where most of the world’s communist leaders went to be schooled in how to lead a revolution and then a communist nation. Mao was more of a nationalist (not in the political sense but in his loyalty to China first).

      In fact, at the start of the Civil War between the CCP and the KMT, it was Chiang Kai-shek who set out the slaughter all of the members of the CCP and all labor union leaders. The “White Terror” was launched in Shanghai in 1927 and continued in Taiwan to 1949 as Chiang Kai-shek purged anyone suspected of being a Communist supporter. The White Terror in China took millions of lives, mostly in rural areas, and nearly destroyed the Chinese Communist Party. The US was a supporter of Chiang Kai-shek and never criticized him for killing millions.

      The next two videos tell us about the White Terror and what Chiang Kai-shek did. Most in the West do not know that before the White Terror the KMT and the CCP were working together to create a multi-party republic in China.

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