The Questionable Private Life of Chairman Mao: Part 5 of 5

September 23, 2017

As you have discovered, while many in the West have praised Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao as an accurate portrait of a manipulative egomaniac with little tolerance of dissent and a penchant for young women, the book was also criticized in China by those closest to Mao and by both eastern and western scholars of China.

In addition, some in the West have rejected or ignored what Dr. Li wrote about Mao and the famine during the Great Leap Forward. It’s as if, there are too many who only want the scandal, the rumors, the bad stuff.

According to the people that knew Mao best, most notably Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao was not aware that the situation that caused the great famine amounted to more than a slight shortage of food.

Li wrote, “But I do not think that when he spoke on July 2, 1959, he knew how bad the disaster had become, and he believed the party was doing everything it could to manage the situation.”

While many in the West believe most of what Li wrote of Mao in his memoir, those same people do not accept what Li says about the famine because to do so would be to admit Mao wasn’t the butcher of twenty, thirty, forty or sixty million people (depending on who you read and want to believe) due to the famine and starvation during the Great Leap Forward.

This is known as cherry picking, which is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, confirmation bias, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict what you think.

Confirmation bias refers to a form of selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports what believers already think while ignoring evidence that proves their thinking was wrong. Confirmation bias plays a stronger role when people base their beliefs on faith, tradition, and prejudice.  A perfect example is Fake President Donald Trump and his loyal supporters.

One example of confirmation bias is from Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikotter’s book on the great famine where he claims that Mao was responsible for the famine and did nothing to save lives.

The point I want to make is if the West accepts the revised and sensationalized English version of Li’s memoir of Mao as accurate, how can anyone dispute what Li said about Mao not knowing the extent of the Great Leap Forward famine?  By 1959, Dr. Li had been Mao’s physician for almost three years and according to the doctor, he knew intimate details of Mao’s life at least during those few years during the famine.

On the other hand, if we accept that Dr. Li’s memory was wrong about Mao and the famine in 1959, how many other claims in his memoir of Mao are inaccurate?

In fact, Frank Dikotter sensationalized his book. the same as Random House did to Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao. by increasing the number of people that died by fifty percent to allow for possible under-reporting to come up with an unproven claim that 45-million died of starvation during the famine when in fact, the number of people that died may have been much lower.

Is it possible that Mao’s image outside of China has been unwittingly engineered by the western media to be worse than it should be?

Return to Part 4 or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Questionable Private Life of Chairman Mao: Part 4 of 5

September 22, 2017

In addition, Li cannot be credited with the English edition of his flawed memoir since the original manuscript written by Li was translated from his native Chinese into English by Professor Tai Hung-chao, before being edited by Thurston that Dr. Li later accused of cutting substantial parts of his original manuscript without his knowledge.

I was also told by a friend that read the Chinese language edition of the memoir that it reads as if it were an accountant’s ledger.

In addition, Professor Tai, the translator, alleged that the English-language publisher Random House wanted more sensationalist elements to the book than that which Li had provided them, in particular requesting more information about Mao’s sexual relationships.

Despite Li’s own protests, Professor Tai said Random House overruled him, and put fictional sexual claims in Dr. Li’s memoir anyway.

Then there is an Open Letter published in April 1995, a statement that said many of the claims made in Li’s memoir were false. One-hundred-and-fifty people that had personally known or worked with Mao signed that letter.

Then there is Professor Frederick Teiwes, a western academic specializing in the study of Maoist China, who was also critical of Li’s memoir. Professor Teiwes argued in his book The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1971 (1996) that despite Li’s extensive claims regarding the politics behind the Cultural Revolution, Dr. Li was actually “on the fringe” of the events taking place in the Chinese government.

Does that mean Dr. Li was a fraud, a liar, and that Random House helped make that fraud worse?

Continued in Part 5 on September 23, 2017 or return to Part 3

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Questionable Private Life of Chairman Mao: Part 3 of 5

September 21, 2017

In 1994, a year before he died, Dr. Li Zhisui published his memoir of Mao, The Private Life of Chairman Mao.

Li based the book’s contents upon his own memories of Mao several decades after the actual events because he burned all of his personal diaries during the Cultural Revolution in case something he wrote about Mao might get him in trouble with the teenage Red Guard.

In 1988, Dr. Li left China for good with Lillian (his wife), who was suffering from kidney trouble and joined their sons, Chong and Erchong, and daughter-in-law Mei, near Chicago.

His decision to set down his account of Mao’s private life was not easy since he had destroyed the forty notebooks of his private diary during the Cultural Revolution almost thirty years earlier.

It wouldn’t be until after Dr. Li’s wife died of kidney failure in 1989, that he started writing his memoir. “In her last days in the hospital, before she slipped into a coma,” says Li, “she urged me to write this book …”

One of Li’s collaborators involved in editing and revisions of the memoir, the western historian Anne F. Thurston, noted that because of this, Dr. Li’s claims were “fallible” and might “be wrong”.

One of the many critics of Li’s memoir was Qi Benyu, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that was connected with the left wing of the Cultural Revolution Group and the red-guard power seizures of 1967.

Qi had no reason to love Mao since he was arrested and imprisoned by Mao’s in 1968 and stayed in prison until 1986, a decade before Li wrote and published his memoir. Before prison, Qi spent several years near Mao and says he never heard any rumors of Mao having extra-marital affairs despite the fact that other senior Party members were known to have done this. Qi also said that most of the Cultural Revolution part of Li’s memoir consisted of information gleaned from newspapers, journals, and other people’s writings.

Continued on September 22, 2017, in Part 4 or return to Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Questionable Private Life of Chairman Mao: Part 2 of 5

September 20, 2017

Eighty-nine percent of the Amazon reviews of Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao earned 4 and 5-star reviews giving the book a 4.5 out of 5-star average. Before reviewing the book, it would have helped if the readers knew more about Dr. Li’s life.

Dr. Li Zhisui (1919 – 1995), attended West China Union University in Chengdu now known as Sichuan University that’s one of the oldest in China.

Soon after graduating from the university as a Western trained medical doctor in his mid-twenties, Li fled China in the 1940s to escape the ravages and dangers of the war and he ended up working as a ship’s surgeon out of Sydney, Australia.

In 1949, The Lecturn reports, “Madly enthusiastic about the Communist victory in 1949, he gives up a promising young career in Australia to take part in the efforts to rebuild China after a century of warfare and internal struggle…”

Since Mao officially declared an end to the Cultural Revolution in 1969 [its active phase lasted until the death of the military leader Lin Bao in 1971], we may assume that Dr. Li returned to Beijing from the destitute village in Zhejiang Province and/or rural Jiangxi Province mentioned in Part 1 of this five part series, where the doctor was sent in 1965 as part of the Socialist Education Program.

By this time, Dr. Li may have become a bitter man as we discover when we read his opinions in Around the Bend With Mao Zedong.

“As Dr Li presented it, the Socialist Education Program amounted to an elaborate waste of time … given the disparity between the living standards of the city people and the poor-beyond-all-imagination villagers.”

Mao held power in China for twenty-seven years but Dr. Li spent only eight of those years with Mao (less than 34-percent). That does not sound like someone that was with Mao every day he was in power.

How do we know that Li did not become Mao’s doctor until 1957?

In 1995, two years before the British gave Hong Kong back to China, a Chinese language book was published in Hong Kong. It was called Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan. Translated that means The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong.

Three people who had known Mao personally wrote that book. One was his personal secretary Lin Ke. The second person was his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao, and the third person was his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun.

The three authors argued in this Chinese language book that Dr. Li didn’t know Mao that well, and Li presented an inaccurate picture of Mao in his obviously flawed memoir. The trio attacked Li’s claim that he had been Mao’s personal physician in 1954 and presented copies of a document from Mao’s medical record showing that Li only took on the responsibility of caring for Mao on June 3, 1957.

Continued on September 21, 2017 in Part 3 or return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Questionable Private Life of Chairman Mao: Part 1 of 5

September 19, 2017

On the Amazon page of The Private Life of Chairman Mao, it says, “From 1954 until Mao Zedong’s death 22 years later. Dr. Li Zhisui was the Chinese ruler’s personal physician. For most of these years, Mao was in excellent health; thus he and the doctor had time to discuss political and personal matters. Dr. Li recorded many of these conversations in his diaries, as well as in his memory.”

The previous paragraph as you will discover if you finish reading this five-part series is not correct.

But first, let’s examine how accurate a memory is. According to Elizabeth Loftus, “Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory.”

Loftus is an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory. She has conducted extensive research on the malleability of human memory. Loftus is best known for her ground-breaking work on the misinformation effect and eyewitness memory, and the creation and nature of false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Loftus says, “Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed.

“These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.”

For an example of what professor Loftus is talking about, we learn about faulty memories from Amy Chua when she discussed the writing of her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

The Stamford Advocate reports, “The book was in many ways a family project. Rubenfeld, Chua’s husband, and their daughters read every draft and tried to reconcile their different memories. The final version reflects “four different sets of memories,” Chua said. “It was like family therapy.”

After reading about Dr. Li on his Amazon book’s page, it may come as a surprise to those that read Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao that Li was only one of Mao’s doctors. In addition, he wasn’t with Mao every day he was in power.

In fact, Dr. Li did not become Mao’s doctor until June 3, 1957, and Mao became the leader of China in 1949.

Then in 1965, according to  Around the Bend With Mao Zedong, eight years later, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Dr Li was recruited into what was called the Socialist Education Program, and he was sent to a destitute village in Zhejiang Province.

In addition, in “Mao’s Last Revolution” by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, we discover that Dr Li was also living in rural Jiangxi Province, so maybe he spent time in both provinces during the ten year long Cultural Revolution that didn’t end until Mao died in 1976.

Continued on September 20, 2017 in Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Modern China’s Founding Fathers

May 3, 2017

Under Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976), China suffered after he became its leader in 1949, but that isn’t the whole story. During Mao’s Great Leap Forward; what’s known as Mao’s Great Famine (1958 – 62), and the Cultural Revolution, millions died from starvation and purges. What we don’t hear is that China is known as the land of famines. Imperial records show that China has had droughts and famines in one or more of its provinces annually for more than two-thousand years, but there is no mention of the fact that there has not been any famines since the last one in 1962.

In addition, when Mao came to power in 1949, the average lifespan in China was 35. When Mao died, the average lifespan was in the 50s and today it’s in the 70s.

On June 30, 1984, Deng Xiaoping said, “Given that China is still backward, what road can we take to develop the productive forces and raise the people’s standard of living? … Capitalism can only enrich less than 10 percent of the Chinese population; it can never enrich the remaining more than 90 percent. But if we adhere to socialism and apply the principle of distribution to each according to his work, there will not be excessive disparities in wealth. Consequently, no polarization will occur as our productive forces become developed over the next 20 to 30 years.”

Deng Xiaoping was right. Bruce Einhom writing for Business Week, Countries in the Biggest Gaps Between Rich and Poor, October 16, 2009, listed the top countries with the biggest gaps. America was number #3 on the list. China wasn’t on the list.

What does capitalism, Chinese style, look like? Under Deng Xiaoping’s economic policies, China became the world’s factory floor.

Prior to 1979, the year China opened its doors to world trade, it was rare to find anything made in China.

In the last thirty years, something happened that Mao thought he had destroyed. China grew a consumer middle class and that growth hasn’t finished. During a trip to China in 2008, we saw the Chinese middle class everywhere we went. Instead of the majority of tourists being foreigners, they were Chinese traveling to discover their own country.

A middle-class family in China usually owns an apartment, a car, eats out regularly, and takes vacations. National Geographic Magazine in May 2008 said, “They owe their well-being to the government’s (Deng Xiaoping’s) economic policies …”

Current estimates show China’s GDP growth will continue to grow. Since 2000, China’s GDP has grown at an annual average of 9.66 percent. Compare that to the U.S. with a GDP that never breaks 4 percent and was 2.43 percent in 2015. – Google Public Data

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Mao as a Complicated Man

August 2, 2016

Mao was fifty-six when he became China’s leader and seventy-two at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. But who was Mao for the other fifty-five years before he ruled China?

Many outside of China only think of Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) as a brutal dictator, but he was more than that.

For instance, as a child, his father was a stern disciplinarian who beat him and his three siblings often, and Mao became an avid reader.

And while commanding the Red Army during The Long March (1934-1935), he was a man respected by China’s peasants. Then there was Mao’s move away from Communist Russia after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, when Mao said to Nixon, “Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this.”

In 1935, Mao’s poem, “The Long March”, reveals an awareness of the sacrifice and the willingness to suffer to accomplish great things.

The Red Army fears not the trials of the March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan’s thousand li of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing.

Mao was a complex man, and it wasn’t until after the failure of the The Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1961) that the fatal attraction and power of leadership corrupted him leading to the horrors of The Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), that Mao’s many critics outside of China use to define him.

Anyone who follows all of Mao’s life instead of relying on his last decade would understand that he cared deeply about the common people while punishing the landowners and wealthy, who abused the people he cared about.  On the other hand, his foe, Chiang Kai-shek, supported the landowners and wealthy while crushing the peasants and workers, but few outside of China condemn this brutal dictator who was a U.S. ally.

Mao Zedong Poems reveals what Mao might have been thinking about as President Johnson increased America’s involvement in Vietnam. Was Mao also warning us of what he was about to do in 1966, when he launched The Cultural Revolution?

Two Birds: A Dialogue (1965)

The roc wings fanwise,
Soaring ninety thousand li
And rousing a raging cyclone.
The blue sky on his back, he looks down
To survey Man’s world with its towns and cities.
Gunfire licks the heavens,
Shells pit the earth.
A sparrow in his bush is scared stiff..
“This is one hell of a mess!
O I want to flit and fly away.”
“Where, may I ask?”
The sparrow replies,
“To a jewelled palace in elfland’s hills.
Don’t you know a triple pact was signed
Under the bright autumn moon two years ago?
There’ll be plenty to eat,
Potatoes piping hot,
Beef-filled goulash.”
“Stop your windy nonsense!
Look, the world is being turned upside down.”

Through Mao’s poetry, we learn more about the man beyond the demonized stereotype created in the media outside of China.

And Do the Chinese People Currently Consider Mao Zedong to Be Evil or a Hero. In Forbes, Kaiser Kuo writes, “If I were forced to say there’s a dominant view of Mao among mainlanders, it would be that Mao was ‘good’ up until the very early 1950s — before the Anti-Rightist Campaign got into full swing, and before he set China on a course toward collectivization. Whether or not these beliefs can be supported by fact, it’s widely believed among Chinese that Mao led the Communist Party and its Red Army in effective resistance against the Japanese invaders; that they represented a morally superior vision over that offered by the Guomindang (the Nationalist Party) — a vision that championed egalitarianism, feminism, anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism, nationalism; and that they allowed China to ‘stand up’ after a century of abject humiliation beginning with the Opium War. After 1949, land redistribution and the Marriage Law (which was, by any measure, a very progressive piece of legislation) won them plaudits too.”

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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