In This Review

Mao's China and the Cold War
Mao's China and the Cold War
By Chen Jian
University of North Carolina Press, 2001, 400 pp.

Chen has taken some giant steps toward advancing the West's understanding of Mao Zedong's policies during the Cold War. His book is filled with new information from archives and interviews with former Chinese officials. Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon gave the West the picture of Mao and Zhou Enlai as relaxed and worldly-wise. In fact, Chen argues, Mao was driven by ideology and insatiable ambition as he led the communists to power and sought Stalin's blessing for his leadership. Furthermore, Washington never had a "lost chance" to forge normal relations with the Chinese communists. From the start, Mao was scheming to foment revolution in all of Asia, even as the Soviets were losing interest. Chen also provides new insights into China's role in the Korean War, the French-Indochina conflict, and later the Vietnam War. On all of these issues, Chen concludes, Mao was more activist than Stalin -- and continually underestimated by the West. Chen's extensive documentation will boldly challenge the revisionist view of a more pragmatic Mao.