In This Review

Mao and the Economic Stalinization of China, 1948-1953
Mao and the Economic Stalinization of China, 1948-1953
By Hua-yu Li
Rowman and Littlefield, 2006, 266 pp.

During its rise to power, the Chinese Communist Party often seemed to champion liberal values and spoke of building a "New Democracy." But then, in 1953, Mao Zedong made a 180-degree turn and declared the "general line" to be the "transition to socialism." Hard-line communist rhetoric became dominant, and every policy had to meet the test of ideological purity; Mao the pragmatist was replaced by Mao the obsessed ideologue. Li has gone to great effort to uncover the story of this change, and her research into the years immediately after the CCP came to power shows that Sino-Soviet relations were far more complex than Western opinion imagined at the time. Stalin thought the Chinese were not sufficiently developed to start a socialist revolution, whereas Mao suspected that Stalin was trying to hold China back. Li concludes that "Mao was paradoxically both a disciple and a rival of Stalin." It was only after Stalin died that Mao was free to advance his belief in the importance of disciplined ideology.