An excellent, angry book that details the violence inflicted on Chinese peasants during Mao’s so-called ‘productive years’For years, one of the most powerful accounts of the Chinese revolution in the countryside was the American socialist William Hinton’s memoir Fanshen (1966). Hinton used his own observations to assess the social transformation after 1949 as messy and unpredictable, but ultimately positive. Fanshen became a landmark in western understanding of China, inspiring, for example, a play by David Hare.In recent years, this favourable image of the revolution has come under severe questioning both within China and outside. Frank Dikötter, whose major study of the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s Great Famine (2011) won the Samuel Johnson prize, has now written a “prequel” in which he analyses the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, from the civil war between the nationalists and communists in 1946-49 to the “anti-rightist” campaign of 1957.Unlike Mao’s Great Famine, this volume is not centred on one major event. However, it has the advantage of enabling Dikötter to turn his lens on a variety of places and people who helped create Mao’s China. In doing so, he has written a brilliant and powerful account of the formation of that society. …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books