Sunday, March 27, 2011
Book 20: The Man on Mao's Right
I finally finished up the books from my great belated birthday/Christmas package. The final book that was sent to me was The Man on Mao’s Right by Ji Chaozhu. I was glad that my friend included this book since I’ve always been interested in China for a very long time.
Ji Chaozhu has the improbable history of studying at Harvard and was an important person in the Foreign Ministry as an English-to-Chinese interpreter and later became an ambassador. His life was a fascinating twists and turns from being a rich landlord’s son to being an American student who was driven to quit Harvard and go to his homeland to help the Communist cause.
I really liked the candidness of Ji Chaozhu. He gave opinions of different people he worked with. You could tell the people he admire verses people who were challenging to work with. He had no love lost for Jiang Qing (Mao’s last wife) and her gang of followers. Like many others, he believe that many of the purges of the Cultural Revolution and the ineffiency of foreign policy based on her prodding.
The book was very good. There were times when he did repeat himself. He gave the same description of Jiang Qing a couple times and shared an anecdote with a meeting from Kissinger twice.
I wish there were more stories from his work. He shared some but not a ton of details. But I understand when dealing with state secrets, there is a time for openness and a time for speaking in broad strokes. Most of the memoir meant speaking in broad strokes. But he did share some insights of what is was like to be at a negotiating table during Korea and the different styles the Chinese and Americans had.
This is a book I would full heartedly recommend reading if you are interested in Chinese history or foreign policy work. Now I will have to say, I’m not a Chinese history expert (I’m terribly underread in this field) so I can’t say how it compares to other memoirs about working during the Cultural Revolution, But I do feel like it was good foreign policy book. Now I’m looking forward to discussing this book with the friend that sent the Man on Mao’s Right to me and to the friend I just passed it on.