The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0385520247

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition.

The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution.

As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution.

What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today.

The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.

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desertion, and among those who would stay behind, to make sure they were loyal. Several thousands, including many Communist intellectuals, officers, and captured Nationalist commanders, were rounded up in a dozen centers in Ruijin. After interrogation, they were taken to a military court deep in the mountains, where they heard this verdict: “You have committed serious crimes against the Revolution. We cannot have people like you. We are now sending you home.” They were ordered to walk to a huge

terror. The Red Army was saved. This was the scene immortalized in one of the most successful propaganda films ever made by the Communist Party—The Dadu River—about the most celebrated of battles. The film symbolizes the Long March rather as Battleship Potemkin does the Russian Revolution. It has been engraved on my mind since I was a teenager. Before I set out on my journey, I consulted a military historian in Beijing, asking him which battles I should concentrate on. “Which one do you know

fish left in the pond!” Liu took her aside, explaining that two of his sons had joined the Red Army five years ago and he had not heard from them since. Everyone was doing their best like the old man, Liu promised. The district had about 1,300 men between the ages of 16 and 45, and over 1,000 were either in the army or working for it as porters and laborers; the rest were sick, or they were from landlord and rich peasant families and so could not be trusted to fight for the poor. He did not see

ordinary people, but the questions that Snow would ask had to be submitted in advance, and the Politburo carefully coordinated their answers. He had his first interview with Mao soon after his arrival, and it lasted until 2 a.m. Snow’s impression of Mao was accurate. Mao looked gaunt, rather Lincolnesque … [he] seemed a very interesting and complex man. He had the simplicity and naturalness of the Chinese peasant with a lively sense of humour and a love of rustic laughter … Something about him

as a result of shortages of food and medicine. He had little option. While Zhang was preparing to join him, Mao sent him a cable, confirming what he had suspected all along: “The ditches [in the Shaanxi base] are deep and without trees; the soil is eroded, with few people. Transport is difficult, not suitable for the movement of a large army … The crops here are very poor; grain and pulses are all in short supply. A large army cannot survive here for long.” Zhang must have been pleased to hear

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