As a boy, Mao read voraciously, developing what would become a lifelong habit. “What I enjoyed were the romances of Old China, and especially stories of rebellions,” he later recalled. “I used to read [these outlawed books] in school, covering them up with a [Chinese] Classic when the teacher walked past . . . I believe that perhaps I was much influenced by such books, read at an impressionable age.”
I read this on the ferry into Seattle to catch the train to the airport earlier tonight. I couldn’t help noting the irony between this quote and an article in today’s LA Times about how four men involved in a book company in Hong Kong that publishes political books about Mainland politicians, disappeared in October this year. Their work, based on the one country two systems policy, is legal in Hong Kong. [Can't get the link right now as we prepare to board, but will try to add it later.]
Where will the future Mao’s come from? Well, Mao’s legacy is pretty grim, so maybe those books should be available too so people don’t repeat what he did.
The original quote comes from James Bradley, The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia.
Bradley, who also wrote Flags Of Our Fathers, started this research trying to understand what had caused the US to go into the war in which so many died, and his father had fought.
So far, the basic premise is that American Christian missionaries along with the traders who got rich smuggling opium into China, painted a picture for Americans of China just waiting to become Christianized and Americanized. And a few Chinese students in the US played this fantasy to their advantage.
Seems like we’re still running blindly into other parts of the world we are woefully uninformed about and are easily swayed by Americanized nationals, especially those of wealth, good family, and a US education, and a story that matches our narrative of the US greatness and as the savior of the world.
Bradley traces how Warren Delano was among the opium traders who created family dynasties. Delano's fortune was passed on, in part, to both Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Franklin’s story of China came directly from his Grandpa Warren and his mom Sara who had spent a few early years in a completely isolated rich quarter in Hong Kong. From this she was an expert on all of China.
What do we really know about the Middle East? Sure, there are a lot more sources today, but think about some of our recent adventures, and think about what some politicians are saying we should do. Their realities are just as wishful as those who invested in Chiang Kai Shek in the 1920s.