The Long March to Power

This isn’t a well-known book. Google image searches for “The Long March to Power” by James P. Harrison managed only to bring up pictures of Harrison Ford and one of William Henry Harrison.

It was actually published in 1972; so right after Nixon’s visit to China and the twilight years of Mao and revolutionary China.

That being said, this book stays well within the trend of Asian history, especially Chinese history being written in the most boring, pedantic way possible. It is one thing to be accurate, historically rigorous, and straightforwardly clear, but this academic style of writing pushes the boundary between readable and unreadable.

There comes a point when you kinda have to insist that narrative is how we as human beings make connection and makes sense of things. Chinese history is fascinating; there are literally countless episodes and historical eras which beg for books, movies…the whole enchilada. And we will never know because sinologists refuse to indulge in the slightest embellishment.

The Long March to Power is history as written through the minuets of the communist central committee meetings. Or so it seems. Pages of charts of Party organisation; its meaningless gibberish, especially since we never get a clear picture of what these committees and organisations do. obliquely

The personalities of leading figures, like Mao, Chou En-Lai, Chang Kai-Shek, and others remain a complete mystery. Mao is referred to obliquely as a “prophet amongst priests” and that’s by far the best description in the book.

Mao’s efforts to create a continuing revolution, such as the Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Cultural Revolution are described but not explained. The philosophical and cultural aspects remain unexplored.

Still looking for great Chinese history. It’s gotta be out there somewhere.


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