Mao Matters 1996

  • Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


Jeffrey Wasserstrom is a historian of Republican China and popular culture. He brings a broader prospective to this review of recent scholarship on Mao than a Mao specialist might. His review is useful because it considers two of the most important books on Mao from the 1990s — Li Zhisui’s immensely popular The Private Life of Chairman Mao (see Document 14) and the challenging postmodern analysis of Mao’s political impact by David Apter and Tony Saich in Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic. Wasserstrom gives us a sense of the major trend in academic Mao studies today — the shift from studying Mao as either isolated “great man” or symbol of the revolution to studying how and why hundreds of millions of Chinese believed so strongly in him.


Chinese Communist Party Private Life Skeptical Reader Chinese Communist Party Leader Rhetorical Dimension 
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  1. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, “Mao Masters: A Review Essay,” China Review International vol. 3, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 1–21.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    David E. Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  3. Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician Dr Li Zhisui, trans. Tai Hung-chao (New York: Random House, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. *.
    Dick Wilson, Mao Tse-tung in the Scales of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), viii.Google Scholar
  5. *.
    Good general overviews of recent trends in Chinese and Western treatments of Mao are provided in Brandy Womack, “Mao Zedong Thoughts,” The China Quarterly, no. 137 (March 1994): 159–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Thomas Scharping, “The Man, the Myth, the Message—New Trends in Mao Literature from China,” The China Quarterly, no. 137 (March 1994): 168–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. *.
    See, e.g., Ruan Ming, Deng Xiaoping: Chronicle of an Empire (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994), 80, 171, 234, passim.Google Scholar

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© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2002

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  • Jeffrey Wasserstrom

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