In 1976, the year of Mao’s death, I went back to China when the British foreign secretary Anthony Crosland paid an official visit there. Asked what he thought of Mao’s colossal experiment in social engineering, Crosland replied, ‘It’s revolting.’ If you’re puzzled by this reaction from Old Labour’s leading thinker, you should read the new biography by Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday. The book breathes life from every page. In addition to extensive Chinese and non-Chinese written sources, the authors have conducted several hundred fascinating interviews with people who were close to Mao and his entourage or witnesses to events described.
In public life we should never forget what can happen when political ‘narrative’ parts company with the truth, and language loses touch with reality.