"With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that 1949 was actually the beginning, not the end, of the Chinese revolution." Building from this premise, Andrew G. Walder
's new book looks at the ways that China was transformed in the 1950s in order to understand why and how Mao's decisions and initiatives - among those of other leaders - had the effects that they did. Written for a broad reading audience, China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed
(Harvard University Press, 2015)focuses on a core theme: the results of Mao's initiatives were often "unintended, unanticipated, and unwanted," by Mao himself, the party leadership, and the broader population. To help readers understand why this is important and how it happened, the first part of Walder's book offers a detailed and compelling account of the Communist Party's road to power and the legacy of this struggle for what happened after, including a military mobilization that formed the bureaucratic foundation for the new Chinese state, an organization oriented toward discipline and unity, and a flawed economic system imported from the Soviet Union. (Walder pays special attention to the differences in party tactics for mobilizing the cities and countryside.) The later chapters explore the transformations in the party in the 1950s and after, including a significant change in the meaning and motives for party membership that spurred Mao to enact measures with consequences ranging from counterproductive to devastating. China Under Mao
analyzes these consequences, including the political and organizational causes of the massive failure of the Great Leap Forward and its aftermath. The book ends with a call to rethink Mao's legacy.