I just finished reading: Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Knopf, 2005. I do not necessarily recommend this book–not because it is bad–but because the content is so disgusting (though factual).
Mao is clearly the worst monster in world history. Like Hitler and Stalin he was a power-luster and wanted to rule the world. Like them he was a mass murderer (about 70 million in his case). Like them he was a scheming manipulator (though more vicious and maniacally “clever” than the other two).
But there was a certain respect in which he was morally lower than the other mass murderers, if you can imagine such a possibility. Mao actually enjoyed the prospect and the act of torture, killing and destruction, even (if not especially) his own people. He wanted to destroy, not just as a means of gaining power, but also as an end in itself. Further, when he could have had people shot (virtually all of whom were totally innocent of anything–even of opposing him), he said that was too tame and had them beaten to death and had movies made of it so he could watch them being brutalized.
“Enemies” (and their families) were sometimes not killed outright, but made to suffer in agony for years until they died. He destroyed all culture during the “cultural revolution” (even propagandistic operas), because he wanted everyone to be either dead or be unthinking, mindless brutes. To concretize all this, imagine James Taggart, who hated existence, combined with a megalomaniacal, totally psychopathic personality. (I think Pol Pot, whom Mao admired, was probably the same, only on a smaller scale).
Also in the book is some disgraceful beyond belief information on Kissinger’s and Nixon’s wooing of China. They were practically licking Mao’s feet. Ayn Rand was quite right in saying Nixon was totally outwitted (it is not even clear from the book that Nixon even had any wits to be outwitted). Mao offered virtually no concessions, and we offered almost anything they wanted, including the betrayal of Taiwan at the U.N. This led dozens of other countries to come licking at Mao’s feet. (Ironically, other communist countries despised Mao, especially because he wanted to control those countries too).
If you are so interested in history that you want to read this book, be prepared by be shocked and disgusted beyond belief. But the book is a good weapon against anyone who claims that Mao ever did one non-evil thing in his adult life.