*Maoism: A Global History*

By Julia Lovell, so far this is clearly the best book of the year.  I’ll have more to say about it, here is one excerpt:

Mao’s lack of enthusiasm for a risky conflict in Korea is understandable: the CCP’s military capacity was clustered around the south-east coast, perched for an invasion of Taiwan.  A Cold War conflagration on the north-east border would require the shifting of all these offensive troops to defence in the north-east — from one end of the country to another.  Drafts of telegrams and notes of conversations unearthed from archives make clear that Mao came within a whisker of refusing to help the Koreans…

Mao therefore was bounced into the Korean War — not as part of a long-term conspiracy, but through Stalin’s self-interested impulses and instinct for playing on Mao’s status-conscious desire to claim leadership of the Asian revolution.  Given that Mao and his immediate lieutenants had already committed themselves publicly to leading the world revolution — wit their Beijing training courses, their proclamations about the relevance of China to oppressed people in Asia — their revolutionary credentials would have been shredded had they not stepped into the war.  Stalin and Kim, in short, created a conflict that impinged not only on one of China’s most sensitive, complex frontiers — the Korean-Soviet-Chinese border — but also on Mao’s self-image.  The Chinese were thus forced to rescue Kim when the war turned against the North Koreans.

The book also covers Indonesia, Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia, Peru, Nepal, and more, all with an emphasis on China’s earlier foreign policy role.  Every chapter is full of fascinating information with strong but not overreaching conceptual framings.  Very strongly recommended, it comes out in America in September, I ordered my copy from the UK, available now and cheaper too.  Here is a review from The Economist.


The Korean War was a series of disastrous mistakes made largely by various winners of the 1940s. Just because somebody beat the Germans or made himself Emperor of China or beat the Japanese means he won't screw up the next time.

Stalin even wanted Mao to pay for the limited material support he gave China in the war. Beginning of the split between the USSR and China. It was a short honeymoon.

It is funny how Americans keep making excuses for Red Chinese aggression.

These days the Economist is probably claiming the book wasn't positive enough about Mao.

The Economist has really declined, hasn't it? I had subscribed for about 25 years and recently gave up -- it has seemed for a while like the kind of propaganda you can now get on the internet for free -- if that is your taste.

Unfortunately this is all too true. I just cancelled my subscription the other day.

So MacArthur was almost right.

If it had not been for Kaiser Bill the world would not have been subjected to Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

But most likely we would have been subjected to some other very bad people and events.

Germany was the world's leading scientific power up until the 1920s. If the course of history hadn't been derailed by World War One, Imperial Germany almost certainly would have been the first to invent nukes. That... probably wouldn't have gone well.

All things considered, our timeline threaded the needle on that particular great filter.

There is a theory that we are living in the best of all possible worlds.

The next great filter probably involves AI. As we now head into the next gathering storm, we can only hope that the survivors can eventually look forward to a few decades of clear skies and rainbows.

Re: Best of all possible worlds - the optimist in me hope you are right. The pessimist in me believes that you are.

I dont think Imperial Germany was a particularly authoritarian regime. If Germany won WW1, Niall Ferguson made an interesting alternative history predicition that the world today would be like, a German-centered EU (not very different actually) and the UK would still be a superpower. The world would be more multi-polar as without the collapse of Europe, the US wouldn't be so influential, Stalin, Hitler and Mao would never exist.

Such is life in Trump's America.

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