China Beat Archive



Brian J. DeMare

Date of this Version


Document Type



2011 in The China Beat


Copyright 2011. Used by permission.


At the outset of the final chapter of A Critical Introduction to Mao, Jiang Yihua, a senior Chinese scholar, suggests that it will still be many years before historians will be able to draw any definitive conclusions concerning Mao Zedong, revolutionary China’s most imposing figure. This inability to give a final and authoritative interpretation of Mao, Jiang suggests, is due to difficulties of archival access as well as the fact that Mao is still being recreated and reshaped by his ever loyal followers and his equally dedicated detractors. Jiang’s skeptical approach to the problem of knowing Mao, a problem rarely mentioned by his biographers, is both telling for the challenges of studying Mao, and for why editor Timothy Cheek’s excellent collection of essays should be considered essential reading for students of Chinese history.