No other narrative from within the corridors of power has offered as frank and intimate an account of the making of the modern Chinese nation as Ji Chaozhu’s The Man on Mao’s Right. Having served Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist leadership for two decades, and having become a key figure in China’s foreign policy, Ji now provides an honest, detailed account of the personalities and events that shaped today’s People’s Republic.
The youngest son of a prosperous government official, nine-year-old Ji and his family fled Japanese invaders in the late 1930s, escaping to America. Warmly received by his new country, Ji returned its embrace as he came of age in New York’s East Village and then attended Harvard University. But in 1950, after years of enjoying a life of relative ease while his countrymen suffered through war and civil strife, Ji felt driven by patriotism to volunteer to serve China in its conflict with his adoptive country in the Korean War.
Ji’s mastery of the English language and American culture launched his improbable career, eventually winning him the role of English interpreter for China’s two top leaders: Premier Zhou Enlai and Party Chairman Mao Zedong. With a unique blend of Chinese insight and American candor, Ji paints insightful portraits of the architects of modern China: the urbane, practical, and avuncular Zhou, the conscience of the People’s Republic; and the messianic, charismatic Mao, student of China’s ancient past–his country’s stern father figure.
In Ji’s memoir, he is an eyewitness to modern Chinese history, including the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Nixon summit, and numerous momentous events in Tiananmen Square. As he becomes caught up in political squabbles among radical factions, Ji’s past and charges against him of “incorrect” thinking subject him to scrutiny and suspicion. He is repeatedly sent to a collective farm to be “reeducated” by the peasants.
After the Mao years, Ji moves on to hold top diplomatic posts in the United States and the United Kingdom and then serves as under secretary-general of the United Nations. Today, he says, “The Chinese know America better than the Americans know China. The risk is that we misperceive each other.” This highly accessible insider’s chronicle of a struggling people within a developing powerhouse nation is also Ji Chaozhu’s dramatic personal story, certain to fascinate and enlighten Western readers.
A riveting biography and unique historical record, The Man on Mao’s Right recounts the heartfelt struggle of a man who loved two powerful nations that were at odds with each other. Ji Chaozhu played an important role in paving the way for what is destined to be known as the Chinese Century.
Praise for The Man on Mao’s Right
"Brave, beautifully written testimony . A true "fly-on-the-wall" account of the momentous changes in Chinese society and international relations over the last century."
“It is a relief to read an account by an urbane and often witty insider who neither idolizes nor demonizes China's top leaders . . . . Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review
Born in 1929 China to a privileged family of Communist sympathizers, Chaozhu has witnessed a country transform while catapulting to its newly-emergent centers of power. Chaozhu's memoir begins during the 1937 Japanese occupation, when his father sent him and his brothers to the U.S. to help raise money for the communists and get "a first-class education," after which they would return to "help build the new China." Returning to China in 1950, after dropping out of Harvard, Chaozhu began working as an interpreter in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, before rising to become a deputy director. After Nixon's ground-breaking 1972 visit to China, Chaozhu had several postings to the U.S. and was appointed as an Ambassador to the U.K. His last position was a 1991-94 stint as under-secretary-general of the United Nations. Chaozhu paints a vivid picture of life in China, both the extreme poverty (by 1958, 30 million Chinese had starved to death) and the civil unrest generated by Mao's draconian economic measures and purges of so-called dissidents. Chaozhu describes hard times but also exciting, eye-witness to history stories featuring Kissinger's and Nixon's first meetings with Enlai. This absorbing book should make an invaluable political (and personal) primer for anyone dealing with today's China.