A Book Review: Wild Swans

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Overall Rating: 7.8/10

It’s one thing to live through a major world event, it’s another to share your thoughts and relive those experiences with the world. Thankful we have brave people like Jung who after living through the terrible atrocities of chairman Moa, is willing to shares her grandmother’s, her mother’s, and her personal experience so we can learn about resilience, and avoid making the same mistakes.

Below find some of my favorite insights from the book are documented below.

Top Highlight:
“Moa is not as villainize as he should be. Modern China still veils his true character and upholds the myth of his reign by leaving a statue of Mao up throughout the province.”

This struck me as very odd. Can you imagine going to Germany and seeing a statue of Hitler, or going to Russia and seeing a statue of Stalin?

“In those years, people were so weighed down with tragedies in their lives that they were prone to unburdening themselves suddenly when they sensed a kindred spirit.”

“At that time if a boy and girl were seen talking to each other in public they had to be engaged at minimum. You had to apply to the communist party to talk about a relationship or marriage.Women could not ask for a divorce.”

“The party’s all-around intrusion into people’s lives was the very point of the process known as “thought reform.””

“Inflation rose 100,000% in 1947.”

After the Communist took over the Kuomintang they began killing lots of landlords. Landlords were considered corrupt and evil.

One step of becoming a communist was to go through 5 mountain passes. A new attitude to 1) family 2) profession 3) love 4) lifestyle 5) manual labor all through embracing hardship and trauma.

“Mao feared that any independent thinking might lead to less than total obedience to him.”

1-10% of communists were supposedly “rightest” so Jung’s mother had to fill a quota of finding 200 rightest in her division. Many people in authority used this as a way to settle personal scores or conflicts. Because Jung’s mother refused to falsely accuse innocent people she was scrutinized but ultimately when she came under scrutiny the people she did not falsely accuse stood up for her.

Criticism of any kind on the party was not going to be tolerated – although self criticism was a demanded frequent practice.

“Self-deception while deceiving others gripped the nation. People had learned to deny reason and live with acting.”

Because steel was considered the key metric of success by western countries they focused on steel. No one worked the fields but women & children. As they began to run out of grain, the party released an article “How do we cope with producing too much food?”

Oh, the irony.

“Mercy to the enemy is evil to the people.”

“I blamed myself for having instincts that went against Mao’s instructions.”

“Bloody purge to increase Mao’s personal power.”

“Every word of Chairman Mao’s is universal absolute truth and every word equals 10,000 words.”

This was touted as an unquestionable truth about Mao.

“When she began to see innocent people charged she began to see the corruption of the party.”

“An hour-long speech consisting of all the latest political jargon strung together in an undigested and largely unintelligible hunks.”

After moving to London:

Her husband: John Holliday, my knight without armor for his inner strength under the softest exterior us enough to conquer.

Marveled at how aptly the book 1984 fitted Mao’s China.

Most shocking insight from London: “People were allowed to hold different even outrages views.”

All in all, this was an interesting read. Because the author was recapping three life stories it was on the long winded side in my opinion. I also was interested by Jung’s life once she moved to London and which she would have describe that more.

Photo by Micael Widell on Unsplash.

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