This was made in an era when China was seen as a country of perpetual Maoist revolution . Chairman Mao was the country and the country was chairman Mao . Mao was seen as being a charismatic revolutionary who delivered his country from the imperialist yoke and cared deeply for the people . Even if you felt zero sympathy for Mao's polices of perpetual revolution you could understand in the world of realpolitik China could be a useful ally against the Soviet Union hence Richard Nixon's courting of the country in the 1970s . The fact was however that Mao was an ignorant despot who ruled through a cult of personality and whose rule was absolute . So absolute that when there was a famine in China in the late 1950s a total of 40 million people starved to death and yet there's not one single image of the worst famine in human history . You'd think people would have better sense than fighting for their country against foreign aggressors only to install a megalomaniac in to a seat of absolute power but this documentary by Theodore H White does very well in explaining the build up to this
The story starts in the mid 19th Century where China was a large but very backward nation where the British introduced opium to the country and fought a series of wars to against the Chinese that China lost . Very soon other Western nations started building enclaves in the country in which the Chinese population were either ignored or oppressed . This led o the 1905 Boxer rebellion . The history of 20th Century revolves around foreign invasions and disunited cantons led by incompetent warlords fighting amongst themselves which culminated in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the 1930s . Interesting that everyone considers that considers the second world war was from 1939-45 but if you were Chinese it probably started in 1931 and lasted all the way to 1949 . Even Mao's communist allies in the Soviet Union were fair weather friends who'd capture what little industry China and move it back to the USSR . With friends like that ....
This is what the documentary is very good at . White doesn't feel the need to bludgeon the audience over the head with reactionary diatribes about red terror . It's not an era or location you'd want to live in but you don't have to read between the lines too hard to see Mao was the only person in the country promising to rid the country of foreign aggression and influences . The fact that he is was slightly vague in defining what constitutes " an enemy of the people " helped his cause greatly . White also has an enthusiasm of the material and comes across as an erudite favourite uncle type character who elucidates the material . It's also a good documentary to watch to understand how far China has travelled on the road to Western capitalist superpower that now stands on the brink of democracy
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