It is April 1945. Although the United States is still months from bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the end of the Pacific War now seems inevitable, and the Japanese retreat across China is setting the stage for a return to full-blown civil war. In the north the Communists are extending their strategic grip across the countryside. Arrayed against them is the Kuomintang, propped up by the support of China's southern industrial base and Chiang Kaishek's largest international ally: the United States.

Coming at a critical juncture in Chinese history, Mao's ruminations in "The Foolish Man and the Mountain" reveal a belief that a Communist victory was a historic certainty, despite a short-term material deficit and clear need to shore up consensus on post-war planning within the Party. As Mao made clear, what lay ahead for China was mass mobilization and war. But the fate of the world was less certain, and this speech gives a curious sense of an alternate history that may have been. In it Mao hints at a fascinating trump card he believed the Communists held which might have proved useful in levering the United States away from the Kuomintang. But exactly what was this trump card? And what happened to it?

For answers to these questions and more, you'll have to click through to our text page and step back in time by reading this speech in its original Chinese. As with all of our short stories, we've annotated every single word in the text with a contextual definition: just mouseover any word for an instant popup containing its pronunciation and meaning. And if you have any other questions or thoughts, leave a comment in our discussion space below.
 said on
October 6, 2009
Worth mentioning that this is the third of Mao Zedong's famous 老三篇. If you're interested in reading the other two, they are Remembering Norman Bethune and Serve the People.
 said on
October 6, 2009
> the third of Mao Zedong's famous 老三篇.

Nice to have them all together. Also to have a coherent recording. I remember listening to one of Mao's actual speeches a while back and being stunned at how thick his Henanhua was.

I actually wonder what would have happened if the US had needed to actually invade Japan. It would have meant a much heavier army presence in Japan, but would that have affected the outcome of the civil war in China? The KMT was so corrupt by the end that it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Maybe they could have fought longer in southern China, but the north was lost long before it fell. Hearts and minds.

 said on
October 6, 2009
Interesting cultural note.

There is a popular bar in Beijing, famous for having great live acts. It shares the name of the title of this story 愚公移山 YuGongYiShan. I have been there on several occasions and always wondered where the name came from. It is great to now know the story behind the name so I can impress friends with interesting historical tidbits.

They usually have some good bands and acts come through there. Here is the website for the venue. For anyone in Beijing, I definitely recommend checking the place out. Discount for student ID holders, and interesting artwork upstairs too.

http://yugongyishan.ning.com/
 said on
October 6, 2009
Not sure what the trump card was, other than the leadership of the Party in overcoming the three key contradictions...
 said on
October 7, 2009
@m.e - Mao was willing to offer the Americans assistance with a jumping base for an American aerial assault on Japan in return for neutrality in their war with the KMT. Not much, but it may have proved more attractive if there had been the need for an actual invasion of the islands.

Not directly related, but if you haven't read it yet, Theodore White had a fascinating biographical piece in the late 1970s that includes about ten pages on his time in China in the 1930s and 1940s. There are a few anecdotes about Hurley in it starting on page ten. Some earlier on Zhou Enlai and others. A really interesting read!

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,946032,00.html
 said on
October 7, 2009
Nice link dave, although the description of the Henan (Hunan?) famine is devastating and not to be wandered into lightly.

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