The Man on Mao's Right: From Harvard Yard to Tiananmen Square, My Life Inside China's Foreign Ministry
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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
some papers while he ate, looking painfully frail and drawn. Word spread that Mao had at first refused to grant permission for Zhou to receive surgical treatment for bladder cancer but then relented. Jiang Qing and her three closest cohorts had come to be known as the Gang of Four, which included two writers who ghosted many of Mao’s pronouncements, and a Korean War veteran who some thought might be Mao’s choice to replace the premier. All four were top Party officials who had gotten where they
Kingdom from home leave in 1990, expecting to spend another year or so in London. But in January 1991, I was called to the code room to receive a top-secret cable, for my eyes only. This time I was being summoned to New York, where I had been appointed to replace another diplomat as under secretary-general of the United Nations for Economic and Social Development. We wanted to return to China first, but my predecessor had already departed and my presence was requested without delay. Once again,
day, as the delegate of the Korean People’s Army stood up and began to make a speech, a flea, having completed its feast, crawled out from my jacket onto the cuff of my shirtsleeve. What to do? It would have been unseemly to make a sudden move and slap my wrist in an effort to catch it. But it would be almost as embarrassing—a loss of face—to be seen as a person crawling with vermin. The flea sat there. I stared at it, trying to avoid drawing attention to myself. The UNC note-taker across the
foreign dealings. India and Pakistan—two nations only recently liberated from British rule—Egypt, and Nepal all spoke English in their dealings with the PRC. My assignments began with light-duty situations, shopping or interpreting Chinese movies that were shown at the diplomatic guesthouses while the principal dignitaries were off meeting with the premier or other high-ranking officials. My Harvard mentor, Dr. Pu Shouchang, had been the premier’s principal English interpreter almost since
Chaoding’s death notice be displayed more prominently. Everything was politics. Father was perplexed at the absence of all his newspapers, and we told him through his hearing aid that there must have been a problem in the post office. He seemed to accept our explanation. My brother’s death was international news. The New York Times ran a full obituary under the headline (spelling his name in the style of the time): “Dr. Chi Chao-ting Is Dead at 60; Red Chinese Economic Expert.” Letters of