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Red Star Over China

Book Review

 

Title:

Red Star Over China

Author:

Edgar Snow

Publisher:

Grove Press, New York, NY

ISBN:

0-8021-5093-4

Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

August, 2001

Rating:

In 1936, Edgar Snow became the first western journalist  to cross the boundary into communist controlled China and meet the leaders of the revolution. Red Star Over China documents his travels, conversations and observations about the communists and their beliefs.

Get more information about Red Star Over China at Amazon.comSnow initially traveled to China with an idealistic view of Asia that was quickly shattered. He soon discovered that the country was beset by starvation and torn apart by internal political struggle and the onset of Japanese expansionism.  A friend agreed to smuggle him into the communist controlled areas, and he became the first western journalist to meet and interview the leaders and followers  of the revolution.

Snow reports the facts as he sees them and recorded  chapter after chapter of actual dialog, also stating his impressions and conclusions  about what he is reporting. He attempted to independently verify the facts of the story when possible, and admits at several points in the story that he was limited by only being in one place at a time. His report includes conversations with famous leaders of the revolution including Mao Tse-Tung and Chou En-Lai,  as well as lesser known figures and common peasants.

On a number of occasions he questioned common soldiers and peasants about their feelings regarding the Red Army and communism. He was surprised to learn that they always supported the communist point of view, even  if it did not improve their standard of living. He discovered they typically  preferred a life of frugality and sacrifice above the previous structure of servitude and government control. Another recurring theme was the hatred of  the Japanese and their occupation of China and Manchuria. Many of the stories he relates demonstrate the viciousness with which the two sides dealt with the  other's followers, even killing their families, distant relatives, and at times  entire villages.

This story is about Edgar Snow's travels inside communist  controlled territory and he did not make an effort to contrast the political views of his hosts with that of the Nationalist government or make a judgment about which side was right. It is possible to conclude that he provided a biased account of the facts, yet he states at several points in the story that he regreted  not being able to see a larger picture of events. At a minimum, this account provides a basis on which to judge the changes that occurred in China later  in the century.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Edgar Snow's  views and conclusions about the revolution, Red Star Over China provides a first hand prospective by a westerner to the events from the time of the rise of the Nationalist party. It is possible from his account to begin to understand the  support of the farming peasant for the communists and the events leading up  to the eventual overthrow of the Nationalist government.

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