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Zhou Enlai

A Life

Chen Jian

ISBN 9780674659582

Publication date: 05/07/2024

The definitive biography of Zhou Enlai, the first premier and preeminent diplomat of the People’s Republic of China, who protected his country against the excesses of his boss—Chairman Mao.

Zhou Enlai spent twenty-seven years as premier of the People’s Republic of China and ten as its foreign minister. He was the architect of the country’s administrative apparatus and its relationship to the world, as well as its legendary spymaster. Richard Nixon proclaimed him “the greatest statesman of our era.” Yet Zhou has always been overshadowed by Chairman Mao. Chen Jian brings Zhou into the light, offering a nuanced portrait of his complex life as a revolutionary, a master diplomat, and a man with his own vision and aspirations who did much to make China, as well as the larger world, what it is today.

Born to a declining mandarin family in 1898, Zhou received a classical education and as a teenager spent time in Japan. As a young man, driven by the desire for China’s development, Zhou embraced the communist revolution as a vehicle of China’s salvation. He helped Mao govern through a series of transformations, including the disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. Yet, as Chen shows, Zhou was never a committed Maoist. His extraordinary political and bureaucratic skill, combined with his centrist approaches, enabled him to mitigate the enormous damage caused by Mao’s radicalism.

When Zhou died in 1976, the PRC that we know of was not yet visible on the horizon; he never saw glistening twenty-first-century Shanghai or the broader emergence of Chinese capitalism. But it was Zhou’s work that shaped the nation whose influence and power are today felt in every corner of the globe.

Praise

  • Chen delivers an authoritative, incisive look at an unquestionably significant historical figure. An excellent biography and capable deconstruction of the labyrinthine mechanics behind the CCP’s development.

    —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Author

  • A leading scholar of the Cold War and the history of modern China, Chen Jian is Distinguished Global Network Professor of History at New York University and NYU Shanghai; Hu Shih Professor of History Emeritus at Cornell University; and Zijiang Distinguished Visiting Professor at East China Normal University.

Book Details

  • 840 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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