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Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Eternal First Ladyby Laura Tyson Li
Synopses & Reviews
Madame Chiang Kai-shek is the first biography of one of history's most intriguing and controversial political figures. Beautiful, brilliant, and captivating, Madame Chiang Kai-shek seized unprecedented official and unofficial power during China's long and violent civil war. She passionately argued against Chinese Communism in the international arena and influenced decades of Sino-American relations and modern Chinese history. Raised in one of China's most powerful families — the Soongs — and educated at Wellesley College, Soong Mayling went on to become wife, adviser, interpreter, and propagandist to Nationalist leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. An international crusader who continued speaking out against Communism well into her nineties, Mayling sparred with Churchill and Roosevelt and impressed Westerners and Chinese alike with her acumen, charm, and glamour. But she was also decried as a manipulative "Dragon Lady," and despised for living in American-style splendor while Chinese citizens suffered her husband's brutal oppression.
The result of years of research including access to previously classified CIA, Taiwanese, and diplomatic files, Madame Chiang Kai-shek objectively evaluates the legacy of one of the most powerful and fascinating women of the twentieth century.
"To admirers, the wife of the Nationalist dictator of China and later Taiwan was a symbol of resistance to Communist tyranny; to detractors, she was a crafty 'Dragon Lady' or a quisling of American imperialism. In this absorbing biography, Li, a former Taiwan correspondent for the Financial Times, manages a balanced portrait that situates Madame Chiang in an uneasy borderland between East and West. In her charm offensives to the United States seeking military aid during WWII, the author writes, the glamorous, Wellesley-educated Madame Chiang embodied a modern, Westernizing China that made her 'a perfect focus for America's rescue complex.' But Li also finds her 'quintessentially Chinese' in her submissiveness to her husband's authority and 'loyalty to clan and personality over principle.' Amply conveying her subject's charisma without falling under its spell, Li diagnoses Madame Chiang as a classic 'narcissistic personality' and critiques her complicity in the Nationalist regime's brutality and corruption and her lavish lifestyle, which alienated China's impoverished masses. Li is barely adequate at sketching the 105 years of Chinese history Chiang's life spanned, but she offers a well-researched, fluently written assessment of the life and impact of one of the 20th century's iconic figures. Photos, map. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Madame Chiang Kai-shek — a Booklist Editors' Choice for 2006 — is the first biography of one of the most controversial and fascinating women of the twentieth century. Raised in a powerful Chinese family, the beautiful, brilliant, and captivating Soong Mayling married Nationalist leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and went on to become his chief adviser, interpreter, and propagandist. When the Communists broke with Chiangs Nationalist Party, Mayling and her sister, the widow of Sun Yat-Sen, found themselves on opposing sides of a civil war. A relentless crusader speaking out against Communism well into her nineties, she sparred with international leaders and impressed Westerners and Chinese alike with her acumen, charm, and glamour. But she was also decried as a manipulative Dragon Lady” and was despised for living in Western-style splendor while Chinese citizens suffered under her husbands brutal oppression. The result of years of extensive research in the United States and abroad and access to previously classified CIA and diplomatic files, here at last is the story of an extraordinary woman who has become a symbol of Americas long, vexed love affair with China and Chinas own struggle to define itself as a world power.
In a life that spanned the 20th century (1898-2003), Madame Chiang Kai-Shek was inextricably entwined with China's tempestuous evolution from the imperial Qing Dynasty to the end of colonialism in Hong Kong. In this first biography of one of history's most intriguing and controversial political figures, Li shows how Madame Chiang influenced decades of Sino-American relations and modern Chinese history.
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