Kang Sheng held tremendous power in China for more than 50 years. As a member of Mao's inner circle, he created China's dreaded secret police, unleashed the demonic Cultural Revolution, and oversaw the murder and torture of millions of Chinese. The Claws of the Dragon is a stunning revelation of the inner workings of Chinese politics and government. 16 pages of photos.
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A compelling and well-detailed biography of Kang Sheng, Mao's sadistic, Machiavellian head of secret police. Byron (a pseudonymous ``veteran Western diplomat'') and Pack (coauthor, Speaking Out, 1988; Edward Bennett Williams for the Defense, 1985, etc.) exaggerate less than you might think in claiming that ``next to Kang Sheng, Mao himself seems to shrink in importance and interest.'' Convincingly comparing Kang to Beria, head of the Soviet secret police under Stalin, the authors show how Kang rose from obscure roots in feudal Chinese society to become the mastermind of the Communist police state and the ``bad cop'' of the terrifying Cultural Revolution. Kang entered Chinese politics as a renegade revolutionary living the secret life of a Communist in Shanghai under the Kuomintang. Shrewdly riding coattails into the Party's inner circles, he soon took over the Chinese Communist secret police, travelling to Moscow (a ``finishing school for sadists'') to learn from Stalin's purges gruesome techniques for liquidating opposition to Communism. After the 1949 Revolution, Kang's ascent continued via a calculated flattering of Mao's egomania--and the execution of hundreds of thousands of Chinese. All the while, private passions and eccentricities such as opium smoking, manic-depression, and expert ambidextrous calligraphy made him a bizarre, shadowy player in Mao's inner circle--one who helped orchestrate such calamities as the Hundred Flowers Movement, the suppressions of the Cultural Revolution, and the purging of Deng Xiaoping. Kang's reputation lasted until shortly after his 1975 death, when his secret conspiracy with the hated Gang of Four was made public. In 1980, he was expelled posthumously from the Party. Despite occasional repetition and much melodrama, a mesmerizing peek into China's veiled backstage politics. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs; map--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Kang was China's equivalent to the Soviet Union's Beria, internal security chief and master spy. By the nature of his work--political intrigue, assassination, murder--the covert life of a man like Kang does not easily yield its details to a biographer. But Byron (pseudonym of a Western diplomat stationed in Beijing) and collaborator Pack have overcome the obstacles to write a masterful study of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung's evil genius. While the plotting, treachery, shifting alliances, and sexual entanglements make for a gripping tale, this book is far more than a spy thriller. Byron knows China's history, its politics, language, and ways, and this sure familiarity with the broader background gives the book a solid ring of authenticity. The book reprises much of the same territory as Roger Failgot and Remi Kauffer's The Chinese Secret Service (Morrow, 1989), a competent book by non-China specialists. The Claws of the Dragon is clearly the better book. Recommended to specialists and general readers, though the latter may find the cast of characters--hundreds of them--daunting.
- John H. Boyle, California State Univ., Chico
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Touchstone Books, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110671797166