It is April 1945. Although the United States is still months from bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the end of the Pacific War now seems inevitable, and the Japanese retreat across China is setting the stage for a return to full-blown civil war. In the north the Communists are extending their strategic grip across the countryside. Arrayed against them is the Kuomintang, propped up by the support of China's southern industrial base and Chiang Kaishek's largest international ally: the United States.
Coming at a critical juncture in Chinese history, Mao's ruminations in "The Foolish Man and the Mountain" reveal a belief that a Communist victory was a historic certainty, despite a short-term material deficit and clear need to shore up consensus on post-war planning within the Party. As Mao made clear, what lay ahead for China was mass mobilization and war. But the fate of the world was less certain, and this speech gives a curious sense of an alternate history that may have been. In it Mao hints at a fascinating trump card he believed the Communists held which might have proved useful in levering the United States away from the Kuomintang. But exactly what was this trump card? And what happened to it?
For answers to these questions and more, you'll have to click through to our text page and step back in time by reading this speech in its original Chinese. As with all of our short stories, we've annotated every single word in the text with a contextual definition: just mouseover any word for an instant popup containing its pronunciation and meaning. And if you have any other questions or thoughts, leave a comment in our discussion space below.