Zhou Enlai was one of the greatest statesmen of the twentieth century. Long overshadowed by the more visible – and charismatic – Mao Dzedong, he and his life and extraordinary accomplishments remain little recognized outside China, where he is still revered as the beloved father of the modern nation. In Eldest Son, Han Suyin brings this towering figure to life in a profoundly human and intimate portrait – the first full-scale biography of the late premier to be published in English.
Between 1956 and 1974, Dr. Han conducted a series of eleven unprecedented interviews with Zhou, each of them lasting for several hours. Drawing upon these encounters, and on further meetings with his widow, his family and colleagues, as well as her unusual access to the Communist Party archives, Dr. Han presents a nuanced portrait of this deeply committed Chinese nationalist and Communist. Here is the full sweep of Zhou’s remarkable life: his early schooling in Japan and Europe, his complex and loyal relationship to Mao, his historic meetings with other world leaders such as Khrushchev, Nehru, and Nixon which opened China to the global community. And Dr. Han gives us the private man as well as the public figure: his loving and formative marriage to Deng Yingchao, the murder of his adopted daughter at the hands of the Red Guards, and ultimately his painful battle with cancer.
Like no other, Zhou’s life is the history of modern China. Through the lens of his experience we see unfolding the dramatic, sometimes violent, decades of change: the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, the galvanizing Long March, the social convulsions of the Great Leap Forward, the violent excesses of the Cultural Revolution, and the diplomatic rapprochement with the West in the 1970s. Dr. Han weaves these decisive events with the impressions and memories of hundreds of ordinary citizens from every sector of Chinese society to create a rich historical tapestry. Compellingly written, unique in its perspective, Eldest Son is masterful social history and an indispensable portrait of a legendary leader whose political legacy continues to influence the course of China today.