In 1936 Mao Tse-Tung, then a cave-dwelling revolutionary, told Edgar Snow his life story. Snow recorded Mao’s self-serving autobiography in Red Star Over China, which for decades made the American’s name as the leading reporter in China. Back in China twenty-four years later, Snow was pestered by news agencies enquiring about mass starvation. The Snow of the 1930s had gone into the field to see for himself a prolonged drought in the north-west, where people were rumoured to be selling their children. But this time he relied on his access to top officials such as Premier Zhou Enlai, and foreigners who flacked for China such as the New Zealander Rewi Alley. In the book he wrote about that trip, The Other Side of the River, Snow stated, ‘I saw no starving people in China … Considerable malnutrition undoubtedly existed. Mass starvation? No.’ And most positively: ‘Whatever he was eating, the average Chinese maintained himself in good health, as far as anyone could see.’
more from Jonathan Mirsky at Literary Review here.