Terrill, Ross 1938–
Terrill, Ross 1938–
PERSONAL: Born August 22, 1938, in Melbourne, Australia; immigrated to the United States, 1965, naturalized citizen, 1979; son of Frank Gregston (a schoolmaster) and Miriel (Lloyd) Terrill. Education: University of Melbourne, B.A. (honors), 1961; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1970. Politics: Centrist. Hobbies and other interests: Squash, music.
CAREER: University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, tutor in political science, 1962–63; Australian Student Christian Movement, staff secretary, 1964–65; Harvard University, Cambridge MA, teaching fellow in political science, 1968–70, lecturer in government, 1970–74, research associate at the Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research, 1970–, associate professor of government and director of student programs in international affairs, 1974–78. Visiting professor at University of Texas, 1967–2001, and Monash University, 1996–98. Military service: Australian Army, 1957–58.
MEMBER: International PEN, Authors Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Frank Knox fellow, Harvard University, 1965–70; Sumner Prize for thesis, 1970; George Polk Memorial Award for outstanding magazine reporting, 1972; National Magazine Award for reporting excellence, 1972; Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2004, for The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States.
(Editor) China Profile, Friendship Press (New York, NY), 1969.
(Editor, with Bruce Douglass) China and Ourselves: Explorations and Revisions by a New Generation, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1970.
800,000,000: The Real China, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1972.
R.H. Tawney and His Times: Socialism as Fellowship, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1973.
Faces of China: Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday, photographs by Pat Fok, Joseph (London, England), 1974.
Flowers on an Iron Tree: Five Cities of China, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1975.
(Editor) The China Difference: A Portrait of Life Today Inside the Country of One Billion, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1979.
The Future of China: After Mao, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1979.
Mao: A Biography, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1980, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1999.
The White-Boned Demon: A Biography of Madame Mao ZeDong, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984, revised edition, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1999.
The Australians: In Search of an Identity, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.
China in Our Time: The Epic Saga of the People's Republic from the Communist Victory to Tiananmen Square and Beyond, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to books by others, including Who We Are, edited by R. Manning and M. Janeway, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1969, and China and the World Community, edited by I. Wilson, Angus & Robertson (London, England), 1973. Author of pamphlet, International Politics and Social Change in Asia Today and Tomorrow, World Student Christian Federation (Tokyo, Japan), 1968; contributor of numerous articles and reviews to professional journals and other publications, including Political Science Quarterly, China Quarterly, Journal of Asian Studies, and New Republic; contributing editor of Atlantic, 1970–82. Terrill's works have been translated into many languages, including German, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew.
SIDELIGHTS: Ross Terrill is a leading writer and lecturer on the subjects of Chinese relations, socialism, and political interaction. Terrill's interest in the Orient, and China in particular, grew out of a youthful curiosity about the Third World. In the years since that first trip, Terrill has traveled extensively in the Far East and become familiar with Chinese language and society. As a result, he is able to bring a unique perspective about the Orient to both his teaching and writings.
Terrill's trips to China, both before and after the Cultural Revolution, allowed him extensive contact with Asian political and social leaders. In large part due to these contacts, Terrill has been able to present readers with an insider's view of the Chinese state. Terrill's first extended analysis of Chinese affairs appeared as a series of articles in the Atlantic in 1971. Because of their length and scope, the Atlantic pieces were eventually pulled together in a book titled 800,000,000: The Real China—eight hundred million being China's population at the time. A New York Times Book Review critic summed up general critical reaction to the text by saying that Terrill "composes a remarkably shrewd analysis of China's foreign-policy choices and dilemmas."
Terrill's follow-up to 800,000,000 was Flowers on an Iron Tree: Five Cities of China. The travelogue's title refers to the hardwood tree found in Kwangsi province that blooms once every sixty years. Terrill chose the title as a reflection of China's five largest "blossoms"—the urban centers of Shanghai, Dairen, Hangchow, Wuhan, and Peking. By focusing on both the cities' modern advancements and traditional aspects, Terrill presents an overall picture that is surprising and enlightening. Albert A. Johnson, wrote in Publishers Weekly that "Terrill's vivid account can become a vicarious visit for the reader."
The attention to detail found in 800,000,000 and Flowers on an Iron Tree is also present in Terrill's biographies of Chairman Mao and his infamous third wife. Mao: A Biography considers the communist leader's tumultuous rise to power, with an emphasis on Mao's complex personality. Terrill supports his depiction of Mao as a man of both appetite and ambition through an exploration of the key events which shaped twentieth-century Chinese politics, including the May Fourth Movement of 1919, the Long March, and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Frederic Wakeman, Jr., of the New Republic defined the biography as "vivid," concluding that Terrill "ultimately does succeed in reaching the private man behind the public idol." Ter-rill's depiction of Mao fared less well with Simon Leys of the Times Literary Supplement, who found that "most of Terrill's utterances come over as bland and irresistible truisms…. Under this relentless tir-de-barrage of tautologies the reader feels progressively benumbed." In reviewing the volume in Library Journal, Charles W. Hayford called Mao "an excellent introduction for newcomers to the field and a good update for those already hooked."
Critical reaction to The White-Boned Demon: A Biography of Madame Mao was also mixed. This is largely due to Terrill's anecdotal approach to the enigmatic Madame Mao. Some critics believed he relies too heavily on biased sources, while others praised Ter-rill's ability to uncover the little-known people and places of Jiang Qing's past. Jim Miller of Newsweek felt that Terrill handles the idiosyncrasies of Jiang's life well, calling The White-Boned Demon the "most comprehensive account yet of Madame Mao's remarkable life." Carolyn See, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, was equally laudatory. She declared that it is "appropriate to salute Ross Terrill for this quite extraordinary work," and that "in terms of sustaining a narrative, writing a biography, constructing a life that we can believe, Terrill has done it." "Is the book an authentic view of life at the top?" asked Elisabeth Croll in the Times Literary Supplement. The critic offered no definitive answer, but noted that "Terrill is not immune from both overplaying the hand of his subject at the expense of event or issue or of taking advantage of hindsight to attach too much significance to earlier events."
In an abrupt departure from Chinese political history, Terrill's next work takes him back to his native Australia. Part travelogue and part modern social history, The Australians: In Search of an Identity covers four journeys Terrill made to his homeland between 1984 and 1986. The book begins with Terrill's reminiscences of his childhood in the outback and concludes with an analysis of Australia's current social and political status. Much of this analysis is gleaned from interviews conducted with prominent Australians. In a Times Literary Supplement review, Sylvia Lawson criticized this procedure by saying that "Terrill rarely quotes anyone who lacks material or cultural status, and does not acknowledge that he moves on a level of privilege from which he never has to step down." She added that "Terrill cannot probe the contradictions which his many interviews (or 'chats') partially expose; he cannot even properly acknowledge them; he has no clear position from which to speak." New York Times Book Review critic Jane Perlez felt that some of Ter-rill's interview subjects are "not the most relevant" and that Terrill has not "quite measured up to his former stellar work." Not all critics were so harsh in their assessment. Atlantic contributor Phoebe-Lou Adams praised Terrill's efforts as "enlightening and entertaining."
China in Our Time: The Epic Saga of the People's Republic from the Communist Victory to Tiananmen Square and Beyond is a study described by Timothy Tung in the New Leader as "a poignant presentation of firsthand information, impressions, and talks with Chinese acquaintances who range from commoners to intellectuals to government officials." Terrill notes his influence on history, writing that he coached an aide of the Chinese prime minister on American history and noting that Henry Kissinger gave copies of his articles to President Richard Nixon in preparation for his historic meeting with Mao.
In The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, Terrill analyzes Chinese policies, including cover-ups of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak. He notes that although hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted from poverty by economic growth, they continue to be ruled by a contemporary form of Communism. Terrill predicts the end of Communism, followed by a period of turmoil, noting that Beijing is strained by the wishes of the people and those of investors who seek the rule of law to stabilize growth in a global market economy. Franklin J. Woo pointed out in a review in China Review International that Terrill was forced to leave China in 1992 when he attempted to arrange an interview with Shen Ton, the former leader of the Tiananmen democracy movement. "His mindset seems to have been deeply influenced by his firsthand experience of the power of the Chinese state," wrote Woo.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Terrill, Ross, The Australians: In Search of an Identity, Simon & Schuster (New York), 1987.
American Enterprise, July-August, 2003, John Derbyshire, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 54.
American Spectator, April, 1993, William McGurn, review of China in Our Time: The Epic Saga of the People's Republic from the Communist Victory to Tiananmen Square and Beyond, p. 58.
Atlantic, September, 1987, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of The Australians, p. 102.
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Brendan Driscoll, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 1576.
Business Week, May 5, 2003, Mark L. Clifford, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 18.
China Business Review, March-April, 1993, Xioajie Zou, review of China in Our Time, p. 47.
China Review International, spring, 2004, Franklin J. Woo, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 182.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2003, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 293.
Library Journal, June 1, 1980, Charles W. Hayford, review of Mao: A Biography, p. 1300.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 26, 1984, Carolyn See, review of The White-Boned Demon: A Biography of Madame Mao ZeDong, p. 1.
National Review, August 11, 2003, Ross H. Munro, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States.
New Leader, September 21, 1992, Timothy Tung, review of China in Our Time, p. 17.
New Republic, June 21, 1980, Frederic Wakeman, Jr., review of Mao, p. 30.
Newsweek, February 20, 1984, Jim Miller, review of The White-Boned Demon, p. 71.
New York Times Book Review, May 7, 1972, review of 800,000,000: The Real China, p. 3; June 4, 1972, review of 800,000,000, p. 18; September 20, 1987, Jane Perlez, review of The Australians, p. 16.
Parameters, summer, 2004, Richard Halloran, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 149.
Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1975, Albert A. Johnson, review of Flowers on an Iron Tree: Five Cities of China, p. 58; April 27, 1992, review of China in Our Time, p. 239; March 2, 2003, review of The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States, p. 63.
Times Literary Supplement, March 6, 1981, Simon Leys, review of Mao, p. 259; August 3, 1984, Elisabeth Croll, review of The White-Boned Demon, p. 872; November 27, 1987, Sylvia Lawson, review of The Australians, p. 1329; December 12, 1987.
Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs Web site, http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/ (January 26, 2006), Joanne Myers, transcript of "Books for Breakfast" program of May 14, 2003.