Bill Clinton may be a famously promiscuous consumer of political ideas, but until the publication of his autobiography in China this week little was known about his apparent interest in the musings of Mao Zedong.
In the Mandarin version of My Life, Mr Clinton extols the wisdom of the Chairman, repeatedly quotes his most famous sayings and enthusiastically recounts a childhood conversation with an unnamed uncle about the mysteries of the Maoist Middle Kingdom.
He also recalls telling his wife to “shut up” and says that his affair with Monica Lewinsky “did not affect” their marriage. Of the young intern, he said: “She was very fat. I can never trust my own judgment.”
The former US President, it appears, is the latest victim of Chinese publishing pirates, who counterfeit entire books and rewrite the contents. Acting on the orders of their employers, translators regularly add invented content to make foreign books more appealing.
The paperback issued in Mr Clinton’s name and with his photo on the cover includes sizeable amounts of “new” material, while managing to be half the length of the original.
Readers of the text may be surprised by Mr Clinton’s knowledge of China, from the very first sentence: “The town of Hope, where I was born, has very good feng shui.” Mr Clinton quotes Chairman Mao throughout: “I very much appreciated the famous sentence of Mao Zedong, ‘You want to know the taste of the pear, then you have to eat it yourself.’ ” He also appears to praise Mao’s successors, even though the original version recounts an argument that Mr Clinton had with Jiang Zemin, the former General Secretary of the Communist Party. This is missing in the Chinese version, as is a passage describing how one of Mr Clinton’s university pro fessors was tortured in China.
Also omitted from the text are references to Mr Clinton’s presidential trip to China and the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
Mr Clinton’s book purports to be published by the Yili Publishing House. “The real version will be published in September,” a spokesman from the firm told The Times. “It’s quite a shock to hear My Life is already on the market.”
· On meeting Hillary as a student: “She was as beautiful as a princess. I told her my name is Big Watermelon”
· Clinton as a young child told his uncle: “Take me to China to play. China is a mysterious and unique place . . . I couldn’t help but marvel at the great inventions of the Chinese”
· On Mao Zedong: “I very much appreciated the famous sentence of Mao Zedong, ‘You want to know the taste of the pear, then you have to eat it yourself ”
· On early aspirations: “I admired the ambition of Gu Yanwu, who said we should walk 10,000 miles and read 10,000 books”
· On human rights: “I was concerned about China’s continued suppression of basic freedoms”
· On China’s future: “I went to bed thinking that China would be forced by the imperatives of modern society to become more open”
· On an admired professor: “He had been working in China when the Communists prevailed, and spent some time in captivity, much of it in a small hole in the ground”
· On granting most-favoured nation status: “I had issued an executive order requiring progress on a range of issues, from emigration to human rights to prison labour”