Gosh, I'm glad I finally read this, the story of the lives of Chang's grandmother, her mother and herself, during the final collapse of the Chinese Empire, the second world war and the rule of Mao. Somewhat stunned by my own ignorance about China - I knew almost nothing about the Cultural Revolution, and very little about the rest of the story told here. After reading the first few chapters about Japanese atrocities, I began to wonder if there could ever be reconciliation between Japan and China. And now, having read the rest of the book, it's clear that the need for reconciliation begins a lot closer to home.
When I read We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, a few years back, I wondered how he had managed to do such a convincing portrayal of totalitarianism, given that Stalin and Hitler were still in his future. I guess one thing I take from Wild Swans is that the potential is always there: Mao's personality cult was probably the largest in world history, given the number of people affected, but the basic techniques have always been around, and perhaps if anything it is easier to manipulate a population that is literate but frightened.
Anyway, a really fascinating if sometimes gruelling book.