Following a bloody civil war and the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949, Mao Zedong hoisted the red flag over Beijing’s Forbidden City. Due to the secrecy surrounding the country’s records, little has been known about the early years of the communist rule. Drawing on previously classified documents, secret police reports, and eyewitness accounts, Dikötter bears witness to a shocking, largely untold history. People of all walks of life were brutalized, imprisoned, and executed. Others were forced to write confessions and denounce their friends. “The Chinese Communist party refers to its victory in 1949 as ‘liberation,’” Dikötter writes. “In China the story of liberation and the revolution that followed is not one of peace, liberty, and justice. It is first and foremost a story of calculated terror and systematic violence.” Harry Wu, a human rights advocate who saw the communist takeover and later spent 19 years in various Chinese forced-labor camps, will comment on the book and life under Mao’s tyrannical regime.