Skip to comments.Livelihood Issues: Mao's Great Famine (Book Review: How Mao Killed 43 Million People in Four Years)
Posted on 09/06/2010 6:06:59 AM PDT by Mrs. Don-o
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.'
In brutal fact, between 1959 and 1962, at least forty-three million Chinese died during the famine Snow didn't bother to see. Most died of hunger, over two million were executed or were beaten or tortured to death, the birth rate halved in some places, parents sold their children, and people dug up the dead and ate them.
The cause of this disaster, the worst ever to befall China and one of the worst anywhere at any time, was Mao, who, cheered on by his sycophantic and frightened colleagues, decreed that before long China's economy must overtake that of the Soviet Union, Britain and even the US. Mao suggested that 'When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill,' and declared that anyone who questioned his policies was a 'Rightist', a toxic term eventually applied to thirteen million Party members.
The outlines and many of the specifics of this catastrophe have been known in the West for decades. A few brave Chinese, too, have exposed what they discovered. Mao's doctor, Li Zhisui, wrote about it from his exile in the United States, and some revealing local studies by Americans have made clear what happened in certain villages.
Now Frank Dikötter, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and at Hong Kong University, has laid out the vast horror in detail, drawing on local and provincial archives that have only recently become available to approved foreign scholars. In terms of Mao's reputation this book leaves the Chairman for dead, as a monster in the same league as Hitler and Stalin - and that is without considering the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when hundreds of thousands more Chinese died. One of Dikötter's observations is that Mao instigated the Cultural Revolution to wreak revenge on close colleagues who had dared to show him up.
It is a mark of the historical darkness that still envelops China that many Chinese blame the famine on the Soviet Union, which, they maintain, snatched food from the mouths of starving Chinese by insisting that Beijing export grain to repay Moscow's loans.
Until recently, Dikötter states, most accounts of the famine have been based on central government sources that are often incomplete or untrue. What he found during his years rummaging in archives throughout China was that such central documents were transmitted in fuller, less censored versions to the provinces and below.
In addition, the archives he saw contained letters of complaint or justification from local officials and even ordinary people, minutes from local and even central meetings, and statistics which were either falsified to hoodwink Mao or local superiors, or were subtle enough to reveal that awful things were happening. For example, in 1960 in the 'model province' of Henan, in Xinyang alone 'over a million people died ... Of these victims 67,000 were clubbed to death with sticks'.
When this came to Mao 'he blamed the trouble on class enemies'. On another occasion, when the Chairman learned that there had been terrible deaths in one town he had hitherto admired, 'Mao simply switched his allegiance to the next county down the road willing to outdo others in extravagant production claims.' Mao and his cronies insisted, as one of them put it as reports of deaths rolled in, that 'This is the price we have to pay; it's nothing to be afraid of. Who knows how many people have been sacrificed on the battlefields and in the prisons [for the revolutionary cause]? Now we have a few cases of illness and death; it's nothing!'
Every detail was locally recorded and explained - or obscured. Take this report from 25 February 1960 in Yaohejia village: 'Name of culprit: Yang Zhongsheng ... Name of victim: Yang Ecshun. Relationship with Culprit: Younger Brother ... Manner of Crime: Killed and Eaten. Reason: Livelihood Issues.'
Society completely unravelled. In the newly established communes, peasants following Mao's lunatic advice ploughed their paddies uselessly deep. They dismantled their houses to use as fertiliser, and melted down their tools to make the steel Mao had decreed was the mark of an advanced socialist country (after all wasn't Stalin 'the man of steel'?). Other peasants abandoned their fields and marched miles to work all night constructing mammoth water schemes that often came to nothing, while their families died without grain at home. The only reason millions more didn't starve, as Dikötter describes in detail, is because of their desperate ploys to steal food.
This is for now the best and last word on Mao's greatest horror. Frank Dikötter has put everyone in the field of Chinese studies in his debt, together with anyone else interested in the real China. Sooner or later the Chinese, too, will praise his name.
This is not news; the news is that, slowly, 50 years later, the truth is coming out.
That seems to be the rule of thumb. At least 50 years has to pass before you get solid documentation of what was really going on.
You realize Obama had Mao Tse Tung ornaments on the White House Christrmas tree, right?
There must be a God to give justice in the next life, because there's no justice in this one.
yup ...kill whitey
And they ignored or hid what Stalin did in the Ukraine famine. And they are still lying and covering up for the Commies. Starvation is a terrible weapon, look at what the House passed last year in HR2749. ( http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-2749 ) Vote in House at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h2009-680
Read this bill carefully and it is clear that they intended to make it illegal for you to grow your own food, in the name of food safety. This is the ultimate Commie crowd control tool. If you look at what happened to it in the Senate markup you will realize how totally out of control Congress is. This bill gets NO coverage in the news.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,”
Van Jones is a FUTURE Pol Pot.
Want to bet Anita Dunn put that Mao ornament on the WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS TREE???
What a disgrace.
Very interesting review. Thanks for posting this.
And don’t forget that they turned off the water to the farmers in California.
Ok I’m slow....please explain.
I’d love to buy one of these to send to a favorite leftist I know...
I just started reading M. Stanton Evans book about Joe McCarthy called Blacklisted by History. I knew McCarthy was railroaded, but I had no idea just how much the Democrats had tried to cover up the communist infiltration of our government in the 1940s and 50s!
I urge everyone to read Evans’ book. It is well worth the time and the book is inexpensive too.
At one point (for some reason) I mentioned pumpkins, which I consider a very New England type of vegetable and I said that she may not have eaten one -- "Oh no!" she said, "In China we grew many pumpkins! My district in China was famous for pumpkins! My grandfather grew more pumpkins than anyone else in our village!"
Then she started giggling and added "That's why they killed him."
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, Just sayin
Just sayin' what? Do you not have the courage to stand behind what you say? Is "Just sayin'" intended as an out? Is it saying that someone may say that but not you?
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,
For whom? For the millions who were murdered before Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., died or were overthrown? Where is their justice unless it is like Mrs. Don-o says, in the afterlife?
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