That’s a hefty claim, but Randy Rummel, author of China’s Bloody Century, says it’s a fact in a post all you Chang and Halliday readers will want to see. Rummel, who boasts some extraordinary credentials, had originally discounted the 40 million or so who died during the great famine, believing they were unintentionally killed and thus didn’t meet his criteria for “democide.” Now he’s had a change of heart, thanks to that book we all need to read.
From the biography of Mao, which I trust (for those who might question it, look at the hundreds of interviews Chang and Halliday conducted with communist cadre and former high officials, and the extensive bibliography) I can now say that yes, Mao’s policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning. He didn’t care! Literally. And he tried to take more food from the people to pay for his lust for international power, but was overruled by a meeting of 7,000 top Communist Party members.
So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that.
Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered. This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday’s estimate of “well over 70 million.”
This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.
For perspective on Mao’s most bloody rule, all wars 1900-1987 cost in combat dead 34,021,000 — including WWI and II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Mexican and Russian Revolutions. Mao alone murdered over twice as many as were killed in combat in all these wars.
If true, that’s quite a bit of blood to have on one’s hands. Hitler comes across as a two-bit amateur. And still, Mao’s creepy portrait looms over us at Tiananmen Square, and his statues adorn every university campus. What an eerie anomaly. But let’s not forget, he was 70 percent good.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.