Why did the Chinese starve to death in the ’50s without protest?

Please, go read these two posts by one of my very favorite writers right now. She knows whereof she speaks.

I remember reading how the Georgian peasants were convinced Stalin was unaware of their plight as they starved to death in the 1930s, and if there was only some way they could alert him…. But alas, millions and millions died. And Mao knew, and Stalin knew. No, I don’t believe Mao wanted the peasants to die and there’s evidence he was horrified when he learned what the peasants were eating to survive. (Stalin, on the other hand, ever the “man of steel,” showed no such concerns.) But Mao was too wrapped up in his own ideology to admit his Great Leap Forward was anything but. And the result is one of the tragedies so immense, so incomprehensible, like the Holocaust, that the more we read about it the less we can comprehend it. Xujin’s wonderful posts help us comprehend it, but they don’t make it any less of a crime against humanity.

Thirty percent bad – Deng was awfully kind.

The Discussion: 61 Comments

Introducing the Concept of “Mao Zedong Jump”

In Columbia University, the freshman economics class’s first lecture began with a graph of Chinese population from 100BC to 2000. From this graph, the concept was “Mao Zedong Jump” was introduced, “Mao Zedong Jump” was defined in modern economics as “a sudden increase in a country’s population due to rapidly improving production, industry, and health-care”.

Now let us analyze this graph a little bit.


It is very clear that 1949 is a big turning point. When the graph passes 1949, it went up very rapidly, all the way to 2000, where the population was 1.27 billion.

If I’m a microbiologist and is studying bacteria, and if I observe the bacterias for 2000 minutes and record my observations, then I’ll realize that at the 1949th minute, the amount of bacteria underwent a huge growth. Well, what conclusion would I draw from that? I’ll naturally think that at 1949th minute, the environment in which the bacterias lived underwent a huge improvement. You see, this is the difference between an engineering mindset and a humanities-major’s mindset, an engineering mindset is very cold, very lacking emotions, and has no humanities, and only cares about dry things like data and graphs, instead of beautiful novels and essays.

Now, if we see that graph as a hill going up, then the rise after 1949 constitutes a very steep cliff, and if you jump from that cliff, you’ll probably die. If I stand on the cliff and I look to the left, there’s no similar cliff: the rise of the hill is basically very slow to the left. So from now on, this post will refer to everything right of the 1949 red line as the “cliff”. This helps me recall an ancient verse in Chinese: “When the heaven was made from the beginning, when all the emperors and kings passed away and we are here today.”

Now, if you have a magnifying glass and you magnify at the area 1 cm to the left of the cliff, you’ll see a very small vibration on the graph. That vibration is the so called “Greap Leap Forward” that some people use to define Mao Zedong as the “murderer”. They say that Mao Zedong killed 30 million people. Well, then who created that steep cliff? Did Mao Zedong create that cliff? Of course if you ask Rightists that question, they’ll for sure deny that Mao created that cliff, they’ll suddenly agree with Mao and say “the people created that cliff!”. In order words, in their logic, if it’s a bad thing, it must be done by Mao. If it’s a good thing, it must be done by the people.

I was born in 1955, right on that cliff. I often thought, if there weren’t such a cliff, would I have been born? Would those rightists who curse at Mao everyday been born? I’ve often pictured a scene like this: A shrieking rightist points at the cliff and says, “Believe me, the command economy during that period could not produce anything! Everything it produced was useless and had zero value!”. Another rightist would point to the cliff and yells, “That was the darkest period in Chinese history since Western Zhou.” Another rightst points to the cliff and screams, “That period could be compared to the Fascist period, and was a big tragedy in human history”, etc etc etc. Suddenly, a crying person appears and points at the cliff and cries, “Tragedy!Tragedy! So many people murdered at that cliff!”

I’ll then move my eyes to the left of the cliff, to that vast plain. I know that from a biological view, people from different nations have different reproductive powers, but it’s impossible that the reproductive power of Chinese underwent such a huge change in 1949, and Chinese people never had smart birthcontrol methods before 1949.

So now I shift my eyes to the cliff, I know that this cliff differs from the plain in a huge way. Kong Fu Zi once said “People who concentrate on the intellect will control others. People will concentrate on labor will be controlled.” But at the cliff, things suddenly changed, and it became “Pepole who concentrated on labor controlled those who concentrated on the intellect.” At that cliff, the intellectuals were forced to take on shovels and work the fields, while the laborers took the seats of chairmen and prime ministers. That’s why so many intellectuals look at that cliff and cry, “Oh I hate it! Oh tragedy!”

From an engineering point of view, this type of sudden upward change on a graph is called a “jump”. So let’s be a more scholarly and define this cliff as the “Mao Zedong Jump”.

In the year 4000, when China’s population has been controlled either through war or through the continued one-child policy, that cliff would’ve moved to the middle of the graph, and any viewer of the graph and be attracted by the cliff, Perhaps a historian or economist would point to that cliff and ask, “Who did this?”. And someone would explain, “that is the Mao Zedong Jump”

And perhaps in the year 4000, in an economics class in China or in the USA, the professor would say, “Ok students, today we learned about the law of supply and demand, tomorrow we will begin the chapter on ‘Mao Zedong Jump’, this is a very important chapter, please review the materials beforehand.”

Actually today, there are two camps of people with opinions on Mao Zedong. One camp thinks he’s a very bad person. The other camp thinks he’s the savior of the Chinese people. Most of the second camp are made of humanity majors who can write very beautiful essays. My writing ability is much worse than them, so I rarely win arguments against them.

But I know how to draw graphs, and I know how to use graphs to make those humanity majors very very angry.

October 8, 2009 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Does Math offer us a rare and valuable glimpse into the mind and psyche of China? Are his ravings some sort of of microcosm? Or is he just out and out nuts?

Actually today, there are two camps of people with opinions on Mao Zedong. One camp thinks he’s a very bad person. The other camp thinks he’s the savior of the Chinese people. Most of the second camp are made of humanity majors who can write very beautiful essays.

Put me in the first category, please.

October 8, 2009 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

It is a constant in human nature the believe on a father like figure, be it in religion, government and ideology.

There is God, there is the King/Emperor/President and there is the Leader (führer).

If something goes wrong the fault is not on the system itself, but on the wrongdoings of some bad apples or external/internal real/figured enemies.

The people suffering may console themselves thinking that the one high above will eventually make justice, or at least have pity for them, although in not a few cases he is well aware of what is going on, even being actively the cause of it or just another servant of the real power.

One must be careful with what one believes, specially when it is too deeply believed. A critical mind is not a friend of deep believes.

A too outspoken critical mind may not be too helpful in order to survive among “true believers” though…. One must be careful too.

October 8, 2009 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

There is a funny story the Russian revolution.

Two ships cross routes on the Baltic sea. Both loaded with proletarian people.

As both ships come closers people on board one ship ask the other.

Ship1: Where are you going?
Ship2: Were are going to Soviet Russia. The worker’s paradise.
Ship1: You are all mad!

Ship2: And where are you going?
ship1: We are fleeing from Soviet Russia. The worker’s paradise
Ship2: You are all mad!

It seems the same could be said of Mao’s China.

October 8, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

Of the 60 years PRC, only the last 20 years were acceptable. Mao Zedong should have stopped in 1949 or earlier. I believe that China would have been better of if the ROC continued to exist on the mainland. At least in Taiwan, nobody starved to death. Besides, ROC sounds better than PRC. I truly hope one day, the ROC will be restored on the mainland. I hope the CCP will transform itself to the Social Democratic Party of China, and the KMT to the Liberal Party of China, and that Chinese people will eventually learn to settle matters by voting instead of war.

October 8, 2009 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

“I hope the CCP will transform itself to the Social Democratic Party of China”

Not in a million years. You want to turn China into a country of liberal pussies?

The CCP is almost half way to becoming the Republican Party of China.

October 8, 2009 @ 3:26 pm | Comment


If the KMT didn’t leave the mainland, the civil war for another 20 years and another 60 million would die.

October 8, 2009 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

KMT itself was terribly corrupted at that time.

October 8, 2009 @ 11:36 pm | Comment

At least under the KMT, there would have been no famine or crazy political campaigns. China would have had good relations with the USA, which it sorely needed. China would have treasured her cultural heritage, instead of destroying it. Under the ROC, China would have kept the overseas Chinese also Chinese nationals, instead of cutting off the links to salvage diplomatic relations. Moreover, under the KMT, Taiwan would have been united with the rest of China. I do not hate the CCP, but I hope one day the Republic as Dr. Sun had imagined will be realized in whole of China. I would have been thrown in jail for saying things like this in the Chinese mainland, while I say this because I really love China, and not necessarily the CCP.

October 9, 2009 @ 12:28 am | Comment

The Dr. Sun you so admire was a recorded pedophile – he screwed a 12-year old girl (the daughter of his Japanese friend who hosted him) when he was living in exile in Japan.

He is also a proven traitor who proposed to sell large part of Chinese territory to Japan in exchange for weapons and fund.

Learn a bit history, would you?

October 9, 2009 @ 1:35 am | Comment

That’s right. KMT was totally innocent. No communists died at 4/12/1927 in Shanghai. It was the CCP’s fault that 10,000-30,000 people died within Taiwan at 2/28/47.

October 9, 2009 @ 1:43 am | Comment

If you are asking, I was being sarcastic.

October 9, 2009 @ 1:49 am | Comment

Just checked again.

Correction: the girl (大月薰) was 11-year old when Dr. Sun screwed her.

So much for the morality of the saint of Chinese liberals.

October 9, 2009 @ 1:51 am | Comment

Nobody claims that Dr. Sun was a saint, but Mao Zedong screwed many more young girls. Do not forget that!

What would you choose if you had the choice between China and CCP? Through decades of brainwashing, the CCP has managed to equate criticism or dislike of CCP to anti-China. This is an incorrect proposition. To put the future and hope of the Chinese people in one basket called the CCP is being anti-China. Chinese patriots do not have to love the CCP or PRC. China is more than CCP or PRC. Both the CCP and PRC are only small details in China’s long history. I for one, do not believe the PRC will continue to exist for another 60 years. China, however, will exist for another 5000 years, even without the CCP.

October 9, 2009 @ 2:46 am | Comment

I have nothing against KMT. There are many fine people in that party. But the problem is its incompetency. Under CCP, China can kick some serious butt. It can crush Urghur rebellions, free Tibetan slaves, wipe out the Indian frontier army, push the Americans back to 38th parallel.
Do you think KMT can do any of these things?

October 9, 2009 @ 4:45 am | Comment


In case you are not aware, there were protests and rebellion before and during the famine.

The most comprehensive account so far was from Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone (杨继绳,墓碑—中国六十年代大饥荒纪实)

In the book, he documented lots of them.

Of course, the most famous one with a lasting effect even today was the one in the Khampa region of Sichuan province.As for the rebellion in Han Chinese region, they were actually as furious as Tibetan, Yang’s book is a revealing account on how things turned out.

October 9, 2009 @ 7:15 am | Comment

There were scattered protests in some areas. The book I recently reviewed, The Rice Sprout Song, deals with this. But by far the majority of the starving died without protest.

October 9, 2009 @ 7:18 am | Comment

Oiasunset, can you post a source, please? Preferably in English, as that is the language of this blog. I get no hits for “Da Yue Xun.” Thank you.

October 9, 2009 @ 8:58 am | Comment


Just search 大月薰 you will get plenty of hits.


Mao screwed plenty of girls, but never an 11-year old. Your hero Dr. Sun is truly disgusting, same as you liberal apologists for pedophile.

Losers are losers, especially those who keep whining about the past or just be like beggars who try to sell misery for petty money (or asylum) or that rubish idiotic cult FLG whose master Li claims that half of earth’s population are outspace aliens. Keep going, like who cares. 尔曹身与名俱灭,不废江河万古流。

October 9, 2009 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Dr. Sun was a Roman Polanski?

Don’t know about that. Probably a lie. But I did hear that in some part of Europe, pedophilia was considered normal behavior until very recently.

October 9, 2009 @ 10:24 am | Comment

I did. And not one of them in English. Still waiting to be convinced on that particular accusation…

As Richard always says…source, please.

October 9, 2009 @ 10:53 am | Comment

Japanese don’t have English name, and you want to search in English – are you nut?

Dr. Sun, at the same time he was screwing the 11-year old, also molestered another child 淺田春.

Go figure yourself.

October 9, 2009 @ 11:53 am | Comment

“But I did hear that in some part of Europe, pedophilia was considered normal behavior until very recently.”

Then you should take care not to walk the streets alone as you are quite obviously below the age of consent.

October 9, 2009 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

Change the false believing from CCP to KMP, i guess that is the character of Chinese spirit

October 9, 2009 @ 9:53 pm | Comment


That’s the liberal spirit – just look at the Obama peace price.

October 9, 2009 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

“Japanese don’t have English name, and you want to search in English – are you nut?”

You mean to say that there are no English-languages sources to back up your accusation? A bombshell that big would most certainly have been reported SOMEWHERE by the biased and hateful Western media..

Still waiting…sarcastically.

October 9, 2009 @ 11:20 pm | Comment

Unrelated but interesting…


October 10, 2009 @ 6:15 am | Comment

Mao was not the saintly figure modern Maoists proclaim him to be…But the liberal and conservative false outrage over Mao’s alleged atrocities are nothing more than cold war propaganda.

The central premise of Math’s post is irrefutable. And like a good liberal, Richard has nothing better to say than accuse him of being crazy.

October 11, 2009 @ 3:58 am | Comment

Math surely would not have examined China’s population surge post 1949 in isolation, without looking at world population trends in general? Setting the desirability of population growth aside for the moment, how is this a “Mao Zedong Jump” when similar trends are observed throughout the World? Industrialized nations of the West experienced this population surge over a century earlier, and developing nations of the Third World are still in the steep part of the growth curve today while China and India are starting to plateau.

October 11, 2009 @ 8:31 am | Comment

So RedStar, were the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward “cold war propaganda”? Because I’ve read writings from a lot of Chinese people that say otherwise, that the suffering and death was real. I’ve been told by Chinese friends of mine about the horrors of the Mao years. If you see Math’s post as “irrefutable” I’d say we don’t have a lot to talk about.

Schticky, good luck in getting an answer from Math. I think in the history of his years posting here he only responded to another commenter once.

October 11, 2009 @ 9:20 am | Comment

So what if tens of millions of people in China were starved to death. Chairman Mao was able to make up for the human loss by efficiently proliferating the people and expanding the population in China all the way to 1 billion in a few years, thanks to his wisdom and great leadership. Chairman Mao proved to be the greatest manager of human farm in the world. Now the population of China is 1.3 billion. One should acknowledge such a success in population re-growth, when trying to blame the Chinese leadership for the deaths from starvation.

October 11, 2009 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

Am I reading what I think I’m reading in the comments? That the criminal negligence and stupidity of Mao and the CCP resulting in the slow deaths of tens of millions of peasants is redressed by later population growth.

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!!

All those who are arguing this point or agree with it, the next time your government fucks up I hope you die. Fucking scumbags.

Sorry about the language, Richard.

October 11, 2009 @ 3:39 pm | Comment

Don’t know about that. Probably a lie. But I did hear that in some part of Europe, pedophilia was considered normal behavior until very recently.

In fact the lowest age of consent in the world is in the Vatican – 13 years.

October 11, 2009 @ 6:09 pm | Comment

I have nothing against KMT. There are many fine people in that party. But the problem is its incompetency. Under CCP, China can kick some serious butt. It can crush Urghur rebellions, free Tibetan slaves, wipe out the Indian frontier army, push the Americans back to 38th parallel. Do you think KMT can do any of these things?

Serve the People: you are 100 percent correct. Only the CCP had the steel, the fortitude to unite China, kick out the imperialists and defend China’s sovereignty. Also the fortitude to enact badly needed social reforms – for instance the marriage act, sexual equality (in theory at least), the destruction of feudal superstitions which for so long had held China back.

Not only did China maintain her sovereignty in the face of attacks from the Western imperialists, but also avoided being just another Soviet puppet state.
And therein lies some of the reasons for the GLF tragedy – a conflation of bad policy, misreporting, natural disasters, sudden withdrawal of Soviet aid, all contributed to the disaster (although the disaster was nothing of the magnitude made out by the Western media).

Do not forget that it was not necessarily China who shut out the world in the first three decades – it was as much the other way round. Mao meeting Nixon, his defence of China’s independence, were the foundations upon which Deng could work his reforms.

Chairman Mao’s aim was always for the well-being of the Chinese people. In 1949 the average life expectancy was 35. By the time of his death it was 69. New China, as any other nation, has had its triumphs, and had its tragedies. The overall record is positive. And Mao’s overall contribution is immense.

October 11, 2009 @ 6:20 pm | Comment

An interesting take on things can be found here:

“..India and China had “similarities that were quite striking” when development planning began 50 years ago, including death rates. “But there is little doubt that as far as morbidity, mortality and longevity are concerned, China has a large and decisive lead over India” (in education and other social indicators as well). He estimates the excess of mortality in India over China to be close to 4 million a year: “India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame,” 1958-1961 (Dreze and Sen).

China’s life expectancy today is 74, Indias is 64. China’s infant mortality rate per 1000 is 23, Indias is 55. China’s literacy rate is 90%, India’s 60%.

We could argue that India’s democratic system is ‘murdering’ millions of babies every year, and looking at its low life expectancy compared with China, we could say India, in not adopting the superior Chinese system, is condemning millions of people to an early death every year.

Communism saves lives.

October 11, 2009 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

Math’s post hit a nerve with many “intellectuals”. When Mao took over, for the first time, intellectuals are pulled down from their altars and forced to work the same jobs and be judged with the same standards as the regular folks. For the first time, workers and peasants became the masters of the nation. Of course those Rightist intellectuals would kick and scream and make such a huge fuss about “Great Leap Forward”. So some people died in 3 years of natural disasters. But intellectuals scream “No , it is 10 million people, no 20 million, no 50 milllion, no 100 million, no 1 billion!”.

Tell me, if 1 billion people died in 3 years, how can Math’s graph not reflect that? Why was there no dip in the graph? Are you saying this graph is fabricated?

October 12, 2009 @ 12:24 am | Comment


Does the above fit into your standard of language decency (or of stupidity)?

If yes, congratulations to another hallmark of liberal decency and intelligence to win an argument.

Pathetic loser!

October 12, 2009 @ 12:40 am | Comment

Oia, are you calling me a pathetic loser? I just saw the comments (I’m on a West coast time zone). This is why your comments are delayed.

Twisted, while I agree with your main point, the way you said it isn’t like you. Please, don’t call other commenters obscenities, no matter how high they may climb the ladder of assholism.

Jiu, the first thing Deng did was reinstate those “intellectuals,” without whom China would have spent another ten years wallowing in chaos, ignorance, hunger and poverty. China is great today in part because it has so many qualified people running things, not just rubber-stamping bureaucrats thinking only about how to survive in an atmosphere in which stupidity became a virtue, where books were burned and schools shut down. Do you think that course – of beating teachers and despising knowledge – were a winning formula for China?

October 12, 2009 @ 1:37 am | Comment

Yes, and IIRC, Deng himself was labeled a rightist during the CR. And let’s not forget about Zhou Enlai, the Peoples’ Premier, who was accused of being a rightist and the second coming of Confucius.

Mao may have been the Chairman, but Zhou and Deng and others had far more to do with actually constructing the foundations of a modern state in China — a state which at times Mao seemed determined to tear down. It took disasters like the Great Leap and the CR to allow people like Zhou and Deng to repair the damage and rehabilitate the “experts” needed to modernize China.

I suspect some of the commenters here are too young to recall the early reform period, how very different things were then and the extent of the damage caused by the CR that had to be repaired. I can’t speak to the post-Great Leap, but I’m sure the challenges of rebuilding after that utopian experiment were considerable.

October 12, 2009 @ 5:38 am | Comment

So wonderful to hear a voice of reason. Thanks, Lisa.

October 12, 2009 @ 5:48 am | Comment

@oiasunset: Does the above fit into your standard of language decency (or of stupidity)?

I make no claims to being civil or of using decent language so don’t judge Richard, or anybody else, by what I write (that would be stupid).

And please explain the “(or of stupidity)”. Am I stupid because, like you, I’m act like an arsehole? (I don’t deny it) Or am I stupid because I think that judging the value of human lives on a balance sheet is vile and those that do it are –read my earlier comment-?

I await you deep and revealing answer.

October 12, 2009 @ 6:23 am | Comment

Richard and Lisa’s points are well taken.

I would like to point out that intellectuals in today’s China think differently from the ones in the late seventies or eighties. People like Liu Xiaobo or Wang Lixiong do not represent this class. The number of dissidents constitute a negligible fraction. This is true both inside China and also overseas. Every major university in the US has an organization of Chinese scholars and students. Each one of them is opposed to the Dalai’s separatist activities during last year’s torch relay.

Today’s intellectuals support the government as much as other people do. Many of the country’s leaders have engineering background. The writers and lawyers are not doing too well though. They are the ones bitching the most.

October 12, 2009 @ 7:05 am | Comment


My apologies for the confusion. I certainly didn’t mean that you are a pathetic loser because, despite your liberal weaknesses, you are a decent gentleman and you never resort to obscenity (or back-stabbing) as tools in arguments – those activities are the hallmarks of a pathetic loser in real life.

Just in case you haven’t noticed, these pathetic losers are over-represented among liberals. I know you dislike right-wingers, but beware of your liberal fellows.

October 12, 2009 @ 10:50 am | Comment

oiasunset I think I’m starting to understand you. It’s ok to call you “a wing-nut trapped inside a bubble of seething rage, screaming at a world that’s paying you no heed.” But it’s not ok to call you “a *&%king wing-nut thug trapped inside a bubble of seething rage, screaming at a world that’s paying you no heed.” Because using expletives is mumble mumble fap FOARP blaaarrgh.

Is that it? FWIW I think that people who try to claim high moral/intellectual ground because they supposedly don’t use naughty words are pretty lame and definitely should avoid the blogosphere.

P.S. I’m still waiting for clarification on the stupidity question.

October 12, 2009 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

Many speculate the number of people who starved to death based on the population decrease during those years compared the years after the Great leap forward. However, none of them taken into account that the birth rate was significantly reduced during that same period which leads to the fact that this number perhaps that not many people had actually starved to death.


October 13, 2009 @ 5:51 am | Comment

Your source notes the estimated number dead at 25 to 40 million. These estimates are based on a group of statistics that (according to other sources I’ve read) are based on village records, the census, etc. Maybe we can quibble, a million here, a million there. But let’s not do any denying, like Ahmajinedad and the Holocaust. Millions starved, many needlessly.

October 13, 2009 @ 7:25 am | Comment

Seven Million American Starved To Death During Great Depression:

“The researcher, Boris Borisov, in his article titled “The American Famine” estimated the victims of the financial crisis in the US at over seven million people. The researcher also directly compared the US events of 1932-1933 with Holodomor, or Famine, in the USSR during 1932-1933.”


October 13, 2009 @ 9:06 am | Comment

Ah, the old “America does it, too,” bullshit. Some obscure historian using highly questionable formulas discovers America sucks. Here’s one response to this nonsense:

Anybody who has taken a human geography class would realize this argument is utter bullshit. First he is using a model from Russia in the 1990s and comparing it to the 1930s United States. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying medical technology and record keeping have advanced a little over those 70 years.

Second, it is not shocking that in the 1930s 7.5 million to 10 million people perished over a decade in a country that had a population of over 100 million. Also Looking at that same census the population of the US grew from 123,202,624 in 1930 to 132,164,569 in 1940 up 7.3%. To put it in to perspective today a little over 2 million people die in the US each year on average.

Third, record keeping in the ’30s and ’40s (people not filling out their census) and the unenforced borders of the US can probably be attributed to any discrepancies in the census’s numbers.

Let’s presume the very worst, that every word this charlatan says is true. So, does that make China’s famine A-okay with you? Does an alleged (and easily disproved) charge against the US – which you can only find in Pravda (!) – absolve Mao of the sin of allowing tens of millions to die from mass starvation that was largely preventable?

October 13, 2009 @ 9:14 am | Comment



P.S. @oiasunset: gack mumble blech FOARP rrrr fap fap blaaarrrgh. I’m still waiting.

October 13, 2009 @ 10:31 am | Comment

What’s the hell..Last time I checked there wasn’t so many hardliner maoists here.What happened?
As to Mao,I’ll put it this way:
Basically,He did two great things to this country:
1. He managed to pull our broken country together and make it function as a whole.
2. He died in time thus prevented our country from falling apart again.
One simply cannot be omnipotent.No,not even after you have rebuilt a nation of 400 million people from rubble.It’s a pity that mao cannot properly maintain a nation.But,his refusal to share his power with the know-betters makes it a disaster.

And to Richard:
Thanks for the good read.The two posts you linked did have some great points.The situation at my place at that time was better due to the high food production rate and low population density.But I still remember those days when eating a fruit can be a moral issue in the family…
Sigh.May those follies not happen again.

October 13, 2009 @ 4:51 pm | Comment


Perhaps you didn’t take things into perspective. A little more than 10 years ago, it is not uncommon for people to die in China because the country is ravaged by war and Japanese Occupation. The reason why women have so many kids is that some children will die because of disease or some other reasons. It happens in many 3rd world, pre industrialized countries and it happens today. If you look at the graph, the death rate per 1000 was about as high in 1949 as it was during the great leap forward. I wouldn’t be surprised that the death rate was much much higher during the civil war and Japanese occupation. So to put it into perspective, it is not so bad.

October 13, 2009 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

Pug, whatever. I’ve seen similar graphs about Jewish resettlement after WWII used to explain away the Holocaust (“See, it wasn’t that bad!”). What’s the point? To show the number who died in the GLG was ten million more or less than previously believed? The 25- 40 million figure is from China’s own records and is frequently stated by Chinese historians. To revise the history now and say there were other factors and so, in your words, the horrors of the famine “is not so bad” is classic revisionism. And it’s bizarre. Anyone who has read about the misery these people went through while many of their village granaries were full of rice to be shipped to the cities cannot help but conclude this was a crime against humanity, made possible by the substitution of common sense with deranged ideology. Maybe you think the communalization of the farms and the closing of universities 10 years later also “wasn’t that bad”?

October 14, 2009 @ 12:19 am | Comment

Thanks Cypher. I have to admit, I am getting tired of these topics. Need to put up some fresh posts.

October 14, 2009 @ 12:20 am | Comment


Do we blame on FDR’s and Hoover’s bungled domestic policy which caused millions of people to starve to death? Yet it wasn’t Mao’s intention to starve millions of people rather it was due to a bad domestic policy and bad climate which compounded the problem. It is certainly easy to point a finger at Mao as the boogeyman for problems but famines are relatively common until Norman Borlaug revolutionized farming.

October 14, 2009 @ 4:05 am | Comment

Mao didn’t want those people to starve, and neither did Hoover or FDR (though I do not see a valid comparison there, and have never heard one made before, and know of know comparable mass starvation under these two US presidents). If indeed it was shown that significant quantities of grain were available in local granaries yet, thanks to a decree from the US federal government the local population was deprived of the grain that could have saved them and thus slowly starved to death by the tens of millions, with no one daring to complain lest they be named an enemy of the state and put to death – if that happened under the watch of either Hoover or Roosevelt, yes, we would definitely blame their policies. The only comparable famines were those in Russia, when millions of Georgian farmers starved to death; that was an act of murder on Stalin’s part. In Mao’s case, it falls somewhere between murder and neglect, or at least in the category of ideological blindness. This was no ordinary famine, and there is no doubt many millions could have been saved had it not been for the Great Leap Forward and Mao’s rigid ideology. Mao is as much the “bogeyman” for the GLF as Hitler and Himmler were for the Holocaust. They were the architects of two of history’s most lethal man-made catastrophes.

October 14, 2009 @ 4:15 am | Comment

The best comparison to starvation under Mao would be the Bengal Famines, except in the latter case Britons were free to complain about it but it did little good- 1/3rd of the Bengal population starved to death.

The main difference is Mao was just stupid, the British chose profit over human life.

But of course everyone just pretends it never happened.

October 15, 2009 @ 6:53 am | Comment

The argument that other famines were worse and that blame on the British leaders is greater than the blame on the Chinese leaders is irrelevant and inadmissible. It means nothing to the tens of millions who died, and one atrocity does not excuse the other.

October 15, 2009 @ 7:06 am | Comment

Right- and the British Raj and Germany’s Nazi past does not make them experts at (preventing) genocide, nor does it give them any particular right to point fingers.

October 15, 2009 @ 7:35 am | Comment

All countries have blood on their hands. By your logic, no country is fit to call out genocide, and should all simply shut up and let the victims die.

I’m losing patience with the trolling. This is a thread about what Chinese people did to other Chinese people in China. Anyone who counters by saying India did this or Hitler did that is trolling.

Time for a new thread so we can get out of here.

October 15, 2009 @ 7:43 am | Comment

The real reason, Richard, is that the starvation was not nearly as bad as described by CIA propagandists.

It was bad, but the death toll is indeterminate- the CIA is clearly lying when they say 20-70 million. Most “Western” sources derive from this CIA 10-20 million figure, and they add their own numbers to it based on speculation.

I know that the famines hit Henan and Sichuan particularly bad, but my relatives in the North saw their communities survive through the ordeal.

October 15, 2009 @ 7:52 am | Comment

Merp, this is the last word on this: When you say the famine “wasn’t nearly as bad” as some say, and then say your reasoning is that maybe only 10-20 million died as opposed to 20-70 million, it is akin to going easy on the Holocaust because maybe only 4 million Jews died, not 6 million. (And I am not equating the famine with the Holocaust, just using it as a point of reference as a massive tragedy with dispute over the number of alleged victims.) There is nothing to argue about here – whether your best-case scenario or the CIA’s worst-case scenario is right, it is still one of the great catastrophes of the last century. Finally, most sources I’ve read over the years estimate the number of victims at somewhere around 30 million. I don’t think any current historian cites any number close to 70 million.

The 30 million number is generally accepted even by the Chinese government, and is probably a bit on the cautious side. Even China Daily remarks as a matter of fact, “During 1959–1961 when China was hit by a severe famine, 30 million Chinese starved to death.” No matter what the British or Americans or Nazis or Russians did, this calamity occurred in China, and while famine has been a regular feature throughout Chinese history, this one stands out because large swathes of the population might have been saved had it not been for Mao’s disastrous rural grain allocation program. This was a crime against humanity on a huge scale. Mao “didn’t mean to kill all those people,” but he managed to do it anyway. Of course, Mao “killed” these people indirectly; he never ordered them to die or wanted them to die (though he was not concerned enough to take measures to save them). So I don’t put him in quite the same category as Pol Pot or Hitler or Stalin. But he’s not that far behind, when his net effect on China’s population is taken into account.

We’ve exhausted this topic and the trolling is too annoying. Thread closed.

October 15, 2009 @ 8:28 am | Comment

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