The Great Leap Forward on film

Not sure how long this video has been around, but I’ve never seen anything like it before and want to recommend it to everyone. I’ve read about every aspect of the GLF but never saw so much of the story captured on film. Don’t watch it if you have high blood pressure.

“It is better to let half the people die so the other half can eat their fill.”

Mao Zedong, 1959. Seventy percent good, indeed.

______________

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.

The Discussion: 283 Comments

Wow.

June 18, 2012 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

Y’know, I heard one of the most interesting counter-arguments from a Chinese guy, regarding the GLF and why the Chinese were still angry about the Burning of the Summer Palace, but never got angry about what was effectively forced starvation through stupidity:

“The Summer Palace was done to us, the GLF we did to ourselves. They’re our people and we can do what we want to them, but no-one has the right to do bad things to us.”

This was the comment of just one individual, unsure of how representative of the general consensus it is.

June 18, 2012 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

Proof that deadpan is not a forgotten art.

June 18, 2012 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

One thing… somebody said that already some time ago
“He is a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch”

another thing, about such extraneous answers. They are not a justification but an excuse… a bad excuse. Seen a lot of similar answers with engineering problems already

June 18, 2012 @ 6:49 pm | Comment

Now the video won’t load…is there another place to watch it?

June 18, 2012 @ 8:25 pm | Comment

[...] CFO Worldwide Team  /   June 18, 2012  /   No Comments The Great Leap Forward on film » The Peking Duck.     Print       [...]

June 18, 2012 @ 8:49 pm | Pingback

Y’know, for a country as large as China is, 30% bad is really f’ing bad.

June 18, 2012 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

Will, the video seems to be loading fine. Try again.

June 19, 2012 @ 12:17 am | Comment

“They’re our people and we can do what we want to them, but no-one has the right to do bad things to us”
—agree with Eco, that’s just an excuse…and a lame one at that. It’s also an excuse that continues to have substantial usefulness, as far as the CCP is concerned.

June 19, 2012 @ 2:58 am | Comment

Ferin/Cookie, I am not publishing your nasty comment about this being an “anti-China” post. This post is about compassion for tens of millions of Chinese people who starved to death or had their lives ruined in other ways by the GLF. It may be anti-Mao and anti-GLF, but it is in every way pro-China.

June 19, 2012 @ 3:18 am | Comment

Someone really needs to tell CM once and for all that anti Mao or even anti CCP is in no way equitable to anti-China. Just idiotic.

June 19, 2012 @ 4:12 am | Comment

They play the game… If you are against me you are against China, because I am China.

Well, guess what, you are not China.

Maybe not even Chinese, or even worth of that name.

June 19, 2012 @ 5:11 am | Comment

If I were to choose, will I choose to live in Mao’s Era, or today’s Era?

I for sure will choose to live in today’s era.

Why? One reason I think is because I’m a very immoral person and unethical person. When I was in grade school, I was a very bad boy, and committed many infractions, from small things like stealing my desk mate’s rubbers and pencils to pushing a student down a flight of stairs during a fight, and broke his arm.

Let me first list all the items on why I don’t like Mao’s era.

In Mao’s era, we were asked to be frugal in our clothing. If our clothes broke, we’ll patch it up with needles and thread. There’s a saying “New three years, old three years, you patch it up and it’s another three years”. This is too spartan, too environmentally-friendly for me, I’m a modern consumer, if I don’t like this clothes I bought, I’ll just go online and buy another one from Walmart or Gap.

In Mao’s era, we all brought our own containers when doing shopping. If we were to go buy soy sauce, we bring an empty bottle with us, if we were to buy beer, we would bring a plastic bag to hold it. If were were to buy vegetables, we brought our own basket. These days, everything is much more convenient, you can just go to a grocery store, and have your stuff put into shiny and well-desgined plastic bags for you. I cannot imagine myself going to such trouble as bringing an empty bottle to get buy soy sauce.

In Mao’s Era, there’s definintely no family sedans. 99% of us rode bicycles, tiring our legs our necks our hands and our backs. Today, I drive a modern car, a toyota corrolla, and just last week I drove it to my local grocery store to pick up a bottle of Canola Oil, only 3 mins away. For me to bicycle all the way there? Clearly a step backward, no modern person would tolerate it.

In Mao’s Era, there were so many electricity outages. I remember in my childhood, every 2-3 times week, electricty would go out for 5-6 hours at home, especially during summer. These days, I can turn on all 10 lights in my house and blast my AC to 19 degrees for the entire duration of the summer, and no one dares to shut it down. This is much more comfortable than back then.

In Mao’s Era, women did not put on make up. Most of them just faced the public with a plain face, no fancy dresses, shoes, skirts, skin lotion, spa’s, rings, etc. Women these days look much more attractive with the help of cosmetics and fashion.

In Mao’s Era, we typically bathed once a month, and because of hot water conservation, the whole family would share the same bath water, with the baby going first, then the husband, wife, then the grandparents. The water would become black when its the grandparents’ turn, but that’s what everyone had to endure. These days, I shower as often as once a week, and turn on the hot water for 30 mins, and feel my entire body cleansed, all the scums rubbed away from every part. How can a modern man not shower frequently?

I for sure want today’s era to continue, wmore cars, more shower, more plastic bags, more comestics, more gasoline, more everything. Only when we get more and bigger of everything can we become more modern, higher GDP, higher effiency, higher production, higher competitiveness.

By the way, I still have not heard any first hand account of people starving to death yet. The literature ability of those rightists are way too low. All this time, I could’ve written at least 100 such stories, like my aunt died, my aunt-in-law died, etc, etc. Why is it so hard to write these stories? Come on.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:16 am | Comment

@SK

I believe I made that point before – state and The Party are really two separate things, it’s when the government exclusively equates its wishes and welfare with that of the state as a whole that totalitarianism is achieved.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:16 am | Comment

Very interesting comment, Mr. Clock. In case anyone has forgotten, it was Mr. Clock who announced himself some months ago as Math’s replacement. So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that his lengthy comment was copied, word for word, from this comment by Math from more than a year ago.

Mr. Clock, you’re off to a shaky start. You have no credibility.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:21 am | Comment

Math does not reserve any copyrights for his writing, therefore anyone is free to use them.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:37 am | Comment

You are free to quote Math or any other commenter here. But to not offer attribution and to make it appear as if it is your own comment is deceptive, unethical and sleazy. Now we all all know what you are about.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:39 am | Comment

Tut tut, Tick-Tock. Plagiarism….wouldn’t pass in any scholarly environment….

June 19, 2012 @ 8:49 am | Comment

And the second hand unwinds!

June 19, 2012 @ 9:20 am | Comment

“The Summer Palace was done to us, the GLF we did to ourselves. They’re our people and we can do what we want to them, but no-one has the right to do bad things to us.”

The reason it sounds lame is because it suggests that mistreating Chinese people is OK as long as the perpetrator is also Chinese. It may have been just clumsily expressed in English? Generally it’s easier to forgive the “mistakes” of one’s own people than outsiders.

June 19, 2012 @ 9:27 am | Comment

To narsf,
I think for the ccp, state and party are one and the same. It’s one Of the limitations of the ccp system. But one thing the ccp can never claim to equate is Chinese people . It’s the fundamental flaw in cm’s argument. In order for an anti-ccp stance to be unbecoming, he has to equAte it to being anti Chinese. But that is simply a leap that cannot be substantiated.

To Peter,
I agree, that might be the distinction they try to draw. But for the victims, I susPect there is not much difference when it comes to who victimized them. It is again simply an excuse.

June 19, 2012 @ 9:50 am | Comment

Regarding the Summer Palace…
From Wikipedia “In 1860 during the Second Opium War, two British envoys, a journalist for The Times and their small escort of British and Indian troopers met with the Royal Prince to negotiate. Instead they were confined and tortured, resulting in twenty deaths.[1][2] The British High Commissioner to China, Lord Elgin, retaliated by ordering the destruction of the palace, which was then carried out by French and British troops.”
So breaking a house, admittedly a fine house, is worse than killing 20 people? Or don’t they count?

June 19, 2012 @ 10:10 am | Comment

You are free to quote Math or any other commenter here. But to not offer attribution and to make it appear as if it is your own comment is deceptive, unethical and sleazy. Now we all all know what you are about.

If someone’s words are true enough, it’s only sad they are not repeated more widely.

And anyone can search for it and see it’s his.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:13 am | Comment

@Peter

Precisely my point, it is essentially saying that treating the Chinese people as cattle – provided that the herders are Chinese themselves – is perfectly ok.

@SK

I think you need to read Amelia Hadfield for a better explanation than I can give briefly, she wrote wpquite extensively in one of her books on the subject of “the foreign bogeyman” and the arguments made by dictatorships that they are the state and what they want is what the state wants.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:18 am | Comment

Narsf, thanks for the very smart comments.

Mr Clock: And anyone can search for it and see it’s his.

But my dear friend, no one should ever have to search the comments to see whether you are being a sleazeball or not. We assume we are all being honest and expressing our own opinions, not copying and pasting those of others with no attribution. Look, you can’t weasel your way out of this: you have been exposed as a cheater and a scoundrel, and no matter how much you rationalize your unethical behavior, the fact remains: you cannot be trusted. And you know it.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:36 am | Comment

Then how did you find out that I was copying Math?

June 19, 2012 @ 10:49 am | Comment

Clock, it’s my blog and I have a good memory. With all due respect, you’re being a total asshole.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:55 am | Comment

The Clock = Math. Quite why our friend felt he had to make up a story about Math’s death I have no idea. If it was a joke it was in poor taste.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:57 am | Comment

“With all due respect, you’re being a total asshole.”

How can you call someone an asshole and say with due respect?

This is one of the most deep-rooted hypocrisy of the West.

I’ll write an original article next time, titled ‘Evilness of the West’

June 19, 2012 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Oh, and we all remember that copy/paste was also Math’s MO.

June 19, 2012 @ 10:59 am | Comment

There’s nothing wrong with copy/paste, in both writing and industry.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:00 am | Comment

Tick-Tock
Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest
http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/plagiarism/

June 19, 2012 @ 11:00 am | Comment

@Gil

I wasn’t around for that particular event, but it sounds enormously similar to an event I witnessed on the China Daily Forum – an Anti-West poster going by the name of “The Chariman” supposedly “died” after a particularly nasty exchange between himself and some perfectly logical people. The outpouring of sympathy for this supposed “event” was as touching as it was suspicious.

I am wondering if this is simply another tactic used in the psychological warfare of the Propaganda department to go along with the “anti-China” trigger that is supposed to cause us “Iperialists” to start navel-gazing and questioning whether or ot what we are saying is reasonable.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:03 am | Comment

Tick-Tock
Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest
http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/plagiarism/

Idiotic.

Mao once said, if students want to copy each other on tests, let them. That’s his philosophy.

I agree with him. I copied a lot of answers from my desk mate in my high school years, and I let her copy too.

We also fucked a lot.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:06 am | Comment

I’ve watched Math’s comments for more than five years, and I know his sentence structure and grammar and style very, very well. I am almost certain Clock is not Math, but is probably a buddy of his. Math was funnier, wittier, less snide, and he never, ever interacted with other commenters. He’d drop his long comment/essays on the blog and then disappear for a few months and then suddenly reappear and do it again. Toward the end Math did cut and paste from his own comments, and that may very well have been because he was sick, i just don’t know. But again, I don’t believe Clock is Math. Math actually was amusing, Clock is simply combative and obnoxious.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:12 am | Comment

Math was my colleague.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:14 am | Comment

From Mr. Clock, up above.

“With all due respect, you’re being a total asshole.”

How can you call someone an asshole and say with due respect?

Darling, have you ever heard of sarcasm? Don’t worry, I have no respect for you.

This is one of the most deep-rooted hypocrisy of the West.

I’ll write an original article next time, titled ‘Evilness of the West’

We look forward to it with bated breath.

Math would never be this blatant and antagonistic.

Math was my colleague.

Care to give us a little more information?

June 19, 2012 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Nope, “with all due respect” is often used in non-sarcastic situations, prefixed before some disagreement or insult.

This shows the inherent hypocrisy of the West.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:20 am | Comment

I have many such examples, I’ll include them in the next piece.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:21 am | Comment

Nope, “with all due respect” is often used in non-sarcastic situations, prefixed before some disagreement or insult.

This shows the inherent hypocrisy of the West.

Even most idiots, yourself excepted, of course, could tell from the context I was being very, very, very sarcastic. And yes, you’re right, my calling you an asshole does indeed reveal “the inherent hypocrisy of the West.” Right.

Why are freaks so attracted to this site?

June 19, 2012 @ 11:24 am | Comment

“Nope, “with all due respect” is often used in non-sarcastic situations, prefixed before some disagreement or insult.

This shows the inherent hypocrisy of the West.”

I see – your English comprehension is not so good ergo it must be inherent hypocrisy of the west. And yet you chose to live there still…. Let me guess, you also have a US passport.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:36 am | Comment

“Math was my colleague”

Maybe, but the story you told us was fake – no such death happened.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:40 am | Comment

Yes, he lives forever in our hearts.

Some people are obviously dead, but we somehow feel they are alive.

Some, like on this blog, who look apparently alive, but are no better than dead.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:43 am | Comment

Let me guess – is it the guy who made up the story of the death of a professor who never existed and who copies and pastes comments from a ‘dead’ commentor?

June 19, 2012 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

Richard’s tolerance of these losers never fails to astonish me. There is a place where up can be down, black can be white, words can mean whatever a writer wants them to mean and where pug_ster has found a haven from the logic and facts of this cruel world. Hidden Harmonies is where Cookie and Clock should hang their hats.

June 19, 2012 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

Slim, trust me, lots of Cookie’s comments never make it onto the blog — I have my limits. And there is no guarantee Mr. Clock’s comments are all going to be published in the future either, especially if he keeps breaking the rules (like no plagiarism).

June 19, 2012 @ 1:24 pm | Comment

Life expectancy in China in 1949 is 35 and in 1970 is 61.7 (note Mao did not die until 1976).

Can any of you here do the math and tell me, how many lives did Mao save?

June 19, 2012 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

I miss Real Math.

June 19, 2012 @ 4:23 pm | Comment

If I were to choose, will I choose to live in Palpatine’s Era, or today’s Era? I for sure will choose to live in today’s era.

Why? One reason I think is because I’m a very immoral person and unethical person. When I was in grade school, I was a very bad boy, and committed many infractions, from small things like throwing rocks at banthas, to force-choking romantic rivals.

Let me first list all the items on why I don’t like Palpatine’s era.
In Palpatine’s era, we were asked to kill a loved one to prove our allegiance to the Dark Side. There’s a saying “…Taking the life of an innocent is always harder even than taking your own, if you’re sincere. This is the ultimate test of selflessness—whether you’re ready to face unending emotional pain, true agony, to gain the power to create peace and order for billions of total strangers. That is the sacrifice.” This was too severe, because pretty soon you couldn’t get anyone to help you move house.
In Palpatine’s era, we all brought our own weapons everywhere. If we were to go slaughter some Gungans, we had to bring our own lightsabers. If you wanted to strafe Jawas, you had to drive your own At-At. I cannot imagine myself going to such trouble as servicing my Tie Fighter just to destroy rebel scum.
I for sure want today’s era to continue, with more droids, more charismatic and fast-talking smugglers, more everything. Only when we get more and bigger of everything can we become more modern, higher GDP, higher efficiency, higher production, higher competitiveness. And only then can we smash the hated Jedi for once and for all.
By the way, I still have not heard any first hand account of people being killed on this so-called “Death Star”. The literature ability of those rightists are way too low. All this time, I could’ve written at least 100 such stories, like my uncle Tarkin died, Kenobi got struck down, etc, etc. Why is it so hard to write these stories? Come on.

June 19, 2012 @ 5:39 pm | Comment

@Chaon – Awesome!

Yeah, actually now I remember this comment of Math’s too. It was the idea of a “first-hand account of starving to death” that truly rubbed my funny bone.

June 19, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Comment

“some people are obviously dead, but we somehow feel they are alive”

Yes, those murdered children in Beijing for example, will ever live in our hearts as martyrs of a failed revolution.

June 19, 2012 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

‘I see – your English comprehension is not so good ergo it must be inherent hypocrisy of the west. And yet you chose to live there still…. Let me guess, you also have a US passport.’

Mike, tempting though it may be to use assholery to combat proven assholes, it still doesn’t strike me as good form. If we were to apply your logic consistently, no foreigner choosing to live in China could criticise the Chinese for their hypocrisies. The ‘like it or lump it’ line was just as annoying in 2003 as it is now, so may I respectfully suggest that you can it.

June 19, 2012 @ 8:31 pm | Comment

XYZ:

Life expectancy in China in 1949 is 35 and in 1970 is 61.7 (note Mao did not die until 1976).

Can any of you here do the math and tell me, how many lives did Mao save?

Tell that to the millions who died unnecessarily during the GLF. I’m sure they’ll be very consoled.

June 19, 2012 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Richard, have you been listening to the ongoing China History Podcast series on the Cultural Revolution? http://chinahistorypodcast.com/ I just listened to part 6 this morning. It’s been incredible so far. I’ve learned so much from it.

June 20, 2012 @ 1:15 am | Comment

“I still have not heard any first hand account of people starving to death yet.”
—because those who starved to death are too dead to give a first hand account, you idiots (and that includes Math who was stupid enough to write it in the first place, and Clock who was stupid enough to repeat it verbatim). Birds of a feather flock together, so I am not at all surprised that Math and Clock were “colleagues”. Neither of them seem over-burdened with intelligence.

+++++++++++++++++

I agree with MFC, in that it is not necessarily hypocritical to criticize your host. So Chinese people can criticize the US where they live, and “westerners” can criticize China whilst living there. However, I do find it hypocritical for Chinese citizens who live in the US to suggest that China under the CCP is nirvana on earth and that PRC citizens are fortunate to have the CCP, all the while avoiding to subject themselves to that good fortune themselves. The hypocrisy comes from the fact that it isn’t good enough for them, yet they insist it must be good enough for PRC citizens.

June 20, 2012 @ 7:11 am | Comment

Two definitions of Starvation

What is death starvation? If one stops eating, and dies directly as a result, that’s death by starvation.

Does the ’30 million dead during GLF’ meet above defintion of death by starvation? If it does, give me one example, just one single example of someone who died meeting that criterion. No, what you read in a book does not count. Who do you know personally, or their direct relative who died like that during GLF?

What, I’m splitting hairs with the definition, playing semantics?

Fine. let’s say: if one stops eating but gets hit by a car 10 days later because he was too hungry to walk properly and see clearly, let’s be call that ‘death by starvation’ too. Happy?

With the 2nd definition, perhaps most people in China in those years were in a state of hunger, and most died indirectly as a result.

If you go with the 2nd criterion, then you have to be consistent: a third world, a poor nation, with its food supply issue not fully resolved, naturally will have most of its citiznes living in hunger and poverty, and the average life span is short as a result. It’s pretty natural and unsurprising to conclude then, that in any third world poor nation, most seniors’ deaths were indirectly as result of hunger, so most senior citizens in poor third world countries starved to deaths (going with the 2nd defintion).

So, going with this defintion, ever since the founding of People’s Republic in ’49, before Chinese economic reforms in early 80′s, most of Chinese seniors’ starved to death.

So statisically, we can claim that from 1940 to 1980, several hundred million people starved to death. Surely, the that number will delight many of you here, come on, go write another instant best seller.

Going along with this definition, during the reign of KMT, during the reign of Qing Dynasty, the average life span of a Chinese man was 40 years, and was called ‘Sick Man of the East’, why ‘Sick Man’, well the Chinese man back then was thin, short, scrawny, weak, due to lack of nutrition. Then, we can claim that most seniors starved to death during the entire reign of KMT and Qing.

Most of today’s Indian senior citizens in poor provinces starve to death too then.

Today’s world population is 5,6 billion, 3/2 of them live in poor places with malnutrition and lack of food. That is, 4 billion people will starve to death, again, going by the 2nd definition.

Going by the 2nd defintion, my dad starved to death too, even though he died only 5 years ago. Well when he was young, food was not abundant, he ate rice with pickeld cucmbers for years, causing malnutirtion, which led to his short life span when he died. So he also starved to death, otherwise he could’ve lived till 90 years old.

All in all, if use the 2nd definition, we have to be consistent and rigorous.

But then, with the 2nd definition, how is death rate in GLF any different from death rate in any deaths in any poor third world country? How is the death rate any different from any other period in China’s own history? Why selectively choose a 3 year window of a specific country, if by the 2nd defintion, we already established that the data in that window is completely unremarkable compared to the universe of data?

June 20, 2012 @ 10:50 am | Comment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starvation

Good grief, you moron. Recognizing that wiki may not be the ultimate authority, could you at least use an accepted definition, rather than making up some crap from your deeply distorted and functionally incompetent mind?

Try this: “Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage[1] and eventually, death”

So no, it’s not that one stops eating. It’s because one stops having access to anything edible to eat.

And no, it’s not because of getting hit by a car. And any half-wit; quarter-wit; or even 1/10th-wit would realize that someone who stops eating won’t die of starvation after 10 days, such that someone who hasn’t eaten in 10 days and gets run over by a truck did NOT die of starvation. There’s stupid, and several orders of magnitude dumber than that, there’s you.

June 20, 2012 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Tell that to the millions who died unnecessarily during the GLF. I’m sure they’ll be very consoled.

But if it wasn’t for Mao, millions more would have died before 35 due to unnatural causes, don’t you agree?

I am just saying that there are many angles to look at a story. In the West, you only get to hear one side of the story (Mao is evil evil evil.) That’s why so many of you here are unable to understand why Mao is still revered by so many Chinese today. That’s the result of effective brainwashing, this film is just another of those propagandas.

June 20, 2012 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Your wikipedia defintion is my 1st definition: death directly as a result of lack of food. If you don’t eat for 10 days, and walk out and hit by a car, or if you develop some disease indirectly, and die. Both of these cases do not fall under that definition. It has to be a DIRECT result of not having access to food (nutrition).

So you go by 1st definition. You have a big burden to prove 30 million people died DIRECTLY as a result body stops functioning purely because of lack food.

You cannot even give me a single example of someone you know or his/her direct relative.

June 20, 2012 @ 11:45 am | Comment

“Who do you know personally, or their direct relative who died like that during GLF?”

My friend’s brother. Good enough? Or the sister of the retired Nanjing cop I knew when I lived there – does that count?

June 20, 2012 @ 5:26 pm | Comment

Historian Yang Jisheng probably impresses me most – mind his body language. It isn’t striking, but at times, he moved his legs as if he felt like running. But it also seems to me that his conclusion toward the end of the movie – that the party should face the truth and “unburden” itself is too idealistic. Clearly, there were (and are) cadres who felt the burden – but the party doesn’t.

I don’t think that there is embodiments of evil, but there are people and organizations – or “systems” – that corrupt feelings and thought. It’s a configuration which hasn’t changed as much yet as many Chinese and foreign people would like to think.

Statistics have been mentioned which suggest that other developing countries had done worse than China, in terms of famine or death. People who argue like that may be unable to understand that the evil is about what people do to each other, out of malignance, megalomania, fear, or a combination of the three.

June 20, 2012 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

“Your wikipedia defintion is my 1st definition”
—nope. What you said was “If one stops eating, and dies directly as a result, that’s death by starvation”. A person who is fasting “stops eating” by choice. A person on a hunger strike “stops eating” by choice. Starvation is not by choice. That, my dear Watson, would be the difference.

Getting hit by a car is not causally related to starvation. Better yet, starvation is not the proximate cause for getting hit by a car. Your second “definition” is retarded even for a retard. Yet here you are.

“30 million people died DIRECTLY as a result body stops functioning purely because of lack food.”
—did you even watch the video? Many eye-witness accounts, like the guy who was starving, managed to rummage some dirt or rodent into his mouth, and died literally while doing so. No truck. No lightning bolt. Simply didn’t eat for a prolonged period, and died. That’s as much proof as a sane person would require. Admittedly, you don’t seem sane, so you may well be a glorious exception.

“You cannot even give me a single example of someone you know or his/her direct relative.”
—how is that even relevant? I don’t know anyone who had direct eye-witness knowledge of JFK getting popped in Dallas either…so therefore that didn’t happen? Look, if you want to revise history, fly at’er. I don’t pretend to understand the inner cognitive workings of the insane. But my god you should get professional help, just as Math should have as well.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

To XYZ,
people like to trot out statistics of how life expectancy improved during Mao. Which is great. Let’s stipulate that the result shows Mao did in some instances save lives. But here’s a news-flash: he was the leader, and improving the lives of Chinese people (including the duration of said lives) was his job. So in some instances, he may have done his job. Fantastic. Stop the presses.

On the other hand, he killed millions with his failed GLF. Now, what part of his mandate was that exercise supposed to fulfill, pray tell? If you say there are many angles to the story, you should try to start to explore some of them.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

To JR:
that dovetails with what Dikkoter said near the end. The simple answer is that it was all Mao’s fault. The more complicated answer is that it was Mao combined with a system that was permissive and tolerant of his antics (of course, it was a system and administrative culture that he cultivated, starting with 100 flowers).

As a lesson to be learned from history, China may no longer have the strong-man thing. But I wonder how much the system has actually evolved from the toe-the-line/cover-your-ass nature of Mao’s reign.

June 21, 2012 @ 3:32 am | Comment

As a lesson to be learned from history, China may no longer have the strong-man thing. But I wonder how much the system has actually evolved from the toe-the-line/cover-your-ass nature of Mao’s reign.

Deng basically ended the strong-man rule, but he also encouraged the formation of a conservative bureaucracy tending away from change. He did it because that would be the best way to cement his legacy and ensure his policies would not be changed–a much smarter method, I might add, than Mao’s tactic of simply choosing a single successor (Hua Guofeng) to carry forward the torch.

But now the chickens have come home to roost for not only Deng’s model of economic reform but also Deng’s meta-model of a conservative, execution-oriented bureaucratic government. More than anything else, China needs to reorient not only its economy towards consumption but reorient its government away from simple execution and towards generating big ideas. Yes, this will create political friction. Yes, this will look messy. And yes, this will likely result in a multi-party system (not that that would be a bad thing, but I’m analyzing this from the CCP perspective here.)

But doing so would be the only way to ensure China’s long-term political stability. Without a reliable method to generate its own “big ideas” of development, China will forever be in danger of relying on imports of foreign ideas (Marxism; Stalinist industrial development; hell, even the Prussian nationalism of the KMT) to carry itself forward. This is a risk which is frankly unacceptable.

June 21, 2012 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Richard,

The reason you have Clock and his ilk is because your posts annoy and even threaten the Party, and so it has sicced the Propaganda bureau on you. In my book, that would be a feature not a bug!

Some day, the Chinese people will confront the fact that St. Mao was a brutal mass murderer. His only accomplishment was in uniting China and that is the only reason he is still revered as a saint today. Indeed, the Chinese attitude towards Mao is not all that different from the view of Chin Shi Huang Ti, who was also a mass murderer on a much smaller scale. The 70/30 Party line (Mao was 70% good and 30% bad) is a half-assed attempt to confront the truth. China will not be able to move forward until it faces the reality about Mao and the Party.

June 22, 2012 @ 3:36 pm | Comment

The film does not offer anything new. It simply cobles together awhole lot of anecdotes, and repeated assertions of tens of millions dead, but no actual facts provided.

Three points in particular:

1. The video is dishonest in places. At 34:43 and at 35:30 we see scenes of starving people. These are obviously pre-1949 images. Dikotter himself claims that there are no, what he calls ‘non-propaganda’ images from the GLF. This dishonesty is nothing new. On the original cover of Dikotter’s book, a picture of a starving child was found to be exactly the same picture taken from a Life magazine article from a little known 1946 famine.

2. A whole lot of anecdotes of suffering in a country of 650 million do not tell much. Three of my aunties died in China in early childhood during the late 1930s and early 1940s. People only lived to about 35 in pre-revolutionary China.There are people dying of hunger in India today. You could easily fill tens of volumes of books on the suffering of individuals. It says nothing of overall death rates though. More importantly, were the years of the GLF any worse than conditions before Mao? There is no evidence to say they were. If there is, show me the facts and figures.

3. Dikotter’s account of the GLF is sensationalistic, and relies on big numbers for shock value. Problem is you will always get ‘big’ numbers in a country like China. What has more explanatory worth are rates and percentages. Some of Dikotter’s claims are so outlandish that it is hard to believe that anyone could take him seriously. For example, a report on conditions in a small part of Hunan province by Liu Shaoqi, is the main basis for his claim that ‘two thirds of housing stock throughout China was turned into rubble’. Which is simply unbelievable.

June 22, 2012 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

“The Summer Palace was done to us, the GLF we did to ourselves. They’re our people and we can do what we want to them, but no-one has the right to do bad things to us.” This was the comment of just one individual, unsure of how representative of the general consensus it is.

All people are the same in this respect. If Chinese bombers flew over the US and bombed a small suburb killing a hundred or so people, all Americans would be rightly outraged and consider it a national humiliation. And it would be written into the history books as such. Americans rightly remember September 11 with outrage. That outrage is justified, and it would be unacceptable for a non-American to simply say that because there are yearly 50000 gun deaths from Americans killing Americans, or the US civil war was much worse, that Americans should just ‘get over’ it.

Having said that however, objectively speaking, the depredations of Western and Japanese imperialists actually did cause far more suffering than anything that happened during the Maoist era.

June 22, 2012 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

@ J. Au-Yeung:

’3. Dikotter’s account of the GLF is sensationalistic, and relies on big numbers for shock value. Problem is you will always get ‘big’ numbers in a country like China.’

Frank Dikötter is also infamous for artificially inflating his numbers in quite frankly specious ways, calculating estimates which ‘unborn persons’, according to Indian economist Utsa Patnaik, referring to Amartya Sen’s work on the subject of the Chinese famine. In which case, I suppose, the Chinese government would be within its rights to castigate the United States for allowing 1.37 million ‘unborn persons’ to be extrajudicially killed every year, for a total of 55 million since Roe v. Wade.

http://chinastudygroup.net/2009/10/the-production-of-death-in-chinese-proportions-read-this-article-by-utsa-patnaik-on-the-great-leap-forward-famine/

If we’re going to critique the GLF we might as well get it right the first time.

June 23, 2012 @ 1:13 am | Comment

Please note that I wrote an earlier piece about Tombstone vs. Mao’s Great Famine, and quote at length a passage about Dikotter’s tendency to be simplistic. Having read most of it, I concluded he was too quick to accuse Mao of starving peasants with malice. I don’t believe it. But I also learned a huge amount about the inner workings of the party during that time and it is well worth a read.

I never said this film showed anything new, but the film itself is new and I found it fascinating, even if I didn’t come away with a new set of facts. Maybe they used a photo from another time to create an effect — if so, that’s bad, but it doesn’t take away the fact that people suffered and starved to death.

About the outrage over the Summer Palace — entirely justified, as is the outrage over the Nanking massacre. The issue I have is how these incidents are used and periodically resuscitated as if they happened yesterday in order to boost nationalism and a sense of China having been victimized. Which it was. But keeping this sense of victimization alive as a topical issue is simply another CCP tactic to strengthen its control over its people and deflect criticism from itself.

June 23, 2012 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Finally got around to watching the video. As Richard said, not necessarily anything/much new there. But certainly a very good overview of what happened, something that’s helpful to those who know little about the subject.

June 23, 2012 @ 2:54 am | Comment

To J A Y,
it’s true, the video simply offers a collection of anecdotes. In order to get the true and real number to quantify how many people died during the GLF, you would have to assume that the CCP kept detailed census and death certification records during those years, AND that they would be willing to release any such records if they had them. I would suggest that a snowflake has a better chance in hell than either of those two assumptions coming to fruition.

So if it’s “facts” you want, you know who you need to call. No harm in asking, I suppose. Otherwise, people will simply have to believe what they find to be most believable.

June 23, 2012 @ 5:33 am | Comment

I think, again, the issue really lies with the methods of accounting for deaths. Dikotter’s method–extrapolating off previous death rates and then assigning every “surplus” death to the one single cause of the GLF’s agricultural policy–has some serious flaws.

For example, imagine that the Merck-Vioxx scandal, a mass failure from the Food and Drug Administration to properly screen an anti-arthritis drug for potentially dangerous side effects on people with high blood pressure, (google this if you have time, otherwise, just take my word for it), was held responsible for all “surplus” deaths in the United States from 2000 to 2004 (the years when Vioxx was sold without any sort of warnings.)

Then Vioxx, alone, is responsible for the deaths of half a million people per year; the Merck executives who approved this drug should be held liable for two million deaths. But was this really the case? Would it not be necessary to investigate other potential reasons for this unexplained spike in death toll before jumping to conclusions?

The same reasoning can be applied to the GLF. Even taking the surplus deaths numbers at face value, the question of which deaths go to which cause, or even combination of causes, is practically unanswerable. For Dikotter and other researchers to put a number on it, in my opinion, violates their responsibilities as historians, regardless of their (quite) noble aims and goals.

June 23, 2012 @ 8:27 am | Comment

For Dikotter and other researchers to put a number on it, in my opinion, violates their responsibilities as historians, regardless of their (quite) noble aims and goals.

I should clarify–I think the search for a number is in and of itself a noble goal worth pursuing. But simply slapping a single figure down on the ground, ascribing it to a single cause without actually doing the sort of meteorological or non-anecdotal analysis necessary, then saying it is “likely” and then spreading it around the media through documentaries–that’s pretty bad. And it makes it all too easy for the Global Times and other nationalist Chinese media to tar and paint all Western academics with the same brush.

June 23, 2012 @ 8:30 am | Comment

S.K. Cheung: You seem to be a smart guy. So I’m wondering how on earth you could come up with something like “people will simply have to believe what they find to be most believable”, and thus believe the tens of millions of ‘famine’ deaths, when the evidence for this is extremely shaky?

If you interviewed people in China before 1949, or indeed in most parts of the developing world today, it would be easy to come up with exactly the same sort of video shown above. But how could any sane person then use such ‘evidence’ to support an assertion that the leaders of these respective countries ‘murdered’ tens of millions, and expect people to believe them?

And t_co, you make a good point about Dikotter’s methodology for calculating ‘surplus’ or ‘excess’ deaths. Another thing I might add to this is Dikotter assumes a 1% yearly mortality, as typical, and any deaths above that as ‘surplus’.

So if China really had achieved an extremely low mortality of 1% by 1957, then does Mao get the credit for saving tens of millions of lives between 1949 and 1957? Because most developing countries typically had death rates of 2 to 2.5% in the late 1950s.

June 23, 2012 @ 9:20 am | Comment

But keeping this sense of victimization alive as a topical issue is simply another CCP tactic to strengthen its control over its people and deflect criticism from itself.

Actually I think the CCP tends to try and dampen extreme national feeling. This even extended as far back as Mao and Zhou Enlai, who were to my mind, far too easy on the Japanese.

The CCP has rarely pushed any sort of extreme anti-foreigner feeling, and I would be interested for you to point out where this has recently been the case, particularly in recent years.

June 23, 2012 @ 9:23 am | Comment

The issue I have is how these incidents are used and periodically resuscitated as if they happened yesterday in order to boost nationalism and a sense of China having been victimized.

Provide an example of this.

June 23, 2012 @ 9:25 am | Comment

You’re mighty demanding. But providing an example of this is incredibly easy. Here’s one, right off the top of my head that I already blogged about. Thousands of others. You hear it nearly every day in one form or another. Read that link carefully. It’s all you need to know.

June 23, 2012 @ 10:34 am | Comment

A lot of decidedly odd comments above, including one, surprisingly, by t_co.

The (counter-)example of the Vioxx scandal, understood as a cartoonish illustration of inadequate methodology, is less revealing than it may initally appear.

Would you agree, t_co, that the consumption of Vioxx did not to any degree approach the pervasive institution of agricultural reforms in Mao’s China? While the simplistic attribution of deaths to a single cause is regrettable, surely we can still acknowledge differences in how simplistic we insist on being. If there were other contributing factors to “surplus” deaths, such as “bad weather,” during this period, it matters for methodology whether they are correlated to the agricultural policy, which would anyway be instituted in order to respond to such contingencies, or completely external to it. So we have to ask, how are you arriving at the figure of a half-million deaths per year?

J. Au-Yeung

“All people are the same in this respect. If Chinese bombers flew over the US and bombed a small suburb killing a hundred or so people, all Americans would be rightly outraged and consider it a national humiliation. And it would be written into the history books as such. Americans rightly remember September 11 with outrage. That outrage is justified, and it would be unacceptable for a non-American to simply say that because there are yearly 50000 gun deaths from Americans killing Americans, or the US civil war was much worse, that Americans should just ‘get over’ it.”

Supplying a hypothetical event and a recent event as evidence rather than examining how Americans teach history in schools and represent historical events in popular accounts reveals how unfortunately inadequate your claim actually is. Americans do not remain “outraged” over the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the British burning of the White House. Instead, historians of various schools analyze the circumstances in which these events occurred, noting, in the process, to what the degree the US should have been better prepared for an attack in the former example, and how benighted it was for the US to declare war on Britain in the latter. The history of these events is not, as it is so often in China, a means for instilling a sense of victimhood. Moreover, no historical events receive as much weight and examination in the US as those pertaining to the Civil War, to what Americans did to other Americans. So if you insist on comparing and claiming that all humans are the same in this respect, I’d have to ask you why the PLA’s intentional mass starvation of the city of Changchun in 1946 is not covered in Chinese mainland textbooks or in popular television accounts at all.

June 23, 2012 @ 10:46 am | Comment

Thank you, Handler.

June 23, 2012 @ 10:58 am | Comment

J. Au-Yeung

Actually I think the CCP tends to try and dampen extreme national feeling.

This is, quite simply, untrue. What the CCP tries to do is direct extreme nationalism toward ends they consider beneficial. In certain cases, such as the anti-Chinese pogroms in Indonesia, they do predominantly try to dampen extreme national feeling for political reasons (and we can only speculate what those reasons might be). In other cases, such as the bombing of the Chinese embassy by NATO, they attempt to ramp up outrage and then control it. The arbitrary nature of such CCP decisions is not lost on Chinese citizens, and they remain at least partially aware of the fact that government often wants them to be far more outraged than they actually are. A comparison of the CCP’s reaction to the two events mentioned above, which includes interviews with students who recognize the way they are being manipulated in each case, is available in Zhao Dingxin’s “Problems of Nationalism in Contemporary China.”

June 23, 2012 @ 11:11 am | Comment

Richard:
Your example is a poor one. In fact I can provide you with numerous counter examples. Is the preservation of Auschwitz, or the preservation of Oradour-sur-Glane, or countless other memorials throughout Europe to the victims of Nazi imperialism, the Holocaust museum in the US, countless films on WWII and Jewish suffering, do these in your mind equate to a cult of ‘victimhood’?

The fact is the burning of the Summer Palace in itself is not the outrage, but what it symbolizes – a full 100 years of Western and Japanese imperialism, which only ended in the lifetime of my parent’s generation. Any country that had suffered disastrous and humiliating invasions that China did, for a full century, would still have some feelings of outrage and injustice.

The suffering during the GLF was minor compared to the suffering brought by the Japanese and British. Any objective analysis of the mortality rates themselves can prove this.

In fact the Chinese now are remarkably tolerant to foreigners, given what happened in very recent history. Unlike the Jews, they have not demanded huge reparations from their former tormenters, and by and large are overwhelmingly friendly to Westerners. As is the Chinese government.

Compare this to the ethnic hatreds which abound in Europe. Serbs remember battles and humiliations from centuries before, the Irish still bring up the 1840 famine, and Oliver Cromwell, and the Poles are still smouldering over Katyn.

Are you saying that for the Chinese only, there should be no memorials, nothing in the history books about the Opium wars, extraterritoriality, no dogs or Chinese in parks, the Wahnhsien massacre etc? Just so you yourself, as a Westerner can feel more comfortable about your own history?

June 23, 2012 @ 11:12 am | Comment

“In other cases, such as the bombing of the Chinese embassy by NATO, they attempt to ramp up outrage and then control it.”

Another ridiculous, absurd example. Firstly if one’s embassy is bombed by a foreign power, most people would not need to have their sense of outrage ‘ramped up’. They would simply feel outrage, as I did at the time.

If Russia or China did the same to the US embassy under similar circumstances, a large number of Americans would be baying for blood.

After all there are large numbers of Americans who get off on killing Afghans and Iraqis, even though these two countries have in the past done no harm to Americans whatsoever.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:15 am | Comment

J. Au-Yeung, another America-does-it-too spam bot. Notice how when he’s proven wrong he slithers on to the next accusation. He is fooling no one.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:21 am | Comment

Americans do not remain “outraged” over the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the British burning of the White House.

Nor do Chinese walk around constantly ‘outraged’ by the Opium Wars or Nanking. But of course they do bring these things up when same powers try and lecture China about ‘human rights’. If Chinese were constantly so ‘outraged’ as you would have it, it would hardly be safe for a Westerner or Japanese to visit China, yet these foreigners are treated with uncommon courtesy that is unfortunately all too often not applied to Chinese.

Americans also don’t have to feel so outraged about Pearl Harbour. After all the Japanese lost the war and got hit with a couple of nukes, so that sort of makes up for things. The Japanese were punished for their crimes. The West has never been punished for their crimes against the non-white world, and indeed even today refuses even a simple apology for slavery or for genocide on the African continent.

And the British burning of the White House was a single event, they left after this, and America rose to become the greatest power on earth. Whereas Western imperialism, its last vestiges at least only ceased 15 years ago in Hong Kong.

What is required for the West to expiate its guilt for the way it treated China in the past?

historians of various schools analyze the circumstances in which these events occurred, noting, in the process, to what the degree the US should have been better prepared for an attack in the former example, and how

Well indeed; Chinese historians and Chinese people similarly agonize how they fell behind the West and allowed the West to humiliate China, and the reasons why China was so weak. Where have you been? Have you been asleep? Asleep?

June 23, 2012 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Wow, your anger is really palpable. Good luck dealing with it.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:27 am | Comment

Handler misses the main point I originally made.

That is all people consider foreign invasion to be an outrage and humiliating experience, regardless of what they may internally have done to each other.

So even if the allegations of Dikotter etc about the GLF were true (which they are not), the Chinese, like every other people, would still feel more outraged about what external aggressors did to them in the past.

As would Americans, English, Nigerians, Russians, and Brazilians.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:28 am | Comment

To J A Y,
as I said earlier, if you want the “real” numbers, the only way to have that is if you have tabulated data. Any other means, be it Dikkoter or others, will involve some sort of derivation and hence become dependent on assumptions of some form, some of which will be more gratuitous than others, as T-Co describes. And once you get to that point, there is no other way to boil it down than to admit that each person will end up believing what they find to be more believable. There’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The key limitation is that such belief does not afford anyone the right to prescriptively say that someone else’s belief is patently wrong. So if you or the broken Clock above want to believe that the GLF was a neutral mortality event as opposed to a catastrophic one, I can’t say you’re wrong. I can say, though, that I think you’re being ridiculous.

Besides, to me, the actual precise number is of less importance. It adds a measure of scale, and hence perhaps lends further texture to the discussion, but it doesn’t affect the underlying principle in any way. The principle is that, on Mao’s watch, and under his orders and insistence, many Chinese people died unnecessarily. And as I’ve said before, if you want to credit Mao with saving lives based on annual mortality numbers, then you have to fault Mao for prematurely ending lives using those numbers. The difference (and where the principle comes in) is that, as CHina’s leader, he had a fiduciary duty to attain the former, and no mandate to commit the latter. A leader who helps his people? That’s nice. A leader whose policies end up needlessly killing his people (I don’t use “murder” cuz I don’t think even Mao had the requisite culpable intent to establish such a claim)? That’s deplorable.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To T-Co,
I think the Vioxx example establishes the principle you’re trying to make, that using mortality rates alone to attribute “surplus deaths” confuses correlation for causation (which, i’d have to say, is an extremely common blight among internet commentators). However (and perhaps your example is meant only to illustrate the principle rather than to serve as direct comparison), as Handler points out, the correlation is a lot more proximate with GLF ( –> resultant agricultural and commune practices –> low yields –> starvation–> death) than with Vioxx (where you’d be lumping people who died of medical complications from Vioxx with people who died having never taken vioxx, in whom it would be flawed to attribute culpability to the drug).

June 23, 2012 @ 11:28 am | Comment

The principle is that, on Mao’s watch, and under his orders and insistence, many Chinese people died unnecessarily.

People died on his ‘orders’ and ‘insistence’. Really?

So you mean he intended for the GLF to fail????

June 23, 2012 @ 11:31 am | Comment

Come on Handler. Answer this simple question.

If China had bombed the US embassy, under similar circumstances to the way the US bombed the Chinese embassy, do you think Americans would have been any less outraged? What would have been the response of the average American? Invite the Chinese over for a cup of tea?

June 23, 2012 @ 11:35 am | Comment

The bombing of the embassy 13 years ago was a tragic and terrible mistake. Using it as a tool to keep the anger going isn’t much better. It’s clear you just want to keep the rage red-hot. Do you see the bombing as conspiratorial, as an intentional act to torment China?

June 23, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Comment

On the spectrum of things that can make a guy angry, I can kinda see how foreign invaders hurting a country’s people would register a higher blip on the anger-o-meter than one countryman bringing the hurt upon some (or many) of his countryman. So if somebody wants to get in a lather over Summer Palace MORE than with Mao’s GLF, I can kinda understand that on some level. The important thing, though, is that both events should engender anger, the only difference being a matter of scale. What I can’t understand is someone trying to use the anger over Summer Palace etc as an excuse for accepting what Mao did during GLF to be hunky-dory. That’s just weird.

As for victimhood, somebody raise their hand if they were alive during Summer Palace or Opium Wars. Anyone? Anybody? It’s much more understandable to point to Nanjing, for instance, since it is still entirely plausible that someone or someone’s immediate family members lived through that. Direct experience as a source of anger, I can easily understand. Residual anger at historical events seems much more contrived and manufactured to me. And that’s where the CCP education program comes into play.

The comparison to Jews is flawed. Yes, Auschwitz was a long time ago (though some survivors may still remain). But anti-Semitism lives on. So vigilance on the part of Jews towards racist hatred targeting them is at least warranted. But I don’t see the nidus of Summer Palace/Opium war, or even Nanjing, being plausible today.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:49 am | Comment

“People died on his ‘orders’ and ‘insistence’. Really?

So you mean he intended for the GLF to fail????”
—did I say that? Nope. I said “The principle is that, on Mao’s watch, and under his orders and insistence, many Chinese people died unnecessarily.”. They were his policies. He ordered them, and insisted that they continue even in the face of evidence of abject failure. Like I said, I don’t attribute the requisite intent for murder upon Mao. If I though he “ordered” people to die, I would have. Read the whole post next time.

Can’t say he intended the GLF to fail. But fail it did. On his watch. Buck stops with him. Simple as that.

Unless you think the US targeted the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, that was an unfortunate and tragic accident. The resultant anger should be commensurate and proportionate for an unfortunate and tragic accident.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:57 am | Comment

J. Au-Yeung

“Another ridiculous, absurd example. Firstly if one’s embassy is bombed by a foreign power, most people would not need to have their sense of outrage ‘ramped up’. They would simply feel outrage, as I did at the time.

If Russia or China did the same to the US embassy under similar circumstances, a large number of Americans would be baying for blood.”

If you think it’s a ridiculous example, why don’t we explore Zhao’s research together? Certainly the views expressed there note how hard the Chinese government was pushing for students to protest. In fact, the students themselves contrast the push with the CCP’s reaction to the anti-Chinese pogroms in Indonesia and argue that the embassy bombing may still have been a mistake, but the Indonesian pogroms certainly were not. Now, to help you articulate your view, I will point out that Zhao also notes some students were outraged without government involvement. How Zhao makes such a statement while patently acknowledging the government’s involvement from the outset is peculiar to me, but we can examine the research in full and debate it.

Again you are taking hypotheticals and your “assurance” based on hypotheticals to argue your point. Why don’t we look more closely at a case in which US embassies were bombed, albeit not by a state actor (and this is an important point I’m not trying to ignore): Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, which killed a large number of people. What was the reaction to these events in the US? Nothing approaching outrage. No marches, no banners prepared for US students to carry, no buses waiting for them.

Now, consider the Chinese case in light of another event: The 2006 death of a Chinese observer at a UN outpost after it was shelled for three hours by Israeli soldiers. There was no outcry in China, despite the similar circumstances. There was barely any coverage of it in the Chinese media, and the CCP did not make it a point of insisting the Chinese pay attention to this death. Aren’t the deaths of Chinese nationals (operating in war zones) by state actors equal? One can look at this event and discern that the CCP’s handling of the matter is the primary reason we see outrage in one case but not event the slightest amount of anger in another.

As for the embassy bombing, I think it’s about time the Chinese started examining the motive for this event if they really intend to insist it was deliberate. Or is outrage really all that is needed? If the Chinese embassy was opened to Serbian forces or being used to run intelligence operations and perhaps try to acquire key military material, outrage may have to be tempered. Assisting enemy forces in a war zone puts one decidedly at risk.

June 23, 2012 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

The resultant anger should be commensurate and proportionate for an unfortunate and tragic accident.

Well it was. I don’t think that overall the Chinese response at the time was excessive. It was probably a lot more tepid than what the response of the American public would have been under same circumstances.

And no, I don’t think the bombing was deliberate, but it did happen when the US was prosecuting its imperialistic policies overseas, so part of the anger was over the US playing the world cop.

If I though he “ordered” people to die, I would have. Read the whole post next time.

OK…that is fair enough.

What I can’t understand is someone trying to use the anger over Summer Palace etc as an excuse for accepting what Mao did during GLF to be hunky-dory.

Who on earth said that? Not me. If the burning of the Summer Palace was an event of a singular nature, like say the burning of the white house, it would have been a different story. The burning of the Summer Palace, in itself a crime, is more than that. It symbolizes the utter weakness of China pathetic rulers at the time in being unable to stand up to foreign aggression. It is a symbol of 100 years of national humiliation which ended only in 1949. And it is a symbol of Western imperialism in China, ending only in 1997 (some would say 1999 —-but the Portuguese presence was of a different nature than British imperialism).

But anti-Semitism lives on. So vigilance on the part of Jews towards racist hatred targeting them is at least warranted. But I don’t see the nidus of Summer Palace/Opium war, or even Nanjing, being plausible today.

Really? The US right now wants to ‘contain’ China, and the Western media is bristles with hostility towards China, which often is not simply anti-communist, but anti Chinese. The Chinese have every good reason to remember the past, because Western imperialism is alive today, and is far more dangerous to far more people around the world, kills more people, and causes far more suffering right now, than anti-Semitism which is confined only to a few fringe crackpots, and are hardly a real physical danger to Jews.

It is good for Chinese to remember the past, because only by remembering the past will they understand that a strong and united China is the best guarantee for true human rights of the Chinese people, and that under imperialism the Chinese people had zero human rights, were treated like dogs, and died like flies.

June 23, 2012 @ 12:14 pm | Comment

Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, which killed a large number of people. What was the reaction to these events in the US? Nothing approaching outrage

Come on Mr Handler! Surely you can do better than that.

You of course forget retaliatory action was indeed taken. Pharmaceutical and biscuit factories were pounded by cruise missiles, in Sudan and in Afghanistan, killing scores of innocent people —simply to satiate the blood lust of the US public.

And you say there is no ‘outrage’ against Arabs or Muslims in the US???? Are you for real? There is sustained dislike for these groups in the US and you know it.

The 2006 death of a Chinese observer at a UN outpost after it was shelled for three hours by Israeli soldiers. There was no outcry in China, despite the similar circumstances

Circumstances are different. It was a UN outpost being shelled. The death of a Chinese observer was an incidental matter. But the bombing of the embassy, while not deliberate, was the bombing of the Chinese embassy, actually could be construed as bombing of Chinese territory. So the outrage at the time was justified, and again, the US public reaction under similar circumstances would have been at least as heated, and you know it.

Stop trying to slither around with the world ‘hypothetical’ as a shield.

June 23, 2012 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

J. Au-Yeung

“Nor do Chinese walk around constantly ‘outraged’ by the Opium Wars or Nanking. But of course they do bring these things up when same powers try and lecture China about ‘human rights’.”

Yes, you are right. Chinese do not walk around constantly outraged by the Opium Wars. However, your linking of these events to “lecturing” about “human rights” is sufficient to show how ridiculously rapidly that outrage can be triggered. How do China’s current human rights violations have anything to do with the Opium Wars? I’m afraid you seeing this as a relevant point has undermined any faith I may have had in your capacity to assess matters.

“The Japanese were punished for their crimes.”

Well, I’m glad we agree on something. Punished severely. So now you should feel free direct your resentment exclusively at the West.

“Handler misses the main point I originally made.

That is all people consider foreign invasion to be an outrage and humiliating experience, regardless of what they may internally have done to each other.”

Actually, any capable reading of what I wrote would have to acknowledge that I didn’t miss your point. Rather, I indicated that facts show you are wrong. US education places far more emphasis on the Civil War and what we’ve done to ourselves than any foreign attack on US forces or citizens. You insist that people are all the same. I asked you to provide evidence of this argument by showing Chinese doing something similar: the massacre at Changchun was an enormous event involving the death of nearly the entire citizenry of the city. It should be treated with the same respect as the destruction of Atlanta in the US Civil War. Yet it is not. There is total silence on the subject on the Chinese mainland.

June 23, 2012 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

US education places far more emphasis on the Civil War and what we’ve done to ourselves than any foreign attack on US forces or citizens

Absolute rubbish. Certainly more research perhaps, but outright hatred and suspicion is directed against outsiders like Al Queda, and Mr Bin Laden, and Arabs and Muslims (and indeed Chinese), in general. Americans don’t go round with a sense of rage or anger towards one another because of the Civil War or gun deaths or a high imprisonment rate. That is what you do to one another.

So New Yorkers would much rather bomb say Iraq or Afghanistan, than bomb Atlanta and kill southerners —even though Southerners triggered a devastating war that took about several hundred more American lives than Osama Bin Laden.

Stop confusing research with national feeling.

How do China’s current human rights violations have anything to do with the Opium Wars?

Nothing. But I am speaking of hypocrisy here. Countries which have still not apologised for their past atrocities against China and made amends have no right to be castigating China for human rights abuses, real or perceived.

the massacre at Changchun was an enormous event involving the death of nearly the entire citizenry of the city

There was no ‘massacre’ at Changchun, and once the city was taken no citizens were killed. There was a civil war going on and what happened at Changchun has to be understood in that context. Innocent people are always going to be killed in any sort of shooting conflict.

Similarly Chiang blew up the dikes, and caused deaths of many Chinese people during the Sino-Japanese war. But that is not ‘massacring’ Chinese. During a war different rules apply.

June 23, 2012 @ 12:46 pm | Comment

To J A Y,
“but it did happen when the US was prosecuting its imperialistic policies overseas”
—I wouldn’t characterize trying to prevent Milosevic from committing genocide as imperialistic per se. That notwithstanding, if some of the anger was wrt the US’s “world cop” status, that is unrelated to the actual event of an accidental bombing of the embassy.

“It symbolizes the utter weakness of China …”
—OK. People had lingering anger over Chinese weakness, and of others taking advantage of her. That’s fine. And as I said, such anger could even exceed the anger over Mao’s GLF. I can buy some logic in that. What I can’t buy is using the aforementioned anger to ignore or excuse Mao’s GLF. If you’re not doing that, then great.

“The US right now wants to ‘contain’ China, and the Western media is bristles with hostility towards China, which often is not simply anti-communist, but anti Chinese.”
—oh come now. No one is going to invade China, and rape and pillage her cities. THe US wants to “contain” a competitor? Wow, stop the presses, even if that was factually true. As for the rest, people will see what they want to see, i suppose.

“anti-Semitism which is confined only to a few fringe crackpots, and are hardly a real physical danger to Jews.”
—this comparison really goes nowhere anyway, but suffice it to say that there are many more synagogues being vandalized and burned, and more Israelis dying as a result of terrorist acts, than there are Chinese citizens being subjugated and brutalized in their own country (at least by foreigners, anyway…might be tough to quantify what the CCP is doing to her own people these days).

Remember the past? Sure. Learn from history? Absolutely. Probably other truisms and motherhood statements that can be trotted out here. But none of those pursuits requires the whipping out of the victim card.

June 23, 2012 @ 1:09 pm | Comment

“Come on Handler. Answer this simple question.

If China had bombed the US embassy, under similar circumstances to the way the US bombed the Chinese embassy, do you think Americans would have been any less outraged? What would have been the response of the average American? Invite the Chinese over for a cup of tea?”

Are you forming opinions based on hypotheticals again? You do realize this is only circular thinking. But I’ll entertain you: under such circumstances, would the US government have organized buses and prepared banners for students to protest the Chinese embassy? Would Chinese nationals living in the US have been targeted? Would Chinese nationals have been fired from their positions in the US? What we are debating, after all, is whether the CCP ramped up outrage. That can only be determined based upon their actions.

“Come on Mr Handler! Surely you can do better than that.

You of course forget retaliatory action was indeed taken. Pharmaceutical and biscuit factories were pounded by cruise missiles, in Sudan and in Afghanistan, killing scores of innocent people —simply to satiate the blood lust of the US public.”

I’m afraid it is you who will have to do better. Retaliatory action was taken by the US government on targets presumed to be involved in the bombing. Everyone knows this. But it is your responsibility to prove that this was done “simply to satiate the blood lust of the US public.” Where was that blood lust articulated? How pervasive was it?

“And you say there is no ‘outrage’ against Arabs or Muslims in the US???? Are you for real? There is sustained dislike for these groups in the US and you know it.”

Oh yes, hideous outrage by some groups who base their equally hideous overgeneralizations on an event in recent memory. Still, this offers no parallel to easily-triggered outrage over an event which occurred a century ago under markedly different political configurations. Now if you want to argue that US citizens still feel outraged against muslims over the First Barbary War, have at it.

You appear so eager to argue about anything that you are unable to focus on the terms of our discussion. The Belgrade incident was introduced to prove the Chinese government purposefully ramps up outrage. I offered an article replete with information which proves this is true even from the perspectives of the students involved in the protests. If you want to argue that unjustified outrage occurs everywhere, feel free. You are not addressing the point.

“Circumstances are different. It was a UN outpost being shelled. The death of a Chinese observer was an incidental matter. But the bombing of the embassy, while not deliberate, was the bombing of the Chinese embassy, actually could be construed as bombing of Chinese territory. So the outrage at the time was justified, and again, the US public reaction under similar circumstances would have been at least as heated, and you know it. ”

Yes, it was a UN outpost being shelled, but it was offered the same protections in a war-zone by international law as an embassy. The death of a Chinese observer was still the death of a Chinese government official, just as in the case of the embassy bombing. Embassies are not part of the territory they represent, no matter whether interested parties insist upon viewing them as such. You appear to believe the embassy bombing was not deliberate, but it’s far more difficult to make that argument for a 3 hour shelling of a UN outpost about which Israel had been notified in advance. So while you don’t believe the embassy bombing was deliberate (which, you know, means you don’t have to look into motive), you still insist upon it being more outrageous.

Of course, none of this addresses the point: why was there not even a smidgen of anger expressed by the Chinese toward the shelling? The reaction didn’t have anything to do with the government’s handling of the event?

June 23, 2012 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

@ Handler and SK

I’ll answer both of you at once, since you guys seem to both have essentially the same point.

First off, the two million figure is inaccurate. It should have been 500,000 total over the five years.

Second, moving to the points:

Handler:

Would you agree, t_co, that the consumption of Vioxx did not to any degree approach the pervasive institution of agricultural reforms in Mao’s China? While the simplistic attribution of deaths to a single cause is regrettable, surely we can still acknowledge differences in how simplistic we insist on being. If there were other contributing factors to “surplus” deaths, such as “bad weather,” during this period, it matters for methodology whether they are correlated to the agricultural policy, which would anyway be instituted in order to respond to such contingencies, or completely external to it. So we have to ask, how are you arriving at the figure of a half-million deaths per year?

SK

I think the Vioxx example establishes the principle you’re trying to make, that using mortality rates alone to attribute “surplus deaths” confuses correlation for causation (which, i’d have to say, is an extremely common blight among internet commentators). However (and perhaps your example is meant only to illustrate the principle rather than to serve as direct comparison), as Handler points out, the correlation is a lot more proximate with GLF ( –> resultant agricultural and commune practices –> low yields –> starvation–> death) than with Vioxx (where you’d be lumping people who died of medical complications from Vioxx with people who died having never taken vioxx, in whom it would be flawed to attribute culpability to the drug).

The argument you guys make is that using surplus death rates for GLF is far better than using surplus death rates for Vioxx. I disagree with that, but more on that point later. My bigger point of dissension is on whether using surplus death rates for “death toll of ABC policy” calculations is a good idea in any circumstance at all.

Using the example of the GLF: Where is Dikkoter, et. al.’s justification for their methodology? Is it broken down by region? Is it correlated with food production? Are weather effects on food production–e.g. rainfall timing, rainfall amounts, average daily temperatures (frost can kill a whole range of crops), length of growing seasons–all accounted for? Are food spoilage rates taken into consideration? How about net man-hours of “backyard furnace/village industrial” labor versus net man-hours of agricultural labor? Any correlation between man-hours of agricultural labor per hectare and output per hectare?

Any one of these questions, left unanswered, can potentially introduce so much systemic uncertainty as to make even the relatively simple logic chain that SK introduces unfeasible.

Look, instead, then, at what the Vioxx authors did before coming forth with their claim:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/20/chinese-melamine-or-american-vioxx-half-a-million-dead-and-no-questions-asked/

When you read the pasted article, you’ll find that after a lot of winnowing and cross-correlation, the Vioxx death figure was cemented at half a million. The money quotes:

Twenty-five million Americans were eventually prescribed Vioxx as an aspirin-substitute thought to produce fewer complications.

and

We find the largest rise in American mortality rates occurred in 1999, the year Vioxx was introduced, while the largest drop occurred in 2004, the year it was withdrawn. Vioxx was almost entirely marketed to the elderly, and these substantial changes in national death-rate were completely concentrated within the 65-plus population. The FDA studies had proven that use of Vioxx led to deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, and these were exactly the factors driving the changes in national mortality rates.

The impact of these shifts was not small. After a decade of remaining roughly constant, the overall American death rate began a substantial decline in 2004, soon falling by approximately 5 percent, despite the continued aging of the population. This drop corresponds to roughly 100,000 fewer deaths per year. The age-adjusted decline in death rates was considerably greater.

In the attached academic paper, the authors adjusted for age, ethnicity, income, and every other possible modifier, and found that Vioxx usage was a statistically significant “death modifier” for all of them. (In some groups the rate change was especially extreme, such as African-American women over 65–Vioxx was literally doubling their chances of death from heart attack–almost as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day or being obese.)

In contrast, Dikkoter, et. al. do not appear to have done a similar segmentation analysis. There were chunks of China where local officials did not execute the GLF agricultural policies. There were parts where local officials executed them half-heartedly. There were parts where the local officials executed them zealously. Where is the segmentation? Where is the comparison, for example, of death rates in two counties with similar climates and 1958-1962 weather and demographics, only differing in degree of policy execution? This would be a really easy way to estimate surplus deaths that would be more accurate, than, say a national-level comparison–but Dikkoter doesn’t use it.

That’s what troubles me. The fact that there are methodologies that could allow him (and other researchers) to state their claims with far greater accuracy, but instead they chose to do national analyses because that’s how you can end up with the “big, shocking numbers” and wind up attracting attention. Seeking attention as an academic is understandable, if slightly ignoble. But being selectively blind when you think about the issue in order to do it–especially when your dataset involves millions of deaths and is highly politicized–that is very regrettable, since it weakens the reputation of social science as a whole.

June 23, 2012 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

I’m afraid it is you who will have to do better. Retaliatory action was taken by the US government on targets presumed to be involved in the bombing. Everyone knows this. But it is your responsibility to prove that this was done “simply to satiate the blood lust of the US public.” Where was that blood lust articulated? How pervasive was it?

Well, by that logic, should China have pursued a bombing campaign against the Air Force Targeting Officers responsible for targeting the embassy in the first place? Maybe drop a fuel-air explosive on the airbase where the B-1B took off?

June 23, 2012 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

J. Au-Yeung

“Absolute rubbish. Certainly more research perhaps, but outright hatred and suspicion is directed against outsiders like Al Queda, and Mr Bin Laden, and Arabs and Muslims (and indeed Chinese), in general. Americans don’t go round with a sense of rage or anger towards one another because of the Civil War or gun deaths or a high imprisonment rate. That is what you do to one another.”

I believe we initially started talking about history and feelings of resentment based on events of the past, yet you insist upon turning this discussion into an argument over whether US citizens are outraged over relatively recent events. Since you like hypotheticals and prefer surrealism to reality so much, wouldn’t that mean we could speculate over what might have occurred if “Atlanta” (as a body) took credit for an attack on New York in 2001? Are you saying that the US citizenry would have been less aggravated by such an occurrence? That Americans wouldn’t have expressed anger and hatred toward those orchestrating acts in Atlanta?

The events in Changchun and those in Nanjing occurred within a decade of each other. The death numbers were likely similar (Changchun is a sizable city), though it’s decidedly difficult to say with the CCP blocking research on the subject of what they did in Changchun.

“There was no ‘massacre’ at Changchun, and once the city was taken no citizens were killed. There was a civil war going on and what happened at Changchun has to be understood in that context. Innocent people are always going to be killed in any sort of shooting conflict.”

Once the city was taken. Of course, before that the PLA had a policy in place to gun down every single person who tried to leave the city, even if they were only trying to escape the suffering and starvation the PLA imposed upon them. That, sir, is a massacre. Sure, we can understand Changchun in the context of the Civil War, but it won’t make the unjustifiable and intentional killing of innoncents any less heinous.

“Similarly Chiang blew up the dikes, and caused deaths of many Chinese people during the Sino-Japanese war. But that is not ‘massacring’ Chinese. During a war different rules apply.”

Though the PLA was much more focused on destroying infrastructure used by Chinese people in areas still under Jiang’s control, of course all such acts should be investigated and addressed. Your claim that during a war different rules apply could be given as context to any number of events you feel outraged about. Not least the bombing of an embassy.

June 23, 2012 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

t_co

“Well, by that logic, should China have pursued a bombing campaign against the Air Force Targeting Officers responsible for targeting the embassy in the first place? Maybe drop a fuel-air explosive on the airbase where the B-1B took off?”

It depends upon what you regard as logic. If China was convinced the bombing was deliberate, then it could have responded as you suggest. Of course this would have to take into account whether there was justifiable motive for the bombing (if China was using the embassy to support Serbian troops or acquire key military material), whether such an escalation would prove beneficial to China, and whether China could justify its response to the rest of the world. The question of should China have responded as you say is really only capable of being determined after we’ve assessed those considerations. Now, if China believed the embassy bombing could conceivably be accidental, that would add a layer of complexity. However, as you know, the Chinese government rejected NATO’s statement that it was accidental, so the real question is why Chinese apologists refuse to assess the possible motive in rational terms rather than say it was merely to “humiliate” China.

June 23, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

To T-Co,
I think we agree that calculated “surplus deaths” will always have inherent flaws, and measured/tabulated “surplus deaths” would be far better. As I’ve said, for me, the actual tally for the GLF is secondary compared to the underlying principle.

I agree with the confounders you listed for the GLF. But how much of that data is actually available (and by that, I mean actually known; and allowed to be known outside of the CCP)? The weather records and rainfall data, perhaps. But as the video even mentioned, production data were routinely falsified/exaggerated, so I don’t know how meaningful those numbers would be even if Dikkoter could get them. Or we could look at it another way: in non GLF years, what was the mortality rate during times of similar weather patterns as occurred during GLF?

As for Vioxx, the FDA certainly has egg all over its face. However, the data you present is not conclusive. You simply can’t take death rates before and after vioxx availability and compare it to the rates during vioxx availability, and simply attribute the entirety of the difference to vioxx. For the simple fact that, apart from vioxx/no vioxx, you can’t possibly account for all the other confounders. And besides, at best, you can only attribute a death to vioxx if that person was taking it. So what you really need is the number of vioxx users who died, minus the number of those who would’ve died anyway (which you can calculate by multiplying the death rate of non-vioxx users by the total number of vioxx users from 2000-2004), in order to get true excess deaths attributable to vioxx. Which is all just another way of saying that measured data is better than a bunch of assumptions. That’s true of the GLF, and that’s true of vioxx. But to me, there’s a much better chance of getting the numbers with vioxx than with GLF, so I would place more fault on those who fail to access what is more accessible.

June 23, 2012 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

t_co

I understand your point and agree with the weakness of the methodology, but you are still using an example that could in no way be extrapolated beyond 25 million. Accepting that there were varying degrees to which policies were implemented, are you suggesting the GLF’s agricultural policies only affected 1/10 of China’s population in a significant way? That might at least schematically make your counter-example more relevant, though I appreciate the different use to which you put it above.

“In contrast, Dikkoter, et. al. do not appear to have done a similar segmentation analysis. There were chunks of China where local officials did not execute the GLF agricultural policies. There were parts where local officials executed them half-heartedly. There were parts where the local officials executed them zealously. Where is the segmentation? Where is the comparison, for example, of death rates in two counties with similar climates and 1958-1962 weather and demographics, only differing in degree of policy execution? This would be a really easy way to estimate surplus deaths that would be more accurate, than, say a national-level comparison–but Dikkoter doesn’t use it. ”

It would be really easy under the right circumstances. But of course, that would mean the CCP would have to allow such a detailed analysis, which would require a massive research team to sweep across the country and assess local files in major government offices, as well as interview retired government officials (should they still be alive) who orchestrated some of the campaigns and those who inherited their positions. I’m sure there would be enough funding for such a thorough study, but would the CCP allow this when they are banning truly dedicated accounts like Yang Jisheng’s? I’m not sure blaming researchers for the obstructions the CCP puts in their way is the best way to arrive at better research.

June 23, 2012 @ 2:25 pm | Comment

@ Handler

I understand your point and agree with the weakness of the methodology, but you are still using an example that could in no way be extrapolated beyond 25 million. Accepting that there were varying degrees to which policies were implemented, are you suggesting the GLF’s agricultural policies only affected 1/10 of China’s population in a significant way? That might at least schematically make your counter-example more relevant, though I appreciate the different use to which you put it above.

Your point here is irrelevant. The only way using surplus death rates would work would be after proving that the GLF affected 100% of China in an equal fashion. Not even the most diehard anti-CCP activist (such as yourself) could accept that claim without sounding retarded.

It would be really easy under the right circumstances. But of course, that would mean the CCP would have to allow such a detailed analysis, which would require a massive research team to sweep across the country and assess local files in major government offices, as well as interview retired government officials (should they still be alive) who orchestrated some of the campaigns and those who inherited their positions. I’m sure there would be enough funding for such a thorough study, but would the CCP allow this when they are banning truly dedicated accounts like Yang Jisheng’s? I’m not sure blaming researchers for the obstructions the CCP puts in their way is the best way to arrive at better research.

No one is blaming the researchers here for the lack of a proper dataset. The blame here is on what the researchers do when they have no data–instead of trying better ways to get data, they just take the inadequate figures they have and draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily there, and publicize figures that don’t stand up to serious statistical analysis.

Again, the end aims of the researchers–shedding light on a failed economic policy–is admirable. But the methods they’re employing to get there are not.

And finally, I’m not sure there would be funding for such a study–the GLF is simply not a “hot topic” in academia, especially China studies, because most of the funding for that comes from either 1) the Chinese government or 2) foundations tied to corporations who have operations in China. You’d probably get a lot more money if you were studying, for instance, the effect of market liberalization on agricultural productivity between 1978 and 1985.

June 23, 2012 @ 3:51 pm | Comment

Also, a segmentation analysis does not require a massive sweep team through government offices, etc. etc.

It can be done with only the cooperation of one provincial government. Again, what would be a promising route for the GLF researchers to do is to stop trying to present national-level results with anecdotal evidence, and instead dig deep into one or two provinces that can provide good data, and back-calculate other trends from there.

June 23, 2012 @ 4:01 pm | Comment

I think we agree that calculated “surplus deaths” will always have inherent flaws, and measured/tabulated “surplus deaths” would be far better. As I’ve said, for me, the actual tally for the GLF is secondary compared to the underlying principle.

Me too. What I have a problem with is the marriage of power with incompetence that was Mao’s China–Mao was not evil; he just was given far too much power and didn’t really know how to use it well. The root blame for that is a system which passes responsibility upwards instead of taking it for itself. I think we both agree with that line of logic.

As for the specifics regarding how to get the numbers, the solution there is to start small. Start local. Analyze it for one or two villages or counties where you can get that data. Forget trying to come up with a figure of “XX millions dead” when you probably don’t even know how many total dead there were in China overall during that period. Once you have enough data points, a trend should emerge, like a face out of a mosaic. But trying a top down approach here, no matter how slickly it’s packaged in a documentary, won’t convince anyone with a decent amount of analytical intelligence.

The point with Vioxx is well taken. I agree–it’s a pretty hasty study. But the problems listed with Vioxx are ten times worse with the GLF, since at least the Vioxx authors had a valid scientific theory that explained why the phenomenon was occuring. With the GLF, the underlying links–that policy somehow made people produce less food and then all eat more, or something to that effect–is much more tenuous.

June 23, 2012 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

they just take the inadequate figures they have and draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily there, and publicize figures that don’t stand up to serious statistical analysis.

What is even more absurd is even based on the figures researchers like Dikotter provide, the numbers really do not paint Mao in all too bad a light.

Dikotter for instance claims 45 million excess deaths above 1% over 4 years, which of course works out at about 24 deaths per 1000 per year (assuming the generally accepted figure of around 650 million for China’s population at the time). Which is of course typical of a developing country at the time. Jung Chang and Yang Jisheng have similar mortality rates. Thus the mortality rate during the years of the GLF were typical for other developing countries in Asia at the time, and far better than mortality before 1949. This is accepting Dikotter’s research at face value. Of course this is not what Dikotter means to imply, but he lacks the very basic numerical skills to realise this.

The link to the Paitnaik article (post 67)above discusses in fine detail how China is condemned for a single period of high mortality during the Maoist years, while India is not condemned for maintaining the same mortality rates over a much longer period. Obviously those like Dikotter, supported by the Chiang Chingkuo foundation, and an apologist for Japanese and British imperialism, has an ideological axe to grind.

Now again, even accepting the worst case scenario of 45 million ‘excess’ deaths of Dikotter over a 4 year period, such a case would not equate to a famine, in today’s accepted definition of ‘famine’, if the entire population of 650 million at the time is taken into account.

“A famine is defined in part by population-wide death rates greater than 2 deaths per 10,000 people per day and global acute malnutrition exceeding 30%.”
http://www.cdc.gov/Features/AfricaFamine/

If China really had experienced a nationwide famine during Dikotter’s claimed four years of famine, the crude yearly mortality, based on 2 deaths per 10000 per day would have been 73/1000 per year.

So if we adopted Dikotter’s ‘normal’ 10/1000 per year, for a true famine to have hit China of 73/1000, excess mortality over the four years would have had to be around 165 million. Which noone claims.

Even if we assume that China had ‘normal’ mortality of around 24/1000 in 1957 (typical of developing countries), adopting the 73/1000 per year definition of famine, excess mortality in one year would then have been 49/1000, to even meet the definition of what constitutes a famine, and this would have meant 127 million excess deaths in China at the time.

So for Dikotter to claim China as a whole underwent a famine during the four years of the GLF, the excess mortality would have had to be at the minimum around 127 million. But it was only ’45 million’ far off the threshold required for a true nationwide famine.

So looking at the claims in a broad manner, one can see from elementary math that Dikotter’s claims are bogus.

What China underwent was a period of elevated hardship, relative to the first few years of the PRC, which led to elevated mortality, and famine in localised areas. Conditions were more or less the same as those of other developing countries, and far better than conditions that prevailed before 1949.

June 23, 2012 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

“What China underwent was a period of elevated hardship” / Obviously those like Dikotter, supported by the Chiang Chingkuo foundation, and an apologist for Japanese and British imperialism, has an ideological axe to grind

Just as with Guantanamo above, I’ll limit my input when it comes to statistics. I doubt that a thread will come to credible conclusions here – not as a rule, anyway. I’ll try to read and to comprehend along the comments.

However, it strikes me that it is usually apologists who accuse others of being apologists. Not even the official CPC website would refer to the Great Leap Forward as a period of elevated hardship, but as a set of “leftist” mistakes. Fortunately, the wise leadership – and Mao Zedong – corrected the overzeal, which, it seems, just happened on account of some local idiots.

Sina, in a book review, is somewhat more outspoken:

The situation wasn’t created in a day. The “Great Leap Forward” started in 1958, and in 1959, Mao wrongly launched the “anti-rightist” campaign on the Lushan conference, which resulted in an unrestrained ultra-leftist trend [...]

Obviously, here, too, Mao is portrayed as a man who corrects himself, with a ten-year summary on a meeting in Shanghai.

An author from South China Normal University (Guangzhou) and one from Trinity College, and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, refer to the GLF as a
famine of unprecedented magnitude in its history as well as in world history
. Meal deprivation as a political tool is discussed there, too. It’s uploaded on SCNU’s domain, and as usual, the best way to approach a sensitive issue is to publish in English, and among academics.

A discussion usually gets derailed once crimes get belittled or superelevated, depending on one’s personal preferences. If I had to discuss issues, Dikötter wouldn’t be my first source of choice.

Aung-Yeung, I believe, draws his math approach from this book review. Either way – it’s quite possible that Cormac Ó Gráda, the reviewer, is correct.

The essential part of Cormac Ó Gráda’s criticism seems to start with these lines:

The cost of famines in lives lost is often controversial, because famines are nearly always blamed on somebody, and excess mortality is reckoned to be a measure of guilt.

Ó Grada is an Irish economist, and given that Ireland’s famine of the 1840s appears to be his most prominent topic, he’s probably quite a suitable reviewer.

I’m trying to avoid a direct discussion with people like Au-Yeung, folks. That may not be possible all the time, but personally, I think that if you treat pro-totalitarian, professional or voluntary, propagandists with too much respect, they will only come back to you for more. They desperately need it.

But it’s a decision everyone needs to make individually – I believe that there is a factual and a personal aspect to such discussions. If I find points from bad people challenging, I’ll do my own research, and try to find more credible sources than just them and their comments.

June 23, 2012 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

Richard, I’ve just posted a comment – may have got lost in your spam filter (which, I suppose, is lengthy).

Found it. – The Editors

June 23, 2012 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

t_co

“Your point here is irrelevant. The only way using surplus death rates would work would be after proving that the GLF affected 100% of China in an equal fashion. Not even the most diehard anti-CCP activist (such as yourself) could accept that claim without sounding retarded.”

Actually, t_co, I should have emended my response to your follow up. My point from the very beginning was that introducing a counter-example to show how easy it would be to make the same argument for any number of causes is fine, but it doesn’t do your argument justice when strangely choose one that patently has a much more limited application (to 1/10th of the population). I asked you how you arrived at the number of deaths you cited for that very reason. You first asked us to imagine that Vioxx “was held responsible for all “surplus” deaths in the United States from 2000 to 2004,” which indicated that you were incorporating a large number of wholly external causes (in particular among those who have never taken Vioxx) to your example. While you responded with an account of a much more focused dataset, I would echo SK Cheung in pointing out that you still don’t appear to limit the assessment to a specific number of those who actually took Vioxx (granted, I haven’t read the attached paper). Since I agreed from the beginning that there are rather serious flaws in the methodology and never insisted upon the adequacy of using surplus deaths, I’m not sure how me pointing out this mistake on your part makes me a most diehard anti-CCP activist. I’m afraid you are getting your back up for all the wrong reasons. But that’s fine with me.

“No one is blaming the researchers here for the lack of a proper dataset. The blame here is on what the researchers do when they have no data–instead of trying better ways to get data…”

See, that sounds to me like you are blaming researchers for a lack of a proper data set. This is not an accusation–but I think it is an accurate reading. Indeed, it would not be wrong to blame researchers for lack of a proper dataset provided you have evidence that they had the opportunity to compile it. I’m stating that the CCP is the primary determiner of that opportunity, and almost entirely for political reasons. Do you disagree?

June 23, 2012 @ 10:59 pm | Comment

t_co

“With the GLF, the underlying links–that policy somehow made people produce less food and then all eat more, or something to that effect”

How is it that you arrive at this understanding? Policy is not simply being assessed on the basis of how much food was produced, but also how and to whom it was distributed. The video above clearly indicates that.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

See, that sounds to me like you are blaming researchers for a lack of a proper data set. This is not an accusation–but I think it is an accurate reading. Indeed, it would not be wrong to blame researchers for lack of a proper dataset provided you have evidence that they had the opportunity to compile it. I’m stating that the CCP is the primary determiner of that opportunity, and almost entirely for political reasons. Do you disagree?

I disagree. Again, whether or not there is a proper dataset is not the issue here–the issue is what the researchers do when there is an improper dataset.

Imagine, for a second, that a researcher was trying to analyze the effects of fallout from nuclear testing on US, Russian, and Chinese citizens. Due to restrictions on information, he could only get material from a few declassified/loosely managed Ukrainian ex-Soviet archives. Then he uses the Ukrainian data to extrapolate that all citizens everywhere are affected in the same one as one small set of nuclear tests in Ukraine, and then he makes a documentary about it that claims that nuclear testing in the United States or Russia has killed XX millions of people. Most people would find that ridiculous behavior, not because the governments blocked access to that data, but because the researcher continues trying to publicize a conclusion for which he has no data.

The same dynamic is at play here–if Dikkoter doesn’t have the data back up his analysis, then he shouldn’t be out there publicizing his conclusions and presenting them as fact–even if it isn’t his fault that the data isn’t available.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:46 pm | Comment

t_co is the most analytical and cool headed person on this blog, he never gives in to sensationalism or emotions, and his comments always strike at the core of the issue. Reading his comments is a breath of fresh air. Even though he is also not a big fan of the CCP, I never have a problem with that, because he always argues with logic and data, unlike most other commentators here who just say stupid anti-China crap without any objectivity.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

Actually, t_co, I should have emended my response to your follow up. My point from the very beginning was that introducing a counter-example to show how easy it would be to make the same argument for any number of causes is fine, but it doesn’t do your argument justice when strangely choose one that patently has a much more limited application (to 1/10th of the population).

I get your point now. That’s a misread on your part, though, since people who die are predominantly the elderly, and that 25 million was mostly concentrated in people over 65. So it wouldn’t be 1/10th of the population at risk of death; it would be something closer to 1/2, or even higher.

As for the question as to whether that analysis was limited to people who took Vioxx or not, I’d run two counterpoints:

1) Taking Vioxx vs. Not Taking Vioxx is a binary condition. Flip it back on the GLF–there’s no proof that the GLF equally affected everyone or not.

2) It’s a wash on both sides anyhow, since using a flat methodology for either the GLF or Vioxx would be a misleading argument. Therefore Dikkoter can’t run his conclusions.

Either way, it leads back to my original point–the GLF documentary above should not be presenting unproven claims as fact. It’s irresponsible and violates any decent sense of academic ethics.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Just remember–the whole point of the Vioxx article was to highlight its similarities with what Dikkoter is doing, in addition to highlighting the things that Dikkoter could be doing better.

Every counterargument you run that attacks the validity of the Vioxx methodology also ends up being flipped to attack Dikkoter’s GLF validity. You can imagine it as a giant trap argument.

This is a losing argument you’re running. Trust me, I placed top 64 in Lincoln-Douglas Debate at US Nationals before I went to college.

June 23, 2012 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

It depends upon what you regard as logic. If China was convinced the bombing was deliberate, then it could have responded as you suggest. Of course this would have to take into account whether there was justifiable motive for the bombing (if China was using the embassy to support Serbian troops or acquire key military material), whether such an escalation would prove beneficial to China, and whether China could justify its response to the rest of the world. The question of should China have responded as you say is really only capable of being determined after we’ve assessed those considerations. Now, if China believed the embassy bombing could conceivably be accidental, that would add a layer of complexity. However, as you know, the Chinese government rejected NATO’s statement that it was accidental, so the real question is why Chinese apologists refuse to assess the possible motive in rational terms rather than say it was merely to “humiliate” China.

First off, calling people apologists is a wash, since it’s an ad hominem. Second, rejecting NATO statement that it was accidental does not imply that the Chinese government didn’t think it was accidental (1) or thought the attack was done to “humiliate” China (2).

The PRC government could have found issue with other aspects of the statement other than the part that stated non-intentional dropping of a GPS guided bomb into a precise room in the embassy. The PRC government also did not make mention of any sort of “national humiliation” in its anger at the bombing–instead, its anger was directed at the fact that an Embassy is a zone of neutrality, in war or peace and such an act violated the very principles of Westphalian sovereignty that all nations, Western or Eastern, agree to.

Third, since the decision to bomb that part of the Embassy was a unilateral one on behalf of NATO, then could the PRC government then answer all the questions you posed unilaterally? Then would you not be implying that the PRC government could simply decide to rationally bomb anyone it desired to do so, if they thought that location was supporting elements that hurt PRC interests?

If so, then you are basically saying that the PRC has a perfectly logical backing to bomb away at the US AIT in Taipei without a formal declaration of war (since there was no declaration against Serbia) if the PRC thinks that the US is helping arm Taiwan’s military; or that the PRC could go ahead and drop some napalm on the US Futenma Airbase if the East Sea dispute ever got hot and the US 7th Fleet was in the area providing radar imaging.

June 24, 2012 @ 12:15 am | Comment

t_co

I disagree. Again, whether or not there is a proper dataset is not the issue here–the issue is what the researchers do when there is an improper dataset.

And yet you note that their actions should be judged by alternatives available to them, which you characterize as “trying better ways to get data.” If relevant data, such material pulled from provincial government files, is being kept from them, are you advocating silence instead of simply acknowledging the limitations of their research? That would be where scholarship (which should be directed toward insight) becomes mannerism.

“Imagine, for a second, that a researcher was trying to analyze the effects of fallout from nuclear testing on US, Russian, and Chinese citizens. Due to restrictions on information, he could only get material from a few declassified/loosely managed Ukrainian ex-Soviet archives. Then he uses the Ukrainian data to extrapolate that all citizens everywhere are affected in the same one as one small set of nuclear tests in Ukraine, and then he makes a documentary about it that claims that nuclear testing in the United States or Russia has killed XX millions of people. Most people would find that ridiculous behavior, not because the governments blocked access to that data, but because the researcher continues trying to publicize a conclusion for which he has no data.

The same dynamic is at play here–if Dikkoter doesn’t have the data back up his analysis, then he shouldn’t be out there publicizing his conclusions and presenting them as fact–even if it isn’t his fault that the data isn’t available.”

I recognize that hypotheticals are nearly always articulated in a manner convenient to one’s argument, but surely you must acknowledge that this argument strains your resources. The fact is people might find this ridiculous research because we already know (to a technologically precise degree) there were massive differences in testing configurations, yield, and safety measures, and that such testing was carried out by wholly different governments with separate lines of oversight and accountability. Were that information not available to us–say, if some obscure agent were believed to have straddled the globe, assembled teams to test under regulated conditions, and picked and chose where he decided to test nuclear weapons–one would be justified in assuming some correlation between these events, at least until the various tests were clearly determined to be of a wholly distinct kind (in which case we would know how much of that correlation was specious). While we do know there were various degrees of implementation of agricultural reforms, pretending the lines of oversight which connected them were entirely separate from each other, among other poorly contrived parallels, amounts to little more here than obfuscation by example.

June 24, 2012 @ 1:36 am | Comment

“As for the question as to whether that analysis was limited to people who took Vioxx or not, I’d run two counterpoints:

1) Taking Vioxx vs. Not Taking Vioxx is a binary condition. Flip it back on the GLF–there’s no proof that the GLF equally affected everyone or not.”

Ah, yes, which is one reason we should keep in mind that the example you selected is inappropriate as a comparison. One involves the possible application of a binary condition, the other does not. You simply can’t flip this back on the GLF, as its application and effects were manifold. Naturally, that is a severe flaw in determining whether it directly caused XX deaths in this or that region, but it’s also a flaw in how you apply standards of critique.

“Just remember–the whole point of the Vioxx article was to highlight its similarities with what Dikkoter is doing, in addition to highlighting the things that Dikkoter could be doing better.

Every counterargument you run that attacks the validity of the Vioxx methodology also ends up being flipped to attack Dikkoter’s GLF validity. You can imagine it as a giant trap argument.

This is a losing argument you’re running. Trust me, I placed top 64 in Lincoln-Douglas Debate at US Nationals before I went to college.”

Well, that’s impressive. However, we seem to be having two different debates. I have been debating your poor selection of examples to justify your critique of Dikkoter’s methodology. This doesn’t necessitate attacking the validity of the Vioxx methodology, it simply involves understanding its relevance to your discussion. Indeed, you’ll see the majority of my posts directed to you focus instead on your rather perverse insistence that the withholding of critical data on the deaths of citizens is not at all the issue while demanding higher standards in the compiling of the data witheld.

June 24, 2012 @ 2:12 am | Comment

t_co

“First off, calling people apologists is a wash, since it’s an ad hominem. Second, rejecting NATO statement that it was accidental does not imply that the Chinese government didn’t think it was accidental (1) or thought the attack was done to “humiliate” China (2).”

Poor start. You are using the term ad hominem rather loosely here, and I can’t see your objection to it since I qualified its application. An ad hominem is objectionable to the degree that it obscures the argument in favor of attributing deficiencies to those providing an argument. I stated, “Chinese apologists refuse to assess the possible motive in rational terms rather than say it was merely to “humiliate” China.” Now you are welcome to object to the gross characterization, assuming you accept the existence of apologists, but I stated the terms of the argument clearly: being unwilling to deal with an attribution of motive in a rational way, coming to specific terms, and instead claiming that humiliation was the principle concern, and therefore that outrage was justified. Since an accident would not provoke outrage and a rational attribution of motive would surely dampen it, if one takes the middle path of believing it was deliberate but doesn’t accept a closer definition of motive, one is an apologist. Not necessarily on every issue, naturally, but one on this issue just the same.

Second, I never stated that the Chinese government did not believe it still could have been an accident. I merely stated that they rejected NATO’s explanation. That you would choose to dispute this point is peculiar. Also, as per what I stated above, I attributed the term humiliation to Chinese apologists, not the the government.

“The PRC government could have found issue with other aspects of the statement other than the part that stated non-intentional dropping of a GPS guided bomb into a precise room in the embassy.”

Yes, could have. But there are a lot of could haves. What would lead you to believe as much, and why wouldn’t the Chinese government articulate that point clearly, then?

“an Embassy is a zone of neutrality, in war or peace and such an act violated the very principles of Westphalian sovereignty that all nations, Western or Eastern, agree to.”

Which wouldn’t matter as much if it was understood to be an accident. Nor, I suppose, would it matter if enemy operations were being run out of the embassy, as that would counteract the embassy’s neutrality.

“Third, since the decision to bomb that part of the Embassy was a unilateral one on behalf of NATO, then could the PRC government then answer all the questions you posed unilaterally?

Well, leaving aside the fact that NATO is not a single nation and its actions cannot simply be called unilateral, not only could China, but it surely would. Of course, here you are assuming the bombing of the embassy was deliberate, which necessitates the question of motive. Clearly under such circumstances China already made the unilateral decision to act against NATO interests in Belgrade. Unless you think China did nothing an this is all about deliberate humiliation.

“Then would you not be implying that the PRC government could simply decide to rationally bomb anyone it desired to do so, if they thought that location was supporting elements that hurt PRC interests?”

I am not implying that the PRC government will act rationally, nor am I suggesting that any particular form of rationalization is sufficient for justification. I am, however, stating they could choose to bomb people out of what they consider a rational assessment based on the factors I mentioned (though not exclusively), and this will be their answer to whether or not they should. Why you would consider this justification (you seem to think the use of the word could means a green light), which is what you appear to be reaching for….

“If so, then you are basically saying that the PRC has a perfectly logical backing to bomb away at the US AIT in Taipei without a formal declaration of war (since there was no declaration against Serbia) if the PRC thinks that the US is helping arm Taiwan’s military;”

Its odd that you should try to hang your hat in this little Socratic procession here. Perhaps we should state that the PLA already considers doing so: http://www.militarytimes.com/forum/showthread.php?1561728-Hypothetical-attack-on-U-S-outlined-by-China

“or that the PRC could go ahead and drop some napalm on the US Futenma Airbase if the East Sea dispute ever got hot and the US 7th Fleet was in the area providing radar imaging.”

It which case we’d see if their rationalization was correct and it is, in fact, beneficial for China. You are not seriously suggesting China wouldn’t act unilaterally under such circumstances?

June 24, 2012 @ 3:21 am | Comment

It’s up to you, of course, handler / t_co, but I’m getting the feeling that your discussion is becoming rather global – too global for me to copy. There might be something for me to gain if the number of issues you are now covering was more limited.

Not sure about everyone else.

June 24, 2012 @ 4:22 am | Comment

To J A Y #108:
“A famine is defined in part …”
—it’s too bad that the link you provided does not speak of the ‘other parts’ of the definition. Nor is it accepted that that is the one and only definition.

As I’ve said, the precise number of how many died (in excess of what would have occurred but for GLF) will never be known. If your point is that Dikkoter’s number is speculative, I have no problem with that. However, it’s appearing as though you are questioning not only the exact number, but whether there was any famine at all. That would be a bizarre contention…but you’re welcome to it if it amuses you.

When Dikkoter and others speak of “China as a whole”, obviously they don’t mean that every single Chinese citizen at the time was suffering. Look at Mao, for starters. He looks well-fed throughout. As the video suggests, this was a phenomenon largely played out in the rural areas; people in the cities were spared, and in fact were insulated from any news of the unfolding events altogether. It should be self-evident that Dikkoter and others are referring to ‘China overall’, and not suggesting that every citizen was afflicted equally.

This all again boils down to the fact that people died, and the people who didn’t die suffered, as a result of GLF who wouldn’t have died or suffered otherwise, and they have Mao to blame for it.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To T-CO,
that vioxx is a binary situation is precisely why it does not translate to GLF appropriately. The paper you quoted does adjust for a bunch of stuff, but it started erroneously. You can’t blame vioxx if someone dies having never taken it. I’ll keep it at the level of all cause mortality since again that is binary, as opposed to introducing adjudication in instances where, for example, a person taking vioxx dies because he was run over by a truck, and it becomes highly debatable whether vioxx consumption had any causal role.

However, GLF is not binary. In theory, it applied to everybody. In practice, it did not. But the variability in application was not based on a statistical norm, but on the individual whims of the local party cadres. Not only is it not binary, but your suggestion of taking a small sample and extrapolating does not hold, for the simple fact that you cannot extrapolate how one cadre behaved and assume that other cadres would have behaved similarly (or not). You criticize the veracity of Dikkoter’s data set, and I agree; but your solution would be similarly flawed, no more and no less.

So while I agree that GLF may not have applied to everyone equally, neither was its application resolvable to a binary yes or no, as with vioxx. In other words, vioxx is a binary variable, whereas GLF is a variable potentially with a denominator equal to the number of local cadres that were running around. I’d argue it is much easier to deal with 2 variables than multiple variables, and while both Dikkoter and the vioxx researchers produced flawed work, the latter group failed despite being faced with a substantially easier task (and that’s already ignoring the relative availability of the relevant data sets).

Now, is Dikkoter “misleading”? Well, what is “misleading”? He takes his assumptions, and comes up with a number. You take his number with a grain of salt commensurate to the size of those assumptions. Those assumptions are open to critique, as you and others have done. Is it academically acceptable? He takes some assumptions and runs with it. That the assumptions are debatable does not make them academically unacceptable.

June 24, 2012 @ 4:26 am | Comment

‘Clearly under such circumstances China already made the unilateral decision to act against NATO interests in Belgrade.’

Just as the United States, to use the appropriate analogy, had ‘already made the unilateral decision to act against Iranian interests’ in their own nation in 1953. And Americans still haven’t shut the hell up about the Iranians occupying the American embassy in 1979 (even though the Iranians killed no Americans there and did not destroy the embassy). The bombing of Yugoslavia in the ’90′s was unprovoked, and the Chinese government had very little to do with the conflicts between the KLA terrorists (speaking of Maoists, by the way) and the marginally more rational Serbian government of the time.

June 24, 2012 @ 9:12 am | Comment

Matthew F Cooper

“Just as the United States, to use the appropriate analogy, had ‘already made the unilateral decision to act against Iranian interests’ in their own nation in 1953.”

Yes, the US did. Well, it wasn’t so much unilateral as at the behest of the British. I’m personally not objecting to Iranian reaction, and don’t see how tu quoque helps us here.

“And Americans still haven’t shut the hell up about the Iranians occupying the American embassy in 1979 (even though the Iranians killed no Americans there and did not destroy the embassy).”

Let’s disregard your anger. Americans generally aren’t exercised by the memory of the occupation the embassy today. There is still some resentment over the unjustifiable detention of US embassy personnel for over a year, which is probably why the event remains delineated in American consciousness, but that is not because an embassy is considered inviolable.

“The bombing of Yugoslavia in the ’90′s was unprovoked, and the Chinese government had very little to do with the conflicts between the KLA terrorists (speaking of Maoists, by the way) and the marginally more rational Serbian government of the time.”

I don’t understand the relevance of this.

justrecently

Yes, I see your point. I did my best to address what I felt was objectionable about t_co’s arguments, and I think I kept that limited to specifics. In addition, I responded to his questions on other issues as an act of good faith, not simply to extend an argument.

June 24, 2012 @ 10:43 am | Comment

I suppose I can see where the discussion became complex, handler. At #98, you used an example where the U.S. took “retaliatory action”, and suggested that it was Au-Yeung’s responsibility to specify how that to prove that this was done “simply to satiate the blood lust of the US public.”

At #100, t_co asks you if, by that logic, [..] China [should] have pursued a bombing campaign against the Air Force Targeting Officers responsible for targeting the embassy in the first place?

A while after that, both of you went back to the original issue, until, at #117, t_co came back to the Belgrade embassy issue at #117, in reply to your #102 comment.

I’m not taking sides in that debate – but I find it noteworthy that t_co’s and your discussion started moving away from a consistent thread of arguments when both of you, one after another, reacted to Au-Yeung (in fact, you reacted to Au-Yeung, and t_co took issue with your position there, at #100). To follow mechanisms like these feels a bit like analyzing the causes for a traffic jam.

I wasn’t following t_co’s and your discussion that closely when I wrote under 109 that I’m, whenever possible, trying to avoid discussions with people like Au-Yeung. They are – in my view – usually distractions from actual issues.

June 24, 2012 @ 2:20 pm | Comment

Going still further back… it might have helped if, under #77, you had replied to t_co and Au-Yeung in two separate comments. What you wrote there in reply to the latter certainly makes sense – but one might feel that you were putting both of them into the same category there, which wasn’t helpful. (That is easy to say at hindsight, of course.)

As for the GLF/Vioxx comparison, I would rather agree with your position, than with t_co’s. But when it comes to Dikötter‘s approach in general, I’d like to re-iterate my advice to read Cormac Ó Gráda‘s review of MGF. There would be a set of specific criticism, where you might agree or disagree, from one point to another.

June 24, 2012 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

Or, to state my – tentative – approach more succinctly: read posts like Au-Yeung’s closely, and if they contain real challenges, try to verify them and discuss sources which back such comments up. Cormac o’ Gráda’s review does so to some extent (and I’m quite sure he used the Irish professor’s case as his databank). But I’m trying to avoid addressing such comments directly. Debates resulting from that are usually both toxic, and boring.

June 24, 2012 @ 2:35 pm | Comment

I’m quite sure he used the Irish professor’s case as his databank – “he” would be Au-Yeung.

June 24, 2012 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

Wow! Other people “care” about how many Chinese starved, really? The American general in Korean war wanted to drop 10 nukes on top 10 most populated cities in China, but God bless America it did not act on that. I did read the brief of this “historian” on “GLF” while ago and his estimate was partially based on the birth rate was not impacted by the shortage of food. I can give some actual experience of my mother she was in the NorthEast region and urban. She was often hungry because she could not stand the taste of Russian oat, but she knew that she was lucky and the rural in three provices were lucky too, compared to some hard hit provices. It was quite common to take years to conceive because of thinner women. My mother had me more than three years after her marriage and my brother followed only 18 mos later and that made her never wanted another one. My mother in law had her first one more than 5 years after her marriage and next one followed much sooner. Of course, hard time was harder for the weaker and it was the norm for other third word country without “great” famine. India had a similar famine and over 10 millions dead too, but that did not stop the british sending crops back to England and with all its richness, she let the irish starved too.

Mao is greater than everyone commenting here with all his nonsenses. He finished the civil war in a few years and he did not give a damn what Russian, American and anyone else said and that deserves 30% right. Mao was also 100% feminist and I give him another 50% right and I would rather be born in Mao’s China than other third world like India (the largest democracy).

June 24, 2012 @ 5:47 pm | Comment

[...] (The Peking Duck) embedded a documentary movie about the Great Leap Forward in one of his most recent posts. It seems to base its message basically on the takes of two academics, Yang Jisheng (杨继绳) and [...]

June 24, 2012 @ 5:47 pm | Pingback

Frank Dikotter states:
“The famine did not last three years, as is often thought, but at least four years, starting in early 1958 and ending by late 1962” (lets say 4.75 years).
http://www.frankdikotter.com/

From Ch 37 of “Mao’s Great Famine”:
“However, an average death rate is required in order to calculate ‘extra’ death figures. What would be reasonable?…..To err on the safe side, given the wide variations across the country, 1 per cent should be taken as a normal death rate”

Population of China in 1960: 667 million
http://tinyurl.com/79qzws6

Dikotter claims the GLF killed 45 million over four years.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Based on Dikotter’s facts (adopting 667 million as ‘average’ population durin the GLF:

45 million / 4.75 years = 9.47 million excess deaths per year.

That is: 9.47 million / 667 million = 14.2 excess deaths / 1000 or 1.42% excess mortality per year.

Add this to Dikotter’s ‘normal’ mortality of 1% and you get averaged annual mortality in China over the period of the GLF as 2.42%

Now let us look at Judith Banister’s CHINA’S CHANGING POPULATION. Banister’s given numbers are as follows:

1958__________20.65
1959__________22.06
1960__________44.60
1961__________23.01
1962__________14.02

Averaged annual mortality from these figures is 24.9/1000 or 2.49% cf to Dikotter’s 2.42%

Now let us look at what Jung Chang says:
“death rates in the four years 1958-61 were 1.20 per cent, 1.45 per cent, 4.34 per cent and 2.83 per cent, respectively” THE UNKNOWN STORY, p. 438

Average mortality claimed by Jung Chang during GLF is thus (1.2 + 1.45 + 4.34 + 2.38) / 4 = 2.34% death rate (or 23.4 deaths per 1000 per year).

////////////////////////////
Thus we have the averaged annual mortalities for the GLF from three sources, two of them extremely hostile to Mao. All three estimates align pretty well.

Again. These annual mortality rates are:

Dikotter: 2.42%
Bannister: 2.49%
Jung Chang: 2.34% (note that Chang’s figure would be less if I had considered 1958 to 1962).

Now let us compare with other developing countries of the time (from the authoritative Nation Master website http://tinyurl.com/2crqsxx)

India: 23.25/1000
Indonesia: 22.57/1000
East Pakistan (Bangladesh): 24.56/1000
Pakistan: 23.14/1000
Nigeria (under the UK, just before independence): 25.38/1000
Mozambique (under the Portuguese): 28.41/1000

As you can see, China’s mortality during the GLF, based even on the figures provided by the two most hostile researchers towards Mao, was not excessive in terms of a typical developing country of the time. And this was at a time of the worst climatic conditions in a whole century.

And China’s mortality during the GLF was far better than 38/1000 just 10 years before (Judith Bannister), and well over 30/1000 for India under the British Raj.

June 24, 2012 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

“China’s position reflects the rapidity of its demographic transition since the early 1970s and its achievement of relatively high levels of health despite low per capita income by the end of the Mao era (Banister 1987; Wang 2011). Indeed, despite the higher death rates associated with the Great Leap Famine of 1959-1961, China’s growth in life expectancy from 35~40 in 1949 to 65.5 in 1980 ranks as the most rapid sustained increase in documented global history. These earlier health improvements and growth of the working-age population contributed to China’s unprecedented economic growth for the past quarter century. Wang and Mason (2008) estimate that between 1982 and 2000, about 15 percent of China’s rapid growth in output per capita stemmed from the demographic dividend (Bloom and Williamson [1998] estimate that one-quarter to one-third of the growth rates in the “East Asian miracle” stemmed from the demographic dividend.) Although the pace of mortality decline in China has slowed, it continues: Chinese life expectancy increased between 1990 and 2010 from 69.9 to 76.8 for women and from 66.9 to 72.5 for men.”

From an academic paper authored by:
Karen Eggleston, Director of the Stanford Asia Health Policy Program and Center Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University.
Victor R. Fuchs, Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Economics and of Health Research and Policy, and Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute of Economic Policy and Research, Stanford University

http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/23743/AHPPwp_29.pdf

So is Mao a monster like Hitler?

No.

June 24, 2012 @ 8:18 pm | Comment

“J. Au-Yeung, another America-does-it-too spam bot. Notice how when he’s proven wrong he slithers on to the next accusation. He is fooling no one.”

Isn’t this another iteration of Cookie Monster?

June 25, 2012 @ 12:37 am | Comment

Slim:

China’s growth in life expectancy from 35~40 in 1949 to 65.5 in 1980 ranks as the most rapid sustained increase in documented global history.

TRUE or FALSE?

June 25, 2012 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Advice: don’t feed the troll, slim. Au-Yeung has just copied and pasted two of his more recent comments onto my blog. If his statistics are true or false is something I wouldn’t try to answer; but would recommend this review of Dikötter’s book by an Irish professor which I believe is substantial and well-founded.

June 25, 2012 @ 2:07 am | Comment

That J A Y is your prototypical CCP troll is pretty evident at this point. They must go to troll school or something cuz after a while they all sound the same.

“So is Mao a monster like Hitler?”
—LOL. Has anyone on this thread claimed that he was? Another example of arguing against something no one has said. So no, he wasn’t a monster like Hitler…is Mao supposed to get a gold star for not being like Hitler? I guess the Mao worshipers don’t set the bar very high.

If Dikkoter’s death rate estimates are in the ballpark of other academics, it doesn’t mean his or theirs are actually correct, but it does suggest that Dikkoter isn’t necessarily completely in left field as some might suggest. Of course, as is standard operating procedure for trolls, the comparisons start. ‘Even with GLF, China was no worse than lots of other countries in contemporary times’. Well that’s great. But it’s also not the point. Without GLF, China’s death rate would’ve been better than those contemporaries. So Mao’s GLF made things worse for Chinese people than they needed to be. That would be the point.

June 25, 2012 @ 2:43 am | Comment

That’s basically Cormac Ó Gráda’s point, SK. He’s far from belittling the famine. However, he questions Dikötter’s approach, and warns that f Yang Jisheng is destined to be China’s Alexander Solzhenitzyn, Frank Dikötter now replaces Jasper Becker as its Anne Appelbaum. I’m not sure which role Appelbaum plays in the debate, but I think I’m getting the idea. Ó Gráda also encourages other historians to write calmer and more nuanced books that worry more about getting the numbers right and pay due attention to geography and history.

Too many people, I believe, confuse a dispassionate approach with cold-heartedness.

June 25, 2012 @ 3:39 am | Comment

Annie Applebaun/m’s history of Gulag is head and shoulders above Dikotter’s and Becker’s histories and I’ve read all three a number of times. Applebaun/m’s treatment of the numbers is exemplary, possibly due to her greater access to documentation.

June 25, 2012 @ 7:22 am | Comment

Apologies. Dikotter’s text suffers from very racy editing – you can see the really colourful bits (eg cannibalism)coming a mile away – the same disease which afflicts Antony Beevor and other popular historians.

June 25, 2012 @ 7:33 am | Comment

An interesting feature – but one that goes beyond the GLF – is how dissent was dealt with by Mao. The “modernizers” were possibly delayed by several decades. That said, a cynic might say that the terror “stabilized” China, in that the CCP / Mao showed the people what they are capable of, in terms of terror.

I met several elder victims of the “cultural revolution” during the 1990s, and it always struck me how grateful they were that they were no longer treated as “class enemies” and could spend their remaining days as teachers or state-company employees. There was no desire to see justice be applied to their former henchmen – at least not noticeable for me. And many of them were, in turn, treated with demonstrative consideration, by their environment.

It seems to me that there is a continuity of fear, and that may actually be a convenient factor for the powers that be.

June 25, 2012 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Thank you JustRecently, O’Grada’s review is excellent.

As for Au Yeung, whether or not he is a fenqing or wumao is rather irrelevant. I actually checked the sources he provided (particularly those of Judith Banister, and the Stanford University source), and he does quote them correctly. His calculations also seem to stack up (it’s not rocket science).

If Au Yeung’s claim about life expectancy under Mao is true (and from some brief googling, it does seem to have been the case), then that at least makes me look at the Maoist era in a different way than I have up until now.

June 26, 2012 @ 9:39 am | Comment

That’s basically Cormac Ó Gráda’s point, SK. He’s far from belittling the famine. However, he questions Dikötter’s approach, and warns that f Yang Jisheng is destined to be China’s Alexander Solzhenitzyn, Frank Dikötter now replaces Jasper Becker as its Anne Appelbaum. I’m not sure which role Appelbaum plays in the debate, but I think I’m getting the idea. Ó Gráda also encourages other historians to write calmer and more nuanced books that worry more about getting the numbers right and pay due attention to geography and history.

That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say–thanks JR.

June 26, 2012 @ 10:02 am | Comment

You are welcome, t_co. I was actually quite curious about Dikötter‘s book when its publication was announced, but began to wonder when I read the first excited quotes from the author himself. In the end, my interest had cooled too much to even read the book. That the great famine happened, and that Mao was ultimately responsible, wasn’t news, anyway.

As for statistics from either side, I don’t think that belief in any of them can replace research of ones own – but that’s hardly feasible. So, what makes Ó Gráda (rather) believable to me is that he takes a calm and logical approach in his review, and obviously, his own role as a famine researcher helps, too.

One of my main points is that many people see in China what they want to see in China – it has been a projection screen for centuries, and frequently an utopia (highly positive or highly negative). My main issue with sinology is that most sinologists of my student days simply love China – they are quite different from most slavicists I read or heard at the time – when it came to Russia, anyway.

Therefore, I appreciate approaches which do not simply accept the CCP historiography. That Chinese historians tend to praise the incumbent court, and vilify previous dynasties, is one thing. That the narrative of the CCP’s rise to power has been portrayed as a liberation tour in the sinologist mainstream for decades is another.

The problem is that critical sinologists aren’t necessarily doing a great job either. I’d concede that this may not be easy outside the academic mainstream, with corresponding cooperation and exchange, but there’s no breakthrough without a convincing job.

All the same, Dikötter may view his book as a success. I’m not aware of the sales, but suppose that it must have sold pretty well. It would be interesting to see a record where he actually defends his approach, rather than his moral issues, but I haven’t found that kind of thing yet.

June 26, 2012 @ 3:30 pm | Comment

One more thing, King Tubby defends Anne Applebaum in his #138 comment, and he may well be right.

June 26, 2012 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

You don’t have to rely on the official figures.

Just exercise common sense.

Fact 1: China’s population grew by only 35 percent in the century up to 1949.

Fact 2: China’s population doubled under Mao.

Fact 3: Chinese women were having 6 or 7 babies in 1949. By the time of Mao’s death fertility was around 3.5 per woman (No one argues this fact – easily verified by current studies of the age structure of China’s population).

So why did China’s population explode under Mao? The only possible logical answer is mortality drastically declined under Mao.

That is the only possible answer.

And this is accepted in all the academic literature of this period.

“China’s growth in life expectancy from 35~40 in 1949 to 65.5 in 1980 ranks as the most rapid sustained increase in documented global history.”
http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/23743/AHPPwp_29.pdf

June 26, 2012 @ 9:53 pm | Comment

Or one could examine the dramatic fluctuation of births which occurred during Mao’s reign, including the existence of a birth rate higher than 1949 in years immediately subsequent to the GLF.

Found on page 8 when one downloads this article from Population Bulletin in June of 2004:
http://www.google.co.kr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=chinese%20population%2020th%20century&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.prb.org%2Fsource%2F59.2chinaspopnewtrends.pdf&ei=qr_pT52zAcnLmAXRj9GeDg&usg=AFQjCNGRhiZIVUcS3K080DZxHrf-K1iEzQ&cad=rjt

Pay attention to the sources.

June 26, 2012 @ 10:15 pm | Comment

Handler:

Thanks for the source.

The birth rate was higher than 1949 for only about 3 or 4 years of the 27 years of Maoist rule. And it was not that much higher than 1949 at that.

The average birth rate over the Maoist era was about half what it was in 1949.

The other interesting thing is the GLF death rate (from your source). The only year where mortality was higher than 1949, was 1960 (25/1000).

25/1000 death rate was more or less typical for other developing nations in 1960.

Epic. Fail.

June 26, 2012 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

“The birth rate was higher than 1949 for only about 3 or 4 years of the 27 years of Maoist rule. And it was not that much higher than 1949 at that.

The average birth rate over the Maoist era was about half what it was in 1949.”

Errr . . . you do knolw that 1949 was wartime, don’t you?

June 26, 2012 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Gil

Like the deeply idiotic Li Minqi, some individuals can’t resist taking population statistics from war years to support pro-Mao positions.

Apart from that, it shouldn’t need to be pointed out–but obviously it does–that declining birth rates after an enormous population boom (which is how J. Au-Yeung gets his average, and through that his total population argument) may not mean much in terms of addressing the total number of births (and their impact on the total population), since the birth rate is a ratio based on total population.

J. Au-Yeung

“25/1000 death rate was more or less typical for other developing nations in 1960.”

But still wholly atypical for China, wouldn’t you say?

June 26, 2012 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken so quickly. It’s not that the rate itself is based on total population, but that one has to consider a multiplier to arrive at the impact of birth rate on total population.

June 26, 2012 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

Oh, and the birth rate wasn’t higher than 1949 for 3 or 4 years. Clearly there were two periods when the birth rate was higher under Mao’s reign, each of a duration of 3 or 4 years.

June 26, 2012 @ 11:36 pm | Comment

Handler:

No one denies 1960 was a disastrous year. No one. But we look at the record as a whole. And China was hit by massive natural disasters during that time. Refer to the work “Famine – a history” by Cormac O’Grada (the same reviewer that JustRecently effusively praises).

The years of the GLF were from 1958 to 1961.

The average annual mortality over the period of the Great Leap was (from your source): 16.55 per thousdand/ per year

So over the period of the GLF mortality was still well under the 1949 figure of 20 per thousand per year.

June 26, 2012 @ 11:42 pm | Comment

“25/1000 death rate was more or less typical for other developing nations in 1960.”
—man, what is it with CCP apologists and Mao worshipers and their incessant need to make irrelevant comparisons? China’s life expectancy did better than other contemporary developing nations during Mao’s reign. That’s great…but that was also his job. How does that justify, excuse, explain, or negate the epic failure of his GLF? I’ve asked this several times, but even a hard-core apologist like J A Y doesn’t seem to have much of a response.

And as Gil and Handler point out, rather silly to use wartime mortality figures as the point of comparison for GLF. Why not look at a few years preceding and a few years after GLF, to get a better sense? For instance, Figure 1 on Page 6 of the link supplied by Handler shows quite a blip in death rate between 1958 and 1963 (roughly), which interrupted a downward mortality trend that occurred from 1949-1958, then resumed (albeit at a smaller slope) from 1964 until reaching steady state starting in 1979. So one wonders what happened from 1958-1963…J A Y, any brilliant guesses?

June 26, 2012 @ 11:46 pm | Comment

So the spike is to be measured not by what went colossally wrong and how many people died unnecessarily, but by, you know, saying the number of deaths did not add up to as many as were dying before…in war time. And this from the individual who said above, “During a war different rules apply.” Impressive.

June 26, 2012 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

Oh, and speaking of that graph, I wonder what happened to the birth rate. It plummets then recovers during the same timeframe in which the death rate spikes then recovers. I wonder what happened from 1958-1963 to account for a drastic spike in death rates AND drastic drop in birth rates that completely contrasts the trends of both in the years immediately preceding and following the time period in question. J A Y? Any phenomenal insights?

June 26, 2012 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

China’s life expectancy did better than other contemporary developing nations during Mao’s reign.

Thank you SK Cheung.

That’s great…but that was also his job. How does that justify, excuse, explain, or negate the epic failure of his GLF?

A combination of reasons. The worst climatic conditions in a century was a big contributor. I refer you to Cormac O’Grada’s excellent “Famine – a history”.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:00 am | Comment

Apart from that, it shouldn’t need to be pointed out–but obviously it does–that declining birth rates after an enormous population boom (which is how J. Au-Yeung gets his average, and through that his total population argument) may not mean much in terms of addressing the total number of births (and their impact on the total population), since the birth rate is a ratio based on total population.

An utterly idiotic and innumerate comment —to anyone looking at the chart.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:04 am | Comment

“The worst climatic conditions in a century was a big contributor.”
—and Mao’s GLF was an even bigger contributor. This thread is not about a total account of Mao’s reign. It’s about the GLF. So the fact that mortality was better at other times is moot. And his job wasn’t to reverse encouraging mortality trends and make things dramatically worse for Chinese people for 4 years, but that’s what he did, and even a worshiper like you simply has nowhere to run and hide from that fact. I’ve read JR’s link. O’Grada takes issue with some of Dikkoter’s methods and the results of his calculations, which is fair enough. But there is no discounting of the overall conclusion, which is that the GLF was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, courtesy of Mao.

Now, you’re not a cherry picker, are you? Actually, I’m sure you are, but it amuses me to point it out to you nonetheless. Why not tackle that graph in Handler’s link that I referred to in the second half of #153, and in #155? C’mon, I’m looking for brilliant insights from a Mao worshiper, and right now, you’ll have to do.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:11 am | Comment

“An utterly idiotic and innumerate comment —to anyone looking at the chart”

And realizes that China doesn’t only have 1000 people.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:11 am | Comment

I wonder what happened from 1958-1963 to account for a drastic spike in death rates AND drastic drop in birth rates that completely contrasts the trends of both in the years immediately preceding and following the time period in question. J A Y? Any phenomenal insights?

Where did I say that the GLF was not a disaster.

The GLF was the worst period in the history of the PRC. We all know that.

But it was particularly disastrous in the context of the overall outstanding performance of China in reducing mortality.

If Mao had not reduced mortality to a very low level, before and after the Great Leap, the so-called ‘excess’ deaths would have been a lot less.

Thus while other developing countries had more or less consistently GLF mortality rates during the 1950s, and did far less to drop their overall mortality than China did.

So Mao is condemned for an aberrant period in mortality. Whereas those third world leaders who had mortality levels at least as high as the GLF are not condemned….because they maintained these levels over a longer period!

June 27, 2012 @ 12:13 am | Comment

If you condemn Mao for the GLF then that is fair enough.

But then the leader of other developing nations should be condemned even more.

An analogy:

If I my average grade over the years is this:
A A A A D D A A A A A

And yours is this:

D D D D D D C C C B B

Who has done better overall?

Of course it is me.

Why should I be condemned more than you for getting two D’s.

Mao is condemned because he performed badly for a certain period, relative to his otherwise good performance.

Whereas the leaders of other developing nations are not condemned – because they had consistently bad performance.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Guys, hasn’t this gone on long enough? It’s apparent how Au-Yeung keeps hammering away at one theme to divert attention from the actual topic, and it’s getting painfully repetitive. And he keeps using arguments we’ve seen from “Wayne” aka Mongol Warrior. Not that I think they are the same person, but their arguments are identical.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:26 am | Comment

“Where did I say that the GLF was not a disaster.
The GLF was the worst period in the history of the PRC. We all know that.”
—actually, I wasn’t sure you were aware of it. Good that you can stipulate to those things.

“If Mao had not reduced mortality to a very low level, before and after the Great Leap, the so-called ‘excess’ deaths would have been a lot less.”
—and if Mao hadn’t done his goofy GLF, ditto.

“So Mao is condemned for an aberrant period in mortality.”
—when the aberration is of his doing, what else were you expecting? A parade…oh, scratch that, I think he did organize those once or twice during the GLF.

Other third world leaders can be condemned too, of course. But it’s simply a tu quoque to do it here, on a GLF thread. That others were doing it too doesn’t make it OK for Mao to have done it.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:26 am | Comment

“If you condemn Mao for the GLF then that is fair enough.

But then the leader of other developing nations should be condemned even more.”
—finally, the light bulb comes on for you, eh? You should go to blogs devoted to those other developing nations, and condemn their leaders to your heart’s content. There, it would at least be relevant.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:29 am | Comment

You should go to blogs devoted to those other developing nations, and condemn their leaders to your heart’s content.

You are being rather disingenuous. The leaders of India, Indonesia, and other developing nations are rarely condemned in the Western media the way Mao is. Only Mao is called a mass murderer. This is in spite of that fact that the Maoist era seeing “the most rapid sustained increase [in life expectancy] in documented global history.”
http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/23743/AHPPwp_29.pdf

In any case I don’t nearly believe that Mao is responsible for the cock-up as you would have it. Climate played a huge part.

But you are obviously not going to agree with this. Fair enough.

So let’s take your point of view SK Cheung.

You admit take my point on general mortality declines and life expectancy.

You hold Mao mostly responsible for the GLF disaster.

But this period of unusually high mortality was for three years of his 27 year reign.

So don’t you think 70 good 30 bad (or even 80 good 20 bad) is a reasonable assessment of Mao?

June 27, 2012 @ 12:41 am | Comment

“The leaders of India, Indonesia, and other developing nations are rarely condemned in the Western media the way Mao is.”
—that’s true. I’m not sure what would be an appropriate time or place for you to try to change that, and beatify Mao decades after his death. But I’m pretty sure a GLF thread on a China blog in 2012 would not be the time nor place.

“So don’t you think 70 good 30 bad (or even 80 good 20 bad) is a reasonable assessment of Mao?”
—not so fast, sport. We’ve only been talking GLF. There are other things on the ledger, most significant of which would be CR. And mortality is only part of the equation. If you looked at mortality alone, and saw that the death rate from 1979 to 2010 is basically flat, you might be inclined to conclude that nothing has changed for Chinese people since 1979. And you’d be wrong. So I’d say that basing an assessment of the totality on Mao’s reign on one metric alone is flawed. He did reduce mortality overall, and my principle is that the buck stops with him, good or bad, so he does get some credit for that. But he was also picking the low-lying fruit in terms of mortality reduction (ie it was much easier for him to produce such huge reductions in mortality based on his starting point than, say, Hu Jintao could possibly hope for given Hu’s starting point). Also, China in 1949 was dirt poor. China in 1976 was still pretty dirt poor. And look what’s happened since. Of course, you could argue that every single thing that took place after 1976 could not have taken place without Mao leaving the country the way it was in 1976. But Mao took over a pretty backward country, and left it pretty backward. The true “great leap” for China only came after Mao. He did some good, especially in the beginning. He was piss poor for significant chunks in the middle. And then he was a dinosaur that just got in the way, and it was good riddance by the end.

June 27, 2012 @ 1:00 am | Comment

For those still interested, a useful table of data culled from the China Statistical Yearbook may be found on page 17 of this book:

http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=oAjhWScQ0bsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=governing+china%27s+population&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NezpT6-yJK3nmAWn-JGZDg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=governing%20china's%20population&f=false

June 27, 2012 @ 1:11 am | Comment

I don’t think that India’s political class gets the same share of criticism, even though famine and malnourishment respectively have been a continuity in its colonial and post-1947 years.

To compare in this field is always sensitive, and doesn’t do justice to the victims of either policies of terror, or policies of indifference. But I think this thread shows that you can’t leave a topic aside when at least one commenter insist on discussing it, and at least one (or more) insist on replying.

Either way – analogies have been used above, and I’d like to add one, as it won’t make this discussion worse.

When people attack me, try to change my conscience by force against me, or loved ones, or when they actively do evil in other ways, chances are that I’ll resent them more than I’d resent car drivers who ignore me on a roadside, after an accident. The way Mao – and his successors – try to engineer not only society, but also its “software”, i. e. the individual mind -, is something not only Westerners, but also, well, Indian citizens, for example, see with unease, or horror, or however their temper makes them react.

That doesn’t absolve India’s political class, or economic decision-makers, from their responsibilities, or from any of the suffering that is still going on. But what some fenqings seem to view as a double standard – a global “failure” to equate India and China, or to put China before India, in terms of ethics – is actually a very natural global reaction to a social engineering aproach that doesn’t fall short of ethical standards, but actively violates them.

June 27, 2012 @ 1:19 am | Comment

I would like to say a few things in defense of Au-Yeung’s role here. I think I’ve made it clear enough that I despise his character. I’m also pity him somewhat, because I believe that his way of defending Maoism is to quite an extent the product of structural, and maybe open, state violence.

But he is propelling the debate in this special case, and I don’t care too much if he is MW (I guess he is), or someone else.

June 27, 2012 @ 1:23 am | Comment

JR

On that note, what do you think of Bakken’s The Exemplary Society?

June 27, 2012 @ 1:26 am | Comment

To be frank, Handler, I have only read two big books a year during the past decade, and Bakken’s hasn’t been one of them. Can you give me a clue about the society it describes?

June 27, 2012 @ 1:33 am | Comment

Thanks!

June 27, 2012 @ 1:37 am | Comment

It’s a bit dated (though blessed with forethought), and his methodology is old-school. I also can’t keep from criticizing it for not engaging in what could have been a fertile analysis of Agamben’s brief treatment of the exemplum as the reciprocal of the exception, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s worth a serious reading for his treatment of deviance alone. And his coverage of scholastic engineering at the level of the subject in China is one of only two books I feel have adequately treated the topic–the other being Evasdottir’s Obedient Autonomy.

June 27, 2012 @ 1:48 am | Comment

pardon. And his coverage of …makes it one of only two books…

June 27, 2012 @ 1:50 am | Comment

“When people attack me, try to change my conscience by force against me, or loved ones, or when they actively do evil in other ways, chances are that I’ll resent them more than I’d resent car drivers who ignore me on a roadside, after an accident.”

Sorry. The fact is most Chinese supported the revolution before and after its success. And Mao is still widely revered in China. So there is no resentment there. Perhaps Chinese like me have been ‘brainwashed’ into thinking as such. But then we are all the product of our environment. You are either ‘brainwashed’ one way or another.

The video itself is an example of ‘brainwashing’. You yourself sort of see this….hence your linking to the excellent O’Grada review.

India is not match for neighbouring China when it comes to social development indicators, eminent economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said. “There is a huge gap there (on social front) as China is one of the best performers in terms of social indicators,” Sen said while speaking at the Indian Economic Association convention here.
http://tinyurl.com/73okyhm

June 27, 2012 @ 2:36 am | Comment

The way Mao – and his successors – try to engineer not only society, but also its “software”, i. e. the individual mind

And you don’t think the religious indoctrination that supports an evil system of human degradation such as the caste system is not some from of evil ‘engineering’ of the individual mind?

Perhaps that is why the Indian Maoists are seeing such popular support in India.

What is more moral. Maoism which advocates human equality, or the Hindu religious system which treats some human beings as ‘untouchable’?

June 27, 2012 @ 2:43 am | Comment

Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work on famine, points out that in 1949 China and India had striking similarities in their social and economic development. But, Sen goes on to say, over the next three decades, “there is little doubt that as far as morbidity, mortality, and longevity are concerned, China has a large and decisive lead over India.” As a result, Sen estimates that close to four million fewer people would have died in India in 1986 alone if India had had Mao’s health care system and food distribution network. (Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), pp. 205, 214.)

Noam Chomsky made an interesting calculation using Sen’s data…. “in India the democratic capitalist ‘experiment’ since 1947 has caused more deaths than in the entire history of the ‘colossal, wholly failed…experiment’ of communism everywhere since 1917: over 100 million deaths by 1979, tens of millions more since, in India alone.” (Noam Chomsky, “Millennial Visions and Selective Vision, Part One,” Z Magazine (January 10, 2000)

JustRecently displays an appalling indifference to human life and suffering. India’s ‘excess’ deaths over China since 1949, at this stage, likely tops 150 million.

June 27, 2012 @ 2:47 am | Comment

Guys, hasn’t this gone on long enough?

It’s obviously for you to decide when it’s been enough and when to close a thread, as it’s your blog, Richard, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve just learned about a book from Handler which is going to be my summer holiday reading, and I’d appreciate if this thread wouldn’t get closed. A lot can be said in favor of more strict moderation, of course, but I like to think of PD threads as quarries – and I don’t mind having to do some mining to benefit from them.

June 27, 2012 @ 2:56 am | Comment

SKC:
“But he was also picking the low-lying fruit in terms of mortality reduction (ie it was much easier for him to produce such huge reductions in mortality based on his starting point than, say, Hu Jintao could possibly hope for given Hu’s starting point).”

True. And of course when one has raised life expectancy to a certain level, it becomes harder and harder. Also under Mao, the population was younger and that of course helps lower the mortality numbers.

But the point is China under Mao outperformed other comparable developing countries. So for that Mao deserves credit.

The CR saw the largest gains in life expectancy in the history of the PRC.
http://tinyurl.com/7vnm4sb

Furthermore literacy also improved under the CR…refer work by Han Dongping.

“Of course, you could argue that every single thing that took place after 1976 could not have taken place without Mao leaving the country the way it was in 1976″

Actually SK you are right:
These earlier health improvements and growth of the working-age population contributed to China’s unprecedented economic growth for the past quarter century. Wang and Mason (2008) estimate that between 1982 and 2000, about 15 percent of China’s rapid growth in output per capita stemmed from the demographic dividend (Bloom and Williamson [1998] estimate that one-quarter to one-third of the growth rates in the “East Asian miracle” stemmed from the demographic dividend.)

And there is this Harvard research:
“However, the authors note, China’s economy has exploded, expanding by 8.1 percent per capita per year on average between 1980 and 2000, while in the same time period India saw a sustained growth rate in income per capita of 3.6 percent–a rate that, while rapid by the standards of most developing economies, is modest compared to China’s.

What accounts for the difference? Part of the answer, the HSPH team suggests, is that dramatic demographic changes in China began decades before those in India. After 1949, China’s Maoist government invested heavily in basic health care, creating communal village and township clinics for its huge rural population. That system produced enormous improvements in health: From 1952 to 1982, infant mortality in China dropped from 200 to 34 deaths per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy rose from 35 years to 68.”
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/rvw_summerfall06/rvwsf06_bloom.html

June 27, 2012 @ 3:00 am | Comment

Pulling up from the details for a moment, I think one of the larger issues we should consider here is how did the Chinese Communist Party retain the institutional confidence to embark on Deng’s one-man-show of economic reforms when Mao’s one-man-show failed hard.

This issue is critical because the institutional confidence to embark on continued economic reform, say, to a consumption-driven economy, is going to shape the next ten years of China much more than any other political factor at play today.

June 27, 2012 @ 3:41 am | Comment

But Mao took over a pretty backward country, and left it pretty backward. The true “great leap” for China only came after Mao. He did some good, especially in the beginning. He was piss poor for significant chunks in the middle. And then he was a dinosaur that just got in the way, and it was good riddance by the end.

I think most Chinese would agree with that sentiment. The affection China feels for Mao is not borne out of respect for results, like Deng or Zhu Rongji, but rather because Mao was the answer to a century of national humiliation, a sort of extended middle finger to the West, if you will. I think everyone here can agree that Mao injected a sense of “dignity” into China that Jiang Kai-shek (nor any leader after Mao) ever had.

The real question is, was it worth it though?

June 27, 2012 @ 3:45 am | Comment

“But the point is China under Mao outperformed other comparable developing countries. So for that Mao deserves credit.”
—So we are in agreement then. Mao deserves credit for some of the things that occurred under his watch, and rightfully deserves scorn and disdain for other things that occurred under his watch. I guess the relative emphasis one puts on his achievements and failures will determine his overall evaluation.

If you feel that Mao deserves 15% credit for what has happened in China since 1979, I suppose that can simply get factored into the overall assessment of his reign. But China might have done better still, and/or started its “leap” sooner, but for the GLF.

++++++++++++++++++++++

To T-Co,
I think you’ve noted in the past that China has evolved from the strong-man routine to one of committee effort. Of course a committee still needs to be led, but at least it might encourage consensus rather than leadership by dictate. I agree the evolution to a consumer-driven economy will be key. I’m no economist. For such an evolution to occur, what does the CCP need to do, and what can it actually do that’s within its scope of influence? Reduction of the reach of state-owned enterprises? Banking/currency regulation? I guess what I’m getting at is this: compared to Deng’s stewardship that completely changed China’s economic course from Mao’s reign, is there anything as vital and fundamental that needs to be changed, and can be changed, by the CCP?

“The real question is, was it worth it though?”
—that’s a great question…and it depends on who you ask. I would agree that Mao restored national pride, and that’s certainly worth something, though its worth is somewhat nebulous and impossible to measure.

June 27, 2012 @ 6:54 am | Comment

I dare say the latest furore I read about regarding teh aborting of a 7 month old foetus is the legacy of Mao’s successful repopulation of China
Latest thing in the NYT http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/world/asia/chinese-family-in-forced-abortion-case-still-under-pressure.html?ref=global-home

Does this mean the GLF was successful, ultimately, or not? Seems to me that 30 years of fairly draconian population control measures would suggest a failure…

June 27, 2012 @ 8:51 am | Comment

The affection China feels for Mao is not borne out of respect for results, like Deng or Zhu Rongji, but rather because Mao was the answer to a century of national humiliation

I think that’s right from the CCP history book / Red Star over China, etc., t_co. One might refer to it as a “Stockholm syndrome”, just as well.

June 27, 2012 @ 9:16 am | Comment

@JR, #185
My wife refers to it more as “brainwashing” – she was taught from an early age to love Mao.

June 27, 2012 @ 9:26 am | Comment

t_co

“I think everyone here can agree that Mao injected a sense of “dignity” into China that Jiang Kai-shek (nor any leader after Mao) ever had.”

I certainly cannot. If dignity is the natural outcome of ignorant bumptiousness, maybe. But neither his handling of domestic crises nor his foreign policy suggest anything approaching dignity in China.

Most of Mao’s strains of DNA have been taken up by the PLA. In that body it’s considerably easier to see the dignity they reserve for themselves is really a form of fatuity. They are a typical Mao poem.

June 27, 2012 @ 9:40 am | Comment

To Mike 185:
I think it is arguable that there was a time and a place for population control in China. But as usual, it is not one where the ends justify the means. So forced abortion as a means of enforcing one child/population control is certainly deplorable.

Never thought of GLF as a population control measure. Was Mao culling people? That should get a rise out of some people here.

June 27, 2012 @ 9:45 am | Comment

S.K. Cheung

Perhaps there was a time and a place, but it is incontrovertible that Mao’s contribution to China’s population explosion was not simply in lowering mortality. He created the need for stricter population control at a later date through his promotion of births, his opposition to abortion and contraception, his suppression of census findings, and his belief that excessive growth in population would not be a problem.

The opening chapters in this book are pretty good on the subject.
http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=k7FdM07QfMoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=mao%27s+war+against+nature&hl=en&sa=X&ei=emvqT8DnBIfmmAWpr4jIAg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=mao's%20war%20against%20nature&f=false

A pretty powerful quote from a Chinese journalist within:

“Neither [my wife and I] wanted to have a baby, but contraception was discouraged and abortion forbidden by government policy. By 1952, contraceptive devices had disappeared from the market. I remember a man who worked at the Youth League Central and whose wife kept on having children until she was completely exhausted. She had eleven, and for every new birth she received a stipend. Mao Zedong had said that socialism was not threatened by population growth, and so women having larger families were rewarded.”

And if you look at the table I’ve linked to, you’ll see that the total fertility rate stayed above 6 for most of the first 20 years of Mao’s reign, and it never fell below 5.31, except for the decline in the GLF. This is the definition of exponential growth.

June 27, 2012 @ 10:33 am | Comment

But neither his handling of domestic crises nor his foreign policy suggest anything approaching dignity in China.

Well really, unless you are Chinese, it is not for you to decide what is dignity for them or what is not.

Just like as an individual I can’t decide for you whether you like chocolate ice cream more or vanilla ice cream more.

If most Chinese feel that Mao gave dignity to China (and it seems most Chinese, including myself do, and even Chinese who are otherwise not pro-communist, or even in some cases anti-communist), then that is a valid ‘feeling’.

Simply put if most Chinese feel that Mao gave China dignity, he then most certainly did. That is all that is required. That a majority of Chinese ‘feel’ it.

Of course as SKC puts it, ‘dignity’ though its worth is somewhat nebulous and impossible to measure. But then so are most things we strive for in life.

June 27, 2012 @ 10:34 am | Comment

And if you look at the table I’ve linked to, you’ll see that the total fertility rate stayed above 6 for most of the first 20 years of Mao’s reign, and it never fell below 5.31, except for the decline in the GLF. This is the definition of exponential growth.

Oh my god. You really are utterly innumerate.

Get a spreadsheet out. Crunch the data from the table you provide, with the crude birth and death rates and population.

Now subtract the final population say in 1976 from the figure for 1949.

Now do the same exercise, but replace the crude birth rate for each year of the Mao era with the 1949 rate ie 36/1000 (but maintaining the crude death rates under Mao).

You will see if the birth rate in 1949 had remained unchanged over the Mao era, you will end up with I think over one hundred million more population, than the case for the actual birth rates (or at least the birth rates you provide).

This of course can only imply that increased population under Mao was not because of the birth rates. Birth rates actually dragged down the population size to well under what it should have been, had birth rates been the same as that of 1949. Therefore the main factor to have caused the remarkable population increase under Mao must have been decreasing mortality.

I’ll do the exercise as well. And provide the link to it in a few hours.

June 27, 2012 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

To Handler:
“He created the need for stricter population control at a later date through his promotion of births”
—agreed. Mao wanted more warm bodies, and I think he thought physically more people would ward off foreign invasion or something like that. I was responding to Mike’s link about forced abortion, but I agree that the need for population control in China resulted in large part from Mao’s encouragement of a population explosion in the first place.

June 27, 2012 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

To J A Y,
your argument might appear to make some sense superficially, if you look only at the numbers without thinking about them more deeply. You’re fixated on the birth rate (per 1000). But here’s the thing: 1000 – 20 year old women will have far more babies than 1000 – 50 year old women. So you can’t just look at raw birth rate, but also factor in the age distribution that you’re applying the birth rate to.

http://www.google.co.kr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=chinese%20population%2020th%20century&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.prb.org%2Fsource%2F59.2chinaspopnewtrends.pdf&ei=qr_pT52zAcnLmAXRj9GeDg&usg=AFQjCNGRhiZIVUcS3K080DZxHrf-K1iEzQ&cad=rjt

Handler’s link above from #146 is highly instructive.

Figure 6 and the text on Page 21 are very useful.
“Declines in mortality and especially fertility have had more
lasting effects on the shape of the population. In 1964, with fertility levels still high and mortality just beginning to fall, the population structure had a classic pyramid shape, with a wide base and narrow top. But the population profile reveals the dramatic drop in fertility and surge in infant mortality during the famine spawned by the Great Leap Forward— which took a bite out of the 15-to-24-year-olds in 1964 and the 35- to-44-year-olds in 1982. The 1982
pyramid’s narrowing base reveals the effect of sharp fertility declines in the 1970s. The fertility declines are even more evident in the 2000 pyramid.”

The “total fertility rate” that Handler refers to incorporates the two concepts of birth rate and women of child-bearing age. Figure 3 on Page 11 of the same link.
“Total fertility rate is the total average number of children a woman would have, given current birth rates”
As Handler says, aside from GLF, it meets 1949 levels give or take, out till about 1970. And think about it: if the average woman has on average 6 children, how can the population not increase? Assuming a couple get married and stay married then remain monogamous, a TFR of anything above 2 will result in a population increase.

So I think you’re barking up the wrong tree with reduced mortality being the “main factor” in population growth. It’s one factor, that’s all.

June 27, 2012 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

SKC:
As Handler says, aside from GLF, it meets 1949 levels give or take, out till about 1970.

Yes. The total fertility rates average at slightly less than 6 per woman up till about 1960.

But here is where things go awry for you.

And think about it: if the average woman has on average 6 children, how can the population not increase?

Well women were having 6 children or more before 1949. So tell me, using the same ‘logic’, why did the population only increase by about 30 to 35% in the century up to 1949, but doubled during the Maoist era?

But here is where you really become unstuck:

So you can’t just look at raw birth rate, but also factor in the age distribution that you’re applying the birth rate to.

Sorry but that is exactly what I should be looking at, ie the crude birth rate, when calculating the influence of mortality, on population growth. The crude birth rate distills out all the other statistics and tells us the net result, whereas the total fertility rate is not affected by the age distribution of the population, but rather the inclination of each age cohort to have children, because it is the sum of the averages of the number of children each age cohort has.

You say “1000 – 20 year old women will have far more babies than 1000 – 50 year old women.” Which is correct. But it does not matter if you have 0.5, 1 times, 3 times, or 10 times the number of 50 year olds in the population as 20 year olds, when it comes to calculating total fertility rate. What only matters is the average number of children that each age cohort bears.

Again. The total fertility rate is independent of the age structure or spread of the women of a country (except of course they have to be of child-bearing age)

All we need to calculate the mortality rate is the crude birth rate and the population size.

If one has a bucket of water filled with a tap, but with a hole in its bottom, the rate of water draining away is the crude mortality per year, and the rate of flow of the tap is the crude birth rate per year.

If the crude birth rate more or less stays the same, but the level of water in the bucket rises, then the only explanation is the rate of draining away (mortality) must have decreased.

If the crude birth rate decreases (as it did in Maoist China), but the level of water in the bucket goes twice as high as before, then wow—-we must be getting a real reduction in the drainage rate (or crude mortality).

(note of course the analogy with the population is a little different, because the change/time is affected by population size —-but that is no problem, because for mortality and birth rate, it is per thousand of population).

Now of course one would ask, why did population explode under Mao.

We know the crude birth rates either remained the same, but were on the whole lower than the pre-1949 numbers. Refer Handlers chart’s for these. So it is likely that mortality declined dramatically in order for the population to double in 27 years, when it had only gone up during the 27 years immediately before 1949 (war years I know).

Of course the ‘time history’ of the rates of change is also important. Perhaps initial massive rates of growth created a large population size quickly, and then lower rates simply maintained that size (although by visual inspection, that is not the case with Handler’s graphs).

But I agree. Simply averaging the annual rates over 27 years is not the best way to go about things. So what is the best way?

Well the best way is to run a ‘time history’ analysis with a spreadsheet as suggested in my post#191 above.

If it can be shown that maintaining a 1949 crude birth rate over 27 years of Maoist rule would have resulted in a higher population than what came to have been the case, then it is quite safe to say that a mortality reduction was the significant thing that changed (from before) leading to the population explosion under Mao.

June 27, 2012 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

“So tell me, using the same ‘logic’, why did the population only increase by about 30 to 35% in the century up to 1949″
—do we know that the total fertility rate was the same for a substantial amount of time before 1949? That’s not in the graph, though the data may be available elsewhere. And again, as mentioned previously, lack of war after 1949 may have something to do with the population increasing, don’t you think? Don’t worry, Mao gets some credit for that.

“All we need to calculate the mortality rate is the crude birth rate and the population size.”
—huh? Why do you need to “calculate” it when the data is already in the graph on Page 6 (fig 1)?

And without a “bucket”, fig 1 tells you precisely why the population was increasing: at any time point apart from GLF years, birth rate exceeds mortality rate. Those numbers were the reality. What you’re suggesting is to “assume” constant birth rates. Why would you assume that? We know that Mao encouraged “more” births and “more” people, because he thought like some country bumpkin that China would be safer based on sheer numbers alone. We also know what the actual birth rates were. What we don’t know is how the birth rate trend may have differed WITHOUT Mao’s encouragement and resultant policies (like curbing contraception). Although birth rates did slowing decrease under Mao, they could have been artificially higher than what they would have been, strictly because of Mao.

June 28, 2012 @ 3:02 am | Comment

Fertility generally declined under Mao (refer link provided by Handler.

“Mortality and fertility declines after
1950 were remarkable and swift (see
Figure 1, page 6).”
(also your linked article of post #193)

SKC says: “do we know that the total fertility rate was the same for a substantial amount of time before 1949?”

It 6 is probably a conservative number. From a 1930 to 1934 study:

“The result is the most authoritative demographic
data collected on the Chinese mainlaind prior to the fertility
survey conducted by the State Family Planning Commission in
1982…..total fertility rates of 6.86, 6.24, 5.58, and 6.8

http://www.bupedu.com/lms/admin/uploded_article/A.47.pdf

SKC says “huh? Why do you need to “calculate” it when the data is already in the graph on Page 6″

This allows us to redo the spreadsheet and see how big China’s population would have been had birth rates remained the same as pre-revolutionary levels.

We know that China’s population exploded under Mao. So what changed from pre-revolutionary China? Was it from an increase in the rate of ‘baby production’ or from less people dying? What was more significant?

A good test to start off with is this, as stated in my two previous posts. Use a spreadsheet and simply assume the same birth rate as pre- 1949 for the period 1949 to 1976. What population do you end up with?

If less than the actual, then increased baby production did have something to do with the near doubling of the population. If more than the actual it will be clear that increased baby production was not the reason for the population rise, but mortality decline was much more important.

By the way, Handler (particularly) and yourself simply do not have a clue as to the difference between birth rate and fertility rate.

June 28, 2012 @ 5:04 am | Comment

Cheung, if this exchange about statistics adds value for you, I think you absolutely should keep discussing it with Au-Yeung. It’s just that I’m not even trying to copy anymore, and I’m not sure about everyone else (apart from Handler, maybe).

What I can predict, though, statistically or intuitively, is that this thread will soon reach comment #250. Probably some time during Thursday.

June 28, 2012 @ 5:16 am | Comment

@JAY
“Well really, unless you are Chinese, it is not for you to decide what is dignity for them or what is not.”

Why? Is dignity and it’s measurement a purely Chinese thing?

June 28, 2012 @ 5:27 am | Comment

“This allows us to redo the spreadsheet and see how big China’s population would have been had birth rates remained the same as pre-revolutionary levels.”
—and the reason to do that would be…

“We know that China’s population exploded under Mao. So what changed from pre-revolutionary China? Was it from an increase in the rate of ‘baby production’ or from less people dying? What was more significant?”
—as I said earlier, birth rate exceeds death rate throughout, except for GLF years. By definition, population will increase. Reduced lowering of birth rate (as explicitly desired by Mao to make “more people”) AND reduced mortality are both contributory. You will get nowhere trying to show that it is just one and not the other.

The population exploded under Mao. So you can “credit” him with that. And once he kicked the bucket, China realized she was drowning under the weight of over-population, hence the one-child policy and varying degrees of draconian measures in order to bring China’s population under some semblance of control. Since Mao created those circumstances, you can “credit” him for that as well.

June 28, 2012 @ 5:41 am | Comment

It’s probably not just foreigners who “must not do that”*), Mike – certain Chinese citizens don’t seem to appear on Beijing’s invitation list either. The CCP will do its best to make sure that only people with emancipated minds who truly discover that trusting the party’s central committee, implementing the party’s road map, etc., is more reliable than any other method other people may teach them will decide this thing.

Which may not be an easy civic task for Aung-Yeung though, as today’s CCP, from his views presented here, must look sort of “rightist” to him.
________

*) To help avoiding further mess-ups in the thread I’m linking to: the issue discussed there for the duration of three or four comment would actually belong here (“Great Leap Forward”), not there (“China Airborne”).

June 28, 2012 @ 5:51 am | Comment

as I said earlier, birth rate exceeds death rate throughout, except for GLF years. By definition, population will increase.

A ridiculous statement. But as I said, birth rates (and fertility) declined under Mao. But they exceeded death rates, because death rates were plunging at an almost historically unprecedented rate (and hence the most rapid improvement in life expectancy in history).

As your link said fertility as well as mortality declined under Mao. Only mortality declined more. Hence the population explosion.

Since Mao created those circumstances, you can “credit” him for that as well.

Mao created those circumstances not through increased births (again, fertility declined under Mao), but simply by having health policies which proportionately saved more lives than any other developing country at the time.

So are you saying SKC, that (a) Mao should have put in coercive birth control measures, or (b)Mao should not have decreased mortality to the extent it was?

So yes you can blame him for doing these things.

But you cannot blame him for increased fertility and birth rates. Because these things simply did not happen.

June 28, 2012 @ 6:21 am | Comment

Is dignity and it’s measurement a purely Chinese thing?

No. But we were talking about whether or not Mao gave dignity to the Chinese people.

An analogy:

Whether or not a son makes his parents proud, is simply based on whether or not his parents ‘feel’ proud of him. He might be a mass murderer or a saint, but if his parents ‘feel’ proud of him, then he has made them proud, regardless of the opinion of outsiders.

June 28, 2012 @ 6:36 am | Comment

“birth rate exceeds death rate throughout, except for GLF years. By definition, population will increase….A ridiculous statement”
—huh? The number born in any given year exceeds the number dying in any given year, population increases. How is that ridiculous? 10 people are born in a year, 5 people die that same year, and what, you’re saying population goes down?!? What on earth are you talking about?

“As your link said fertility as well as mortality declined under Mao.”
—actually, the fertility rate in the graph hovered around 6 until just about 1970 (except GLF years), and only declined in the last few years of Mao’s reign.

“Mao created those circumstances not through increased births”…
—but by maintaining births at an artificially high level (ie birth rates would have decreased faster but for Mao) given his STATED DESIRE to have more births. He didn’t induce people to have MORE than they did before, but he did reduce the rate of decline.

“Mao should have put in coercive birth control measures,”
—nope, no need for coercive methods. Allowing contraception, for starters, would’ve been just fine.

You can give credit to Mao for decreasing mortality. You also need to give him “credit” for the population explosion that necessitated the social policies like OCP after he was gone.

June 28, 2012 @ 6:44 am | Comment

“birth rate exceeds death rate throughout, except for GLF years. By definition, population will increase”

The statement is obviously true, but nontheless ridiculous statement in the context you were using it – ie to explain why population exploded under Mao, but not before.

Birth rates typically exceed death rates for almost all countries—apart from Russia, perhaps. And birth rates exceeded death rates in pre-revolutionary China — population still grew albeit slowly.

But why did it explode under Mao? Because mortality rates plunged, relative to birth rates (which still declined overall).

“He didn’t induce people to have MORE than they did before, but he did reduce the rate of decline…. Allowing contraception, for starters, would’ve been just fine.”

Views on birth control fluctuated but it was only in the early years that the intent was to not do anything. By 1957, the inclination was to control births:

Chairman Mao Zedong said in a 1957 speech that he wished for the population to stay at 600 million for many years…..in the lead-up to the Great Leap Forward in 1958, laws banning birth control, sterilization, and abortion were repealed, and China started to mass produce and distribute contraceptives, including, condoms, diaphragms, and spermicidal jelly.
http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall07/Henneberger/History.html

SKC says:
“by maintaining births at an artificially high level” and then almost in the same breath says “He didn’t induce people to have MORE than they did before”

So how on heck was the birth rate kept artificially high? (apart from some early ban on contraceptives —which would not have affected the vast majority of the population anyway in the rural areas).

The birth rate and fertility rate were never artificially high because they either hovered at pre 1949 levels, or were less than pre-1949 levels.

Are you then saying, SKC, that the birth rates and fertility rates before 1949 were all ‘artificially’ high?

June 28, 2012 @ 7:23 am | Comment

Anyway, I have to sign off now. I’m spending far too much time on this.

1. Far less people died in China during the Maoist era(in relation to population size) than any other developing country of the time.

2. Fertility and birth rates declined under Mao

3. Population doubled under Mao

4. Mao is the leader who has saved more lives than any other in history (if China had mortality rates of India, 100 million more would have died —refer Amartya Sen).

5. The unstoppable momentum of truth is on our side.

6. It is amusing to see Handler and SKC try to wriggle out the way of the freight train of Marxist Leninist truth before it smashes them to smithereens.

义和团万岁!

MW ML WL

June 28, 2012 @ 7:52 am | Comment

“No. But we were talking about whether or not Mao gave dignity to the Chinese people.”…in a blog started by an American, written in English and with contributers from all over the world…..
Ummmm, so, correct me if I am wrong, do opinions of others then have to be ratified and approved by a select committee, the committee chosen and approved by the Chinese people? Or is it possible that others might, maybe, have an opinion which they may wish to share.
I know it’s a hard concept to understand in mainland China….

June 28, 2012 @ 7:52 am | Comment

Oh, and a crappy analogy. If he is good, his parents pride is vindicated. If he is bad, his parents are wrong.

June 28, 2012 @ 7:56 am | Comment

Does anyone else see serious discrepancies between the official NIR and the official change in total population from that table?

June 28, 2012 @ 8:29 am | Comment

Does anyone else see serious discrepancies between the official NIR and the official change in total population from that table?

Not sure if I see them, Handler – but I’m going to dive into a hobby of my own in this comment, anyway – kind of meta-communication, or a try thereof. Here goes…

When a thread gets pretty long, and begins to resemble trench warfare, I believe it’s useful to look at how it works, or how it started. The following is my personal interpretation – not mainly about the contents, but about how the thread is moving. Don’t ask me what it is good for – it’s probably my curiosity about group dynamics, or about dynamics in interaction.

In my view, Au-Yeung has succeeded in pushing the original post into the background – to which degree, will depend on indididual perception. The thread has centered around statistics most of the time after comment #67, i. e. Matthew F Cooper‘s comment. It strikes me as odd that this statistics competition, which has mainly been exercised here from #67 on, was neither brought forward by Au-Yeung, nor t_co, nor S. K. Cheung, who have since discussed within its confines most of the time.

To which extent this process has pushed the post’s topic into the background will probably depend on the perception of whoever reads this post, and on how the thread continues. My impression – without much knowledge about statistic methodology myself – is that neither side will disprove the other. But the discussion has set an agenda, basically about how bad other developing countries had done, or how “great” Mao’s performance had actually been.

At least one of the academics who reviewed Dikötter‘s book – Cormac Ó Grádadidn’t dive very deep into statistics, even though he probably could build some numbers which, while unreliable, would be more carefully thought than the ones in this thread. Ó Gráda pointed out that even with improved health services, there would be an inertia in the degree to which “normal mortality rates” might have gone down during the first eight years of the PRC – a point which Dikötter apparently ignored, possibly because a stronger drop in mortality rates prior to 1958 would spell a rise in mortality rate during the GLF which would be all the more dramatic. Which, in turn, Dikötter wasn’t incline to state explicitly either, according to Ó Gráda.
All the same, Ó Gráda refers to the disaster as the greatest famine ever. That doesn’t keep apologists from prasing Ó Gráda – not because they particularly like that kind of statement, but because his review was the “best” thing they could realistically hope for.

But Ó Gráda didn’t try to develop a statistic of his own when he wrote his review. He probably didn’t think of such a task as a simple one. After all, he is a researcher and probably means science, not propaganda.

Hence my belief that the statistics offered in this thread don’t stand a great chance of arriving at the heart of the matter; especially not when the underlying motives are about if Mao deserves to become Miss Asia, or the Mr Universe of the developing world.

Most threads begin to wander after a while – that’s nothing exceptional. But I believe that I can predict a pattern on the next number of posts and threads here.

Au-Yeung will be back frequently. What spells an infinite loop (in my view, anyway), is a gain for him, compared to what he had achieved before (I don’t think that this is his first appearance on PD). He will be back to gain more “respect for the motherland”, more of the attention he has already got, and more of this relative kind of success. What will add to this is that there seems to be a strong desire on the part of his opposite numbers to prove him “wrong”. That is unlikely to work – and the ambition to make it work will probably start a process which is going to trollify otherwise honest commenters.

June 28, 2012 @ 8:59 am | Comment

@JR
Indeed. And regarding O’Young, I liked the way he signed off here
“It is amusing to see Handler and SKC try to wriggle out the way of the freight train of Marxist Leninist truth before it smashes them to smithereens.”
Marxist Leninist truth, eh? Lenin, the man that gave us “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” (according to various sources, anyway..)

June 28, 2012 @ 9:10 am | Comment

“but nontheless ridiculous statement in the context you were using it – ie to explain why population exploded under Mao, but not before.”
—this is the “context” I was using it in: “Reduced lowering of birth rate (as explicitly desired by Mao to make “more people”) AND reduced mortality are both contributory.” Of course, like any good cherry picker, you ignored that part.

“So how on heck was the birth rate kept artificially high? ”
—by encouraging people to have more children, and reducing access to contraception, which rendered the birth rate higher than it would have been (even though it was lower than before). IE. without those interventions, birth rate would have dropped further.

“The birth rate and fertility rate were never artificially high because they either hovered at pre 1949 levels, or were less than pre-1949 levels.”
—this is a ridiculous assumption. On what basis do you assume that birth rates would’ve remained at (or even near) pre 1949 levels? Notice the precipitous drop in birth rate as Mao approaches the kicking of the bucket in the early 1970s, before any OCP comes into play. The only time the birth rate drops during Mao’s reign before the early 70s is during GLF.

Yes, Mao can be credited with saving some lives, just as he can and should be blamed for costing some during GLF. And Mao did do his job as leader of China…when he wasn’t spending his time overseeing unnecessary deaths of Chinese people during GLF.

What the heck is “Marxist-Leninist truth” if not a laughable euphemism for the same old CCP apologist nonsense.

June 28, 2012 @ 9:34 am | Comment

SKC, read JR’s very wise comment above. No sense going on and on (I could have told you that 100 comments back).

I don’t think Au Yeung is Wayne/MW because he didn’t descend into evil personal insults, but his technique is exactly the same, shifting the discussion away from the horrors of the GLF and twisting the thread into a discussion of mortality rates, as though that somehow makes Mao’s very bad decisions (understatement of a lifetime) less bad. I had to marvel at just how skillfully he did this, because we let him do it. I accept some of the blame; I should have closed the thread days ago.

June 28, 2012 @ 9:39 am | Comment

Richard, I wrote under #169 that I do believe that it’s MW. My guess is that someone counselled him on how to restrain oneself – at least for a while ;-)

June 28, 2012 @ 9:41 am | Comment

I accept some of the blame; I should have closed the thread days ago.

I’m not sure about that, Richard. An extended period of troll-watching may help to deal with them more easily in future.

June 28, 2012 @ 9:45 am | Comment

JustRecently: that is an excellent precis of the way this threat has gone. However I do think neither Au Yeung or those who debate him are arguing what the actual statistics are or were —no one can ever know that. They are arguing over the statistics that are already out there.

So to do justice to Au Yeung, he simply takes Dikotter’s statistics (and yes, I think he was prompted by O’Grada’s review), and shows how they arrive at a result which he believes shows China’s mortality during the GLF was not exceptional by the standard of the developing world at the time. Whether or not that really was the case is another story altogether of course. But what he does do with the figures Dikotter presents, is I think, quite valid.

Hence my belief that the statistics offered in this thread don’t stand a great chance of arriving at the heart of the matter; especially not when the underlying motives are about if Mao deserves to become Miss Asia, or the Mr Universe of the developing world.

One can certainly do some statistics with the statistics which are at hand. Whether or not these statistics are accurate is another thing altogether. Handlers stats are from official sources, so I would doubt their accuracy, but certainly there is no harm in trying to make a point with the existing stats, as long as one bears in mind the picture they paint is unlikely to be authentic.

Interestingly Au Yeung’s claims about Mao and life expectancy (something new to me) and mortality decline, are not his claims. He provides impeccable sources to back these up —Harvard and Stanford studies, by researchers whom I presume, have done the proper statistical exercises. And there does not seem to be much out there in the field of China demographic studies which contradicts Au Yeungs claims of life expectancy under Mao.

June 28, 2012 @ 9:50 am | Comment

I’m inclined to agree, but MW usually used a Hong Kong IP address, and our new friend has posted with the same IP address in New York. But they are strikingly similar, so I, too, am suspicious. And on that note, I am closing this thread.

RDW, glad you found Au Yeung’s numbers so useful and the numbers he cites so impeccable.

June 28, 2012 @ 9:51 am | Comment

I’m amazed that you guys are spending so much time engaging the CCP apologist in his game. He can sit here and spin pseudo logic, meaningless statistics, and muster contrived equivocations all day, it doesn’t change the underlying reality that Mao, being both a supreme narcissist and egotist, caused the deaths of 10s of million of Chinese people. Why play his rationalizing mind games?

More interesting, and productive, is to deconstruct the mind of a CCP apologist, these fenqings who are doing so much to drive PRC FP towards the path of confrontation and imperialism circa 1930s Japan. How can someone who obviously has some degree of education and some degree of intellectual IQ have the emotional intelligence of a, to put it tactfully, donkey? I believe that the root of their handicapped mental condition lies in a deep seated insecurity and inferiority complex vis-a-vis the “West”. The psychology of an inferiority complex is telling:

-A persistent sense of inadequacy or a tendency to self-diminishment, sometimes resulting in excessive aggressiveness through overcompensation.
-a disorder arising from the conflict between the desire to be noticed and the fear of being humiliated, characterized by aggressiveness or withdrawal into oneself

Unable to differentiate between criticism of a well document mass murder and a corrupt morally debased political system and their own identity the fenqings/CCP apologists are compelled to come here and rationalize or equivocate every action of the CCP. Their “logic”, if it can be called that, and talking points are all strikingly similar. How do people who obviously have the intellectual ability to learn a foreign language [PRC fenqings in general, I don't know J A Y's background] and come study at western universities, be so emotionally stunted? I think this is the more important question to ask regarding apologists such as JAY, and is there a remedy to their condition since by ideology, mental ability, or in some cases monetary incentives, they are immune from critical though regarding PRC and the CCP. Or is the world at the mercy of a gargantuan petulant “Little Emperor” power that is armed with nuclear weapons, an imagined mandate to lord over Asia, and deep seated daddy issues.

June 29, 2012 @ 3:40 am | Comment

[...] (Via Peking Duck.) [...]

June 29, 2012 @ 4:26 am | Pingback

Somchai, your comment got stuck in my spam filter and then I shut the thread. I’m re-opening the thread in case anyone wants to react to your comment.

June 29, 2012 @ 8:09 am | Comment

Somchai
I think it is because somehow the CCP is China and China is the CCP. Criticism of the CCP is equated to criticism of China. I’m guessing the FQs we read are generally loners with cartoon visions of their ethnic importance.
For many, I think there has also been a few years of hate teaching going on. Look how the Opium War is brought out, as if by rote, without any thought as to why and how the whole thing came about. Despite this “indignation” at the humiliation of the Chinese, there is nothing taught about the humiliations heaped upon them by themselves – everything is the outsider’s fault, nothing is their fault.
Many European people have the same thing – ask many Serbs about the Yogoslav conflict and the reasons why it all happened. No mention of recent atrocities but plenty of history going back at least a millenium to justify why they were/are wronged.

June 29, 2012 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

Somchai is posting flamebait and he knows it. Not sure why you’d reopen a comment thread to let someone post what is essentially an extended ad hominem.

June 29, 2012 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

I wouldn’t go quite as far as Somchai, but I have often wondered about the CCP apologist mentality and the genesis thereof. And I do find it curious that they utilize such similar (if not identical) talking points.

June 29, 2012 @ 4:32 pm | Comment

I think this thread is even, t_co. It discusses “Mongol Warrior’s” input just as it discusses Somchai‘s. If the numbercrunching – even under the auspices of championing Mao Zedong – causes no offense, I can’t see why tries to deconstruct either complacency or inferiority complexes should cause offense.

I neither agree with Somchai’s psychological explanation, nor do I disagree with it, as this is a field I don’t know too well. But I think he makes a good point about nations with a long memory. In central Europe, you may add Germany and Italy to Serbia in that regard. Greece, too.

Somchai, I think your points are important. However, I do think that there is a complementary “Western” complacency that brings the conflict to a round figure, almost like a Yin-and-Yang logo. Complacency isn’t necessarily immoral – but it is no less dangerous than MW’s or “Joyce’s” (not to be confused with Joyce Lau) thuggish approach to history and current affairs. Too much of Western interaction with China seems to be based on the assumption that China’s political system will have to change, to fit into the current world order.

More interesting, and productive, is to deconstruct the mind of a CCP apologist, these fenqings who are doing so much to drive PRC FP towards the path of confrontation and imperialism circa 1930s Japan.
Yes and No. China is likely to view business / economics as a zero-sum game, but one that replaces war. That’s not necessarily good news, but one can only condemn a country’s actions once it has taken them – not out of a suspicion that it may choose that kind of action in future.

June 29, 2012 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

Many European people have the same thing – ask many Serbs about the Yogoslav conflict and the reasons why it all happened. No mention of recent atrocities but plenty of history going back at least a millenium to justify why they were/are wronged.

That’s true, Mike – but there is a number of European countries which have that kind of tic in common – Germany, Greece, and Italy, too. People in all those places – for different reasons, and I’m not trying to discuss their justifications now – feel that they had often been at the receiving end. As for Britain, we’d have to go back to the battle of Hastings, I suppose – it’s true that it isn’t remembered as a history of “victimhood” there. But then, it was a rather short affair, wasn’t it?

What strikes me about China is that resentment about bad treatment at home, and about aggression from abroad, have long merged. That’s a handy thing for a dictatorship. In case of a doubt, any ill feelings can be attributed to foreign, rather than domestic aggression.

June 29, 2012 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

@JR – Of course, even in central Europe things kind of fade in and out. The Poles may not love the Germans, but things are much less tense since the 80′s. In the meantime, dislike of the Russians has grown and grown.

June 29, 2012 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

As for a sense of being wronged in the UK based on ancient history, subsets of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish populations are where you’d find them the most.

June 29, 2012 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

Yep – “how green was my valley”.

June 30, 2012 @ 12:43 am | Comment

@t_co if this is flame bait it would only be because CCP apologists resent any analysis of their motivations which detract from the obvious runaround tactics we see here. If I had mentioned this in the first 10 comments you may have been justified, but after 200+ comments of spinning circles on the rationalization train I think it has become more relevant to this dialog.

But what are their motivations for so transparently attempting to turn this thread from a look at the GLF into a ‘baffle them with bullshit’ numbers game, with endless loops of contrived statistically analysis? How can someone excuse 10s of million of deaths under Mao during the GLF alone (not even mentioning the anti-rightist campaign, Cultural Rev, various other campaigns) with something as contrived (sorry to keep using that word but it is really the right descriptor) as AADDBBA grade for the CCP? And crediting Mao with Chinese people being able to take care of themselves later? Come on, Chinese people advanced and improved their economic positions IN SPITE of Mao NOT because of him. The CCP for the first half of its existence was the greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Chinese nation, only after they got out of the way with ‘gaige kaifang’. Mao deserves zero credit, he has and will always be a self aggrandizing opportunist in the annual of history, one who tread on the bodies of innumerable Chinese in the process.

I’m not a trained psychologist, neither am I former Thai PM Wongsuwat, but I think we can all agree that the mental condition of the fenqing is a unique and important case study for understanding the tenor and direction that PRC FP is developing.

June 30, 2012 @ 7:30 am | Comment

O/T

China has blocked searches for Xi Jinping because Bloomberg had a report about how his family is extremely rich (and ponders how that’s possible).

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-29/xi-jinping-millionaire-relations-reveal-fortunes-of-elite.html

Not that this is exactly a surprise, but maybe the extent of his family’s wealth might be a surprise to some.

June 30, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Comment

@Somchai

if this is flame bait it would only be because CCP apologists resent any analysis of their motivations which detract from the obvious runaround tactics we see here. If I had mentioned this in the first 10 comments you may have been justified, but after 200+ comments of spinning circles on the rationalization train I think it has become more relevant to this dialog.

I think you’re missing the point here if you call people apologists, and state that their arguments are runaround tactics when they disagree with yours. The point of comment threads or discussion anywhere is not necessarily to drive towards any particular point of view. It’s to discuss, and maybe learn something.

It’s flamebait not because the people who oppose your arguments resent you analyzing their motivations; it’s flamebait because when you tar people as being mentally unbalanced or having inferiority complexes for holding particular points of view, then it means you move the discussion from the topic at hand to a topic that is inherently lacking in educational value. How do you even analyze whether someone has an inferiority complex that motivates them to post arguments you disagree with? That’s a fool’s errand. Any argument could be made in any direction regarding that question.

But what are their motivations for so transparently attempting to turn this thread from a look at the GLF into a ‘baffle them with bullshit’ numbers game, with endless loops of contrived statistically analysis? How can someone excuse 10s of million of deaths under Mao during the GLF alone (not even mentioning the anti-rightist campaign, Cultural Rev, various other campaigns) with something as contrived (sorry to keep using that word but it is really the right descriptor) as AADDBBA grade for the CCP? And crediting Mao with Chinese people being able to take care of themselves later? Come on, Chinese people advanced and improved their economic positions IN SPITE of Mao NOT because of him. The CCP for the first half of its existence was the greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Chinese nation, only after they got out of the way with ‘gaige kaifang’. Mao deserves zero credit, he has and will always be a self aggrandizing opportunist in the annual of history, one who tread on the bodies of innumerable Chinese in the process.

This line of thinking is problematic, and lacking in educational value. You a) present the 10s of millions of deaths as a fact, when it’s clear that even though the figure is likely, it is by no means certain; and b) assume that anyone who doesn’t accept that argument is trying to “baffle with bullshit” (which is an ad hominem and irrelevant); c) it’s a strawman if you think that anyone here who disagrees with your PoV is somehow “excusing” any deaths in the GLF by rolling them into an overall evaluation of the CCP’s performance–no one has excused anybody or any organization for possible deaths during the GLF–they’ve simply excused overall performance from 1949 to the present day, which is a wholly different matter from simply arguing responsibility for the GLF; d) your final two claims about Mao and the CCP being hindrances to China are just that–claims–unless you can actually back them up, which you don’t.

I’m still fairly surprised that Richard would open up the comment thread to let this comment through, when it quite frankly is just as leaky and lacking in informative value as, say, one of Math’s/The Clock’s rants.

June 30, 2012 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

@Raj

Funny–one of my good friends works for Bloomberg HK, and he said that the other reporters are pretty pissed at Wei Gu for doing this, since it means a lot of their mainland sources will no longer talk to them.

One of the things I’ve found is that the CCP is a lot savvier about media management than it was in the past. Each CCP official, say, above vice-premier rank, now has at least two or three journalists basically on call who depend on him/her for “deep background” and in return can be reliably used to help editorialize on their behalf. (Sort of like Bob Woodward’s relationship with the Bush administration, or Helen Thomas with the Clinton administration.) What’s especially… interesting is that many of the journalists on those lists actually work for Western news orgs like Bloomberg and Reuters. As far as I know, I think a lot of Yang Rui’s apparent rage toward Melissa Chan is actually reflective of pent-up anger from within CCTV/Xinhua at this new “arrangement.”

June 30, 2012 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

t_co, that’s a great story, all the more so that this isn’t a revelation, it’s just confirming what we already suspected with facts and figures.

Next they’ll be angry that someone did a report on Tiananmen….

June 30, 2012 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

I agree with “Somchai Wongsuwat” that “Mongol Warrior” is an apologist. And I agree with Raj that news is there to be reported. I have few doubt that cadres with peeves against peers will continue to leak information. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, t_co, but this thread has been riddled with “flamebaiting”, and this is the first time that I see you taking offense from it.

June 30, 2012 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

@Just recently; that is because when one man’s sympathies lie in a certain direction he is much more inclined overlook something that he would virulently criticize when someone with an opposing view took similar actions, not that I think I am flamebating at all. Fenqings do have a mental condition, one that unfortunately is not uncommon to humanity; hyper-nationalism and a rabid tendency to attack those they see as transgressing their national honor. However I think Chinese fenqings have some unique characteristics that are worth teasing out, particularly since PRC is walking further and further down the path of belligerence and neo-imperialism regarding nearly all of its East Asia neighbors, a slow motion redux of Imperial Japan.

How do Chinese people rationalize such an imperialist land grab as the 9 dash line in the SCS, demanding violent action against their neighbors? Why do they obsess over the west and what the west thinks of China, with the west lurking in every corner trying to keep China down, and yet so many want to go there to learn and even live? I think we need to explore the fragile condition of their egos, their inflated view of China’s continuity and place in history, their own position vis-a-vis the west, in the past and now etc.

I think understanding their general psychology will be much more informative in establishing which direction China may go, rather than engaging in what has turned into the circus we see above with JAY trying to rationalize Mao’s policies and legacy. And then we have t_co bringing in what is the equivalent of the holocaust denier argument; oh it might of happened but then again maybe it didn’t. I mean I wasn’t there how would I know, how do you know UK and France burned the summer palace, it might have happened but “it is by no means certain!” Sorry I’ not jumping through your hoops, I see this enough to know when people start talking like this they are giving you the runaround. Unless t_co is a major scholar in 1950-60 Chinese history with some incredible insights never before shared I’d say the onus is on him, but don’t expect a sympathetic ear. Soon we’ll be debating if 1+1=2 and its role as a tool to contain China with Western based number systems [yawn] if you want esoteric debates on existentialism et al I suggest a philosophy class. As for Mao being the biggest hindrance to Chinese progress, this is pretty clear; land redistribution to private hands in early 1950s= big growth, Mao’s ideological egotism comes into the play hello GLF. Mao chastised/loses power over GLF+end of collectivization= growth. Mao regains power in mid 1960s start GPCR, guess what=growth in the crapper. I broke that down barney style for you, why dont you go do some investigating.

t_co might question reopening this thread on a topic he doesn’t like, I question his discomfort. He seems more intent on avoiding a discussion of the fenqing mind and on the rationalizing that is JAY’s (and pro_CCP commentators in general)only card and the use of pseudo-arguments (contrived statistics) to make a non-point (Mao made some mistakes but hey look at India!) in such a way as to divert the topic away from any analysis on the CCP’s role as the largest -willful- destroyer of Chinese (and human life) in the history of humanity. To their credit at least they didn’t come out with the “yea but America did XYZ” rationalizations.

June 30, 2012 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

t_co’s more recent comments are surprising me, Wongsuwat – but it should be pointed out that he does not intend to belittle the great famine. He and YAY/”Mongol Warrior” don’t belong to the same category of people. As for where we agree, and where we differ, I think I tried to describe my views before, under #223.

If we want to discuss the relevance of thuggish approaches to history like YAY’s et al, we would probably need exactly that – statistics. These would be hard to get, however, when it comes to fenqings.

June 30, 2012 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

Statistics, that is, re the number of people that share YAY’s view of the world – just to avoid misunderstandings. Statistics play an important role in general, but their role in much of the above discussion has, indeed, been to play the great famine down.

June 30, 2012 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

@justrecently, I think while the numbers are not insignificant (particularly from a human and historical perspective) they can detract from the lessons that the event itself holds. While t_co may be happy to debate whether it was 10-20-30 or 40 million who died in the famine I prefer examine why some PRC fenqings try to explain away or rationalize the events which obviously are a serious indictment of the CCP and Mao in particular.

But have you ever noticed that with CCP apologists it ALWAYS seems to come down to a numbers game (or “the west did it first” game)? Anti-Rightist campaign; sure it happened but not that many people died! GLF? Sure it happened but Mao had good intentions and the numbers are inflated! GPCR? Sure but it was Mao’s subordinates who took things too far and Mao himself couldn’t control them, oh yea and the number of dead are inflated! Tiananmen? Sure it happened but nobody died in the square and the few deaths were all baby faced PLA guys lynched by Western media incited mobs!

You see when you start playing their numbers game you inevitable lose track of the fact that the CCP system itself and Mao as its chief architect are the causes of repeated mass death incidents that were entirely avoidable. I for one am not interested in playing their numbers games (or to put it in more direct terms, yes t_co it is “baffle the with bullshit”). An inevitable part of this game is finding some other red meat for the masses to gnaw on, and inevitably this means looking outside China for imagined enemies greater than the CCP itself, which is taking the PRC down the road of hubris, aggression, and expansionism. If you disliked American hubris I don’t think you’ll enjoy its Sino cousin much more.

July 1, 2012 @ 2:28 am | Comment

I’m not going to discuss individuals here, apart from “YAY”/”MW”, with whom I’m quite familiar, Wongsuwat. But I think we agree about the mindset and strategies of CCP apologists; at least, ic no great differences between your views and mine in that field, from this discussion so far.

Many foreigners, and especially Americans and Europeans, have begun to shy away from calling Chinese propaganda (which permeats all ways of Chinese life) what it is – a brainwash. I’m certainly not shy of calling a spade a spade. But the degree to which CCP propaganda is really successful in China is hard to assess. I’m sometimes wondering if it is more successful among Chinese citizens, or among foreigners.

July 1, 2012 @ 2:40 am | Comment

t_co, don’t waste energy wondering why I reopened the thread. It was simple: I find this an interesting topic, certainly far more so than China’s mortality/fertility statistics used by clever commenters to obfuscate the real discussion. I did not find Somchai’s remarks ad hominems. Sorry if you did.

July 1, 2012 @ 3:01 am | Comment

I agree with “Somchai Wongsuwat” that “Mongol Warrior” is an apologist. And I agree with Raj that news is there to be reported. I have few doubt that cadres with peeves against peers will continue to leak information. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, t_co, but this thread has been riddled with “flamebaiting”, and this is the first time that I see you taking offense from it.

Actually, the only reason I’m disappointed by it is because Richard reopened the thread to let it through–I thought this meant the comment would be something worth discussing. But it really isn’t.

July 1, 2012 @ 4:00 am | Comment

t_co, don’t waste energy wondering why I reopened the thread. It was simple: I find this an interesting topic, certainly far more so than China’s mortality/fertility statistics used by clever commenters to obfuscate the real discussion. I did not find Somchai’s remarks ad hominems. Sorry if you did.

Richard, I guess that’s your prerogative, given that this is your blog. But I do enjoy debating things with numbers behind them much more than psychoanalyzing why people comment on internet threads (which to me is just navel-gazing). I’ll join you when the topic you’re interested in is slightly more empirical.

July 1, 2012 @ 4:03 am | Comment

My own policy on comments is in some ways more restrictive than Richard’s, t_co, but if I find that someone’s comment has been caught in the filter before I closed a thread, I’d re-open it, too. I wouldn’t want to disappoint commenters who wanted to participate in an – ongoing, at the time – debate.

July 1, 2012 @ 4:35 am | Comment

t_co, I think your obsession with numbers can kill any actual debate, like I said while spinning tires and creating a bunch of smoke with 200 comments on demographic statistics which have had much treatment already and by many sources demonstrate 10s of millions of excess deaths during the GLF the actual meaning of what happened has been lost. You want to play pin the tail on the number donkey, I want to know why the CCP and its adherents cannot confront the GLF. I want to know how they can spend countless hours nursing their victim mentality over 1839 and 1937 yet totally ignore or worse attempt to rationalize by far the greatest tragedy in terms of loss of life inflicted on the Chinese people. This mentality hold serious implications: where you see navel gazing I see the seeds of aggression, imperial expansion, and the sustainment of a political model that has negative externalities beyond Asia. You are interested in splitting hairs between 20 or 20.05 million; I am interested in what solutions can ameliorate the threats that this mental condition will inevitably manifest. I’m not a frequent visitor but I have read some posts by Richard lamenting the ability of highly intelligent Chinese to engage in extreme contortionist mental gymnastic in their desire to rationalize CCP policies and history, and I dont want to put words in his mouth but I am also sure that he sees this as a highly problematic condition in a nation of growing economic and military means. Look at the herd mentality of (a large segment of) the US in the run up to 2003; a nation of angry and self-rationalizing people are capable of creating significant carnage. Some elements of the Chinese condition make this even more dangerous IMHO- an inferiority complex+strong state nurtured victim identity, coupled with a desire to maintain imaginary face, face which has been vested in ridiculous claims that cannot be sustained without military force, this has all the makings of a conflagration not seen in East Asia since 1930s Japan.

But perhaps that is for another thread and another time. I hope the GLF continues to receive greater coverage and I hope the analysis of its causes and implications aren’t held hostage by those seeking numerical answers.

July 1, 2012 @ 5:25 am | Comment

To Raj #229:
wouldn’t it be nice if there was a personal declaration of financial status and tax returns annually among high ranking officials, like the Hu’s and Xi’s of the CCP? If fighting corruption is truly the priority that they say it supposedly is, wouldn’t access to information and transparency be the first major step? Oh, scrap that. That would make too much sense. And we’re talking about the CCP here, after all.

++++++++++++++++++++++

I’m not sure I would use “educational value” as the threshold for comments here, or on any other blog. This is not an academic venue, nor does it pretend to be. Sure, some links are offered from time to time, but only after an inherent selection bias that ensures that any link offered will of course support the commentator’s point of view (and more importantly, that any contradictory data will be ignored). I wouldn’t consider selective presentation of data to be all that educational. All it basically represents is that at least one other person in the world happens to agree with the commentator’s POV, for what that’s worth.

I’d also say that the reason why discussion of possible motivations for CCP apologists is interesting is precisely because the exact nature of said motivation is not known. If we already knew the motivation was because of X, Y, or Z, well…that would make for a redundant discussion.

July 1, 2012 @ 7:09 am | Comment

t_co, I actually find this discussion much, much more interesting than the endless back and forth with statistics that cause the eyes glaze over, statistics that were essentially irrelevant to the video compilation regarding the Great Leap Forward. JR is correct when he said I only reopened it because a comment I felt might generate some other good comments was in my spam filter after I had closed the thread down. Common courtesy.

July 1, 2012 @ 7:59 am | Comment

Somchai Wongsuwat: there is a word for your type of posts. It is I believe called ‘mind reading’. Something that is academically irrelevant.

“I want to know how they can spend countless hours nursing their victim mentality over 1839 and 1937 yet totally ignore or worse attempt to rationalize by far the greatest tragedy in terms of loss of life inflicted on the Chinese people.”

So Somchai Wongsuwat asks me to ignore the stats, then makes completely absurd claims like this one, and demands that I accept his claim – otherwise I am a Fenqing?

That is I must accept what he says, and if I want to search out the facts, that is impermissible?

I wonder who here is the one with a true totalitarian mindset?

July 1, 2012 @ 10:07 am | Comment

with statistics that cause the eyes glaze over, statistics that were essentially irrelevant to the video compilation

How can the statistics be ‘essentially irrelevant’. I am using the statistics in the last chapter of Dikotter’s book. I have actually read the book. Did you? Or did you just decide to accept his claims, without really bothering to read them.

Dikotter’s figures may be an overestimate, an underestimate. Who knows?

The only thing I do know is the statistics he places on the table will lead to conclusions which will not necessarily support his claim of Mao being the greatest mass murderer in history.

The other point I have raised is that Western demographic researchers have found that “the Maoist era saw the China’s growth in life expectancy from 35~40 in 1949 to 65.5 in 1980 ranks as the most rapid sustained increase in documented global history.”
http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/23743/AHPPwp_29.pdf

For anyone interested in the subject, just google “Maoist life expectancy mortality” etc and you will find a ton of excellent research on the topic by serious academics — actually most of them Westerners.

July 1, 2012 @ 10:15 am | Comment

I hope the analysis of its causes and implications aren’t held hostage by those seeking numerical answers.

Again. The totalitarian mindset. Make a claim that Mao killed tens of millions. But then do not allow others to confirm this claim through ‘seeking numerical answers.’

Utterly totalitarian.

July 1, 2012 @ 10:18 am | Comment

What JAY/Mongol Warrior writes above is pretty much the same nonsense as are accusations of “censorship” against individual bloggers – with the implied allegation that a moderation policy on single websites would amount to the same thing as nation-wide censorship and monopolized agenda-setting by a propaganda department.

I suggest to basically ignore Mongol Warrior. Every reader can scroll up and make up his/her own mind. Hint: if anyone feels that he or she should have the last word on this thread, the thread will never end.

July 1, 2012 @ 11:19 am | Comment

When discussing an apologist’s mindset, it seems that there is a link between this discussion, and discussions about “soft power”, image, etc.. Many fenqings, or angry old people, say that they give a damn on image. That’s obviously self-deception on their part. They wouldn’t be so active if they didn’t care.

Wongsuwat: you mentioned China’s neighborhood further above. Personally, I believe that a leadership that commits atrocities against its own people can’t be a good neighbor to other people. And those who belittle the crimes can be no good neighbors either. It seems noteworthy that Japan is regularly criticized from China, for a routine which is routine in China itself, too.

In that sense, I believe your suggestion to study these mindsets carefully makes a lot of sense, and “Mongol Warrior” provides a lot of useful material. However, I would like to add a word of caution, once again: the degree to which such utterances are indicative for China is hard to quantify – and much of Chinese anger frequently changes direction. The constant in this sorry affair is in the propaganda department’s efforts to harness and deflect public anger.

July 1, 2012 @ 11:48 am | Comment

“Personally, I believe that a leadership that commits atrocities against its own people can’t be a good neighbor to other people. And those who belittle the crimes can be no good neighbors either.”

“Through history, there has been no correlation between the internal freedom of a society and its violence and aggression abroad. For example, England was the freest country in the world in the 19th century, and in India it acted like the Nazis did. The United States is the most open — politically speaking, forget any social issues — and freest society in the world, and it also has the most brutal record of violence and aggression in the world.” – Noam Chomsky

July 1, 2012 @ 11:57 am | Comment

That’s true, RDW – freedom at home hasn’t prevented outbound. But that doesn’t mean that an “elite” which discards the rights of its people at home can be expected to respect the rights of people elsewhere, once it is in a position to dominate them. It seems to me that China’s neighbors are becoming aware of this.

July 1, 2012 @ 12:12 pm | Comment

freedom at home hasn’t prevented outbound aggression.

July 1, 2012 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

Btw, I believe that Chomsky’s suggestion that America is the world’s freest society would require some qualification, apart from the “social” issues. The freest-society assumption may help to make the quote you attribute to Chomsky much catchier, but I believe in more patient research of issues and causes.

July 1, 2012 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

I would like to quote Chomsky somewhat further, from this video:

The [Soviet government] is also a threat. It’s a threat to its own population, it’s a threat to in fact anyone who who is in its reach. But its reach doesn’t happen to be very long. It’s far shorter than what we claim it to be. So, for the population of the Soviet Union, for Eastern Europe, for Afghanistan, the Soviet Union is a real threat [...]

July 1, 2012 @ 12:31 pm | Comment

To JR 252:
precisely.

As for the generalizability of the typical CCP apologist mindset, that’s hard to say. It does appear that the typical CCP apologist behaves stereotypically, so their behaviour can (with less trepidation) be generalized to the group. As for whether it is generalizable to Chinese people at large…well, let’s hope not. But it’s impossible to know.

But that’s what makes a discussion of the genesis of said mindset interesting. Is it just the “CCP teaching”, in which case all PRC Chinese are exposed to it and could be similarly susceptible? Or is there much individual variability in the degree to which those teachings are manifested? Again, hopefully the latter.

July 1, 2012 @ 12:32 pm | Comment

I think it isn’t just the CCP teaching, S.K., and the KMT was a nationalist party for a reason. But I think that more recent experience makes a big difference on individual minds within a totalitarian system. The CCP has – and keeps teaching – that Chinese people were victims, and that only the CCP can protect them. In a perverse way, it has added to the Chinese experience of victimhood by itself (this seems to get us somewhat closer to the original discussion, btw).

So I don’t think that every resentment in China can be explained from the CCP-approved history books. But propganda does make a difference.

The stereotypical patterns of an apologist discussing these issues isn’t for domestic use. It requires fenqings, fenlaos, and what have you, with access to international sources, and that makes it different from domestic propaganda. But domestic propaganda is – to put it mildly – very likely to have played a role in shaping this kind of interaction, too.

Basically, I think propaganda can lead to the desired, and to undesired results. During the past four years, it seems to me, it has mostly led to the results deemed desirable by Beijing. But there are exceptions in detail. When Huanqiu Shibao tried to make fun of Chen Guangcheng, much of the thread that followed scorned the author of that article. The propganda department is a learning organization.

July 1, 2012 @ 12:56 pm | Comment

I for one stand behind t_co and feel it is necessary to treat statistics in an evaluation of the event, provided one keeps in mind their questionable accuracy and doesn’t oversimpilfy their import by stressing merely one aspect of the data. The use of statistics obviously should not mean one loses sight of people’s suffering and experience, particularly when it is reported by those who suffered themselves.

I really can’t understand why so many commenters are bothered by the turn the debate took. I don’t get how anyone believes “JAY” has “derailed” the discussion. When he made ridiculously contrived comparisons, he was informed of them by Gil, S.K. Cheung, and me. There are many things to discuss about the event, and statistics don’t need to be the focus, but surely they are part of the discussion. And while JAY erred in focusing on only one aspect of the statistics, and certainly made himself look like a fool by comparing data pertaining to Mao’s reign with retrojections based on one year and with data pertaining to wartime, the arguments he uses require attention, not least because they do represent the typical apologist’s approach to the subject. This too is part of the discussion.

S.K Cheung

“Sure, some links are offered from time to time, but only after an inherent selection bias that ensures that any link offered will of course support the commentator’s point of view (and more importantly, that any contradictory data will be ignored). I wouldn’t consider selective presentation of data to be all that educational. All it basically represents is that at least one other person in the world happens to agree with the commentator’s POV, for what that’s worth.”

I’d like to take a small step to mitigate that bias if I may. T_co and I debated whether it’s reasonable to criticize Dikotter on the basis of not compiling a good data set in light of the CCP’s frequent obstructions. I mentioned that I thought such criticism would be justified if evidence was available that thorough research focused on the impact of the GLF on a single locality was permitted (possible) in the PRC. It seems evidence is available. While the authors of this book

http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=14A1qPQOgQMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=catastrophe+and+contention+in+rural+china&hl=en&sa=X&ei=68_vT8XGGaLNmAXhrrzqDQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=catastrophe%20and%20contention%20in%20rural%20china&f=false

do note how much obstruction they ran into in the process of their work, their work is a remarkably comprehensive, well-grounded account of the GLF’s impact on a village. It may be too limited to extrapolate from reasonably, but it is the best account of the GLF I’ve ever read, and it bears noting that the author’s final assessment of the death rate brings it roughly in line with Anhui’s, sometimes considered an extreme case, at 68/1000.

I would also encourage everyone to look into Cormac O’Grada’s 2008 article in the The Economic History Review: “The Ripple That Drowns? Twentieth Century Famines in China and India as Economic History.”

July 1, 2012 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

I don’t get how anyone believes “JAY” has “derailed” the discussion.

I think it has been derailed by the link between the statistics and championing Mao, Handler. It helped, of course, that people took offense from that. I’m not thinking of your and t_co‘ discussion as a derailment. But what can safely be said is that “Mongol Warrior” (that alias is quite an insult to the people of Mongolia, btw) came in under a new name, and with a strategy in which statistics were only an auxiliary function to support a “higher” goal. For some commenters, it was probably also hard to trust the numbers because he didn’t mention his sources. That made the discussion rather destructive. I started searching the internet for arguments that would support his, and found o’Grada’s review of Dikötter’s book.

The point is that a discussion like yours and t_co’s is a discussion, not part of an information war. That is legitimate and helpful. In that regard, I don’t think Wongsuwat should criticize t_co the way he has.

But I fully agree with his criticism of MW’s role, and I recommend not to feed the troll. It’s right to take note of what MW writes, but it helps a thread when one addresses his sources, rather than him personally. The latter approach will only jolly his ego along.

July 1, 2012 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

What JR said.

July 1, 2012 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

@Handler, I dont dismiss the statistics but when they begin to detract from the actual events and the implications of said events then I object. So do we change the judgement on Mao if he caused the deaths of 20 million Chinese instead of 30 million? (IMO) No, the indictment Mao and the system that the CCP has fostered still stands valid. I will leave the actual numbers to historians with more time and better access to relevant materials. But you can see how JAY or MW whatever the name of the apologist above is, how he attempts to exploit a debate over numbers to totally derail an analysis of Mao’s presiding over the events and the CCP’s complicity in the system that allowed such an unprecedented event to take place. Then he goes on about authoritarianism, how quaint, coming from an apologist of one party dictatorship.

American democracy is a mess, actually always has been. But the treatment of people within the system is generally good. The CCP on the other hand reigns over 1/5 of the world’s population so domestic events are on a scale that effects a sizable portion of the world. With Deng’s policy of keeping a low profile going out the foreign policy window I think we are seeing the true(er) face of the CCP’s view on foreign relations.

SKC I have seen plenty of critical analysis from Chinese also, even college students who are willing to bad mouth the party directly to me (a laowai) right in front of their fellows. I have had some tell me of the banality of compulsory Marxist classes or how they only want to join the party for financial/guanxi gains. The Chinese are definitely not all sheep but the fenqing phenomenon is big enough and strong enough to influence PRC FP and is thus worthy of deconstruction. I only wonder if democracy and a more open media landscape where PRC citizens learn the details of the GLF and Mao and the CCP’s complicity will work as a panacea for this belligerence that is a growing trend. The perpetual victim mentality is difficult to maintain when one must confront the fact that one’s own people and own government have in fact been your own biggest victimizer. It would lead to a more diverse conversation and less single minded hatred directed towards constructed western boogeymen and there Asian ‘lackeys’.

July 1, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

PS JAY, perhaps we can arrange for you and Shintaro Ishihara to have tea so you can both lament how malevolent foreign powers manufacture events that ‘may or may not have happened’? Sounds like a date.

July 1, 2012 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

JR

“I think it has been derailed by the link between the statistics and championing Mao, Handler”

I understand your point, JR, but I see that as part of the larger discussion. What JR is doing is pretty transparent. If the likes of JAY want to turn an analysis of the GLF into a contorted championing of Mao, that says a great deal about their intelligence and callousness. If they insist upon the importance of one metric, one can illustrate the bias or the contradictions of that metric (“During a war different rules apply.”) and proceed from there, should one wish. Also, I don’t think a small number of people who have difficulty ignoring JAY means that others can’t carry on their own dialogue on issues they feel are most critical, or can’t introduce new angles. Perhaps that didn’t happen here, but I don’t see the problem in watching JAY exhaust himself. Hey, it’s Richard’s call (*shrugs*). My apologies if I’ve contributed to it.

“That made the discussion rather destructive.”

Well, of course that made it ugly. However, I don’t think JAY succeeded in destroying anything other than the notion that he can be taken seriously.

Somchai

“But you can see how JAY or MW whatever the name of the apologist above is, how he attempts to exploit a debate over numbers to totally derail an analysis of Mao’s presiding over the events and the CCP’s complicity in the system that allowed such an unprecedented event to take place.”

Yes, we all see what angles he takes. But that’s not stopping anyone from discussing Mao’s stance at the Lushan party conference or China’s insistence on exporting grain, or its rejection of foreign aid.

“The Chinese are definitely not all sheep but the fenqing phenomenon is big enough and strong enough to influence PRC FP and is thus worthy of deconstruction.”

Agreed, but–I’m definitely going to get blasted for saying this– I think one ought to look to where these fenqings come out of the woodwork. It appears to me the majority of those on English-language websites who engage in blind support of China’s authoritarianism (from the WSJ to BearCanada to Stealthy Harmonicas) are overseas Chinese who have found some type of perverse self-inflation in China’s rise. As JR noted of fenqing more generally, there’s really no way to get statistics on this, and any attempt might be construed as “racial profiling,” but we would be fools to overlook it, if only because it might remind us how little they reflect common perspectives in China, and how much they argue out of self-interest alone. I do find persons who become radical apologists for China due to their ethnicity (which is a plausible attribution when their politics are sufficiently flexible) even more disturbing than knee-jerk responses from PRC citizens. It suggests something far more sinister, though perhaps no more threatening, than nationalism.

Now, this is not to say the PRC’s own fenqings are not sufficiently disturbing, particularly as pertains to Chinese FP in SEA.

July 1, 2012 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

Apologies, JR. That should read…What JAY is doing is pretty transparent.

July 1, 2012 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

I don’t think JAY succeeded in destroying anything other than the notion that he can be taken seriously.

That’s true – but to me, this is a pretty sorry spectacle, Handler, and it’s one which will make this discussion hard to track for anyone who might want to join the discussion… right now, for example. I’m certainly trying to make the best of it, and as Somchai said, this can also be a subject of studies. But as you said yourself – that’s only of limited value.

What I advocate is that troll behavior shouldn’t be encouraged. Having fun with poor souls like “MW” is, in my view, some kind of perverse self-inflation, too, and that comes at the cost of real discussion.

July 1, 2012 @ 6:10 pm | Comment

SW, thank you for taking this thread to the right direction. GLF and other campaigns of Mao and CCP from late 50s through 60s, when he killed more people than anyone in the history mankind(Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot all included), must be exposed for what is: worst crime committed against humanity ever by any leader and regime. But discussing this alone is doing only half the work. The other half is the apologists, like JAY who comes with a tag, and closet apologists like t_co who expertly plays a double role that must be publicly identified, exposed and deconstructed. What happened in GLP can’t be undone but this is what we could to ‘serve the justice’. I’m amazed at how t_co skillfully masquerades his apologist side by putting a show of siding with dissidents in denial of their rights and censorship of media by CCP that happen in general almost daily before the eyes of the world, but talk about Tibet, CR, GLP etc that CCP considers taboo and serious it’s quite apparent how he starts becoming defensive! If some of you found his above outbrust at SW ‘surprising’, think again. It’s not consistent with what he usually portrays himself to be. I’m glad to see t_co’s ground beneath his feet cracking up with SW taking the discussion in the right direction where it’s not just crime and propitiator but those who cover up and their continued role must also be discussed and exposed. These all are part and parcel of one.

July 2, 2012 @ 2:16 am | Comment

The last batch of JAY’s comments will not appear, as I am now totally convinced he is MW or a close cousin. Vintage fenqing.

Sangay, maybe you’re being just a bit hard on t_co. And on Mao? I don’t think we can say he “killed” tens of millions during the GLF the way Stalin and Pol Pot and Hitler killed their perceived enemies. His policies allowed it to happen, but he did not kill the farmers with malice and his crimes belong in a different category. Willful ignorance, megalomania, idiocy, radicalism, lack of compassion, and much more, are maybe more how I’d describe Mao’s sins, and I do see them that way, but draw distinctions between one kind of sin and another. Malicious or not, what Mao did to China with the GLF and the CR is unforgivable, not matter how much good he did during his first few years in power. A tragedy.

July 2, 2012 @ 6:21 am | Comment

I’m amazed at how t_co skillfully masquerades his apologist side by putting a show of siding with dissidents in denial of their rights and censorship of media by CCP that happen in general almost daily before the eyes of the world, but talk about Tibet, CR, GLP etc that CCP considers taboo and serious it’s quite apparent how he starts becoming defensive! If some of you found his above outbrust at SW ‘surprising’, think again. It’s not consistent with what he usually portrays himself to be. I’m glad to see t_co’s ground beneath his feet cracking up with SW taking the discussion in the right direction where it’s not just crime and propitiator but those who cover up and their continued role must also be discussed and exposed. These all are part and parcel of one.

That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?

For the record, Richard knows my identity, and should know whether I need “deconstruction and exposure.” I think he recognizes your comment for the personal attack that it is, rather than mistaking it for productive discourse. This comment stems from my respect for him.

Folks like you and Tsarong and MW/HongXing all have the same bad habits when it comes to actually debating topics–you always assume the other side is not only wrong, but knows they are wrong and are still arguing against you because of some ulterior motive(s). I think SKC, Raj, and most others here would agree that’s a common habit that cuts across both sides of the aisle. But that’s not the case if we’re actually just trying to get at the truth behind the matter, rather than accepting prima facie any “sacred cows” that one side or another holds dear.

You and Tsarong (and before, when we were talking the FLG, Snow) have claimed that I am an apologist for actually questioning some of the claims–organ harvesting, the popularity of FLG in China, whether Tibetan independence is feasible absent ethnic cleansing, how much of the GLF can be ascribed to bad policy vs. bad implementation vs. bad weather–each of you has put forth. But if you’d actually look at my comment history, you’d see that I’m just as critical of the CCP when it comes to monumental acts of stupidity like the Cultural Revolution or smaller acts of stupidity like their needless risk-taking in the South China Sea as I am the claims from the prior sentence. If trying to drive at the truth is the crime I am being charged with, then I gladly plead guilty–and I think most of the commenters on this site would, too.

But (and this is to you too, HX) it’s not correct to assume that means we comment here to make China look good or bad. That perception, for the most part, is out of the hands of netizens like you or me or Richard or even pundits like John Garnaut and James Fallows. It rests in the hands of leaders, and the mass behavior of the people itself, on both sides of the Pacific. Once you realize that, then you can reach for the truth. Given your energy and enthusiasm for this blog, I look forward to seeing you take that step.

July 2, 2012 @ 8:18 am | Comment

@ Handler, I attempted to post something earlier but apparently it was lost. My point was that while statistics are important from a human and historical perspective it doesnt really matter if Maos policies contributed to the deaths of 20 million or 40 million; the indictment of him and the CCP system are still the same. Instead of rewritting that I will direct you to a peice recently on NPR that I was just listening to on podcast, I think it serves as a good parable (I dontknow is linking is allowed so I will cut and paste some, anyone interested can google and find it);

NPR [ON THE MEDIA] TWO CAUTIONARY DATA TALES: Data doesn’t always expose and explain, it can also lead us astray. OTM producer Jamie York looks at two time in the recent past when an overreliance on data has had disastrous consequences. Joe Flood, author of The Fires and Dennis Smith, author and veteran firefighter tell the story of the RAND Corporation and the fires in the Bronx in the 1970’s. And Scott Patterson, author of The Quants and Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, explain how math and science whiz kids nearly destroyed Wall Street.

GUESTS: Joe Flood, Michael Lewis, Scott Patterson and Dennis Smith
HOSTED BY: Jamie York

July 2, 2012 @ 3:04 pm | Comment

Folks like you and Tsarong and MW/HongXing all have the same bad habits when it comes to actually debating topics–you always assume the other side is not only wrong, but knows they are wrong and are still arguing against you because of some ulterior motive(s).
– a nice description of how this mindset works (and how it “propels” discussions).

“Mongol Warrior” signed his name(s) there, Richard.

July 2, 2012 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

JR, how did that get by me? I simply stopped reading his comments after a while and missed that. Well now we all know. We’ve been had; this thread was totally hijacked by our most insidious troll.

July 2, 2012 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

To Handler #258:
I don’t mean to imply that the links, individually and standing on their own, are necessarily without merit. Many of the links you provided earlier in the thread were very useful in advancing the discussion. But ultimately in a forum like this, the links are cherry-picked in order to support and advance a certain point of view, one that the writer already subscribes to. In order for the evidence to be of truly educational value in the way I think T-Co likes to see, however, one would first need an unfettered collection of evidence, from which to formulate and advise one’s opinion.

As Somchai suggests in #269, the precise number will likely be debated till the cows come home. But the precise number does not really add or detract from the principles upon which criticism of Mao’s GLF are based.

July 3, 2012 @ 1:00 am | Comment

We’ve been had; this thread was totally hijacked by our most insidious troll.
“Most insidious” is too much honor for a poor devil, in my view, Richard. But in a way, I found this one of the most interesting threads I’ve participated in this year. It wasn’t funny, but the dynamics were pretty unique.

If we’ve been had, how has “MW” profitted?

July 3, 2012 @ 3:44 am | Comment

He gets to giggle, knowing he fooled people and took over another thread. I should have known the minute he changed the subject to mortality/fertility rates. He has done the exact same thing before. This is usually followed by incredibly evil hate mail to me.

July 3, 2012 @ 3:46 am | Comment

OK – didn’t know about the hate mail, Richard. But as far as I’m concerned as a commenter, I wouldn’t have started a search for sources that might back his argument if he hadn’t shown up here. I think we both agree that he managed to derail the discussion for several days, but not for good. I think it was right that you banned him yesterday, because by then, he had long started repeating himself. But maybe that’s the real challenge for moderation – to know when exactly to pull the plug?

Which might lead to a new policy – of making the CCP’s useful idiots useful to oneself. I know that this is kind of cynical, but it may amount to a constructive approach, too.

July 3, 2012 @ 4:03 am | Comment

t_co, I’m not familiar with “MW” aka “mongol warrior”…but from the couple of comments above he/she seems to be referred as a “ccp troll”. What on earth makes you lump me together with a ccp troll??? Is that your way to discredit whoever disgrees with you by putting him together with pigs so he or she may also look pig to others?

I might be mistaken about what people here actually refer MW as…but if my understanding is correct, then I must say there you go again with your tactic. Do you really believe people who comment here, most of whom I found are well read and smart, are so dumb they can be carried away? Guess what, you re insulting their intellect!

“If trying to drive at the truth is the crime I am being charged with, then I gladly plead guilty…”

- Since CCP came into being and ruled China, they have defined Truth with their own defination and made it “relative”. (I’m not going to years prior to CCP). So dont think it’s only you who’s “trying to drive at the truth” and others not. You go on with your ‘truth’ finding mission and keep jotting down, we will go on with ours. Dont try to put word into anyone’s mouth, people who read it are smarter than you and me (incase you didnt know)and they are capable of deciding for themselves.

And for your kind information, I’m not here to make China look good or bad nor I assume anyone here is for that purpose. Only CCP’s conduct that can make China look bad or good, and the world has the ability to decide if China is bad or good based on their conduct. China began invading Tibet in early 1950s, toppled the country’s central govt in Lhasa in 1959 and took control since; killed tens of millions of its people in the name of CR, GLP; killed 100s in TS; killed 1000s of FLG practioners…all these beside violations of human rights, kidnapping, disappearance of dissidents etc that happen almost daily in China. I’m here to condemn all of these…and by doing so, if you (or anyone) think I’m making China look bad then it’s your problem. Just dont assume only you know how to get to the “truth” and we dont.

July 4, 2012 @ 5:03 am | Comment

“Only CCP’s conduct that can make China look bad or good”
—bingo.

July 4, 2012 @ 6:03 am | Comment

“Only CCP’s conduct that can make China look bad or good”
—bingo.

That’s actually a pretty bad assumption to make–the CCP is barely 6% of the Chinese population. If, on one hand, we state that the Chinese people are not represented by the CCP, then how can we, on the other hand, state that only the CCP has the authority to determine the international perception of Chinese people?

July 4, 2012 @ 6:28 am | Comment

- Since CCP came into being and ruled China, they have defined Truth with their own defination and made it “relative”. (I’m not going to years prior to CCP). So dont think it’s only you who’s “trying to drive at the truth” and others not. You go on with your ‘truth’ finding mission and keep jotting down, we will go on with ours.

I don’t understand you here–are you saying that anyone who relies on factual analysis is a CCP shill, and that in order to actually find out the truth, you have to start with anti-CCP assumptions and find facts that fit them?

If that’s really the case then the real loser from CCP censorship is you, not anyone else–because if censorship forces you to start from assumptions and find facts to fit them, then it is already impossible to actually get anywhere.

I’m here to condemn all of these…and by doing so, if you (or anyone) think I’m making China look bad then it’s your problem. Just dont assume only you know how to get to the “truth” and we dont.

Condemning bad acts that occurred is one thing–all of us on this blog do it, and that’s good. Doing nothing except condemning acts that occurred is another thing entirely. If an entity does things right, and does things wrong, then wouldn’t simply focusing on one half of the story get you only halfway there? And doing what you said you would do a few comments earlier–hunting down and vilifying those who oppose your viewpoints–is yet another. That’s the behavior of a troll. I left my earlier comment on a positive note because I thought you could contribute to this blog. But seeing as how you seem hell-bent on remaining this way, I think this blog would be better off without folks like you (and MW).

July 4, 2012 @ 6:56 am | Comment

t_co, Sangay is certainly opinionated and is being too outspoken in his confrontation with you, but I promise, he is in no way comparable to MW. In case you missed it, MW has gone on obscene rants here, sent out unbelievably evil emails to commenters who disagreed with him, and finally he stole commenters’ identity and began posting under their names, throwing the threads into utter chaos for a couple of days. Sangay may be wrong, or right, but he hasn’t tried to derail the thread.

July 4, 2012 @ 7:23 am | Comment

Richard,

Sangay may be wrong, or right, but he hasn’t tried to derail the thread.

I’m not sure how the below could not be construed as derailing the thread (bolded for emphasis):

The other half is the apologists, like JAY who comes with a tag, and closet apologists like t_co who expertly plays a double role that must be publicly identified, exposed and deconstructed. What happened in GLP can’t be undone but this is what we could to ‘serve the justice’. I’m amazed at how t_co skillfully masquerades his apologist side by putting a show of siding with dissidents in denial of their rights and censorship of media by CCP that happen in general almost daily before the eyes of the world, but talk about Tibet, CR, GLP etc that CCP considers taboo and serious it’s quite apparent how he starts becoming defensive! If some of you found his above outbrust at SW ‘surprising’, think again. It’s not consistent with what he usually portrays himself to be. I’m glad to see t_co’s ground beneath his feet cracking up with SW taking the discussion in the right direction where it’s not just crime and propitiator but those who cover up and their continued role must also be discussed and exposed. These all are part and parcel of one.

That smells like a personal attack, would you not agree?

July 4, 2012 @ 7:50 am | Comment

I don’t think that the CCP controls everything – but I believe your suggestion at #278 that the number of CCP members would define the picture leaves the totalitarian nature of China’s political system out of the account.

I do agree with your view of the way Sangay thinks and argues, t_co, but my view of China’s political system is much closer to Sangay’s, than to yours.

What I disagree with is the way he’s talking to you.

July 4, 2012 @ 9:20 am | Comment

Agreed, JR.

And now, I really AM closing this thread.

July 4, 2012 @ 9:23 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.