Mao's Great Leap Forward 'killed 45 million in four years' Friday, 17 September 2010
Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.
Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. "It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.... It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot's genocide multiplied 20 times over," he said.
Pople ate the palms of their own hands. From the book, Mao’s Great Famine.
'Victims: Husband and elder son. Manner of crime: Corpses exhumed and eaten.’ ‘Reason for crime: Livelihood issues.’
Possibly as many as 60 million, men, women and children died in less than five years. New information is constantly emerging from official party records ... between 1958 and 1962.
The first step, [Mao] decreed, was a massive irrigation programme to build dams and reservoirs. Peasants who were just about to bring in the corn and rice harvests were hauled off the land and directed in their millions to this gruelling, slave labour with picks and shovels. In their absence, crops rotted in the soil. There was the first shortage of food that winter.
Desperate peasant farmers fed their hungry families on seed they should have kept to plant in the spring. The next harvest was smaller still.
In one province, the grain harvest shrank from 82,000 tonnes in 1957 to 18,000 tonnes three years later. Yet the local party boss still reported a bumper harvest of 130,000 tonnes.
As more and more directives came from on high — for more steel one year or more fertiliser the next — the whole country was gripped with ‘target fever’
Nothing was ever thought through. Beijing ordered a national campaign to eradicate sparrows because they were eating grain, but once the birds were exterminated, insect populations exploded in the granaries and the effect was the same.
In a crude attempt to ‘mechanise’ transport, farmers were instructed to replace wooden wheels on their carts with iron ones, but the carts were then too heavy for the bulls to pull them. Yet those who went back to wooden wheels to do their job were denounced as counter- revolutionaries.
As part of that insane culture, while the people at home starved, millions of tonnes of food were exported to East Germany, Albania and Castro’s Cuba, just so that Mao could show off to the world his generosity and the superior productivity of communism.
In the same vein, a fortune was spent building a Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, to impress foreign visitors and every town and commune followed suit with its own expensive prestige buildings. Meanwhile, peasants were tearing down their own homes for firewood in the winter.
Some ate the straw roofs of their houses and the cotton padding of their winter clothes. They soaked and softened the leather of chairs until it was edible. They ate plaster from the walls. When nothing else was left, people ate mud. This they mixed with chaff, flowers, weeds and water, kneaded into mud pies and baked.
As many as three million didn’t wait for nature to dispatch them but took their own lives.
Villagers caught trying to hide or hoard food were clubbed to death. Ears were lopped off, hair ripped out, people branded with hot irons; they were forced to eat excrement, doused in petrol and set alight.
Dikotter found evidence of all these punishments for offences as small as digging up a potato. In all, he estimated 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death.
Youth was no excuse. A 12-year-old boy was drowned in a pond like a kitten for stealing food from the communal canteen.
After a boy took a handful of grains, his father was forced to bury him alive.
In the province of Sichuan, the size of France and once fertile and prosperous, half the population vanished between 1958 and 1961, leaving fields overgrown with weeds.
In the region of Fuyang, 2.4 million people were dead out of a population of 8 million.
No one in authority owned up to the unfolding catastrophe, which was disguised under phrases such as ‘livelihood issues’, ‘temporary difficulties’ and ‘natural disasters’.
Officially, the Four Pests Campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows... By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased.
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Sept 17, 2013 8:24:45 GMT -8
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Nov 17, 2013 13:35:49 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:04:49 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:07:32 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:10:43 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:11:19 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:12:01 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:15:47 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:19:23 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:22:51 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:24:23 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:26:34 GMT -8
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Dec 13, 2013 18:28:11 GMT -8