I think Deng was being more than fair to say 'his achievements outweigh his mistakes' or that 'he was 70% right & 30% wrong'. I don't doubt the GLF caused suffering and was strategically unsound; it was poorly conceived and too focused on revolutionary zeal. Mao had shown he was willing to tolerate nasty events for some perceived 'greater good', unless of course you think he was equally brilliant in implementing beneficial policy and also innocent of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution & his personality cult.
I see you state that "the Great Leap Forward was a supreme act of lateral thinking" and then even accuse the 1980's CCP of fabricating their own belated statistics which suggests a famine death toll of 15 million.
Talking about bending the stick...yet you seem to have gotten the wrong end of the stick.
When you mention a Westerner in the 1960's saw severe rationing but no starving people then it only proves he didn't get to roam at will. Even up until the 1980's this was the case in China. Is it a surprise he didnít see dying people? I can't think of the Soviets directing visitors to view Gulags either.
I am inclined to think of experiences of visitors in North Korea in the late 90's being told the famine 'is very exaggerated' when they asked, but the same Western visitor eats gristly mystery meat in a flash hotel and wonders what the poor people would eat. Yes, they were starving yet they sung songs about the ĎDear Leaderí.
You doubt personal accounts of famine since the stories only come out in the 1990's and weren't announced during the GLF. Given the Mao regime we are dealing with this seems very naive for someone so outwardly coherent in your writing to suggest this. To be less than enthusiastic was a crime and this is why Mao was isolated from his own blunders for a time.
There is no reason to assume when such accounts emerge they are still part of Deng's 1980's anti-Mao revisionism. Consider what stories we have learnt after the fall of the Soviet Union, and that is even after real de-Stalinization in the Soviet era. We have a lot to learn about China yet. That the stories only come out in recent generations is no surprise since China is only beginning to open up to the world. Your article notes cases of deaths from hunger in an authorís family and also that the party in Mao's time acknowledged a famine occurred (but blames the weather primarily). Your intentions are just as open to question as the historians you are challenging. We are well aware on CHF that Jung Chang is clearly interested in demonizing Mao, but I could equally charge that you are intent on exalting Mao from blame, and your primary method is by challenging the bean counters, who used less than ideal sources.
I have seen other web posts you have made, and your own bias is equally obvious even without the political context I have seen them in. I can appreciate the worth of Marxism but I do not need to gloss over Maoís real flaws because of what he believed in. Your disdain of the current path of CCP China (and hence the 'anti-Mao' CCP statistics) is clear because of your ideological opposition to capitalism in fact and communism only in name. I am certain Mao would not aprove of many things in China today, and neither do I for different reasons, but they at least lived through him and have decided on (and benefited from) a new path to prosperity.
Melting down pots (& ploughshares) was not about communal eating at all. It was about national iron output and giving good figures to please the central authorities. You know this already based on your articles comments so I donít think you misunderstood me.
There was a misguided idea that peasants could aid in changing China by helping produce iron, yet as most of us who have discussed the iron industry in ancient China know full well there is a world of difference in the quality of iron produced depending on how it is produced. Amateurs and little furnaces do not make a 'Great Leap' even if the total % can be put on a spreadsheet. That is crude pig iron, not mid carbon steel. Even a 34% increase in revolutionary zeal would not change that fact.
Collectivization is an inherently inefficient and disruptive system when applied to peasants. http://www.loc.gov/e...hives/ukra.html Revelations from the Russian Archives
The policy of all-out collectivization instituted by Stalin in 1929 to finance industrialization had a disastrous effect on agricultural productivity. Nevertheless, in 1932 Stalin raised Ukraine's grain procurement quotas by forty-four percent. This meant that there would not be enough grain to feed the peasants, since Soviet law required that no grain from a collective farm could be given to the members of the farm until the government's quota was met. Stalin's decision and the methods used to implement it condemned millions of peasants to death by starvation.
Pictures of corpses are enough proof for me, but testimonials are also there....and artwork of people who lived through it. http://www.artukraine.com/famineart/
People in China who lived through theirs will have memories too, and the trend in the Soviet Union was not to blame the top leadership. I had heard then people exclaimed 'If only Comrade Stalin knew! He would make it all better!'
How sad for them. That peasants didn't condemn Mao or overthrow him is part of your suggestion that the famine didn't occur in even the lower end estimations, since it would have caused unrest & resentment. I donít believe so at all.
Why should we want to think Mao has been unfairly slandered, and that he made a re-hashed Soviet ideological blunder work? He simply repeated the failed & hasty Marxist experiments again. Even the Communist Chinese admit the results were numerous deaths, yet call it 'thousands' here (actually the CCP admits more like 15 million. The amount of Chinese who died in coal mine accidents alone in 2005 was many hundreds for example. It is obvious when they are being coy about the famine); http://news
In 1958, with China entering "Great Leap Forward" period, a special time when all levels of governments were busy speeding up industrial and agricultural development, villages across the country made inaccurate or exaggerated statistics to the governments about crop output, usually times more than the reality.
"We made two versions of account books during that period, the false one which exaggerated the crop output was sent to the superior government and the true records were kept by ourselves," said Li Taihua, the village's accountant at that time.
The true books showed that the village harvested 4.5 tons of summer wheat, three tons of autumn grain and 37.5 tons of sweet potato per hectare, which was twice less than what was written in the books given to the superior government.
Subsequently, dozens of natural disasters occurred nationwide in China, resulting in severe famine over three years from 1959 to1961. Thousands of people starved to death due to harvestless cropland from floods, drought and plague of pasts.
The per-capita food supply at Dongying village was only 0.17 kgper day and 53 villagers suffered from starvation.
According to 1960's account books, the village's crop output dropped greatly, with only 840 kilograms of summer wheat per hectare, and 2,300 kilograms of corn per hectare.
A round of land reform kicked off in the early 1980s in China's rural areas. Based on "contract responsibility system", a milestone in process of China's rural land reform, cropland was allocated to each farmer household
In your article you imply not one farmer blamed Mao for their suffering. This is an issue for psychologists of personality cults and I again point to Stalin, who was admired even in the height of purges and Gulags.
I have found Chinese personal accounts that allegedly did blame the leadership BTW, but didnt include them since I expect you would deny them. They called the famine the 'Communist wind'.
Another version based on personal research but not quite so glowing in its praise of the GLF is below ;http://chronicle.uch...14/china.shtml.
My parents were peasants who worked in the field. We grew wheat in the area where I lived, and they were part of a production team," said Yang, who was born in 1964, three years after the Great Leap Forward had ended. "They would often bring up the topic of the Great Leap famine and tell how bad things were during that time."
Yang's curiosity about the period led him to write the book Calamity and Reform in China: State, Rural Society and Institutional Change Since the Great Leap Famine, to be published this spring by Stanford University Press. The book, one of the first major works to analyze the period, relates how the Great Leap Forward and the subsequent famine still influence China today.
Unlike the later Cultural Revolution, which is well known in the West, the Great Leap Forward has been less of a focus for research by Western scholars -- yet, according to Yang, it was one of the most influential periods of Chinese history. It was the pivotal event that led China to adopt reforms in rural areas after Mao's death in 1976, resulting in the dismantlement of the people's communes that the Chinese government had fervently advocated during the Great Leap Forward......
......The Great Leap Forward was begun in 1957 by Chairman Mao Zedong to bring the nation quickly into the forefront of economic development. Mao wanted China to become a leading industrial power, and to accomplish his goals he and his colleagues pushed for the construction of steel plants across the country.
The rural society was to keep pace with the dream by producing enough food to feed the country plus enough for export to help pay for industrialization. As a result of the Communist revolution, landowners had been stripped of their property, and by 1957 peasants already were forced to work in agricultural cooperatives.
These changes were intended to improve conditions for everyone by collectivizing agriculture and establishing communal eating facilities where peasants could eat all they wanted free of charge. This utopian dream turned into a nightmare as the central leadership grew increasingly out of touch with reality, Yang found through his study of government records and personal accounts.
At the beginning of the Great Leap Forward, Mao proclaimed that China would overtake Britain in production of steel and other products within 15 years. Other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, supported Mao's enthusiasm, according to documents Yang studied in China......
......People were mobilized to accomplish the goals of industrialization. They built backyard furnaces for iron and steel and worked together on massive building projects, including one undertaken during the winter of 1957-58 in which more than 100 million peasants were mobilized to build large-scale water-conservation works.
Local leaders competed with one another to see who could create the most activity. In the rush to recruit labor, agricultural tasks were neglected, sometimes leaving the grain harvest to rot in the fields, Yang said. In the frenzy of competition, the leaders over-reported their harvests to their superiors in Beijing, and what was thought to be surplus grain was sold abroad.
Although in theory the country was awash in grain, in reality it was not. Rural communal mess halls were encouraged to supply food for free, but by the spring of 1959, the grain reserves were exhausted and the famine had begun.
No one is sure exactly how many people perished as a result of the spreading hunger. By comparing the number of deaths that could be expected under normal conditions with the number that occurred during the period of the Great Leap famine, scholars have estimated that somewhere between 16.5 million and 40 million people died before the experiment came to an end in 1961
The basis of the policy, the exaggeration of the successes, grain appropriation, mass hunger...a repeat of the failures of the Soviet experiment.
You don't achieve anything by hasty leaping apart from perhaps hurting yourself in a fall.
A look at standards of living statistics does not override the realities of conceptual blunders, misreporting yields and widespread hunger & resultant deaths. We can't use non-existent figures to calculate a final total.
People might argue about OJ Simpsons trail, but a man-made famine seems pretty clear cut.
We know the GLF was contemporary to famine. We know specific over-reporting occured of grain yields, the leadership was insulated from facts and half-assed ideas and poor planning lead to crop failures.We know the Communist party itself included critics of the GLF after these failures and Mao created a terror movement as a result of the threat after only briefly being humbled by this failure. We know the model of collectivization was repeating an inefficient system that failed in the USSR and resulted in millions of deaths there.
Whether the deaths were 5 million..15 million..or 30 million or higher is purely academic but it doesn't change the fact there were good reasons to recognize that it was all (mis)directed from above.
In a court of law a sentence might be more severe based on a quantitative argument of deaths or value of money but a verdict is not based on the scale of the charges alone. In this way your analysis is thought provoking over demographic figures but seems intent on dismissing all others without producing one of your own. I neither have to believe the CCP figures are slanderous or anti-Mao and neither do I think that numbers alone would make me re-examine the specific failures and the complex character of Mao.
"Statistics can be used to prove anything.
85% of people know that." (H. Simpson)