When Mao Zedong‘s Great Leap Forward failed and millions died of famine (1959-1961 — no one knows exactly how many died), most estimates by mainstream Western sources are usually high. Henry Kissinger in his latest book, On China, says over 20 million. Other Western sources claim as high as 60 million while some say 10.
This tragedy was not caused by a Nazi or Stalinist purge where people were executed or sent to concentration camps to die in gas chambers by the millions. It was a famine caused by flawed agricultural policies leading to crop failures. Most of these deaths were caused by starvation.
In fact, a few experts argue that the famine was not all caused by those flawed policies but severe weather played a role in the crop failures too and there is evidence that this may have been a fact since China has a history of famines. Records show that between 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in one or another province. For example, there were four famines in China in 1810, 1811, 1846 and 1849 that caused 45 million deaths. Source: List of Famines
However, during this time of famine, China’s population increased from 563 million in 1950 when Mao first ruled China to more than a billion by 1980. Mao encouraged families to have many children.
Raymond Lotta says Mao’s Great Leap Forward was not the cause of 30 million deaths.
Even with those deaths from starvation during The Great Leap Forward, we discover from this chart, that China’s population has never stopped growing.
As for the Cultural Revolution, which is credited for another two or three million deaths (mostly from suicide due to depression), Mao Zedong put his wife in charge. At her trial, when she had a chance to speak in her defense, she said, “I was Mao’s dog. When Mao told me to bite, I bit.”
Mao Zedong was 73 when the Cultural Revolution was launched, and he spent little time outside of the Forbidden City where he lived mostly in isolation with limited contact with others, which could also be seen as another sign of someone suffering from PTSD.
His wife, Jiang Qing (twenty-one years younger than Mao) was the architect of the Cultural Revolution since her husband put her in charge, and she was planning to take over and rule China after Mao’s death. In fact, during his last few years, he was not that healthy.
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