China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 2/4

The other factors that may have contributed to China’s so-called Great Famine will be listed in order of influence with the most damaging factor listed first and the least damaging last.

The first factors that may have contributed to the famine were droughts, floods and general bad weather.

In 1959 and 1960, the weather was less favorable, and the situation grew considerably worse, with many of China’s provinces experiencing severe famine.

Droughts, floods, and bad weather caught China completely by surprise, and in July 1959, the Yellow River flooded in East China and directly killed,either through starvation from crop failure or drowning, an estimated 2 million people.

In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land, while an estimated 60 percent of northern agricultural land received no rain at all. Source: Great Leap Forward – Climate Conditions and famine in China (Wiki)

In fact, droughts and famine are common in China. 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.

In the West, most if not all of what we hear about Mao is that he was a brutal monster responsible for the deaths of about 30 million people during the Great Leap Forward as if he pulled the trigger and ordered others to deliberately kill people by the millions as Hitler and Stalin did.

However, the facts do not support this claim.

The first time I heard that droughts and extremely bad weather also played a role in the so-called Great Famine was early July 2011 while I was researching another topic for this Blog and stumbled on that mostly unknown fact by accident.

Then I discovered another more insidious factor when I started working on this post, which may have contributed significantly to the early deaths of millions in China and no one in China was responsible for this one.

This factor was influenced by both American and Chinese paranoia generated by the Korean War (1950 – 1953), America’s involvement in Vietnam (1955 – 1975), McCarthyism‘s Red Scare (1947 – 1957) and the Cold War with Communist Russia (1945 – 1991).

Continued on September 2, 2011 in China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 3 or return to Part 1

View as Single Page

Recommended reading on this topic for those who seek the unblemished truth: From the Monthly Review, Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward? by Joseph Ball

From Griffith University, Australia, Poverty, by David C. Schak, Associate Professor


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

9 Responses to China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 2/4

  1. Nick Meisher says:

    I wish you would have used citation when making such strong statements, but only blaming the weather, Russians, Japanese and Americans. 14 different academic sources disagree with you, who come from a wide range of experts, different countries, different methodologies.

    During 26 years of Mao the 14 sources average around 40 million extra dead people in China, and this is NOT counting the Famine. I you want to clean Mao so he sparkles like Buddha, there is more work ahead. (reference)

    • The West once thought the world was flat too and persecuted individuals that claimed othewise.

      Those twenty-six years and 14 sources you mention most probably are propaganda and hype—people jumping on the bandwagon to take advantage of the politically correct global opinion of Mao outside China. It is much safer to join the mob to go after someone that has been demonized for decades than to attempt to point out flaws in the claims against him regarding the famine during the Great Leap Forward.

      I have another post coming later this month that goes into more detail and most of my sources are linked not cited as if this were a college research paper.

      No, I’m not out to make Mao sparkle like Buddha, but he doesn’t deserve a bum rap either. Mao, like most leaders that rule countries for 27 years, made bad decisions such as the Cultural Revolution, but how does the world ignore that fact that in 1949, the average life expectancy in China was 36 years of age, and by the time of the Great Leap Forward, average life expectancy had increased dramatically?

      When I decide to write something, I research first and weigh opinions based on manufactured evidence compared to authros that do deep scholarly research and leave off the inflammatory language, which is why Kissinger in “On China” only quotes about 20 million died and then goes into more detail than just making claims based on trumped up and inflated evidence.

      According to the compelling and reputable research I’ve seen since I wrote this post, at best 24 million died mostly in 1960 and the famine ended in 1961 as soon as the Party could arrange to import food from other countries, and those people that starved didn’t die due to Mao having them butchered as Dennis Prager spouts in the post that appeared today.

      Did people starve to death? Yes.

      Did Mao plan it? No

      Did Mao order more deaths after the famine started to punish the peasants that failed to meet his quotas? No

  2. terry chen says:

    I have to say, ball is a very talented writer, and the evidence he provided was extremely logical. He did a great job of elaborating the facts and figures that he had. Now that I’ve read his work, I feel that even Chinese people have misinterpreted Mao and his policies over the years. Whatever those fanatics like Chang and halliday want to say, the final point remains the same. Under Mao the Chinese people were better off than they had been for over a century. Mao improved the livelihood of most of the Chinese people.

  3. terry chen says:

    Hello mr.lofthouse, I should have made myself clearer. I was talking about the link that expat in China kindly provided.

    • Thank you. I didn’t read the entire post the expat in China provided as closely as I should have. I skimmed it picking up bits and pieces so I wasn’t aware that Ball made Mao look better than he made Deng Xiaoping. I would disagree with him on that point too.

      Other than that, what did you think of the evidence he provided about the loss of life during the Great Leap Forward?

      Mr. Chopstick seems to discredit anyone he claims is biased, which would mean just about everyone on earth since most people have a bias (unless they are a robot) of one sort or another. However, what I did read while I was skimming James Ball’s piece offered a different perspective and made many good points that should not all be ignored just because Ball is a socialist.

      If we ignored socialists when they state their opinions and provide evidence to support their opinions on controversial issues such as this then we would have to do the same with liberals, conservatives, feminists, Democrats, Republicans and capitalists, etc.

      Before we could believe anyone, we would have to make sure they have no emotions or opinions of any kind and are not registered with any political party.

      As for comparing a Blog to a peer review journal, Mr. Chopstick is being ridiculous. In fact, there are peer review journals that are questionable too. I read recently that there have been a host of new so-called peer review journals that when examined closely do not measure up to older, reputable established ones. It seems, many of the newer so-called peer review journals were created to lend substance to questionable opinions on controversial issues such as the loss of life during Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

  4. Terry Chen says:

    Excellent piece. However, it seems to state that Mao’s policies were better than deng’s, which is obviously not the case. Mao should have opened China up like deng did and promote trade with other countries.

    • Terry,

      I had no intention to make it sound as if Mao’s policies were better than Deng Xiaoping’s. In fact, if we compare the results from Mao and Deng, Deng wins by a wide margin.

      However, in Mao’s defense, the world was a difference place until President Nixon visited China and opened the door to the West while helping to close the door totally that China had with the USSR.

      At the time, the US was fighting a war in Vietnam against Communism on China’s doorstep. China had fought a war in Korea with the West that did not end well for either side and the US had a complete embargo on China, while the Western media demonized Communism, Mao and China on a daily basis taking anything that happened in China and blowing those events and issues out of proportion using Yellow Journalism.

      In addition, the US was an ally of Chiang Kai-shek [Mao’s enemy in Taiwan] and was supplying the KMT with modern weapons.

      No wonder Mao made emotional decisions from a place of paranoia. Mao also perceived that there were enemies within the Party that wanted to replace him and his policies, no matter how flawed, that he believed firmly would make China stronger to survive all these challenges.

      When backed into a corner, one may do stupid, desperate things to survive.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: