Amazon reviewer W Y Lu of Hong Kong said, there is absolutely no evidence the atrocities Dikotter mentions were ordered from the top. In fact, quite the opposite – they were often uncovered, even by Dikotter’s own admission, by investigatory teams sent out by the central authorities (Note — and later by members of Mao’s personal bodyguard sent to verify the claims of starvation Mao was hearing from Party members, which he doubted at first.)
Lu says, the fact is, even using Dikotter’s figures (grossly inflated as they are), China’s mortality during the Great Leap Forward (GLF) was in fact slightly lower than that of India’s at the end of British rule – just 9 years earlier.
“The calculation is very simple,” Lu says. ‘Excess’ deaths are calculated by counting all the deaths that happen in one year, and subtracting them from a mortality the researcher assumes would have been the case had the GLF not happened. ”
Dikotter adopts a ‘normal’ crude mortality in China of 10 per 1000 people annually. He then counts deaths above this number as the excess deaths caused by the GLF.
facts about extreme poverty and hunger
Lu then points out that Dikotter also increased (inflated) the mortality numbers by 50% to allow for under-reporting and came up with an average annual mortality of around 27.3 per 1000 during the GLF.
However, Lu then says, “A crude mortality of 27.3 per 1000 in the late 50s & early 60s was in fact quite typical for developing countries. ”
Lu then points out that India and Indonesia’s mortality rates were 23 and 24 per 1000 respectively, and China’s mortality in 1949, just 8 years before the Great Leap Forward was 38 per 1000 (Source: China’s Changing Population by Judith Banister).
In her book, Banister mentions evidence that a famine did take place in China at this time and that the famine reduced fertility rates but says the fertility rate rebounded at least one year earlier than would be expected on the basis of grain production statistics, which can only be explained if supply and distribution of food improved considerably during 1961 as the government imported grain (from Canada and Australia—both allies of the US that broke ranks with the complete American embargo of China) and tried to ensure minimum supplies in famine areas.
Continued on November 15, 2011 in Mao’s ‘alleged’ Guilt in the Land of Famines – Part 5 or return to Part 3
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
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[…] fact, it was mentioned in Mao’s Alleged Guilt in the Land of Famines that Dikotter sensationalized his book [as Random House did to Dr. Li's memoir of Mao] by […]
I’ve never read Banister but sourced the information from the Monthly Review, Sept 2006.
“Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?”
by Joseph Ball
“Chinese data on famine deaths was used by a group of U.S. demographers in their own work on the subject. These demographers were Ansley Coale, John Aird and Judith Banister. They can be said to be the three people that first popularized the “massive death toll” hypothesis in the West.
Ansley Coale was a very influential figure in American demography. He was employed by the Office of Population Research which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1980s when he was publishing his work on China.
John Aird was a research specialist on China at the U.S. Bureau Of The Census. In 1990, he wrote a book published by the American Enterprise Institute, which is a body that promotes neo-liberal policies. This book was called Slaughter of the Innocents and was a critique of China’s one-child birth control policy.
Judith Banister was another worker at the U.S. Bureau of the Census. She was given time off from her employment there to write a book that included a discussion of the Great Leap Forward deaths.35 John Aird read her book pre-publication and gave her advice.
Judith Banister produced figures that appear to show 30 million excess deaths in the Great Leap Forward. This is nearly twice the figure indicated by official Chinese statistics. She believes the official statistics under-estimate the total mortality because of under-reporting of deaths by the Chinese population during the period in question.”
Aussie in China,
Thank you for the history of this myth that the deaths caused by famine [that coincidently took place] during the Great Leap Forward was born from the imaginations of three Americans.
Heaven [and Christianity] forbid, that the CCP might actually come off looking better than “God bless” America.
These three formed an opinion, manufactured the evidence to support their opinions and then ran with it. The rest is history. Today, most Americans believe that Mao deliberately butchered 30, 45 or 60 million of his own people when that is farthest from the truth. Mao was no saint but he was not guilty of what these authors have accused him of.
In addition, American conservative talk radio hosts have perpetuation this myth to tens of millions of ignorant Americans that rely on these opinionated talking heads for what to believe and how to think. This audience does not read books either. In fact, studies show that less than half of America’s population reads books.
Moreover, to cash in on this “Politically Correct” American fabrication, more historians and writers have piled into the phone booth [the publish or perish necessity to keep a job teaching in a university may also play a part in this] to see how many of them can fit. In fact, the new people publishing books supporting this myth must outdo the previous books by inflating the death toll higher.
To understand why Americans fall for these myths that perpetuate American exceptional, all one need do is read or watch “Inherit the Wind”, which is about the 1925 Scopes ‘monkey trial’, where a schoolmaster is tried for teaching the theory of evolution. And this one story demonstrates why America’s founding fathers despised “democracy” and believed that it led to mob rule.
I think this “In her well researched book, Banister mentions evidence that a famine did take place in China at this time due to reduced fertility rates” should read that famine in China reduced fertility rates.
Also it should be noted that Banister is a prominent advocate of the ‘massive death-toll’ theory.
Nice to see my old University, Griffith Uni get a mention. Griffith has a fine Asian Studies faculty with some notable China specialists such as Colin Mackerras
Aussie in China,
Thank you. I’ll make that change.
I’m surprised that Banister is a member of that theory camp.
After reading what Banister reported in her book, I had no idea she was a prominent advocate of the ‘massive death-toll’ theory since her numbers were so much lower than the theories of other advocates that have inflated the death toll to 30, 45 and 60 million. If this keeps up, one day, we will see a claim that it was more than a 100 million—maybe even 200 million.
Considering the inflated claims of Tibetans killed during the 1950 CCP reoccupation of Tibet—some that go far beyond the actual total population of Tibetans—I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens with the deaths from starvation that took place during the GLF.
However, I did read one source that says the death toll caused by crop losses and famine during the GLF may have been closer to 3 million or less. One report says floods along the Yangtze killed at least 2 million and deaths from floods along that river were a common accordance for as long as people have lived alongside that river.
In addition, thank you for letting me know about Griffith University in Australia. When I found that report on poverty, it was a “pdf” document from the original paper and did not identify where it was published with no links provided. All I had was the “html” address and was planning to do some research to discover that location/source.
Schak’s paper is an important addition to this debate because he shows that Mao and the CCP was attempting to alleviate the suffering from poverty in China and in no way planned or carried out the deaths that took place during the GLF.
In fact, the evidence now suggests that the deaths from starvation due to droughts, floods and crop losses in a half dozen heavily populated rural provinces were a coincidence that just happened to take place during the GLF and may have been exasperated by the false crop yield reports coming from lower echelon communist provincial Party members that didn’t want to look as if they were failures to Mao and the leaders in Beijing, which is what Kissinger says in his book, On China.
I looked at some of the other books written by Dikotter, and it’s not too difficult to see what his whole worldview is.
If you are a supporter of universal human rights, it is one thing to exaggerate deaths caused by Mao, but it really another thing entirely to gloss over the atrocities in Chiang’s China. If you exaggerate crimes of one political faction and paper over the crimes of another, you’re not standing up for human rights, you’re a political hack.
I mean, what a ridiculous title.
Here is a cogent review of this book.
It took me awhile. I went in search of information on poverty during the so-called era of Republican China between 1911 and 1949. I found it, which proves that Dikotter created a fictional romantic image of China of that era in the other book you mentioned, and Dikotter has the audacity to claim it is factual and categorizes it as nonfiction in an arrogant attempt to revise history.
Here’s a bit of what I discovered. I provided the link if you want to read more.
Click to access 57906_1.pdf
Poverty in Republican China
The fall of the Qing Dynasty and the dynastic system in 1911 changed China significantly, but the major change to the condition of the peasantry was from armed conflict.
Between 1911 and the communist takeover in 1949, China suffered thirty years of warfare: battles between warlord armies over territory; the Northern Expedition leading to the establishment of the Nationalist government in Nanjing; the extermination campaigns against the communists; the very deadly war against the Japanese (1937-45); and the resumption of the civil war from 1946 to 1949.
Aside from the destruction caused by the battles themselves, marauding armies often confiscated crops and forcibly conscripted men, leaving the peasants with no resources. Moreover, competing warlords each taxed the peasants, sometimes many years in advance.
Describing the 1921 north China famine, Mallory says it killed half a million and reduced 20 million to destitution. People sold their roof timbers, women and children. Many were reduced to eating chaff, bark, roots, flour made from leaves, corncobs, sawdust and thistles. “Some of the food was so unpalatable that the children starved, refusing to eat it” (1926, p. 2).
With China’s population over seventy percent rural, urban poverty was less a problem, however, conditions for the ordinary city people were little if any better than for those in the countryside (Lamson 1935, pp. 1-32).
The major problem was similar to that in the rural areas, too many people chasing too few resources.
Chesneaux describes factories hiring day laborers by throwing the number of tallies for the number of workers they wanted into the crowd of job seekers and letting them fight over them (1968).
Tawney states that factory employees worked a daily twelve-hour night or day shift, child workers included. Their wages were very low, and there were high rates of industrial accidents and disease (1932:142-49).
Pruitt (1945) and Lao She (1979) give detailed descriptions of the lives of the urban poor.
Poverty in the People’s Republic of China
The PRC was the first Chinese government to attempt systematically to reduce both inequality and poverty.
In urban areas, the state appropriated all income-producing property and made all employing units state enterprises. The wages and wage goods these provided gave employees a meager but adequate level of living.