The droughts, floods and other severe weather arrived soon after the five-year plan to modernize and grow strong enough to resist another war was implemented and set the stage for a tragedy caused by nature and supported by America’s “economic warfare” in the form of a “complete embargo” of China.
Due to quotas set by Mao’s agricultural policies, no one wanted to be seen as a failure and/or unpatriotic and this generated boastful claims about output that were followed by more boastful claims of incredible crop yields.
Nobody—least of all the central government in Beijing—knew the real output figures. There was a sense of general euphoria in Beijing that China was succeeding.
While rural farmers and local party bosses lied about crop yields, Beijing started exporting rice and wheat to other countries as a source of revenue, because Beijing thought there was a bumper crop. The result was that urban areas suffered with reduced rations but with still enough food to survive.
Food shortages were bad throughout the country. However, the provinces, which had adopted Mao’s reforms with the most energy, zeal and with the most fake bragging, such as Anhui, Gansu and Henan, suffered the most.
In fact, Sichuan, one of China’s most populous provinces, known in China as “Heaven’s Granary” because of its fertility, is thought to have suffered the greatest absolute numbers of deaths from starvation due to the energy that provincial leader Li Jinquan undertook Mao’s reforms.
Once the central government in Beijing discovered the truth, the Chinese Communist Party acted quickly to correct the errors in national agricultural decision-making, to conserve food, and to save as many lives as possible implementing drastic measures to feed those in need and to restore agricultural productivity.
Grain exports were stopped, and imports from Canada, France and Australia (in spite of America’s complete embargo) helped to reduce the impact of the food shortages. – Library Index.com
The final question is: Would Mao’s Great Leap Forward have been more successful if there had been no drought, no floods and no “complete (U.S.) embargo”, and the provincial party bosses had not lied about crop yields to Beijing?
Continued in Part 6 on March 22, 2015 or return to Part 4
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards
Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival
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This link, Library Index.com, does not lead to a discussion of the subject. Do you have the correct link?
It must be a broken link. It happens all the time, so I went looking for other sources and found these:
In 1963, the Chinese press called the famine of 1961-62 the most severe since 1879. In 1961, a food-storage program obliged China to import 6.2 million tons of grain from Canada and Australia. In 1962, import decreased to 5.32 million tons. Between 1961 and 1965, China imported a total of 30 million tons of grain at a cost of US$2 billion (Robert Price, International Trade of Communist China Vol II, pp 600-601). More would have been imported except that US pressure on Canada and Australia to limit sales to China and US interference with shipping prevented China from importing more. Canada and Australia were both anxious to provide unlimited credit to China for grain purchase, but alas, US policy prevailed and millions starved in China.
To find the section where I found this information, search for famine.
Other sources that mention the sales of grain to China in 1961.
The next link leads to a source that goes into greater detail about imports of grain to China in 1961, page 110, Table 4, and France,Australia and Canada weren’t the only countries selling grain to China. Argentina, Burma, and Germany are also mentioned. You may also be interested in the details in the paragraph below Table 4. For instance, “Throughout the famine thus fa5r Zhou Enlai had made sure that deliveries of eggs and meat reaches Hong Kong every single day. … (Next paragraph starts) Beijing also emptied its reserves, sending silver bars to London. … In a desperate attempt to raise more foreign currency, China also started a grim trade in sympathy by which overseas Chiense could buy special coupons in exchange for cash in Hong Kong banks: these coupons could then be sent to hungry relatives across the border, to be exchanged for grain and blankets.”
And it seems that something that is very Chinese and has nothing to do with being communist, nationalist, republican, etc. also played a role in the crises—asking for help was also seen by the Chinese leaders as a loss of face.