When I asked my wife her opinion [who lived through the Great Leap Forward (GLF) as a child and then was a teen in Shanghai and spent a few years in a labor camp during The Cultural Revolution] she doubted if the number of people that died of starvation in China during the GLF were anywhere near the massive numbers Western authors such as Frank Dikotter claim.
My wife then mentioned a few memoirs she had read of troops from Division A-341 of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which guarded Mao, the Forbidden City (where Mao lived) and Beijing during the GLF.
The memoirs of a number of Mao’s personal PLA bodyguards from Division A-341 revealed that when Party members told Mao that rural Chinese in a few provinces were starving due to droughts and low crop yields, Mao did not believe what he was told.
However, to verify these claims, Mao sent people he trusted [troops from PLA Division A-341 that came from rural China] to their villages to investigate the claims of famine.
one in eight children in the United States go to bed hungry daily
When Mao’s trusted bodyguards returned in late 1960 or early 1961 and reported that the claims were true, Mao acted swiftly, cancelled the GLF several years early sending the peasants back to their villages from the collectives, and directed the Party to seek help from other countries to feed the people.
As my wife said, (due to Piety—considered the First of all Virtues, which I wrote of here) the Party would never have ordered an end to the Great Leap Forward without Mao’s permission. The orders had to come from Mao and according to the memoirs of his personal bodyguards, he was the one that made the decision to end the GLF, five-year plan early and have China ask for outside help, which started to arrive from Canada and Australia in 1961.
In fact, Roderick MacForquhar wrote in his book, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, that in May 1961, China entered into long-term arrangements with Canada and Australia to insure grain supplies until production in China recovered in addition to imports of American grain laundered through France to avoid the complete American embargo.
Continued on November 18, 2011 in Mao’s ‘alleged’ Guilt in the Land of Famines – Part 8 or return to Part 6
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.
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