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

September 3, 2011

The last damaging factors that may have led to millions of deaths due to famine and starvation was the statistical lies of rural farmers and local party bosses reporting crop yields in rural China and Mao’s impossible goals to create a miracle in five years.

Mao’s five-year plan for the Great Leap Forward set quotas (goals) to develop agriculture and industry so China would catch up to America and the other Western nations that had invaded China during the 19th century (England, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, America, etc.)

Mao believed that both agriculture and industry had to grow to allow the other to thrive.

Industry could only prosper if the workers were well fed, while the agricultural workers needed industry to produce the modern tools needed for modernization.

For this to happen, China was reformed into a series of giant communes.

However, the droughts, floods and other severe weather arrived soon after this five-year plan was implemented and set the stage for a tragedy caused by nature and supported by American “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 so 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 and nobody was trying to find out. Instead, there was a sense of general euphoria in Beijing that China was succeeding.

While rural farmers and party posses lied about crop yields, China started exporting rice and wheat to other countries as a source of revenue, since Beijing believed there was a bumper crop. The result was that only urban areas suffered with reduced rations but with still enough food to survive.

However, the situation was different in the areas that lied the most and resulted in mass starvations largely confined to rural China, where, because of drastically inflated production statistics, very little grain was left for the peasants to eat.

Food shortages were bad throughout the country. However, the provinces, which had adopted Mao’s reforms with the most energy, zeal and the highest boasts, such as Anhui, Gansu and Henan, tended to suffer disproportionately.

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 vigor with which 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 and Australia (in spite of America’s complete embargo) helped to reduce the impact of the food shortages. Source: Library

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 people had not lied about crop yields?

It is no secret that millions of rural people starved to death in China during the famine of 1959 – 1960, but it was a “great” tragedy caused by a complex series of circumstances and was not murder.

In addition, the actual number of deaths was significantly lower than what has been claimed in the West.

The CCP’s lofty goal was to prove to the world that the Party ruled China successfully by boosting crop yields and industrial output.

Another reason the CCP set such unrealistic goals for the five-year plan that contributed to the tragedy that was Great Leap Forward was because of Taiwan, which was recognized by the world as the official government of China and still held its seat in the United Nations.

It wouldn’t be until 1971 that the U.N. recognized the People’s Republic of China instead, and the United States wouldn’t switch diplomatic relations with China from Taipei to Beijing until 1979, finally recognizing the Communist Party as the legitimate ruler of China.

Return to China’s Great Famine (1958 – 1961) Fact or Fiction – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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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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Speed on Rails and the Three Gorges Dam Makes News

November 2, 2010

While the Globe’s number one debt-ridden super power talks about building bullet trains and coastal wind farms and doesn’t plan to replace outdated coal burning, polluting power plants, China builds them.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press comes news of the bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou.

Bullet Train from Shanghai to Hangzhou – Mandarin News

However, the big news was the mighty Three Gorges Dam, which holds as much water as Lake Superior in the US. The dam is capable of producing 18 gigawatts of electricity equal to about 40 nuclear power plants.

China is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity, followed by Canada, Brazil and the United States. Since no fuel is needed to run a hydroelectric plant, there is little pollution.

Although there was controversy about moving the 1.4 million people who lived in the area behind the Three Gorges Dam, those still waters may save many lives during times of drought and flood.

One example of the controversy comes from a 2007 piece in Time Magazine, which mentions the project has been mired in controversy ever since it was first proposed by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (1866 -1925), the founding father of China’s republic.

In fact, floods along the Yangtze killed more than 300,000 people during the 20th century but there was no mention of that in the Time piece.

Taking into account the loss of life from floods and the threat of droughts in China, why did the Western media spend so much effort publicizing the controversial resettlement project without mentioning the potential benefits to hundreds of millions of Chinese?


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar. 

Man-Made Disasters

August 26, 2010

Global Voices Online writes about man-made disasters, and I couldn’t help myself. I had to leave a comment.

While reading the post at Global Voices Online, I was reminded of the floods in China and the recent earthquake there.

Xinhua reports that China mourns mudslide victims as relief operation continues.  The piece said, “At least 1,248 people have died and 496 are listed as missing.

I read in the Guardian (April 14, 2010), that a 7.1 quake hit Yushu county in north-west province of Qinghai killing at last 400 and injuring 10,000.

When my sister and her children joined me on Mt. Rainier more than a decade ago, I learned that more than two million people lived below this active volcano, which is overdue for an eruption.

Mt. Rainer overlooks the city of Seattle in the United States.

According to experts, if Mt. Rainier blows, the wall of mud and trees that would rush toward the ocean would be 700 feet high and reach the ocean in less than half-an-hour. 

Meanwhile, homes are still being built along that path of future destruction, and there is no way to to protect those homes and people who live there.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the flooding was caused by man.  People built houses on land that has been sinking for decades. The government built walls to keep the water out but the walls weren’t strong enough.  More than 1,800 people died from that hurricane. In New Orleans, 80% of the city was flooded, and over 700 bodies were recovered there.

Why do people build in harm’s way?

See The WHO’s War on Tobacco, about another man-made disaster.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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