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.
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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Mao’sLong March is considered one of the most significant military campaigns of the 20th Century and one of the most amazing physical feats ever attempted.
Surrounded by hostile armies, 87,000 Communist troops escaped and started walking. It was a retreat that covered nearly 6,000 miles in one year.
It was a desperate retreat for Mao’s Communist Chinese Army (PLA) from the Nationalist forces (theKMT) of General Chiang Kai-shek . The KMT had a huge advantage with a much larger military force big enough to surround their enemy.
Many say The Long March was a brilliant military maneuver. Others claim it was a series of strategic blunders. However, most historians agree that what was accomplished was astounding. In this documentary, the survivors reveal what happened.
In the 1920s, eighty percent of the 450 million Chinese people were poor peasants who lived in the countryside. Over half owned no land and often worked for little more than food for an absentee landlord.
The difference between the Communists and Nationalists was vast. The Communists wanted to give the land to the peasants while the Nationalists wanted to maintain the old social order.
The US and Great Britain supplied bombers, fighters and reconnaissance aircraft to Chiang Kai-shek’s troops and wanted Chiang to attack the Japanese. Instead, he went after the Communists and signed a truce recognizing a Japanese government in Northeast China.
Chiang wanted to fight the PLA the old fashioned way, army to army.
However, Mao had his forces avoid a direct assault and fought using hit and run tactics. Advisors from Soviet Russia pressured Mao to be bolder but he refused, while Chiang was getting advice from a Nazi General from Hitler’s Germany.
When the Red Army finally stood their ground as the Soviets urged, the Communists lost sixty-thousand troops. They could not hold the lightly fortified positions they had built, because Chiang’s KMT were better armed.
In October 1934, Mao’s forces streamed out of their territory after suffering horrible losses. The Long March had begun. Nearly 87,000 troops moved in two main columns to the West and to the South.
It would be several weeks before Chiang learned the PLA had retreated. At the time, Mao came down with a severe case of malaria and had to be carried most of the time.
During the retreat, the PLA brought along the machinery for their government—printing presses, typewriters, etc. The Party’s leaders argued about what to do. Mao wanted to break through the Nationalist lines and attack from the rear but was voted down.
Instead, the decision was for a full-scale retreat and to link up with another Red Army in its stronghold deeper in China. The Nationalists used hundreds of aircraft to bomb and strafe the PLA columns.
As much as one-third of the Communist forces were killed by air attacks. To avoid this, the PLA started to move at night and hide during the day.
A new obstacle, a rugged river, stood in the PLA’s path, and a brutal battle was fought to cross the river. After a small force reached the far side, the survivors were ferried across on bamboo rafts. It took eight days for the army to cross.
The biggest problem was the heavy supply column with the machinery of government, so the Communists left the printing presses and coin minting machines behind along with the government’s records. After suffering horrible losses and not knowing what to do, Mao argued for a change of tactics saying they didn’t have to win every battle.
Mao argued that the most important rule for a military commander was to preserve and strengthen his forces. He had never been to Russia for military training but had read the Chinese military and literary classics.
Since most of the other leaders had been to Moscow to be indoctrinated in Communist ideology, they considered Mao’s thinking dangerous. However, he came out of the conference co-commander of an army that had lost two-thirds of its troops. Meanwhile, the Japanese were expanding their territory in Northeast China, while Chiang Kai-shek was still determined to destroy the Communists.
Mao changed plans and decided to move west toward the fourth Communist army. He took a route so rugged that no one had ever tried it before.
He also broke the army into smaller units and scattered them over the countryside so they would be harder to spot from the air. For a time, this fooled the Nationalists.
While moving across the rugged terrain, it was difficult to stay in touch with all the scattered units so Mao used teenagers as couriers. He also had spies keeping track of the Nationalist army’s movements.
Mao’s first significant battle was for control of an important mountain pass and his troops defeated two Nationalist divisions. It was Mao’s first victory as a commander, which helped him gain the trust of the troops.
Mao’s army began to win more battles. One of Mao’s battalions marched 85 miles in one day and night to seize a Nationalist fort without firing a shot. The fort commanded an important river crossing. When Chiang Kai-shek discovered what Mao’s forces had achieved, he was furious. Meanwhile, Mao was gaining new recruits and support from the peasants.
Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist army had a proven reputation for dishonesty, corruption and heavy taxation — the same policies that contributed to the collapsed of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and the KMT was the faction the United States supported.
Most peasants trusted the Communists, who treated them with respect and refused to take any food while Nationalist troops confiscated the food and supplies they wanted without paying.
One challenge stood in Mao’s way—the Yi minority, who had stayed free of Chinese rule for decades due to their fierceness. Mao sent an envoy to negotiate and an agreement was reached.
In fact, many Yi warriors joined Mao’s army.
However, there was another river to cross and Chiang’s army was moving to trap the Communists. A bridge built in 1701 was the key. The race toward this bridge would lead to the most important battle of the Long March.
In the race to the bridge, advanced elements of the PLA arrived first.
The bridge was about 100 yards long and nine feet wide. Thirteen chains held up the side supports along with the bridge’s flooring. The troops for a local warlord guarded the bridge, and they had removed the flooring. Only the chains were left since the local people refused to cut them.
The battle for the bridge began. Volunteers from the Red Army started to crawl along the chains while covering fire was focused on the warlord’s troops on the other side.
The warlord’s troops used mortars and machine guns shooting at the Red Army volunteers as they crawled toward them. After fierce fighting, Mao’s troops took the bridge and the Red Army crossed.
The Nationalists had made a mistake by not cutting the bridge’s chains.
However, The Long March was not over. The Red Army was heavily outnumbered, and they had some of the highest mountains in the world to cross before reaching the Fourth Red Army and safety deep in Western China.
In June 1935, eight months and over three-thousand miles into the Long March, Mao’s Red Army moved into Western Sichuan Province. For a time, Mao’s troops were safe from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
Meanwhile, the Japanese launched an attack on another northern Chinese province. The Japanese now occupied most of Northern China and the Chinese living there knew little about the struggle between Mao and Chiang Kai-shek.
Feeling abandoned, they were alienated from the Nationalist government.
Meanwhile, the PLA had to cross the Snowy Mountains with peaks as high as 15,000 feet. Because these mountains were so rugged and dangerous, the Nationalist Army stopped the pursuit and waited for the mountains to kill Mao.
Some historians believed crossing these mountains was a blunder, but Mao had no choice. Only defeat waited behind him, and there was no turning back.
The thin air and the steep, snow-covered mountains exhausted the troops. A shortage of food, lack of firewood, and snow blindness all contributed to the challenge. While crossing the mountains and linking up with the Fourth Red Army, thousands were lost.
Once joined, the combined PLA armies numbered 100,000 troops.
The next challenge was the deadliest obstacle of all—a high-desert grassland. There was no choice. All the easy routes were controlled by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.
Then heavy rains came, which turned the grassland into a swamp.
There was no drainage in the grasslands. As it rained, the water saturates the soil and turned it into a swamp. Beneath the flowers and grass were hidden bogs that swallowed men and animals whole.
With temperatures were slightly above freezing, food became scarce and was rationed.
When there was no food, the troops boiled the grass and added a touch of salt. Everyone was weak. Those who collapsed were left to die, because the survivors did not have the strength to help.
The Red Army lost more troops in the grassland than from the Snowy Mountains. A Nationalist army followed the Communists into the grasslands but turned back because of the difficulty and risks.
One reason the Nationalists turned back was that Chiang Kai-shek suffered from a lack of loyalty among his troops and generals. He even feared that one of his generals might kill him.
On the other hand, the loyalty of Mao’s troops was unquestioned.
However, the general of the Fourth Red Army argued with Mao and the two armies split.
Mao’s army was weak and still had hundreds of miles to go to reach safety. One obstacle remained—the dangerous Lazikou pass, which had been fortified by Nationalist troops.
To survive, Mao’s troops would have to take the pass or return through the grassland.
Not wanting to return through the grassland, Mao issued orders to take the pass. The fighting was fierce and the PLA took heavy losses without success.
Then Mao stopped the direct assaults and sent skilled climbers up one of the canyon’s walls. From the high ground, they shot down at the Nationalist fortifications blocking access to the pass.
One volunteer wrapped his body in explosives, leaped from the cliff into the middle of the Nationalist fortifications and blew himself up opening the pass.
Mao’s First Red Army finally reached desolate and rugged Shaanxi Province. The Long March was over, and Mao’s troops linked up with other Red Army elements that already had a base there.
Of the original 87,000 that started the Long March, fewer than 6,000 survived. These survivors would recruit and train a new army.
The Long March turned Mao into a leader with a following from the common people of China.
Eventually, the Fourth Red army arrived, but two-thirds had been killed in battles.
Chiang Kai-shek planned a new campaign to defeat Mao, but Chiang’s supporters and generals forced him to cooperate with the Communists to defeat the Japanese.
After World War II, the Chinese Civil War resumed, and in 1949, Mao won China and Chiang Kai-shek, distrusted by most rural Chinese and still supported by America, fled to Taiwan with the remnants of his army.
Meanwhile, Mao’s six thousand survivors from the First Red Army ruled a country of a half-billion people. Most of the Communist government’s highest-ranking officials from the 1950s through the 70s were the survivors of The Long March.
In one year and one day, the First Red Army covered six-thousand miles, the distance between New York and San Francisco and back again. They averaged about 24 miles a day, climbed 18 major mountain ranges and crossed 24 rivers.
The First Red Army wasn’t the only Communist army to make this march. Two other Red Armies followed and overcame the same obstacles to join Mao’s forces in Shaanxi Province.
On October 30, 1938, H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was broadcast in the style of a radio news story with bulletins from reporters played by actors in the Mercury Theater, which resulted in hundreds if not thousands believing the earth was being invaded by Mars.
The excuse used to invade Vietnam and escalate the Vietnam War was the Tonkin Gulf Incident, which never happened as President Johnson claimed. This hoax led to the long war in Vietnam (1955 – 1975) with millions of troops and civilians killed and injured. Sources: The National Security Archive, Shakesville, and American USSR
More evidence (that we do not hear of in the media) was published in the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine.
Now, Wiki Leaks reveals that the Tiananmen Square incident may be one of the biggest hoaxes in Western Media history or manipulation of the media by the U.S. government on a grand scale.
This revelation of the Tiananmen Square slaughter “that never happened” is big news in China, but in the West it is almost non-news.
After doing a Google search, it appears that only one Western media source published this story on June 4, 2011, and that was the UK’s The Daily Telegraph (to read the story click on the link).
To learn of this, I had to receive an e-mail from friends (American citizens) visiting China as tourists.
Wiki Leaks obtained cables that originally came from the US embassy in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square Incident, which partially confirms the Chinese government’s claim that PLA troops did not massacre demonstrators inside Tiananmen Square.
I wonder how many more Western media and U.S. government lies will be discovered in the future.
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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His wife put students in charge of the schools and made teachers victims.
Before that, Mao turned butchers and peasants into doctors without any medical education to guide them in the healing arts. These untrained doctors were known as bare-foot doctors with little to no training, which I wrote about at China’s Health Care During Mao’s Time.
However, as crazy as it may sound, the bare-foot doctors worked. Life expectancy was about 35 when Mao launched this program and by the time Mao died, life expectancy had increased by twenty years.
After all, fighting a Civil War for almost 25 years and living in caves had to have an impact on Mao. If US soldiers come home with PTSD after one tour of combat, imagine more than two decades living a life of combat.
The Maoists that The Economist mentions mostly want to have the power back but not necessarily the purges and/or denunciations of The Cultural Revolution.
With nostalgia, this minority of Maoists remembers a different time from a different perspective since they may have been the peasant leaders of the adolescent Red Guard.
Many in the West probably do not know that the Red Guard and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were two different forces and the PLA for the most part was not involved in The Cultural Revolution. In fact, several times the PLA stopped the rampaging Red Guard from some of its destruction of all things old in China.
I often find Al Jazeera to be one of the best sources to find unbiased and educational reports of China, and in August 2010, Al Jazeera’s Inside Story questioned if China is attempting to become a major, global military power and if following the US example to modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will achieve this goal.
Inside Story starts out showing a Chinese military parade with troops marching in precision much as I did in the U.S, Marine Corps when taking part in military parades after serving in Vietnam. It’s just that Americans seldom see the American military on parade. Believe me, the precision you will see at the beginning of this Al Jazeera video is no different from military precision in the United States military. The style of how they march may be different but the precision is the same.
While serving in the US Marines 1965 to 1968, I took part in military parades where Marines were required to be perfect while marching, doing drills with unloaded weapons, and standing in the summer heat at attention for hours without batting an eyelid.
If a Marine passed out in the heat, it helped if he or she fell while still standing stiffly at attention all the way to the ground. The chewing out that might come later wouldn’t be as harsh.
Al Jazeera English – Inside Story, Modernizing China’s Military – 23:24 minutes
On the 83rd anniversary of the PLA, the Liberation Army Daily said, “China’s army should modernize to boost combat capability using the US as an example.”
The Liberation Army Daily reported, “History and reality have shown again and again that a country which does not have a world view is a backward one. A military which lacks global vision is one without hope.”
To discuss this issue, Al Jazeera convened three military experts from around the globe: Shunzi Taoka from Japan, Lei Wang of Harvard University, and Richard Weitz of the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C.
Lei Wang says that the topic of a modern military in China is not new. It is a topic that has been discussed in China for centuries. He points out that in the 19th century many countries invaded China, which caused people to rethink how to protect China.
Wang says, modernizing the Chinese military will serve economic achievement, China’s role in global peace keeping, and fighting global terrorism. In fact, Wang points out that Chinese troops are always the first to reach a site in China devastated by a natural catastrophe to provide aid and protection to the people.
Richard Weitz agrees that the Chinese military has been modernizing all through its history, which means more than two thousand years. In fact, the Chinese military was technologically superior to the Roman Empire at the time of the Han Dynasty, and maintained that position for centuries until the 19th century.
Shunzi Taoka says he is not typical Japanese. He says he does not believe in the theory that China is a military threat. He points out that China’s navy is no match for the US, and China’s military expansion is over emphasized.
Lei Wang then says that the key mission of the Chinese military is to protect all of China’s economic development—not to intervene or invade other countries. He says, “It is important to look at the culture of Chinese and to also look at what China has done…” and China is now part of global trade and feels a responsibility to provide global protection for free trade. To achieve that goal, the military must be modern.
When asked about China’s military secrecy, Richard Weitz says that is somewhat understandable. However, he points out, we have seen cooperation. China has become a major contributor to UN global peacekeeping operations on the ground.
Shunzi Taoka says to see China as an enemy of the United States as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War is outdated. China is too heavily invested in America and depends on American trade for its economic development. China is very, very different from the Soviet Union.
In fact, China sponsors the US with economic support.
In summation, all three military experts did not see China as a military threat to other nations.