October 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Asia, Books, China, Economics, History, Research | Leave a comment










Mao’s Great Famine:

The History of China‘s Most Devastating Catastrophe,1958-1962

Frank Dikötter (Author)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

“Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up to and overtake Britain in less than 15 years The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives.”

So opens Frank Dikötter’s riveting, magnificently detailed chronicle of an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented because access to Communist Party archives has long been restricted to all but the most trusted historians. A new archive law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that “fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era.” Dikötter makes clear, as nobody has before, that far from being the program that would lift the country among the world’s superpowers and prove the power of Communism, as Mao imagined, the Great Leap Forward transformed the country in the other direction. It became the site not only of “one of the most deadly mass killings of human history,”–at least 45 million people were worked, starved, or beaten to death–but also of “the greatest demolition of real estate in human history,” as up to one-third of all housing was turned into rubble.

From Booklist

In 1958, Mao Zedong, perhaps influenced by Khrushchev’s boast that the Soviet Union would surpass the U.S. in key aspects of industrial production within 10 years, launched China’s Great Leap Forward. This was a tragically delusional effort to dramatically improve agricultural and industrial production, far beyond any realistic possibility, given China’s limited economic base. The human costs of this folly were catastrophic. Dikötter, professor of modern history of China at the University of London, utilizes newly available material, including Communist Party archives and accounts by individual Chinese citizens, to chronicle these horrors in stomach-churning detail. By the time even Mao recognized his failure in 1962, Dikötter credibly asserts that as many as 45 million Chinese died from starvation, execution, and maltreatment under forced labor. Ultimate responsibility rests with Mao and his indifference to individual human suffering, but Dikötter also condemns other high-ranking party officials who recognized the failures early on but lacked the courage to challenge Mao. This is an important work illustrating the dangers of one individual holding power to force millions to fulfill his personal fantasies.

Product Details:

· Hardcover: 448 pages

· Publisher: Walker & Company

· September 28 2010

· Language: English

· ISBN-10: 0802777686

· ISBN-13: 978-0802777683

Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China‘s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962

Frank Dikotter has written a masterpiece about history’s greatest monster and mass murderer ever to have lived. To be precise, he describes the massed and forcible collectivization of the Chinese peasants who paid a horrible price in the process: over 45 million of them died in addition to the many more tens of millions who perished as well because of one man’s mad scheme to bring change to his country, no matter what the price ought to be. This was the so-called Great Leap Forward and it happened during 4 years, between 1958-1962.

To quote Dikotter: “China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy (which was) an attempt to catch up with and overtake Britain in less than fifteen years. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivized and people in the countryside were robbed of their work, their homes, their land, their belongings and their livelihood.”(See Introduction)
To write this book, thousands of new documents hitherto classified were used. These came from many sources, mainly from the Office of Foreign Affairs and other provincial archives. These brutal acts caused the greatest demolition of real estate in history and one third of all housing was turned into rubble. “Homes were pulled down to make fertilizers, to build canteens, to relocate villagers, to straighten roads, to make place for a better future beckoning ahead or simply to punish their owners”.
But not all the people died of hunger. Many would suffer from common illnesses such as diarrhea, dysentery and typhus. “Suicide reached epidemic proportions and in Puning, Guangdong, suicides were described as ‘ceaseless’; some people ended their lives out of shame for having stolen from fellow villagers.”(p.304) What’s more, “human flesh was traded on the black market. A farmer who bartered a pair of shoes for a kilo of meat at the Zhangye railway station found that the package contained a human nose and several ears.”(p.321) “One elderly man quietly sobbed when he recounted how, as a young boy, he and the other villagers had been forced to beat a grandmother, tied up in the local temple for having taken wood from the forest. Others were intimidated by mock trials and mock burials. People were given yin and yang hair cuts, as one half of the head was shaved off, the other not”(p.296)

Mao, despite strong words of criticism, did not care at all about how history would judge him. To exemplify, one of his strongest critics, Liu Shaoqi, who had been totally shocked by what he had seen in his village, tried to stop the sheer madness of the Chairman. Mao had, at this point, decided to launch a reconstruction campaign also known as the Cultural Revolution, but he made sure to hound his opponent by using the Red Guards until Liu died in 1969,deprived of his medicines.

This is a tale of madness, of horror and shows to what extent dictators can use their untrammeled power in order to wreak havoc not only on others but also on their own people without even flinching. It shows how some of the leaders have lost their reason completely and have used their super-megalomaniacal aspirations without thinking about the price that others would pay. The names of Stalin, Ceausescu, Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and the worst monster of them, Mao, will always reside in history’s hall of infamy.

Mao’s Great Famine:

The History of China‘s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962

Frank Dikötter (Author)


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