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Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine (Holt Paperback) Paperback – April 15, 1998
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This first authoritative expose of the 1958-1962 famine prompted by China's collectivization plan, "The Great Leap Forward," comes at a time when the cult of Mao is alive and well inside China, and while agents of Chinese influence are able to arrange audiences with a President. Via his painstaking research and reporting that included two treks through interior Chinese provinces, Becker tells how the famine occurred because ill-trained peasants were forced to undertake a gigantic and centralized industrial and agricultural expansion. The new factories, canals, and irrigation systems failed spectacularly, and in contrast to propaganda boasts of having economically outstripped the U.S., when in reality the populace was driven by starvation to cannibalism, slavery, and madness. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Becker, Beijing Bureau Chief for the South China Morning Post, sees the 1958-62 famine, even more than the Cultural Revolution that followed it, as China's greatest trauma of the century. Population statistics made public since 1979 reveal that at least 30 million people starved to death in the wake of Mao's Great Leap Forward. Although Becker concedes that the American press (especially Joseph Alsop) reported the famine with accuracy, he notes that other Western "foreign experts" who admired Mao, such as Edgar Snow, Rewi Alley, and Anna Louise Strong, remained silent or played down its severity. The tragedy could have been averted, Becker concludes, after the first year if Mao's senior advisers had dared to confront him. Unlike such academic works as Dali L. Yang's Calamity and Reform in China (Stanford Univ., 1996), this work presupposes little knowledge of communism and China; Becker's strength is his anecdotal, journalistic style. This is fascinating journalism, but the definitive study has yet to be written.?Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Given today's political context, it is doubtful than anything will be learned - by the public - about this fairly recent history without a reading of this book and reference materials used to put it together. I feel that I have learned something that most people know nothing about. Mao and his mentor Stalin certainly rival Hitler in just plain nastiness.
Becker's book is one of the first to detail the disastrous Great Leap Forward, Yang Jisheng's "Tombstone" and then Frank Dikötter's "Mao's Great Famine." The English translation of "Tombstone" removes about half of the original book's contents. "Mao's Great Famine" is somewhat more myopic than "Hungry Ghosts," providing little geography context for the hundreds of anecdotes Dikötter presents.
The scholarly debate between these books seems focused on the number of deaths. Taken together, the three books point to a death toll between 30,000,000 and 45,000,000 - an unfathomable tragedy. All three books correctly point out the disgusting human fault of the famine. Jasper's book, while dryer, does an excellent job of examining local and national faults.