Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 Paperback – October 11, 2011
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
“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.
A Look Inside Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962
(Click on Images to Enlarge)
Top Customer Reviews
The cumulative effect of DiKotter's reliance on his primary sources is, however, a powerful and devastating exposure of the dimensions of this tragedy and the culpability of the Chinese Communist Party. DiKotter takes pains to rebut the common impression that the famine of the Great Leap Forward was the inadvertant consequence of a terribly mistaken policy exacerbated by bad weather. DiKotter shows very well that the famine and its accompanying events go well beyond simple criminal negligence. The Great Leap Forward was not just an ill-advised attempt at forced industrialization. DiKotter demonstrates a number of other important aspects including incredibly stupid and destructive efforts to completely re-engineer the hydrology of China and Chinese agriculture, to extend the power of the Party into all aspects of Chinese life, and to make China the leading nation of the Communist bloc. In common with other writers on this topic, DiKotter emphasizes Mao's crucial role in generating and sustaining the policies of the Great Leap Forward. DiKotter also makes clear that Mao would never have succeeded without the support of other important figures in the Party, and DiKotter shows well that Mao's messianism and incredibly callous attitude extended throughout the Party.
DiKotter favors a high estimate of the death toll associated with the Great Leap Forward, some 45 million people. If correct, this would be the greatest human caused slaughter in history, and it occurred in a span of about 4 years. The magnitude of the death toll, even at the smaller estimates of about 30 million, is unimaginable. DiKotter provides many examples of the ways in which the Chinese people died and these clearly written sections make for excruciating reading.
I know many of the facts this book presents from history books published in Chinese. This is the first English book I read about this topic written by a foreigner. I must say this author did plenty of research, not only from Chinese sources, but from sources of other countries. So I did learned something which I did not know before. One example, the book told us Mao pressured to export more meat and other goods, but "When the pressure to deliver increased", the quality goes down. "The Soviet Union lodged repeated complaints of the quality of meat, which was often contaminated by bacteria, 1/3 of pork tins were rusty, ... paper exported to HongKong was unusable, ... West Germany discovered salmonella in 500 tonnes of eggs, Swiss found a fifth of shipped coal consisted of stones..."
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 thier owners".
But not all the people died of hunger. Many would suffer from common illnesses such as diarrhoea,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,albeit 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 untrammelled 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-megalomanic 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.
This book is a stunning achievement and extremely important. It reads like a thriller and the narrative will keep you breathless! Hats off,Mr.Dikotter!