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Thread: Mao's Great Famine

  1. #16
    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    I find it difficult to place myself in such a psyche, but reputation is a fundamental part of the human condition, it just takes a strange form in that proverb. A reoccurring theme of the book was the utilisation of public shaming as a tool to keep people in line. Also, local leaders would often go to great lengths to hide evidence of the famine when party officials came to investigate "progress".
    I guess it's making fun of the obsession with status that some Chinese have by using a totally exaggerated example.

    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    The re-education camps were local based and popped up across the country, where as the reform-through-labour camps were located in inhospitable regions such as inner mongolia so its likely she was sent to one of them.
    Didn't know there's a difference. I learned something new today. Thank you.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    I was musing in regard to outside China, and also in regard to general attitudes of sympathy of an apologist nature that you get from some people in regard to the failure of communism.
    I had a sorta respects for Deng Xia Peng until I met a Chinese, Citanon who told me otherwise. At one time, to me, DXP represented a great leader with a great vision. He took a 19th Century China, dragged her butt into the 20th Century, and kicked her ass into the 21st Century ... and China could not be where she is today without that action.

    It took one post from Citanon describing what he grew up with that I realized that DXP's China ain't any better than Hitler's Germany.

    The excesses of Mao's GLF and GPCR overshadowed DXP's authoritarian rule in China. Compare to Mao, Deng was a God's gift to China ... but his methods were no better than the Nazis ... and at times, surpasses the Nazis. He wasted 30,000 men just so he can cut down the army's political power saying the army can't even fight a war in Vietnam.

    My point is ... if you want to understand ... talk to a Chinese who lived through it.

    Within context, there was no Somalia. There was no mass migration of people looking for food. People went hungry and people died but at no point did this famine looked like anything like famines of the past. Food was taken from the weak and given to the strong and those deaths were not recorded as starvation.

    Also, Western observers did this no favours when they counted population loss with the inclusions of those not borned. The most touted about figure of 45 million dead includes those not borned. They call it population loss and not deaths. People didn't die. They were just not borned.
    Chimo

  3. #18
    Senior Contributor DOR's Avatar
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    I have read the book, and had the chance to hear Prof. Dikotter speak on it shortly after it came out. I asked him about his sources, and he was very open about having had a unique opportunity to access documents that would probably not be seen by researchers again for 50 years, if ever. The stories of how he obtained access are worth repeating.

    When he was doing his research, about 10-15 years ago, provincial libraries and official document centers were uncertain as to what should be available to scholars, what should only be available to Chinese scholars, what should only be available with special permission and what should never see the light of day. Gansu was particularly fertile ground for his work: apparently they were so used to being ignored that they were honored to have him interested in their history.

    My favorite story: If a file of documents was not forthcoming, he would ask for the next file, or the previous one. Frequently, he found that bundles of files were presented to him, including the one he really wanted.

    --"Sorry, you can't see June 17, 1959."
    --"Um, how about June 16 and June 18?"
    --"Sure, no problem."

    The book is extremely well researched, within the confines of other researchers not being able to duplicate his work. He readily acknowledges this, and provides probably too many examples as a way of showing that he really saw the documents he uses as sources.

    Highly recommended for the serious scholar, with a strong stomach and a good knowledge of China in the 1950s.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    I had a sorta respects for Deng Xia Peng until I met a Chinese, Citanon who told me otherwise. At one time, to me, DXP represented a great leader with a great vision. He took a 19th Century China, dragged her butt into the 20th Century, and kicked her ass into the 21st Century ... and China could not be where she is today without that action.

    It took one post from Citanon describing what he grew up with that I realized that DXP's China ain't any better than Hitler's Germany.

    The excesses of Mao's GLF and GPCR overshadowed DXP's authoritarian rule in China. Compare to Mao, Deng was a God's gift to China ... but his methods were no better than the Nazis ... and at times, surpasses the Nazis. He wasted 30,000 men just so he can cut down the army's political power saying the army can't even fight a war in Vietnam.
    The book gives the impression that DXP was a close ally of Mao's, one who carried out intense purges on Mao's behalf. In 1959, when it became clear to the leadership that many farmers were hiding grain, Mao pretended to be on the side of farmers publicly while blaming and purging leaders who he alleged had incorrectly applied his policies. This had presented an opportunity to take a step back from the policies, an opportunity missed. Dikoter quotes DXP to the effect that that GLP policies must be accelerated at this point. In 1961 at the height of the famine, DXP can be quoted as approving of the high procurement policies and opposing any local leaders holding back to prevent starvation, economy policy over the people, enforce the policies “as if in a war”. I can't comment in regard to DXP during a different period in China's history, but any judgement of DXP should include the period of the GLF, Mao isn't the only one to be held account, and DXP's vehement support the Mao's policies should be enough to condemn the man on its own.

    edit. It probably is only fair at this point to say that it is difficult to judge were people really stood, public statements were often made to appease Mao, real opinions and decisions made in the background may often have contradicted such statements.

    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post

    My point is ... if you want to understand ... talk to a Chinese who lived through it.
    Don't get me wrong that is a vital part of understanding and I will if I get the opportunity, but to get the scope of how people suffered, you would have to talk to millions, many who are not alive or would not speak of it, this book can partly help in overcoming such problems due to the extent of its scope.

    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post

    Within context, there was no Somalia. There was no mass migration of people looking for food.
    China is a big country, near the borders people left. There was movement of people. People left for the cities on a huge scale, in some villages only the elderly and those who couldn't walk remained. The system of classification of chinese people into peasants and urban dwellers via the household registration system split the country into two. Once the communes controlled the food supply, coupons for food handed out could only be used locally, discouraging people to leave as they would starve. Often people did leave for the prospect of city jobs, as the famine deepened people left as many were given not enough or any food, although walking to the cities was difficult and your were turned back by the authorities if caught. In 1961, to prevent starvation in the cities, the state formed policy to send back the illegal peasants to the countryside to starve. They set a target of 20 million, expelling over 12 million that year alone and blocking return to the cities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post

    People went hungry and people died but at no point did this famine looked like anything like famines of the past.
    I think that due to collectivisation and the use of mass labour, many elements of this famine were almost or completely unique, it wasn't just a food shortage, but a complete breakdown of every element of chinese economy and society, a cumulative disaster. In other regards, I can't comment, because I know very little of other famines.

    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    Food was taken from the weak and given to the strong and those deaths were not recorded as starvation.

    Also, Western observers did this no favours when they counted population loss with the inclusions of those not borned. The most touted about figure of 45 million dead includes those not borned. They call it population loss and not deaths. People didn't die. They were just not borned.
    Maybe by some I cant say, but Dikotter rights or wrongly uses a normal death rate of 1% of the population annually and counts any death rate over that on an annual basis as excessive and includes it in the total, so forced starvation of the weak is in the count. His figure of 45 million minimum does not count those not borne, just excessive deaths.
    Last edited by tantalus; 12 Nov 14, at 12:55.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DOR View Post
    and he was very open about having had a unique opportunity to access documents that would probably not be seen by researchers again for 50 years, if ever. The stories of how he obtained access are worth repeating.
    Quote Originally Posted by DOR View Post

    provincial libraries and official document centers were uncertain as to what should be available to scholars,
    I wonder if people lost their jobs when the book was published...

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