Historian: Mao’s Great Leap Forward ‘killed 45 million in four years’

You have to wonder how anyone can have respect for Mao. Most assumed the number was high though forty-five million is much more than previously estimated. Many suffered from starvation thanks to Mao’s systematic lying about food production. Everyone wanted to out perform the other so whether or not the numbers were there, they claimed to have certain quantities of rice.

Overstating numbers has been a regular feature in communist China (and some other neighboring countries) which has always made be reluctant to fully embrace the Chinese economic miracle story. Great yes, but how real? The Independent:

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.

Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. “It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century…. It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot’s genocide multiplied 20 times over,” he said.

Between 1958 and 1962, a war raged between the peasants and the state; it was a period when a third of all homes in China were destroyed to produce fertiliser and when the nation descended into famine and starvation, Mr Dikötter said.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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