Bloomberg highlighted a new book by Frank Dikotter called, “Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62,” in which the author highlights the efforts of Mao Zedong’s efforts to perfect and beat out the Soviet Union as the most “perfect” socialist state. The results according to Dikotter (and increasingly revealed by Chinese citizens), were far from perfect.
Massive starvation, loss of livelihood, people eat dirt hoping to avoid death by starvation and cannibalism all play into Dikotter’s account of this tragic experiment. According to his research and countless interviews, he estimates that over 45 MILLION people died due to these policies. On leave from teaching in London, Dikotter is in residence at the University of Hong Kong reports Bloomberg where he spent time researching and putting together this book.
The MOST tragic part of this for me, from what I read in the Bloomberg article, is that it appears that the influential people of the West were sympathetic and supportive of what they thought Mao was. This disturbs me because I see it today – misinformed Americans and Europeans today often support some of the seediest characters on the global stage. In some ways I understand (but don’t condone it) because through the Cold War, America and our allies used countless countries and their installed leaders as pawns and puppets for our purposes. This, not surprisingly, led to the backlash against American “imperialism” and much support for leaders who fooled Westerners into thinking they were doing good things. It is no surprise to me, but saddening nonetheless, to discover that as Mao put a smile on to the global media, he was killing millions of his own people.
This was simply another failed experiment in government trying to control every part of an economy; and countless nameless people die when, in my opinion, the people I call “control freaks” gain power in government – and they’re everywhere.
Here are a couple of Wikipedia entries on Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” (what Mao called these efforts):
And here is a video for you Chinese speakers featuring Yuan Tengfei discussing this time period (don’t ask me to translate):