“The level of Civilization can be measured by the degree to which violence is used in a regime” (1)
All countries have skeletons in their closets, from terrible human rights abuses like selling and possessing slaves, to illegal international or internal actions, like the unlawful detention of reporters and citizens.
A good way to truly understand a country is to understand not only what skeletons it has in its closets, but more importantly why it is hiding them.
Countries, just like humans, can make mistakes, but the real test of grace and humanity is a country’s response to wrongdoing.
For, it can be said that the good folks from Chongqing, China are fundamentally the same as those people from DeKalb, Illinois or Letts, Iowa.
However, a big difference is what they have seen and lived through at the hands of their respective governments.
All Countries Have Some Skeletons
If you look at American history, you will find that the slaughter of millions of American Natives and the theft of their lands takes a back seat to Thanksgiving day celebrations.
Today, you see images of smiling red and white faces consuming mass quantities of the land’s abundance – a “gift” from the natives of this country.
It is hard for the world’s most powerful nation to admit the heinous treatment delivered unto those rightful owners of the land, but the government did give them reservations to settle into, didn’t we? (sarcasm intended)
Although this is a horrible part of American history, it does not merit much attention these days, or so it would seem.
As a society, we would like to consider it a thing of the past, something we have gotten beyond. Every now and again, however, we have some miscues that allow the world to see our inner being.
The greedy nature of those sworn to protect us hints at the unbridled capitalistic nature of the staggering behemoth that is the United States of America. But we are not alone, are we?
The brunt of the horror meted against the American Native people occurred more than 100 years ago, but for China, similar horrors have occurred much more recently.
China, just as all other countries, has much to hide. Maybe even more than most.
What Communist China Doesn’t Want You To Know
While it is difficult for some to hide from their past, China – being the sole owner of the press – was more successful than most.
Merely 53 years ago, China underwent one of the worst disasters of modern times – due in part to the misguided leaders of the communist party.
Fortuitously for Beijing, no official report was made for this period.
There is relief for the interested historian, however, as authors such as Dikotter, Becker and others have scavenged through the records that do exist. And through them, the reality of this disaster has come to light (2).
In an attempt to ‘modernize’ the country and ‘spur on’ the land reform that began with the formation of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao initiated the movement leading to the “great leap forward”.
This was not only an attempt at increasing China’s presence in manufacturing, but also to reinforce communist ideals.
Early on, one of the biggest goals of the communist party was to rid the wealthy land owners of their property, and to redistribute it to the people.
As the communist party saw it, private property ownership was indicative of a non-believer in the communist ways. As such, all private property ownership should be extinguished.
The Great Leap Forward
Thus, the movement of the late 1950’s sped along the process of ridding the rich of their land and redistributing it to the newly formed ‘collectives’.
In addition, the plan was to move China from a backwards nation of peasants to a force to be reckoned with. This meant that China would focus on becoming a technology leader.
In addition, its goal was to be the preeminent steel producer within fifteen years time.
Aside from this, China would increase her farm yields through “deep ditch” and experimental farming. The event was buttressed by the idea of the “mass line”, or belief that if all of China put their collective minds to a task, anything could be accomplished.
The Chinese government has yet to disclose documentation that could shed light on the realities and the consequences of this period. But the official word and the party line states that unfavorable weather and even a US trade embargo (3) led to the deaths of many, perhaps millions.
The government, however, virtually absolves the communist party of any wrongdoing. The period is typically called the “communist wind” or “three years of natural catastrophes”.
The Real Horrors of the “Communist Wind”
While the Chinese government agrees that the policy did not work out as planned, they can understand Mao’s vision in trying to improve China.
Unfortunately for Chairman Mao and China, the results of the three year period were disastrous.
Although no official records were ever disclosed, it is estimated that at a minimum of 20 million, and potentially up to 46 million Chinese lost their lives in that three year period (4).
While most would agree that severe weather did play a role in crop devastation, no one is certain as to how much.
For instance, it was reported that initially the weather was fine, but poor decisions by the communist party were to blame for the subsequent crop losses. These decisions led to a deeper famine and loss of life (5).
One example would be that Mao mobilized the “mass line” to rid the farmland of sparrows. Once this feat was achieved, he figured, abundant crop yields would ensue.
Taking the chairman at his word, hordes of Chinese filled the land, banging pots and pans to scare away and/or kill the birds with a revolutionary zeal.
Unfortunately, sparrows actually aid in reducing the insect population, a matter no one had even considered. This misguided decision led to an increase bug population, such as locusts, which then ravaged the crops, leaving them barren.
Chinese Citizens Starved While Silos Were Filled With Food
Equally problematic is the fact that as more and more people were diverted from the fields to the backyard kilns in order to reach Mao’s dream of being the world’s preeminent steel supplier, crops rotted in the fields, as there was no one left to harvest them (6).
The results were disastrous harvests.
The local communist leaders felt they could not report the truth surrounding the low yields, which made the problem worse.
The leaders had to exaggerate their totals in order to be seen as competent.
As a result, communist leaders who worried about the repercussions of reporting a lower than average crop output, increasingly falsified their grain production numbers and withheld grain from the people.
Unfortunately for the commoner, this single act meant that more grain lay unused in storage bins, as proof of the veracity of leaders claims. Unfortunately, as a consequence of these actions, people died of starvation while silos were filled with food.
Equally disquieting is the fact that the farmers were taxed in grain. The problem was that the inflated numbers the cadres had reported meant that more of the farmers grain would be withheld.
Consequently, each person had to give up more of their food, which left them with little. The results were disastrous.
Citizens Resorted to Cannibalism to Survive
The actions of the party leaders led the commoner to do unspeakable things to survive.
With hundreds of millions starving, the people resorted to eating everything that grew. Tree bark to grass was consumed when the farm animals and dogs and cats had disappeared (7).
In one of the most disturbing findings, the Chinese even resorted to cannibalism (8) to avoid outright starvation (9). In some areas, this meant that they were forced to consume the children in the village.
The common practice, it has been reported, was that families would trade children so they would not have to eat their own progeny (10) in order to survive (11).
Accounts such as this are not uncommon. One police investigation from Feb. 25, 1960, details some 50 cases of cannibalism in Yaohejia village in Gansu, China (12). The following is an example from a police report:
“Name of culprit: Yang Zhongsheng. Name of victim: Yang Ecshun. Relationship with culprit: younger brother. Manner of crime: killed and eaten. Reason: livelihood issues (13).”
Added to this calamity is the fact that while the famine ravaged the people of China, no one paid attention.
The World Ignored the Chinese Plight
Even visiting foreign journalists claimed that they saw food rationing, but there was no indication of millions starving to death. Nor did anyone remark to them of any problems with the harvests of late, or so they said.
The real reason could be that the majority of the holocaust took place in the countryside, and not along the routes that a visiting dignitary would be shown.
When and if poor yields were reported, the upper echelon, including Mao, accused the citizens of hoarding the food. They refused to believe that the plan was failing.
In order to maintain control and ‘honesty’ within the community of peasants and farmers, punishment during this period was extremely harsh. According to Dikotter’s research, anywhere from 2 to 3 million people were:
“…tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement. (14)”
Another ghastly report dated Nov. 30, 1960 and circulated to the top leadership — most likely including Mao — tells how a man named Wang Ziyou had one of his ears chopped off, his legs tied up with iron wire and a 10-kilogram stone dropped on his back before he was branded with a sizzling tool. His crime: digging up a potato. (15)
When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot. The report of the investigative team sent by the provincial leadership in 1969 to interview survivors of the famine recorded that the man died of grief three weeks later. (16)
Too Many Skeletons to Hide
In light of the brutal nature of the times, it is little wonder that China would choose to bury the books.
When a country must admit that from 20 to 46 million people died in a three year period, the thought must be harrowing.
Some would question the figures that have been provided and say there is no proof of how many had died. To this, the current author would whole-heatedly agree and then ask why?
Why is it that a holocaust equal to the eradication of a city the size of Rio de Janiero – for three consecutive years – has never been reported (17)?
If it were untrue, then surely the committee for propaganda would set the record straight, but they do not.
The problem probably consists of several factors.
According to Chairman Mao, the calamity was 70% nature and 30% man-made, but Liu Shaoqi, the President and head of state of China during that time, stated that the problem was 70% man made and 30% natural.
If Mr. Liu is correct, then the death toll is even more incredible. And if Mr Yang Jisheng, who went through the local Chinese records, is correct in his tally, then up to 70% of an estimated 38 million Chinese citizens, died due to the poor decisions of the same communist party that is leading them today.
Made in China – Trusting the Chinese Government
That fact alone is enough to merit censorship, or so may the communist party think. Aside from that, the current rape of the land at the hands of business harkens back to those three miserable year that they would like the world to forget.
As of yet, no formal apologies nor admission of what had transpired has been provided (18).
The question we must ponder is that if the government would treat a disaster of their own people in such a manner, then what value would they place on our lives and telling us the truth?
The sad fact is that everyone 54 and older endured this horrific time. Possibly this sobering fact contributes to the lack of information about this period.
For, who wishes to know that the same people who directed the country at that point still may have an impact on governance today, either indirectly or through their children? (19)
Image Credit: Epoch Times, North Central College, China-Mike
–> (1) http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/4-12-9/24672.html
–> (2) Beijing has allowed documents from the period to be opened as recently as two years ago but many have gone to local areas to peruse their records.
–> (3) http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/FD01Ad04.html
–> (4) http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm
–> (5) http://www.distributedrepublic.net/archives/2005/05/01/communist-cannibalism/
–> (6) ibid
–> (7) ibid
–> (8) http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/02/16/reviews/970216.16ebersta.html
–> (9) Ibid- “Cannibalism, according to diverse interviewees, became a widespread practice.”
–> (10) It is also alleged that in Shenyang China the living were eaten.
–> (11) http://www.distributedrepublic.net/archives/2005/05/01/communist-cannibalism/
–> (12) Frank Dikotter -Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962
–> (13) Frank Dikotter -Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962
–> (14) Ibid
–> (15) Ibid
–> (16) Ibid
–> (17) To put this figure into perspective, at a minimum this would mean that for three years straight a city the size of Rio de Janiero was eliminated from the planet and at a maximum the population from two New York cities died each year. —-> (18) Chairman Mao did perform ‘self criticisms for his part’ as well as others.
–> (19) As China is run by a one-party system, its leaders are selected by the higher ups. At present China is entering the era of the ‘Princelings’ or the children of those who formed the communist party so many years ago.
–> (20) The Cambridge history of China, Volume 1
–> (21) Chronology of Mass Killings during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) Song Yongyi Thursday 25 August – 2011