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« Great Leap Famine Denial | Main | The Comfort of Cyclical Complementarity »

February 19, 2013


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"In the face of this evidence, it is not appropriate to suggest, as HH did, that no-one starved, or that the number was low enough to make this historical event not worth mentioning."

Can you point to me where in the HH blog that nobody starved in the HH blog? If you can't, you're just lying.

Mr. Crane, It's certainly very Confucian for you to accept my theoretical accusation against the Founding Fathers. In return I will accept the proposition that Mao made mistakes during the GLF which exacerbated the famines during which millions died. Yet the concession is meaningless, you can teach in an ivory tower in an ivy league university which probably over 95% of Americans would totally reject which I think you would recognize as true, and large majorities in both Congresses will rebuke any such ideas. The policies of U.S. as an empire will continue unabated.

When the Tea Partiers claim in their philosophy of Objectivism, that they earned what they accumulated and resist taxes, the liberals sneer at their naivete, as if society can be isolated to individuals. Yet for the cold war liberals history does breakup to discrete isolated events. They consider GLF or Cultural Revolution as discrete events isolated from history and blames assigned. China does learn from its mistakes. Liu Shao Chi was named president in '59 and policies and rationing were installed, contracts were signed to import food, the worst of the famines occurred in '60-'61, but to you instant response is not fast enough and path not taken in retrospect is the critique. For all its censorship I suspect Chinese are much better informed on her history than wide open internet accessed America where knowledge is available and ignored, and certainly lesson unlearned.

Mr. Ngok:

If China has learnt the lessons, she would not have sensored the books on GLF, or any disents. And Mr. Crane is not making a comparison of informedness of ordinary Chinese and American of their own history.

Yes, lots of Chinese are informed of their own history, like wise, lots of Americans are not. We are not comparing who is more stupid or less ignorant. We are trying to understand the conditions that give rise to crazy economic policies that led to mass starvation and uncessariary suffering. This applies to both side of the Pacific.

It is why we need such discussions and investigations, for the good of all humanities.

@Pugster -

"However, it turns out the numbers can nevertheless be revised dramatically either way without violating the census figures. To see, this, one might replace the death rate for 1958-1961 in Table 3 during the Great Leap Forward years by a “normal” baseline death rate of 0.01134, as if no abnormal deaths occurred during the Great Leap Forward . . .

In other words, to the extent that the census data of 1953 and 1964 support the assertion that 14 (or 12 or 16) million died, depending on the presumed baseline death rate, the data also support with equal likelihood that no one died as a result of the Great Leap Forward! . . .

We cannot therefore make any assertion whether anyone died as a result of the Great Leap Forward because we cannot refute the null hypothesis that no one died due to the Great Leap Forward, as far as the census data of 1953 and 1964 are concerned."

- Allen, on HH, suggesting that no-one may have died 'abnormally' during the GLF, supported by hand-waving analysis that ignores even the most basic tenets of statistics.

The weird thing is that, simultaneous to this denial, Allen tries to pin responsibility on the famine on foreign governments:

"In another vein, more light should perhaps be shed on the international embargo directed at China at the time. Had the West relented on her inhumane embargo, much suffering could have been reduced. Whatever your view of the Great Leap Forward, the dominant narrative we hear today is definitely too simplistic."

This ridiculous assertion (suffering - presumably meaning the starvation and malnutrition was imposed on China by a 'western' embargo) does not bear even the mildest degree of scrutiny. Firstly, some 'western' governments continued to allow trade (albeit excluding anything of military utility) with China - including the United Kingdom. Secondly, the People's Republic may have been relatively diplomatically isolated during the 1960's, but this was a largely self-imposed isolation brought about by Mao's insane policies (or was the USSR part of 'the west'? Was India?). Thirdly, the PRC never admitted that there was a problem and so would not have asked for aid from e.g., the United States even if it could have, and did not request aid from the countries it maintained relations with. In reality, this is little more than the normal attempt at subject-changing seen again and again in these discussion - make the discussion about the 'west' rather than about Mao.


Mark Twain referred Americans as "Innocents Abroad". Mr. Crane shouts from his ivory tower that J'accuse. I certainly would not use those inflammatory words on HH, but I do want to make clear why I feel he was mistaken. Liberals feel they are morally superior and preach democracy while ignoring history. They embrace Arab Spring and women's right while ignoring the support for Mubarak for the last 40 years and still continuing support for the Saudi royal family, they condemn the Ayatollahs while ignoring the coup in '53 by CIA in overthrowing democracy in Iran, they were appalled by genocides on Rwanda and Congo while forgetting the assassination of Lumumba by CIA and the Belgian colonialism in setting up of Tutsi tribal rivalry. For them, they are really innocent of crimes of history.

For Chinese who are aware of history, Qin First Emperor stopped the slow bleeding of previous 400 years even if he had to bury a few hundred Confucian scholars. For Chinese intellectuals, the humiliation since the Opium Wars were stopped by the forming of the People's Republic. People from the West has the stereotypical view of Chinese as good at math, memorization , while lacking the sense of innovation. We blamed it on Confucius. We did invent compass, paper, and dynamite, while Confucian ideology worship the past, memorization of classics, and suppress science and change. When Mao proclaimed that Chinese people have stood up in October 1, 1949, he had washed away the humiliation of the past 100 years and was like a god to us. To Mr. Crane the GLF probably has more deaths than Japanese invasion, to us it was not just the invasion since 1937, but the constant piracy since the 15th century, the war of 1895 when Japan annexed Taiwan together with the Diayu Islands, for him it's discrete events, yet for us it's part of history. Mao certainly made mistakes during his lifetime, even Deng mentioned 70/30 ratio, but history will have its own judgment, certainly not for Mr. Crane to have his self righteous rant.

I see. Mao must be protected from historical truth because...the US overthrew Lumumba. OK. It is clearly impossible to focus on specific issues with you. You seem quite comfortable in ascribing political positions to me, even though I illustrated above how this is inaccurate. For the record: It is possible to accept both a critique of US foreign policy and a critique of the GLF that recognizes Mao's responsibility. We are discussing the latter here; so, please stop with the non sequiturs.

You would make an excellent US politician as, above, you said that you were accepting my statement about Mao without really accepting it (I didn't see reference to the "actively promoted" and "knowingly" parts).

Just two things (and then I'm really going to stop engaging on this):

- history cannot have its "own judgment" if history is not freely and fully debated. This is a key problem for the GLF in the PRC. And the resistance to accepting the truths of history, most notably in this case Mao's central responsibility for the mass starvation, is a substantial obstacle to allowing history to have its "own judgment."

- Your embrace of Qin's legalism is instructive. It provides a fuller rationale for the devaluing of the lives of Chinese people, as demonstrated in your statement that the mass starvations of the GLF are "just a bump on the road to modernity, a price being paid for the present and future success." The cynicism there is disturbing. But that's your argument, not mine.

Mr. Ngok, I totally understand your point of view. I just feel that Mao should never have been in power after PRC founding. He is good military strategist, just not good at running the country, the economics, that is all.

@FOARP - You seriously didn't read what he wrote didn't you? He was arguing there's no accurate way to measure how many people died as the result of the policies of the GLF. For all we know, it could be zero. Everybody, including the 'denialists' know that people died because of a famine.

Sure, keep believing that there's no economic sanctions against China during 1949-1963. This guy did some research, did you?;gvp=1

Here is a demonstration of the denialist position: "For all we know, it could be zero." That statement is false. The writer of it knows that it is false because he follows it with a statement that backtracks away from it. Then why utter the false statement in the first place? It is done to minimize the historical effect of the starvation; it is done in an attempt to shield Mao from responsibility. Have you consulted Yang Jisheng's work? Or Zhou Xun? Have you read the documents from provincial archives. Have you read the memoirs of survivors? How about the one by Yu Dehong, who was a cadre in Xinyang, who wrote:

"...five kilometers from my home, there were dead bodies everywhere, at least 100 corpses lying out in the open with no one burying them. Among the reed ponds along the river embankments I saw another 100 or so corpses. Outside it was said that dogs had eaten so many corpses that their eyes glowed with bloodlust. But this was inconsistent with the facts: people had already eaten all the dogs, so where would there be dogs to eat corpses." (Yang, p. 40)

Or perhaps Yu is part of some "Western conspiracy."

We know many, many people starved to death. We know Mao is significantly responsible. These historical truths are simply undeniable.

so you basically won't be satisfied until all chinese people declare that Mao is a mass murderer monster? The man who finally put a stop the century of humiliation to the chinese people.

And don't forget that your government, the US government, ordered Soeharto to massacre millions of chinese in Indonesia in the 60s


I simply want to refute false statements, like: "For all we know, it could be zero." And I know that among "all Chinese people" there are many who recognize Mao's culpability.

As to Indonesia, I believe that the US role in the massacres was horrendous (though I would like to see the evidence that the US "ordered" the killing of Chinese). It is good that serious scholarship has brought that role to light. Thank goodness academic freedom in the US has allowed brave individual scholars to ferret out the truth that the US government would rather hide.

We must recognize historical truths regardless of country or nationality. The US has done many terrible things. That is true. It is also true that Mao bears significant responsibility for the death by starvation of millions and millions of Chinese people.

And why should we define Mao as "the man" who saved China? As if one man did so. I think Mao was right when he said that the Chinese people have stood up. It was a mass movement; it was a large and complex historical era. Could China have "put a stop to the century of humiliation" without Mao? We can't know, but I believe yes. Why not recognize the other key leaders - men who Mao crushed - Liu Shaoqi, Peng Dehuai, and others? Why not understand China's ultimate rise as the result of larger historical forces? Mao did not save China; China saved itself.

Slavishly venerating the single leader is not only bad history, it is bad politics.

@Sam - You should really chill out because you have taken what I said out of context. First of all, I was talking how can we correctly measure how many people died as a result of GLF compared to the famine during that time. Second, I said " COULD be zero." and not " IS zero." only because there is no quantitative way to measure this.


Your comments are helpful, developing, as they do, the denialist argument.

First, I quoted you verbatim: "For all we know, it could be zero." And that is a false statement. For all that we know - and by that I mean all of many sources available to us - the death toll could not be zero. To believe that it could be zero is a willful act of denial.

Second, this phrase is telling: "I was talking [about] how can we correctly measure how many people died as a result of GLF compared to the famine during that time." It implies that the GLF and the famine are two distinct things, and that the GLF was not the cause of the famine. That, too, is not true. For all that we know, it is clear that the set of policies and actions known as the "Great Leap Forward" directly resulted in millions and millions of people starving to death. More precisely, people died because party cadres took their food away. The party also destroyed the people's capacity to feed themselves, through the imposition of public mess halls that failed utterly. And the party forcefully prevented people from leaving places that had no food to save themselves. Yang Jisheng describes the general pattern in the op-ed I cite in this post above. Here is the last paragraph that I quoted:

"The Great Leap Forward that Mao began in 1958 set ambitious goals without the means to meet them. A vicious cycle ensued; exaggerated production reports from below emboldened the higher-ups to set even loftier targets. Newspaper headlines boasted of rice farms yielding 800,000 pounds per acre. When the reported abundance could not actually be delivered, the government accused peasants of hoarding grain. House-to-house searches followed, and any resistance was put down with violence."

This history is well known and well documented. To suggest that the "Great Leap Forward" did not cause millions and millions of deaths by starvation is to deny established historical facts.

"so you basically won't be satisfied until all chinese people declare that Mao is a mass murderer monster? The man who finally put a stop the century of humiliation to the chinese people"

I read the entire post and didn't get that at all. I understood what Sam is saying is that people should have whatever facts are available available to make an informed decision freely.
As to your utterance about something unrelated happening in another country, well, I think this says more about you than anything else.

This is just waste of time, you people only want to force your narative, "truth" into chinese peoples throat.
As soon we start to question your "truth" we are called denialist, brainwashed, fenqing

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