2008 Summer Olympics: Mao’s Mental Manacle–The Great Leap Forward–Denial, Censorship, Lies, Secrets

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: Blogroll, Books, Economics, Life, Links, People, Politics, Quotations, Rants, Resources, Taxes, Technology, Video, War |

Picture of Mao Zedong at Forbidden City

“In those years, starvation became a sort of mental manacle, depriving us of our freedom to think. We could not for a moment forget its threat. It seemed to be continuously putrefying the air and making it difficult to breathe…it is strange that hunger can cause so much pain in your body. It seems like a vice pinching all your bones which fell dislocated for lack of flesh and sinews. Your head, hands, even your belly and bowells are no longer where they are normally are. You are tempted to cry out loud but haven’t the strength. When experiencing extreme hunger, one can barely utter an audible sound.”

~Han Wei-tian, Red in Tooth and Claw by Pu Ning

Instead of watching the 2008 Summer Olympics on television may I suggest you read Jasper Becker’s book, Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine, as a silent protest to having the 2008 Summer Olympics in Communist China.

Online: Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine


The book covers Mao’s Great Leap Forward economic plan that resulted in the deaths, mainly from starvation, of 40 to 80 million Chinese from 1958 to 1960.

Both the Chinese Communist Party and government of Communist China have never told their own people that Mao and the Party was responsible for the deaths of tens of million of Chinese. The lies and denials continue to this day. Becker wrote of this silence:

“In China’s collective memory, the famine is the dog that didn’t bark. Though it was the greatest trauma experienced by the Chinese people since 1949 and no one remained untouched by it, even now it is barely discussed or referred to. No books, no films, no plays, are allowed to do more than make a passing reference to the ‘three years of natural disasters’ or the ‘three years of hardship; And the communes in which the Chinese lived for a quarter of a century have been forgotten. …”

page 275, The Hungry Ghosts

While there is no Chinese Solzhenitsyn to recount what happened, we owe Jasper Becker our thanks for telling the tragic results of massive government intervention in the economy of a nation.

“A famine on such an enormous scale would never have occurred had it not been kept secret. As the economist Amartya Sen was the first to point out, famines are caused by censorship and are the result of political decisions. If Mao had not gone to great lengths to deny that there was a crisis, then however great the shortage of food, the famine would have been averted. However, since 1949 China had become a closed and tightly controlled state in which the Party wielded an absolute monopoly over information. With the press in China silenced, the role of Western observers became of vital importance. Had they alerted the world to what was happening, then the famine might have been averted or at least shortened.”

page 287, The Hungry Ghosts

In the Afterword of Becker’s book he concludes with these thoughts:

“…The files may never be opened as they were in Cambodia after the Vietnamese invasion. There will be no museums devoted to the victims of the famine. The dead seem destined to remain hungry ghosts unplacated by any memorial or apology, and it is almost  too late to charge those responsible with crimes against humanity. In China, Mao’s reputation, tarnished though it is, cannot be completely destroyed without calling into question the whole edifice of Communist rule in China. And yet, if the Chinese are kept in ignorance of what happened, that would be another kind of tradegy. If the famine remains a secret, the country will draw no lessons from its past nor learn that only in a secretive society could so many starve to death.”

                       page 312, The Hungry Ghosts

Background Articles and Videos

Chinese economic planning under Mao part 1of 2

Chinese economic planning under Mao part 2 of 2

“Part2of2. This is a good historical example of government planning in an economy. This is china under the rule of Mao zhe dong. The chinese people worked as a collective and obeyed the rules of the chinese government. The policy was called “The Great Leap Forward”. This is what resulted.”

China Great Leap Forward Mao Zedong

A Conversation about Chairman Mao

A Conversation with biographer Philip Short about Pol Pot

Autocratic Ghosts
and Chinese Hunger:

A Review Essay of
Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics by Zhengyuan Fu
Hungry Ghosts by Jasper Becker

“…The famine is the heart of Becker’s book, but he covers other neglected topics from the Great Leap period. He describes the growth of the Mao’s system of slave labor camps to an estimated peak population of 10 million. Becker singles out Mao’s leading accomplices, most of whom will be totally unfamiliar to Western readers: men like Hua Guofeng, Zhao Ziyang, Hu Yaobang, and Kang Sheng. And he explains how the famine ended in 1961, with a desperate intra-Party struggle against Mao led by Liu Shaoqi. (Liu and the others who opposed Mao in 1961 were primary targets in the Cultural Revolution that soon followed).  Last, Becker recounts the scandalous indifference and credulity of Western intellectuals and China experts during the Great Leap Forward. While much of the American press accurately reported the muffled reports of starvation, the world press largely discounted the possibility. Numerous foreign visitors – from Field Marshall Montgomery to Edgar Snow, Francois Mitterand to Gunnar Myrdal – relayed the official Maoist line. For the most part, these mistakes were often culpable; quoting Becker:

It is perhaps unfair to criticize such books in the light of later knowledge, but many of these judgements were based on little evidence. After the Great Leap Forward, China published few statistics and those figures that were made available merely consisted of percentages, none of which could be verified, let alone measured, against independent research. China was an intensely secretive, tightly controlled society, as even her admirers conceded. Too many scholars readily accepted propaganda as fact, and even though more details of the famine emerged in the 1980s, there has still been a deep reluctance to reconsider the question. (p.301) …”

“…As Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow told the world of Stalin’s greatest atrocity, Becker has drawn our attention to Mao’s most damnable act. Stalin’s Great Terror and Mao’s Cultural Revolution were to some extent intra-Party affairs, and many executed for imaginary crimes against the state were in fact guilty of capital crimes against non-Party members. But Stalin and Mao’s collectivization-related famines were ideologically-driven mass murders of much larger numbers of innocent people; these were unprovoked wars waged by Communist Parties against nations of unarmed civilians. These are the policies for which Communism should be remembered, as Nazism is remembered for the Holocaust. …”


2008 Summer Olympics

“The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, will be celebrated in Beijing, People’s Republic of China from August 8 to August 24, 2008 and followed by the 2008 Summer Paralympics from September 6 to September 17. Ten thousand, five hundred athletes are expected to compete in 302 events in 28 sports, just one event more than was on the schedule of the 2004 games.[1] The 2008 Beijing Olympics will also mark the third time that Olympic events will have been held in the territories of two different National Olympic Committees (NOC): at the 2008 Olympics, equestrian events will be held in Hong Kong, which competes separately from mainland China. …”


Former U.S. Ambassador to China: on Olympic protest

China , Darfur and the 2008 Olympics

Olympics protest China Darfur Mia Farrow Tibet

China Great Leap Forward: “China Leaps Forward” 1958 Central Intelligence Agency

Great Leap Forward

“The Great Leap Forward (simplified Chinese: 大跃进; traditional Chinese: 大躍進; pinyin: Dàyuèjìn) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was an economic and social plan used from 1958 to 1960 which aimed to use China’s vast population to rapidly transform mainland China from a primarily agrarian economy dominated by peasant farmers into a modern, industrialized communist society. Mao Zedong based this program on the Theory of Productive Forces.

The Great Leap Forward is now widely seen – both within China and outside – as a major economic failure and great humanitarian disaster with estimates of the number of people who starved to death during this period ranging from 14 to 43 million.[1] …”


The Great Leap Backward


The story behind Mao’s policies of the late 1950’s, which led to the starvation of tens of millions

“…Unlike other monumental atrocities in living memory — the Holocaust, the gulag, Khmer Rouge Cambodia — the story of China’s state-sponsored famine remains largely unknown to the world’s informed public. For unlike the Nazis, the leaders of the Soviet Union or the Pol Pot regime, the Government and party responsible for the great Chinese famine are still in power — and still suppressing information about the carnage they wrought. With ”Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine,” however, there is at last an accessible — and, as it happens, a masterly — account of the greatest peacetime disaster of this century.

The author, Jasper Becker, is a British journalist who serves as Beijing bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post. Ably drawing on Western academic sources, unpublished Chinese Government documents he has obtained and hundreds of interviews with famine survivors conducted both in China and beyond its borders, Mr. Becker manages to re-create the cataclysm in chilling — at times almost unbearable — detail. …”

“…”Hungry Ghosts” presents eyewitness testimony by ordinary Chinese people depicting the horror of daily life between 1958 and 1962. Readers should be forewarned that some of these vivid recollections will be gut-wrenching. All across the country, famine visited death and unspeakable degradation upon the people. In Tibet, ”People ate cats, dogs, insects. Parents fed dying children their own blood mixed with hot water,” one survivor reported. ”In the yellow-earth country of northwest China,” Mr. Becker writes, ”people abandoned their children by the roadside in holes dug out of the soft soil” in the forlorn hope that some travelers would discover and take pity on these waifs. Cannibalism, according to diverse interviewees, became a widespread practice.

Yet it was worse than that: even as villagers were slowly dying of starvation, China’s ”officials . . . created a nightmare of organized torture and murder” in the countryside. Suffice it to say that Mr. Becker provides ample evidence that Pol Pot was not the first Marxist ruler to subject Asian peasants to wanton and inventive state violence.

One of the most amazing aspects of the great Chinese famine was Beijing’s success in concealing it from the outside world. The Chinese Government was aided in its shameful task by a procession of witless or willing Westerners. After visiting China in 1959, for example, Lord Boyd-Orr, former director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, enthusiastically declared that Mao’s Government had ”ended the traditional Chinese famine cycle.” Edgar Snow, the American journalist who had chronicled Mao’s struggle in the 30’s, was invited back for five months in China in 1960; he attested that ”I saw no starving people in China, nothing that looked like old-time famine.” And the future French President, Francois Mitterrand, in a fawning interview with Mao Zedong in 1961, uncritically broadcast the Great Helmsman’s lie: ”The people of China have never been near famine.” Although some Western academics, journalists and politicians did warn of the famine while it was occurring, the full demographic dimensions of the catastrophe were unknown to Western analysts until the 80’s — nearly a generation after the event. …”



Democide is a term coined by political scientist R. J. Rummel for “the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.” Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the legal definition of genocide, and it has found currency among other scholars.[1][2][3] …”


Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Twentieth Century Hemoclysm


The Food Crisis

By J.R. Dunn

“…There’s nothing new in the confluence of politics and food. Chinese emperors punished fractious provinces by surrounding them with troops and confiscating all food supplies. Six months later the imperial troops would move in and execute the survivors for cannibalism. This has also been the pattern for much in the way of government action in the modern era. Some of the worst atrocities of the past century involved ideological famines. Hunger was a commonplace of left-wing states, either through use of food as a weapon or through sheer incompetence. The Ukrainian Holodomor (“Hunger-Death”) of 1932-33 may have killed as many as 14 million. Mao outdid his imperial forbears with the Great Leap Forward of 1958-62, which killed up to 45 million (probably the greatest single atrocity of the modern era). The Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 easily killed over a million. Nor can we forget North Korea, with its grotesque “rolling” famine, which seems to recur almost annually. Democracies, on the other hand, can be defined as “political systems in which famines do not take place”. No famine has occurred in a democratic Western state since the 1790s. …”

“…Above all, we must be aware that the situation represents no apocalypse. Farmers across the country are madly planting corn (despite warnings to diversify from the Department of Agriculture) which will bring prices down with a thump next year. But the Second Horseman’s swift trot across the horizon has revealed some serious failings in international agriculture. Most of these failings are products of political meddling. Cease meddling, and many problems will solve themselves. Today, much of the developed world has learned that industry cannot be effectively manipulated through policy. We sometimes forget that farming is an industry like any other. That recognition is long overdue. …”


Book Review
by Richard M. Ebeling, December 1994

Red in Tooth and Claw: Twenty-Six Years in Communist Chinese Prisons by Pu Ning (New York: Grove Press, 1994) 228 pages; $21.

“…Less is known, however, about the Chinese Gulag — a slave labor system that has killed tens of millions of victims since the communists came to power in 1949. While the Soviet Gulag is now a closed chapter in the history of Russia, the Chinese Gulag still operates. In 1992, Hongda Harry Wu published the first detailed account of the Chinese system in his book Laogai — The Chinese Gulag (see the review in Freedom Daily, January 1993).

The Chinese communists created a chamber of horrors no less gruesome than the one in the Soviet Union. In a two-part feature article in The Washington Post in August 1994, Peking correspondent Daniel Southerland summarized the latest evidence that suggests that during the reign of Mao Tse-tung as many as 80 million people died due to communist policies in China; this would be a number exceeding the best estimates that communism killed about 61 million people in the former U.S.S.R. …”


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6 Responses to “2008 Summer Olympics: Mao’s Mental Manacle–The Great Leap Forward–Denial, Censorship, Lies, Secrets”

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I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

Thank you.

The egregious human rights violations will hopefully come to light while the bright spot light of the Olympics shines on the People’s Republic of China (intentional misplacement of the comma)

I must admit, I woke up early this morning to watch Olympic basketball. I wanted to see the US men’s team beat the shit out of china

Jasper Becker will be my guest on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com at 5 PM New York time Thursday Aug 14 to discuss restrictions in China and what the post-Olympics bode for the people there.

To talk to Becker please go to http://www.garybaumgarten.com and click on the link to the show. There is no charge.


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