By Henry C.K. Liu
Further excerpts …
The neo-liberal West goes so far as to accuse Mao of being a ruthless dictator, allegedly murdering 30 million of his fellow citizens with his radical programs, such as the controversial Great Leap Forward. Such propaganda bears little relation to the reality of Mao (as the greatest revolutionary in modern Chinese history who set a decaying China on the path to renewed greatness). Mao was neither perfect nor a superman. Like all humans, he made mistakes as a leader, but he provided a vision for a new China that will survive for centuries to come. Mao was demonized by the neo-liberal West simply because he was a communist. It is also a mistake for the Western left to interpret post-Mao China’s strategic response to changing global geopolitical conditions as an ideological deviation from Mao’s revolutionary vision for China.
In 1963, the Chinese press called the famine of 1961-62 the most severe since 1879. In 1961, a food-storage program obliged China to import 6.2 million tons of grain from Canada and Australia. In 1962, import decreased to 5.32 million tons. Between 1961 and 1965, China imported a total of 30 million tons of grain at a cost of US$2 billion (Robert Price, International Trade of Communist China Vol II, pp 600-601). More would have been imported except that US pressure on Canada and Australia to limit sales to China and US interference with shipping prevented China from importing more. Canada and Australia were both anxious to provide unlimited credit to China for grain purchase, but alas, US policy prevailed and millions starved in China.
The University of Wisconsin’s Maurice Meisner, whom many consider to be the dean of post-World War II Chinese scholarship, presents three related ways of looking at the alleged 20 million to 30 million deaths caused by the Great Famine begun in the late 1950s under Mao’s tenure in The Deng Xiaoping Era and Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism 1978-1994 (New York, Hill and Wang, 1996). One, it was a horrible miscalculation. Two, it was the end of famines on this scale (famines had been occurring for the previous few centuries off and on in China about every generation or so). In other words, it brought this horrible historical pattern to an end. Or, three, it was a horrible miscalculation, while also afterward bringing this pattern of famine every generation of so to an end, thus saving millions from a similar fate.
It is now the common perception in the West that 30 millions starved to death as a result of Mao’s launching of the Great Leap Forward. Is it true or is it again a result of manufactured history? An article from the Australia-China Review contains a noteworthy refutation of the widely accepted figures of tens of millions of deaths caused by the GLF. The following is excerpted from this article, "Wild Swans and Mao’s Agrarian Strategy" by Wim F Werthheim, emeritus professor from the University of Amsterdam, one of the best-noted European China scholars:
But the figure amounting to tens of millions … [lacks] any historical basis. Often it is argued that at the censuses of the 1960s "between 17 and 29 millions of Chinese" appeared to be missing, in comparison with the official census figures from the 1950s. But these calculations are lacking any semblance of reliability. At my first visit to China, in August 1957, I had asked to get the opportunity to meet two outstanding Chinese social scientists: Fei Xiao-tung, the sociologist, and Chen Ta, the demographer. I could not meet either of them, because they were both seriously criticized at that time as rightists; but I was allowed a visit by Pang Zenian, a Marxist philosopher who knew about the problems of both scholars. Chen Ta was criticized because he had attacked the pretended 1953 census. In the past he had organized censuses, and he could not believe that suddenly, within a rather short period, the total population of China had risen from 450 [million] to 600 million, as had been officially claimed by the Chinese authorities after the 1953 census. He would have [liked] to organize a scientifically well-founded census himself, instead of an assessment largely based on regional random samples as had happened in 1953. According to him, the method followed in that year was unscientific.
For that matter, a Chinese expert of demography, Dr Ping-ti Ho, professor of history at the University of Chicago, in a book titled Studies on the Population of China, 1368-1953, Harvard East Asian Studies No 4, 1959, also mentioned numerous "flaws" in the 1953 census: "All in all, therefore, the nationwide enumeration of 1953 was not a census in the technical definition of the term"; the separate provincial figures show indeed an unbelievable increase of some 30 percent in the period 1947-1953, a period of heavy revolutionary struggle. (p 93-94) My conclusion is that the claim that in the 1960s a number between 17 [million] and 29 million people was "missing" is worthless if there was never any certainty about the 600 millions of Chinese. Most probably these "missing people" did not starve in the calamity years 1960-61, but in fact have never existed.
Globalization causes more death, suffering than Mao
Neo-liberal globalization has caused poverty for three-quarters of the world’s population, which brings it to more than 3 billion. At least 3 percent of these victims die prematurely of starvation, bringing it to 90 million, mostly children who died from malnutrition. That statistical evidence is more scientific than the alleged 30 million deaths in China. Anti-China neo-liberals dismiss the lack of evidence with the arguments that "totalitarian" governments are "guilty" by their very nature.
While Mao headed the CCP, leadership was based on mass support; and it is still. The chairmanship of the CCP is similar to the position of pope in the Roman Catholic Church, powerful in moral authority but highly circumscribed in operational power. The Great Leap Forward was the product of mass movement, not of a single person. Mao’s leadership extended to the organization of the party and its policy-formulation procedures, not the dictation of particular programs.
To describe Mao as a dictator merely reflects an ignorance of the true workings of the Chinese Communist Party. The failures of the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Communes were caused more by implementation flaws rather than conceptual error. Bad luck and a US embargo had also much to do with it. These programs resulted in much suffering, but the claim that 30 million people were murdered by Mao with evil intent was mere Western propaganda.