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I have gone to the British news sites Independent and Guardian to post comments on articles about Frank Dikötter's new book "Mao's Great Famine", both comments were deleted by the administrators. What a shame for a country that claims to have freedom of speech. The following is my comment: |
Since the Opium wars in 1840s (Qing dynasty) the Chinese nation was invaded and divided by various western powers and Japan, people suffered enormously such that the population growth came to a standstill through late Qing dynasty and the entire nationalist period due to wars, famines, epidemic, lack of basic medicines, etc. until 1949 (the year the com-munist took power), imagine 80% of the population were illiterate, the average life expectancy was 35 years old. Before 1949 women in Chinese families commonly gave birth to 6, 7, 8 or even more children due to high mortality, to the vast poor families losing a child was like losing a pet in those years. According to John Leighton Stuart, the U.S. Ambassador to China (1946-1949), there were 3 to 7 million people died of hunger in China on average every year before 1949. The mortality went done dramatically after 1949 due to social stability, education, much improved productivity and newly established medical system even though it was basic. In 1949 the Chinese population was 540 millions, it reached 600 millions by 1953, 694 millions by 1964, and 1 billion by 1982, and Chinese life expectancy reached 60 years old by 1968 and 64.5 by 1975 (from World Bank, google search "Life expectancy, China"). By early 1970s the government started to encourage young couples to delay the age of giving birth to thier first child to slow down the population growth. How fair do you think calling Mao a great murderer?
If Frank Dikötter's claimed 45 millions death is true, then that's to say 1 person died among every 13 Chinese people (45 million divided by the entire population 600 millions) during the Great Leap Forward years, that is to say on average every family with relatives would have 1 or 2 or even more person(s) died in those years, this is absolutely untrue. One way for you to find out the truth is to ask Chinese people in person if he/she had a family member including relatives died in those years. Throughout my school years till now I haven't met anyone including all my classmates saying he/she lost a family member due to Great Leap Forward, only my mom told me she heard there were people died in a rural area but not too many. Yes, many people suffered starvation including my grandparent family in those two years (not four years as claimed by the author because the first two years had very good harvest which led to some aggressive policies in some provinces) and the birth rate was lower and death rate was higher than other years, however, it was not nearly close to the sensational figures and stories told here. There are serious scholars disputing claims like this. Those who are familiar with Chinese history know that to a great degree Chinese history is an agricultural history, great famine always comes with large scale peasant rebelling regardless who was in power. But there wasn't such rebelling in Great Leap Forward.
Frank Dikötter used a 1946 Life Magazine photo "A child holds out a rice bowl, begging for food during a famine, China, May 1946" which was also featured in a May 13, 1946 Life article "CHINA FAMINE, Millions Are Starving in The Once-Rich "Rice Bowl", on his book cover (see his website) to portray the Great Leap Forward which occurred over a decade later in late 1950s. Readers can verify it by Google "1946, Child, China, famine". The problem is that China was ruled by the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek in 1946, the com-munists didn't take power until 1949. I can't help but asking -- is Frank Dikötter an honest historian? All his claimed "evidence" in his book needs to be diligently examined.
The great Leap Forward was a collective decision made by the CCP not Mao alone, of course he was one of the key figures, however, he was also the few who first detected and corrected the problems. He has never instructed or had policies to torture people. The Great Leap Forward is a complicated story with a historical background that the western readers hardly know, those who are interested can read Henry C. K Liu's article MAO AND LINCOLN, Part 2 (and Part 1), published on Asia Times.
Please do a youtube search for oikos747 to see how many Chinese people waiting in a mile long line to pay respect to Mao in Mao's memorial hall in Beijing each day, young and old, often a family, even 34 years after he passed away, keep in mind no one ask them to do so, in fact the government discourages people to go there. Can we simply dismiss such phenomenon by saying the Chinese are brainwashed or superstitious? Why don't they have such high respect to Deng Xiaoping who supposedly gave Chinese a better life? One could understand it only if he/she understood the starvation, poverty, and how many people died each year in China before 1949 and how Chinese people once again lost all their social securities that Mao once gave them since China's economic reform in recent years. Chinese people well understood that Mao and his revolution generation brought the nation and people to independence, now China once again fell into an economic colony.
Frank Dikötter is a historian who never landed a tenure job in his academic life in Europe yet richly equipped with over $1.5 millions in grants from foundations from UK and Taiwan including The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (see Frank Dikötter's website). Chiang Ching-Kuo was the late president in Taiwan, the son of Chiang Kai-shek whose nationalist troops lost the civil war to the com-munists' led by Mao and fled to Taiwan. Till this day their bitterness is unrelieved, demonizing Mao is not new. Frank Dikötter's earlier book "The History of Drugs in China" which tried to excuse the British colonial crimes committed in China by saying the Chinese addiction to Opium was not due to the British dumping enforced by arms. Scanning through his website, I can already say that I am afraid that Frank Dikötter is a "historian" with a political agenda and even racist.
Please check out:
1) 1946 Life Photo: http://www.life.com/image/50863592
2) May 13, 1946 Life Article: China Famine: Millions Are Starving in The Once-Rich "Rice Bowl" : http://tinyurl.com/2cyrr4o
2) Frank Dikötter's book cover: