Μετά τον αποτυχημένο (για τους κομμουνιστες) πρώτο γύρο του κινεζικού εμφυλίου (1926-1928) οταν ήρθαν σε ρήξη με την επίσημη κινεζική κυβέρνηση του Κινεζικού Εθνικιστικού Κόμματος υπο τον Chiang Khai Chek , το κινεζικό κομμουνιστικό κόμμα δημιούργησε ημιαυτόνομο , ΑΠΟΣΧΙΣΤΙΚΟ ψευδοκράτος στην επαρχία Jiangxi.
Η «ανεξάρτητη» αυτή κυβέρνηση ιδρύθηκε στην νοτιοανατολική Κίνα απο τον αρχηγό του κόμματος Mao Zedong και τον Zhu De κατά το 1931 .
Η ονομασία της κυβέρνησης ήταν «Σοβιετική Δημοκρατία της Κίνας» (σ.σ Οπως η προσωρινή κυβέρνηση «λεύτερης» Ελλάδας) και διατηρήθηκε μέχρι το 1934 και αριθμούσε μόλις 3 εκατ. κατοίκους.
Ενδεικτικό απόσπασμα απο το «σύνταγμά» της Σοβιετικής Δημοκρατίας της Κίνας
…It is the purpose of the Constitution of the Chinese Soviet Republic to guarantee the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry in the Soviet districts and to secure the triumph of this dictatorship throughout the whole of China. Our goal is the establishment of this dictatorship throughout China.
Επειτα απο την εκστρατεία προς βορρά και τις διώξεις κομμουνιστών ανταρτών απο την επίσημη κυβέρνηση και τις μάχες κατά τοπικών φεουδαρχών, ήρθε κάποια στιγμή η ώρα τα 2 κινεζικά σχήματα να συνασπιστούν (1937-1945) για την αντιμετώπιση της ιαπωνικής εισβολής.
Ετσι αρχίζει να δημιουργείται ενας ακόμη κομμουνιστικός μύθος: οτι ο Μαο και οι σύντροφοί του αποτέλεσαν τη μοναδική μάχιμη δύναμη ενάντια στους Ιάπωνες και χάρη σε αυτος ηττήθηκε η Ιαπωνία στην Κινεζική ήπειρο.(σ.σ Οπως και στη Ελλάδα με το ΕΑΜ)
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Who fought the War of Resistance?
The question as to which political group directed the Chinese war effort and exerted most of the effort to resist the Japanese still remains a controversial issue.
In the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japan Memorial near the Marco Polo Bridge and in mainland Chinese textbooks, the People’s Republic of China claims that it was the Communist Party that directed Chinese efforts in the war and did everything to resist the Japanese invasion. Recently, however, with a change in the political climate, the CCP has admitted that certain Nationalist generals made important contributions in resisting the Japanese. The official history in mainland China is that the KMT fought a bloody, yet indecisive, frontal war against Japan, while it was the CCP that engaged the Japanese forces in far greater numbers behind enemy lines. This emphasis on the CCP’s central role is partially reflected by the PRC’s labeling of the war as the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War of Resistance rather than merely the War of Resistance. According to the PRC official point of view, the Nationalists mostly avoided fighting the Japanese in order to preserve its strength for a final showdown with the Communists. However, for the sake of Chinese reunification and appeasing the ROC on Taiwan, the PRC has now «acknowledged» that the Nationalists and the Communists were «equal» contributors because the victory over Japan belonged to the Chinese people, rather than to any political party.
Leaving aside Nationalists sources, scholars researching third party Japanese and Soviet sources have documented quite a different view. Such studies claim that the Communists actually played a miniscule involvement in the war against the Japanese compared to the Nationalists and used guerilla warfare as well as opium sales to preserve its strength for a final showdown with the Kuomintang. This is congruent with the Nationalist viewpoint, as demonstrated by history textbooks published in Taiwan, which gives the KMT credit for the brunt of the fighting. According to these third-party scholars, the Communists were not the main participants in any of the 22 major battles, most involving more than 100,000 troops on both sides, between China and Japan. Soviet liaison to the Chinese Communists Peter Vladimirov documented that he never once found the Chinese Communists and Japanese engaged in battle during the period from 1942 to 1945. He also expressed frustration at not being allowed by the Chinese Communists to visit the frontline, although as a foreign diplomat Vladimirov may have been overly optimistic to expect to be allowed to join Chinese guerrilla sorties. The Communists usually avoided open warfare (the Hundred Regiments Campaign and the Battle of Pingxingguan are notable exceptions), preferring to fight in small squads to harass the Japanese supply lines. In comparison, right from the beginning of the war the Nationalists committed their best troops (including the 36th, 83rd, 88th divisions, the crack divisions of Chiang’s Central Army) to defend Shanghai from the Japanese, a third of whom were killed or wounded. The Japanese considered the Kuomintang rather than the Communists as their main enemy and bombed the Nationalist wartime capital of Chongqing to the point that it was the most heavily bombed city in the world to date. Also, the main bulk of Japanese forces were fighting mainly in Central and Southern China, away from major Communist strongholds such as those in Shaanxi.
A third perspective advocated by some historians is that the former warlords actually did most of the fighting with the Japanese, considering that a large part the National Revolutionary Army was actually composed of troops from different factions. Chiang Kai-shek’s Central Army sustained heavy casualties in the beginning of the war in Shanghai-Nanjing campaigns and his military strength was never to recover to pre-war levels. This situation forced Chiang to rely on other divisions of the National Revolutionary Army. These non-Whampoa divisions, also known as the «provincial army,» were nominally part of the National Revolutionary Army but in reality had their own command structures. Some major engagements after the initial 1937 campaigns, such as Battle of Xuzhou and the Battle of Changsha were fought by former warlords under the banner of the Kuomintang.
CCP Military Contributions in the War of Resistance
In a chapter entitled Fight Chiang and Rivals Not Japan, Chang and Halliday attack the popular conception that Maos patriotic resistance against Japanese aggression was an important basis on which the Communist Party consolidated its popular support. They constantly reiterate scenarios in which the Communist armies had opportunities to engage Japanese offensives but, because of Mao, refrained from taking any action. Instead, they claim that Mao did not want the Red Army to fight the invaders at all. He ordered Red Commanders to wait for Japanese troops to defeat the Nationalists, and then, as the Japanese swept on, to seize territories behind Japanese lines.
In support of this claim, Chang and Halliday cite a number of telegrams from Mao to his military commanders from September of 1937. If one examines these documents, far from showing that Mao did not want the Red Army to fight the invaders at all, they outline Maos strategy in the early months of the war for independent guerrilla warfare in the mountain areas. Although they do warn against frontal attacks on main Japanese units and propose a strategy of dispersing forces to better build a mass base for resistance, advocating guerrilla struggle is hardly equivalent to not wanting to fight the invaders at all. At one point, Mao writes to Zhou Enlai and others: If there is a failure in the conventional war in North China, we will not be responsible; but if the guerrilla struggle fails, we will bear serious responsibility. Furthermore, Mao does not argue against any main force engagement of the enemy. On September 25, he orders the Red Army commanders to propose to Chiang Kai-shek a coordinated attack on the Japanese as they sweep into Shanxi province, and suggests that even without coordination, Lin Biao should consider at attack on the Japanese forces as they advance through the Hengshan mountain range.
There is no doubt that, especially in the early months of the war, when the Communists commanded only a few tens of thousands of poorly equipped troops, Mao had no intension of engaging Japanese main force units. Indeed, throughout the war, any examination of logistical statistics reveals the relative weakness of Communist army in terms of men and materials. However, the real significance lay not in military victories, but rather in the way their resistance served as an inspiration to the locals around them.
In their effort to dispel the myth that the Red Army actively and consistently engaged Japanese forces, Chang and Halliday credit the army with fighting only once during the Operation of 100 Regiments, which they described as the only large-scale operation carried out by any Communist forces during the whole eight years of Japanese occupation. While scholars accept the fact that the Communists rarely engaged in open positional warfare, Chang and Halliday consistently remind readers that Communist accounts of battles against the Japanese were only one of a number of exaggerated claims, perpetuated by top CCP officials such as Mao and Zhou Enlai in order to enhance its public image as defenders of China. They persistently downplay Mao’s published speeches and secret orders regarding his strategy of employing guerilla tactics to disrupt Japanese consolidation of captured territories. Labeling them lies and exaggerations, they attack Mao for publicizing detailed, but false, accounts, saying that he intended to concentrate large contingents to strike the Japanese through mobile warfare, and claiming that the Nationalists were spurning his efforts to cooperate with them. Chang and Hallidays skepticism of the Red Army’s involvement in actual fighting parallels Gregor Bentons observation that it suited the Nationalists to represent the New Fourth Army in Jiangnan as steadfastly avoiding serious engagements, fighting only when challenged, and magnifying casual encounters into major victories. Just as the Nationalists downplayed the New Fourth Armys role for their own propaganda purposes, Chang and Halliday do the same by repeating the old propaganda line regarding the ineffectiveness of Chinese Communist Party resistance to Japanese aggression.
In keeping a realistic expectation regarding the army’s capabilities, nearly every source points to the CCP’s lack of resources as a fundamental weakness that hindered their ability to fight open-field, conventional battles. A report by the United States War Department assessed in 1945 stated that shortage of ammunition has had noticeable effect on the tactics of the Chinese Communists. By necessity they are forced to fight small engagements of short duration. They are precluded the use of long-range fire. Because of these conditions, the report also commented on the lack of proper infantry training; instead, the units have been forced to combine the problem of subsistence with the problem of training. Since they lacked the conventional means of industrial production, Communist forces relied almost exclusively on captured or confiscated weapons and equipment. With regards to tactics and the use of auxiliary military aid, their knowledge and methods were archaic. The army lacked specialists, and knew very little of modern signal corps work, mechanization, or medical practice. Though it was clear that these primitive armaments did not constitute much of a threat to the main Japanese force, their efforts nevertheless contributed significantly in tying up Japanese forces from further offensives into Nationalist territories.
Further research illustrates that while the small operations may not have involved the large contingents boasted by Mao, they were nevertheless effective in disrupting the Japanese plans to establish an efficient military order. After the Operation of 100 Regiments, the Communists shifted their strategy away from major military encounters to a political offensive that sought to take advantage of local anti-Japanese sentiments, since the military offensive led to a vicious Japanese counterattack against Communist territory that was soon reduced by half. For self-perseverance, the Party Center…[decided] against further active resistance on a large scale. The guiding principles…were to prolong the anti-Japanese resistance and simultaneously to accumulate strength. Given the estimations of the Communist armies strengths and operational capabilities, this strategy was more realistic than Chang and Hallidays naïve expectations of large-scale engagements. While the authors trivialize Mao’s strategy of focus[ing] on base areas…not on fighting battles, it realistically reflected a practical approach, since their meager resources handicapped them from constantly engaging in battles.
According to Benton, New Fourth Army engagements often took the form of ambushes against inadequate numbers of Japanese troops stationed to safeguard secondary roads and railways in the hinterland; it was from these areas where it became most feasible to launch forays disrupting Japanese communications. Beginning in the middle of 1938, the New Fourth Army engaged in its first offensive, driving south of the Yangtze in ambushing a Japanese convoy, which was followed by the destruction of a Japanese-held railway station in Xinfeng. Afterwards, between June 18 and early September 1938, the New Fourth waged its first active offensive, advancing from sporadic encounters to systematic harassment of Japanese lines of communication. In those three months, it was in action against the Japanese almost every day. As small operations as these may have been, they were nevertheless essential in gaining the confidence of locals as a legitimate contender against Japanese occupation. Their role in tying down Japanese offensives from further expansions was further accredited by their archrivals, the Nationalists, as both Chiang Kai-shek and Gu Zhutong spoke highly of its achievements. The army received some fifty telegrams of congratulation from Nationalist military and political leaders.
Due to the increasing intensity and frequency of such small disruptions against their communications network, Japanese forces dedicated more of their infantry to conducting mopping-up campaigns intended to uproot Communist networks within the local population. Typical characteristics of these campaigns included the infamous Three-All approach that called upon the Japanese infantry to «kill all, burn all, [and] loot all.» Japanese field commanders attested to its necessity, as General Hata, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Force in China, explained in an interview: the Communist bandits…are the chief disturbing factors endangering peace and order…In the pacification of North China, suppression of the Communists is a matter which should not be overlooked. During certain periods, as many as 40 percent of all Japanese in China were tied down in battling Communist troops throughout territories occupied by both Japanese and Communist influences. Their presence diverted Japanese attention away from expanding into the neutral zones to concentrating their military strength at crushing the various Communist-led guerilla bases in North China. Maos writings during this period frequently cite the practical advantages of fighting small-scale mobile warfare, in which guerillas would generally have the task of pinning down or otherwise diverting regular enemy forces…Their function would be to expand their control over the gaps between enemy-held strong points. Emphasis was placed on their ability to infiltrate villages and provide organizational support for villagers who accepted such assistance, despite the certain prospect of death (possibly for entire communities) if their affiliations with Communist elements were uncovered or even suspected by the Japanese. This threat remained a constant disruption in everyday rural life that Chang and Halliday for all purposes ignored.
Chang and Halliday’s account misrepresents the role of the Chinese Communist Army, caricaturizing it as an encumbering nuisance that, rather than helping, hindered the national war effort against Japanese aggression. Instead of focusing on the ways local lives were affected by Communist involvement, much of their account concerns alleged schemes, conspiracies, and backstabbing that miraculously came together in the end to tilt the balance to the Communist side after the war. Historically and realistically, a much more plausible explanation of Communist territorial expansion is given by the Taiwan scholar Chen Yung-fa: «During Japanese drives KMT forces frequently turned to flight, so, when the high tide ebbed, the CCP was left in control of territory previously contested by both.» It is important to remind readers that whatever the Communists lacked in military capabilities was made up for by their efforts in stirring up organized forms of nationalist resistance in their rural surroundings. That this ragtag army was able to carry on guerilla operations behind enemy lines should be a credit, if not to its tactical effectiveness, then at least to its success in garnering popular support.
Tony Wan, email@example.com
 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. Mao: The Unknown Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 p. 204
 Mao Zedong telegrams of September 12, 21 and 25, 1937, in Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi and Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun junshi kexueyuan [Document Research Office of the CCP Central Committee and the Military Science Academy of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army], Mao Zedong junshi wenji [Collected military writings of Mao Zedong] (Beijing: Junshi kexue chubanshe and Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1993), vol. 2, pp. 44, 53-54, 57-61; Tony Saich. The Rise to Power of the Chinese Communist Party. Armonk: Sharp Inc., 1994 p. 793-794
 Chang p. 224
 ibid., p. 218
 ibid., p. 208
 Gregor Venton. New Fourth Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 p. 315
 U.S. War Department. The Chinese Communist Movement. Ed. Lyman P. Van Slyke. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968 p. 194
 ibid., p. 190
 Theodore White and Annalee Jacoby. Thunder Out of China. New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc. 1946 p. 217
 Chang p. 224
 Chen Yung-fa. Making Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986 p. 98
 Chang p. 205
 Benton p. 324
 Benton p. 315
 Lyman Van Slyke. The Chinese Communist movement during the Sino-Japanese War. The Cambridge History of China. Ed. Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank. Vol. 13 Part 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p. 679
 US War Department, p. 106
 Lincoln Li. The Japanese Army in North China: 1937-1941. Tokyo: Oxford University Press K.K., 1975 p. 200
 William Whitson. The Chinese High Command. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973 p. 484
 Chen, p. 78
Terror or Cooperation?
During the tumultuous years of the War of Resistance, Mao and his colleagues, according to Chang and Halliday’s account, implemented widespread terror and political victimization to brainwash the population into a «machine, so that when he [Mao] pressed the button, all its cogs would operate in unison.» In their chapter entitled «Building a Power Base through Terror» , the authors’ focus on the Yan’an rectification campaigns but ignore the Communists’ efforts to institute socioeconomic reform in war-torn villages where extensive devastation had undermined traditional authority. They disregard the Communists’ efforts to incorporate the rural masses who would later constitute their base of support, and imply that terror and brutality, manifest in an «enormous human engineering project [that] Mao began from 1942,» paved the road to power. Although many previous academics have acknowledged the widespread use of violence, to state that it represented the Party’s only means to extract cooperation from the peasantry fails to recognize the transaction of mutual incentives that benefited both sides. As Odoric Wou indicated:
Although the Sino-Japanese War has been viewed as the catalyst for the revolution because it contributed to political breakdown and the emergence of a revolutionary crisis, favorable sociopolitical conditions alone do not make revolutions. To make a revolution, political contenders have to build coherent organizations. They have to recruit and train leaders, form alliances with other power holders, devise tactics to neutralize and co-opt enemies, and propagate their beliefs among and mobilize the people.
Chang and Halliday portray Communist rule as a series of endless, abstract class struggles that forcibly designated certain people as enemies in order to create an atmosphere of fear and subjugation among the populace. However, it is important to remember that, especially in the rural base areas behind Japanese lines, local rural elites still held considerable influence in commanding the respect of the peasants, as the villagers, without whose active support the Party could never have imposed its will on the rural elite, initially preferred social harmony to class struggle. Even in areas devoid of clear leadership, locals had begun to assemble themselves according to their own interests. Michael Lindsay, a photographer in northern China at this time, noted how many former local officials had left with the regular Chinese armies and numerous anti-Japanese organizations had sprung up, some led by local gentry…and others by minor warlords. It was practical to take advantage of existing channels of local control and incorporate them with Party teachings to form a viable grassroots network. Rather than blindly launching all-encompassing and brutal campaigns as suggested by Chang and Halliday, cadres were taught that indigenous leadership was crucial to party building. Natives not only had contacts, they were well acquainted with local condition. Local rural elites were significant as a source of solidarity among the peasants, so while they had no difficulty whatsoever in gathering…a thousand men and arming them…what they badly needed was someone to organize and give these peasants rudimentary military training. Communist methodology managed to blend social changes together with tighter political control so that they were mutually interactive, and the concrete result of this approach was that their numbers at the end of the war were ten times the size of the Communist Army [that] mobilized immediately following the Japanese invasion.
«The Communists, beyond any doubt, are complete masters of brutality when brutality becomes necessary.» This was a reality recognized by the wartime correspondents Theodore White and Analee Jacoby, and its particular applicability to the tightly controlled Communist headquarters in Yanan is exploited by Chang and Halliday in their accounts. But in other areas where the Communists did not exercise strict political control, violent tactics were considered counter-productive. The authors fail to acknowledge that popular acceptance first originated through cadre-led activism to alleviate the socioeconomic plight of the peasantry, and not the immediate terror campaigns that they suggest. Since it was well-known that peasants always treated outsiders with suspicion, cadres were urged to strictly observe discipline; make no demands and do not provoke them. Lyman Van Slyke argued that the notion of class struggle was set aside in order to impose a façade of transclass unity, to which many scholars have attributed much of the Communists relative success at consolidating support in satellite base areas. The army and its cadres preached a universal and inclusive message that recruited «on a pragmatic and broad-minded basis, with an eye to political effectiveness rather than to ideological conformity.» Class-labeling during this period was not singularly determined by one’s wealth or land holdings, as commonly believed, but rather was based upon individual cases «according to political attitudes,» as «CCP training manuals reproached Party members for failing to distinguish among different kinds of elite.» Although Party officials still believed in educating the peasantry «and arousing their consciousness through the process of class struggle, to their disappointment they found that the class struggle was often bogged down by peasant economic interests.» In such cases, material incentives were always put into practice. Peasants gradually took advantage of the opportunity to voice their grievances, which often resulted in climactic struggle sessions against a designated landlord where peasants were able to achieve concrete, material benefits.
Central to the consolidation of peasant support was the establishment of a network of organizations that facilitated both political indoctrination and concrete material benefits for the peasantry. To carry this out, the Party depended on mass-mobilization efforts by young urban students inspired by the call of patriotism. Their involvement in drawing support was significant, as «the party could never have achieved such a membership increase if students had not been disillusioned with GMD war efforts.»[/size] Their importance rested in the fact that «they not only served as intermediaries between the party and local power holders, [but] also became active peasant mobilizers in the countryside.» Throughout northern China, groups of student-led cadres were deployed to various regions to implement regulations, such as economic reform programs, which were always carried out in the name of peasant associations. These associations «took laws that Kuomintang liberals had written into sterile statute books, and they taught the peasants to apply them.» For example, an especially significant law passed during this time was the limitation of land rent to 37.5 percent of crop yield, a law voted into effect by village and county councils set up with the aid of the Communists. The fact that peasants began to experience a form of political and social agency that allowed them to pursue their own interests, as «for the first time some peasants were beginning to think of themselves – often hesitantly or reluctantly as political and social actors in their own rights, rather than as the passive objects of action by others.» This newfound agency forged a bond where peasants aligned both socioeconomic demands and anti-Japanese resistance with Communist rule.
In return, the peasantry often lent the Communists support through critical information-gathering and active resistance. Inducing support from within the peasantry was significant for the Communist armies in setting up a vast intelligence network that allowed them to keep track of information regarding enemy movements, strengths, and strategies. They specialized in mass-based intelligence gathering, where physical information points and spy networks were created at all levels, in all trades and professions in order to have ears at all segments of society. For example, child scouts were often employed to alert villagers of any imminent visits by Japanese forces. Upon this, the Communists-led village mobilization committees would be ready as underground tunnels were constructed beneath villages that connected to one another, while the self-defense corps armed themselves and even set up mines around village entrances. The success of mass mobilization, however, depended on «making the war a people’s war, something local residents could relate to. Cadres employed rhetoric that emphasized the value of parochial relations and territorial attachment to make the militia an integral part of the masses, which they accomplished by recruiting locals as commanders.
In retrospect, Chang and Hallidays single-minded focus on terror under Mao Zedong fails to acknowledge the positive incentives that the Party offered to the rural populace, which laid the foundations for the dramatic swell in its ranks during the second Sino-Japanese War. Chang and Hallidays argument that the regime was exclusively founded on fear and terror undermines the possibility that cooperation was often based upon a transaction of incentives offered by both sides. For the peasantry, interaction with Communist cadres represented an opportunity to participate in a system that promoted its interests and encouraged an organized form of resistance against the Japanese. While the results may not have materialized in any impressive show of military victories, a point which Chang and Halliday emphasize, it is important to remember that these were the means by which a small, ragtag army was able to assimilate a sizeable majority of the rural population under the banner of Communism.
Tony Wan, firstname.lastname@example.org
 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. Mao: The Unknown Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 p. 247
 ibid., p. 241
 Odoric Wou. Mobilizing the Masses. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994 p. 180
 Gregor Benton. New Fourth Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 p. 172
 Michael Lindsay. The Unknown War: North China 1937-1945. London: Bergstrom & Boyle Books Limited, 1975 p. 5
 Wou p. 187
 ibid., p. 189
 Chalmers Johnson. Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962, p. 73
 Theodore White and Annalee Jacoby. Thunder Out of China. New York: William Sloane Associates, Inc. 1946, p. 202
 Lyman Van Slyke. The Chinese Communist movement during the Sino-Japanese War. The Cambridge History of China. Ed. Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank. Vol. 13 Part 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p. 649
 Benton p. 184
 Chen p. 409
 Wou p. 306
 ibid., p. 182
 ibid., p. 183
 White and Jacoby p. 203
 Van Slyke p. 653
 Benton p. 103
 Wou p. 230
 ibid., p. 231
Chinese Famine of 1958-1961
Historically, China suffered from more than its share of famines. Poor communication and transportation networks made it difficult for markets in grain to emerge. Combined with political instability, this often meant that a localized crop failure led to famine since importing food from other parts of the country was extremely difficult. As an example, about 5 million people died during a famine in the 1940s exacerbated by civil war and the policies of the nationalist KMT (1).
Ironically, the Chinese Communists, led by Mao Tse-Tung, prevailed in the civil war in part because they won the support of peasants by promising equitable land redistribution and an end to famine. Instead, in 1958-61 the Communist agricultural policies created the worst famine in human history.
To understand the cause of the Chinese famine, first the reader must look back to the Soviet famine of 1931-3. Under Stalin, peasants and others were forced into large collective farms where the state dictated farming methods and production quotas any and all private farming efforts were strictly forbidden. To make matters worse, Stalin placed Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko in charge of agricultural science in the Soviet Union.
To put matters bluntly, Lysenko was a quack. He rejected modern genetics theory, for example, as «fascist» and instead adopted a modified form of Lamarckism that incorporated some Marxist ideas. In keeping with these ideas, Lysenko argued that seeds could be dramatically altered by merely altering their environment. For example, Lysenko believed that if seeds were soaked in extremely cold water, they would then grow in cold environments. The Soviets wasted valuable time and money instituting Lysenko’s harebrained schemes, and Lysenko used his position to promote the careers of other pseudo-scientists with similarly bizarre ideas (2).
Although the result of instituting Lysenko’s pseudoscience and Stalin’s collectivization techniques caused a famine that killed millions in the USSR, Mao and other Chinese Communists were enamored of Stalin and insisted on replicating the Soviet experience in China (apparently against the advice of the Kruschev and other Soviet officials).
In October 1955, Mao ordered Chinese peasants to be organized into collectives of 100-300 families. He would later order even larger collectives to be organized. As a result, in 1956 grain yields fell by up to 40 percent. Not satisfied, Mao ordered farmers to put into practice several Lysenko-ist practices, which combined with the collectivization, decimated Chinese agriculture (3).
These practices included:
close planting – Lysenko believed, against all the evidence, that members of the same species don’t compete for resources and advocated planting seeds very closely. In China, farmers were ordered to massively increase the number of seeds they planted. In the South, for example, a farmer might plant 1.5 million seedlings per 2.5 acres. The Communists ordered farmers to increase that to 6-7 million seedlings per 2.5 acres in 1958 and then 12-15 million seedlings per 2.5 acres in 1959. The results were predictable – few seedlings survived (4).
deep plowing – Lysenko’s colleague Teventy Maltsev argued that the deeper farmers plowed, the deeper the root structure of the plant would grow. Farmers in China were ordered to plow 4 to 5 feet deep. In 1958 in Liaoning province, for example, 5 million people spent more than a month deep plowing 3 million hectares of land (5).
extreme pest control measures – Mao launched an extreme campaign to control pests, including birds and insects. The sparrow bore the brunt of the pest control measure (the goal was to exterminate the bird). Unfortunately, with the decline in the sparrow population the insect population exploded, seriously compromising what few crops grew (6).
no chemical fertilizer – following Lysenko, the Chinese ordered an end to the use of chemical fertilizers (7).
leaving land fallow – following another of Lysenko’s colleagues, Vasily Williams, the Communists ordered farmers to leave at least one-third of their land fallow. Most areas didn’t comply to that extreme, but many did leave 14 to 20 percent of their land fallow ( .
The predictable results of these measures soon followed famine on a scale never before seen in China or any other part of the world. Unlike previous famines which had been localized to one or another region of the country, the famine of 1958-61 struck the entire country.
But as millions of peopled starved to death, nobody could publicly acknowledge the reality of the famine or criticize the collectivization efforts. When Minister of Defense Marshal Peng Dehuai wrote a private letter to Mao summarizing the disaster he was purged as a «rightist» by Mao. During much of the famine most officials reported enormous gains in agricultural output, and China continued to export large amounts of grain. In some areas, grain was maintained in storage facilities while people starved no one wanted to risk being purged as a «rightist» (9).
Finally in 1961, Liu Shaoqi ordered the abandonment of Mao’s policies in his province, and other provinces soon followed suit in part over fears that the famine was threatening the Communist Party’s control over the country. Mao opposed the reforms, but no longer had the power base to strike at officials who introduced in reforms. When Mao once again consolidated his power, he launched the Cultural Revolution which ended up killing many of those who brought the famine to an end.
The death toll was staggering so large, in fact, that until very recently many commentators in the West dismissed the claims of Chinese refugees as exaggerations. Although exact data are not available, estimates range anywhere from 30 to 40 million deaths caused by the famine. Demographic information suggests a significant number of these deaths, perhaps as many as a quarter, were young girls who may have been allowed to starve before other family members due to the low value traditional Chinese culture placed on daughters (10).
Ironically, much as the Chinese used the Soviet agricultural policies as a model with disastrous results, so China’s experiment in collectivized agriculture was used as a model by several developing nations who experienced much the same results. Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia and North Korea all adopted the collectivized agricultural experiment at one time or another and suffered from man-made famines.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, p.22.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.64-70.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.47-57.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.72-73.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.73-74.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.76-77.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.75-76.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, p.92.
- Becker, Joseph. Hungry ghosts: Mao’s secret famine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996, pp.266-274.