Mao's Terror

In China, Frank Dikötter writes, "a quiet revolution has been taking place as increasing quantities of documents older than 30 years have become available for consultation by professional historians." The new details should deepen your disgust with the Great Leap Forward and other important moments in Maoist history. For example:

My recent research relies on hundreds of hitherto unseen party archives, including secret reports from the Public Security Bureau, detailed minutes of top party meetings, unexpurgated versions of important leadership speeches, surveys of working conditions in the countryside, investigations into cases of mass murder, confessions of leaders responsible for the deaths of millions of people, inquiries compiled by special teams sent in to discover the extent of the catastrophe in the last stages of the Great Leap Forward, general reports on peasant resistance during the collectivisation campaign, secret police opinion surveys, letters of complaint written by ordinary people and much more.

What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Chairman Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, responsible for the premature deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten-kilo stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – as punishment for digging up a potato. The discriminate killing of slackers, weaklings, or otherwise unproductive elements increased the overall food supply for those who contributed to the regime through their labour.

Read the whole thing here.

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  • Shit for brains||

    Well I, for one, am flabbergasted by these unprecedented new revelations.

  • Old Mexican||

    Tell me about it. I heard that he only murdered something like 40 million - NOW I read he killed 45 million! I mean, the things that were kept under wraps!

  • ||

    Actually, it is a bit of a surprise.

    The previous numbers I had heard for the death toll in the "Great Leap Forward" (Note the dates quoted in the article) were in the 5 - 10 million range. The total number of Mao's victims had already been in the 50 million range, based on the lower number previously used for this era.

    If verified, this would push Mao's body count an order of magnitude ahead of Stalin or Hitler.

  • CatoTheElder||

    The Black Book of Communism puts the "staggering number of deaths during th ill-named Great Leap Forward" between 20 and 43 million between 1959 and 1961.
    (Jean-Louis Margolin, p 464) The lower end of the range is the official figure used by the Chinese government.

  • ||

    Oh yeah??? Well, it all just goes to show why we need to have the right savages in charge. You guys just don't like omelets.

  • wayne||

    Wow, I guess Mao's little red book was stained red with the blood of non-believers.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Lots of true believer blood, too.

  • Tony||

  • Paul||

    Nice.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Mao. Now there was a guy who knew how to deal with externalities, commerce clause or no.

  • ||

    Who was that government lady, the one with the lick-lipping tic, that said Mao was one of her heroes ? Who was that again ?

  • ||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiBDpL2dExY

    well, she didn't say "hero". Mao was one of her favorite political philosophers.

  • Paul||

    Imagine, if you will, someone referring to Adolf Hitler as their "favorite political philosopher".

  • seanrude||

    Hitler was way worse. He was a Nazi, and those were the Bad Guys in Schindler's List

  • ||

    For real! Mao never did anything to Indiana Jones like those Nazi's did.

  • Paul||

    Anita Dunn.

  • Mild-mannered reporter||

    Reporter: Ms Dunn, question?

    Anita Dunn: Of, course.

    Reporter: New revelations show that Mao Zedong was responsible for the mass murder and torture of 45 million people in China. In light of these revelations, will you reconsider your devotion to Maoist politics?

    Anita Dunn: What do you think?

  • Ms Dunn||

    "reports on peasant resistance during the collectivization campaign"

    See, they deserved it.

  • Reporter||

    Never mind, I just found out you worked for Obama. We save the tough questions for teabaggers.

  • ||

    Clark Kent is in the White House Press Corps?

  • Glenn Beck||

    Don't forget this dude.

  • Anita Dunn||

    The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse-tung and Mother Theresa -- not often coupled with each other, but the two people I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is 'you're going to make choices; you're going to challenge; you're going to say why not; you're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Like ushering 45 million of your fellow earthlings into the next world?

  • Paul||

    The discriminate killing of slackers, weaklings, or otherwise unproductive elements increased the overall food supply for those who contributed to the regime through their labour.

    I remember in my younger days, convincing my socialist(ic) slacker friends, that their utopian collectivist vision wouldn't tolerate slackers, where capitalism did.... by design.

    I don't think they ever got it. They were utterly convinced that in a collectivist system, they'd finally live where they wouldn't be "put upon" by a society demanding they get a job.

    Great post, Jesse.

  • Stretchy||

    No, libertarians are the ones who don't care about the poor and the weak. Libertarians are the ones whose health care plan is for the poor and weak to get sick and die. Socialists are caring people whose concern is for 'all' of humanity.

  • ||

    Well naturally. "Capitalist roaders", bourgeoise, and "imperialist tools" aren't human.

    The phrase "He who does not work shall not eat" wasn't used by a capitalist.

  • ||

    Libertarians are the ones whose health care plan is for the poor and weak to get sick and die.

    Oh, to be rich and powerful, and never get sick and die.

  • Spartacus||

    Depends on what you mean by "humanity". No true human would freely choose to sit by while everyone else is pulling their weight. Slackers and other free riders are not completely human, so what happens to them is not important.

  • lolwut?||

    And to think I thought Libertarians' health care plan was, as a doctor, to let the poor and sick slide on their bills, or for us common folk, to reach out and pay for it out of our own pockets rather then by the threat of violence by government. Better to have corporate subsidies (i.e. welfare) for insurance companies to, keep prices jacked up, stifle competition, and keep doctors under their thumb!

    Of course, I can see your point. Your "humanity" are evil scumbags who'd crap on the festering wounds of the poor. Obviously you need men with guns to force all to become charitable and empathetic humans (for their own good of course).

    Perhaps you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

  • wayne||

    Well, if he only killed slackers that leaves the Republicans and Libertarians to carry on.

    Tony? Tony? paging Tony?

  • ||

    And, despite all this, "Mao", "Maoist", and "Communist" will never be the epithets of contempt that "Hitler" and "Nazi" are.

  • ||

    But the communists meant well RC. They were trying to create a new egalitarian world. And they were trying to do it in countries that were really poor like China and Russia, And the whole capitalist world was against them. There were enemy agents everywhere. So yes, they got a little paranoid and did some regrettable things. But they meant well. And that is what matters.

  • creech||

    Don't forget that Mao was only following orders.

  • Mao||

    I was only trying to clean up the mess I inherited from the previous administration.

  • Paul||

    :)

  • Model Mao||

    I was the model for all future progressives to move world society forward. No looking back!

  • Tom Friedbrain||

    Mao is a leader I can admire, there would have been no problems passing CnT under his leadership.

  • colson||

    Oh, and you can't forget that Mao did not discriminate. He was an equal opportunity dispatcher of life.

  • ||

    Yeah, the Nazis weren't just evil butchers, they were also really mean people. It's easy to go around holding grudges against well intentioned people who made a few mistakes just because their political philosphophy resulted in the deaths of a few hundred million innocents and lumping them in with just plain awful people like the Nazis.

  • ||

    And to think, Mao is the hero of many of our current Administration Department of Propaganda and Political Action personnel. How nice!

  • fish||

    Tom Friedman is right! Those little Chinese bastards can get things done when they want to!

    If only we could be more like them!

  • Xeones||

    You gotta brand a few eggs with a sizzling tool if you want to make a Great Omelet.

  • fish||

    Isn't that the most recent Panda Express advert slogan?

  • ||

    "great peoples omelet"

  • wayne||

    Mao chow, ummmhhh!

  • ||

    "Oh no, my Shitty Beef! My Shitty Chicken! My Shitty Branded Egg Foo Young!"

  • I am not the governments ATM||

    Mao Pao

  • Annita Dunn||

    What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Chairman Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, responsible for the premature deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962.

    Calumny! Lies! He's my favorite philosopher, next to Mother Teresa!

    You liars! You liars! Mommy!!!!!!!

  • TonyMNG||

    Pay no attention, Anita, those are just Glenn Beck's FOX News talking points.

  • Chad's dog Maxie||

    Arf, I believe you.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Alt-text fail: It should be "pa-pa-ooo-mao-mao."

  • Primitive Cultures||

    +1

  • BakedPenguin||

    Well, everybody's heard, about the turd...

  • hmm||

    He really was a great thinker. No really.

  • The Other Kevin||

    He was a great thinker, in the same way Hitler was a great and inspiring leader.

  • check_minus||

  • Warty||

  • ||

    The discriminate killing of slackers, weaklings, or otherwise unproductive elements ...

    First time I've seen "discriminate" used correctly in this sense.

  • wayne||

    I agree. I did a double take on that and said, "hmmm, cool use of the language".

  • I am not the governments ATM||

    Pfft, whats 45 million out of 660 million.

    Seriously though his dad died of grief,is that possible?

    "When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later."

  • ||

    I took it as figurative.

    Stress, lack of sleep, refusing to eat or drink and other grieving behaviors can cause people to die, especially if they are already weakened by hunger and other privations. (Note that the child was "stealing a potato' - the Great Leap Forward led to one of the greatest famines in history.)

    ---

    Pfft, whats 45 million out of 660 million.

    I truly hope you are saying that ironically.

  • I am not the governments ATM||

    "Pfft, whats 45 million out of 660 million.

    I truly hope you are saying that ironically."

    Of course, that's why the next sentence started with "Seriously though"

  • ||

    Sorry. Didn't know your handle and wasn't sure.

    There are a few posters here for whom that would not be ironic. And I have met more than enough Communists who approve of this kind of thing as necessary.

  • CatoTheElder||

    His kid took a handful of grain because he was literally starving to death.

    His father was starving to death as well.

    It's not a leap to surmise that the barbarity of the Communist cadres and the grief of losing his child were the proximate cause of death.

  • ||

    Die of grief ? I don't know how old you are, or anything about your life, but the longer I live, the older I get, I think that dying of grief, or dying of a broken heart...those may not just be metaphors. A hurt may be so great that one very well could simply lose the will to live.

    (no citation)

  • GroundTruth||

    Sad to say, but I think you're right.

  • ||

    I don't know how many who are wondering about "dying of grief" have ever had anyone close to them die. The grief can be so bad that your heart literally begins to hurt. It's such a profound pain that it is hard for me to believe that the human body can stand it for long. The pain is so bad that the brain starts to tell itself stories (dreaming of the lost one, hallucinating, etc.) to lessen the grief of separation.

    On top of this, layer on the great guilt this particular father must have felt for burying his own son alive (or even the smaller guilt one might feel, for example, for arranging a pet's euthanasia and, after one final goodbye, handing it over to those who will end its life). I have no doubt at all that one can die of such grief. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that every time I felt that kind of pain down through the decades, I lost one or two of my own future years.

  • ||

    Anyone who has lived at all is well aware of the physiological phenomena sometimes referred to as heartache. I have found that it is generally those who have never lived through genuine grief who are most judgemental with respect to the legitimacy of the emotional suffering of others, though they might also be most inclined to put on a show in terms of "caring".

  • JD||

    Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a form of heart failure that is widely recognized in the medical community as commonly caused by emotional stress.

  • ||

    Just for the record, the communists hardly had anything to do with kicking the Japanese out of China either.

  • RyanXXX||

    There's an anecdotal story that Mao once thanked a visiting Jap diplomat for the Japanese invasion: "Without you destroying the nationalists, how could we communists have become mighty and powerful?"

  • Poster Boy||

    Remember that huge Mao poster outside the Chinese Olympic stadium? Not one damn discouraging word about it was uttered by any of the commentators that I heard.

  • Commentators||

    Who are we to judge?

  • squarooticus||

    What about all the monuments we have to Lincoln the Butcher? Not quite at the same level of magnitude, sure, but we have our own sainted demons to exorcise.

  • Fictitious Sportscaster||

    Hey, Bob, why would they post a big mural of a guy who killed 45 million people -- and now, on to the track and field semi-finals.

  • Barack Obama||

    I will hang ornaments on the WH Christmas tree and allow the Communist Chinese flag to be raised on the south lawn of the WH.

  • JD||

    Most of those ornaments were probably made in China anyhow.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    What about all the monuments we have to Lincoln the Butcher?

    Neo-Confederate troll believes the SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN!

  • Pol Pot||

    Yes, but MY percentage was higher!

  • Sooner or later||

    Chad, MNG, Tony, Max and the gang will join the comment section proclaiming what a Republican Mao was.

  • Fluffy Bunny Stalin||

    It's not funny to joke about mass murder. Be serious, and destroy all records. Progressives, all, for the people.

  • Thank you Jesse,||

    For the article. Maybe more people will understand the Socialist Century.

  • Ted S.||

    The ones who are in most need of it won't. They'll just stick their fingers in their ears and scream, "Pinochet! Pinochet! Pinochet!!"

  • Ray Pew||

    Purging the enemies of the State is not murder. Everyone knows that, just like taxation, murder is defined by statute, so these actions can't be murder.

    And those millions who died obviously accepted this outcome, because if they didn't consent to the social contract, they could have just left.

  • Ray Pew||

    Forgot. This is simply the price they pay for the luxury of living in a civilized society. Shit ain't free, ya know.

  • ||

    But they did it for the children!

  • Paul||

    Well, if you take the government's money, you dance to their tune...

  • ||

    When most of the people in China realize that Mao killed more Chinese than Tojo by several orders of magnitude, there's going to be hell to pay. I think the gerontocrats are hoping to keep a lid on it until they've all died of old age.

    -jcr

  • cynical||

    I don't think there will be hell to pay for quite some time. Certainly not in our lifetimes.

  • Rhywun||

    I dunno. Maybe fewer people would dutifully line up at that ghastly mausoleum of his in Tiananmen Square, but I think the goons in charge are more concerned about keeping the economy revved up enough to placate the common folk - it's been spectacularly successful so far. If the bubble burst, then there would truly be hell to pay, I think. Besides, Mao was a long time ago and the goons probably still have all the tricks up their sleeve to "disappear" him if need be.

  • ||

    You don't know much about China.

  • Joe R.||

    Yeah, I don't think it will resonate either. Since Mao was Chinese, and he was the leader, he must have had a good reason.

  • Prophecy||

    Won't happen, Japan doesn't teach their children about Japanese brutalities in China, China most certainly teaches their children about Japan's brutalities. Payback is going to be a bitch!

    I suspect one day in the future once China is comfortable with the technology, size and scope(much needed Navy) of its military some world event in the ME, possibly elsewhere(Korea), will trigger the Chinese to just say FUCK IT and they'll take back Taiwan, land stolen from them by the Soviets and payback for Japan and WWIII will be upon us.

    China really has no choice since their one child policy has left them with way too many males. China's going to have to become the largest gay society(doubtful), conquer some women from foreign lands or send them boys off to war. Its inevitable, probably gonna be Biblical when it goes down.

  • Blades of Grass||

    Yeah, it's sure going to be one hell of a fight! I remember someone posting about France's bloody history. Something about the male population becoming so large that war was the only way to keep the people from turning on their own government.

    True?

  • Rhywun||

    "become the largest gay society"

    Huh, time will tell. I suspect they'd ditch the one-child thing before letting THAT happen. I do follow stories about "gay life in China" - it's like a time machine into America's past; but like everything else there, change seems a lot faster than it ever was here. The stories went from anecdotes about nameless bars and "meeting places" to stories about wrangling with city authorities over gay pride parade permit with astonishing speed.

  • GroundTruth||

    Way to go Mao! You're #1! You're #1! Better than Hitler and Stalin combined! Way to go!!!!!

  • Greer||

    Well, can we say one thing?

    That as much as we hate much of what our government does, and hate many of the people who govern us, that our country doesn't do this shit. We can talk all we want about isolated injustices but we don't exterminate broad swaths of our population.

    We may not like Bush, Obama etc but they aren't that kind of evil.

    We should take some solace in that occasionally.

  • Agreed||

    Still one wonders why Mr Obama appoints a Mao-apologist to a powerful cabinet position. Things like this are what make people think Obama is ignorant or deliberately blind about history.

  • Richard Nous||

    Obama lost the keys to the car and China has the only spare set of keys.

  • wayne||

    Obama 12 campaign ad, "at least I didn't murder 50,000,000 people like that Republican Mao!"

  • CE||

    ...between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed...

    Well which was it? That's quite a difference in ways to die....

  • ||

    Until the Chinese people themselves start to care, Mao's legacy is safe no matter what revelations Westerners dig up. In fact, the more revelations about Westerners dig up, the more Chinese tend to dig in their heels and defend Mao. That's the way nationalism and tribal loyalty work. In the eyes of most Chinese Mao was the leader who kicked the foreigners out of China - if he had to kill 45 million Chinese to do it, they consider it a small price to pay. Ironically in the West we see this as "crimes of Communism." Most Chinese don't care about Communist ideology - pro business, pro free market Chinese will defend Mao to you all day long. It's about nationalism, pure and simple. For the same reason you will find many South Korean businessmen who consider Kim Il Sung a hero because he "fought the Japanese" and never kowtowed to the US. The way to truly discredit Mao and Kim in Asia is to find some good hard evidence that they were collaborators.

  • OMG||

    This.

    Little worship pictures of Mao plastered on the window are as popular in cabs in China as those jesus statues in Limo cars in NYC.

  • Funny||

    A lot of Russians pine for Uncle Josef.

  • Richard Nous||

    Only those young enough not to have lived under Stalin and only because the way they see it Russia wasn't pushed around under Stalin's leadership. Its why Putin is pushes the macho man PR campaign.

  • reasonistreason||

  • ||

    "died of grief", lol, he committed suicide. This not Lord of Rings world, nobody dies of grief.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I would suspect "assisted" suicide as a real possibility.

  • RyanXXX||

    Seriously, that story about the father burying his son alive is probably going to give me nightmares.

  • ||

    China was doomed to mass deaths no matter which way it went. If the Guo Min Dang (Nationalists) had won I suspect they would have killed even more not from ideology but just from corruption and incompetence. They had a pretty good killing record themselves in the years before 1949. If you base your views of the current government of China with the record of Mao, you really should go there and spend some time in the neighborhoods and out on the farms to see what is really going on.

  • Thomas Friedman||

    The long term toll was terrible, of course, but think how much we could accomplish if we could just have Mao in charge for one day.

  • Chairman Mao||

    Useful idiots like you would be the first ones put against the wall.

  • Thomas Friedman||

    I've always wanted to see the Great Wall of China, so I gladly accept your invitation! Is being "put against" the wall a traditional Chinese ritual for visitors? It sounds lovely.

  • 24||

    Not quite, according to Jack Bauer.

  • Chairman Mao||

    I'm a people person. Heck, I put it right there in the name of the place.

  • ||

    Off topic question, info if anyone can help. I saw a documentary a number of years ago which consisted of a narrator speaking the actual, generally appalling words and thoughts of a number of the most notable mass murdering despots of the 20th Century while displaying images of the results of their various policies. It was among the most utterly chilling things I have ever viewed, not least for the appalling banality of these people and the horrendous personal foibles these monstrous creatures exhibit. Is anyone familiar with this work or with its title. I would like to see it again and share it with my son. Anyone who could watch this film and defend collectivism (which I guess is a as good a word as any - maybe "anti-individualism", I don't know)as "good in principle" is not someone I would ever want to be around.

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