Summary of The Human Cost Of Mao's 'Great Leap Forward' | Mao's Great Famine | Timeline

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The Great Leap Forward was Mao's attempt to industrialize China in a short period, but it led to economic chaos and a famine that killed around 45 million people. The Chinese Communist Party has been silent about the tragedy for 50 years, but a young historian has been collecting survivors' testimonies. The video elaborates on Mao's alliance with Stalin and the establishment of thousands of communes based on collective property that led to low productivity and food shortages. The personal testimonies detail the deliberate starvation of entire groups and the exploitation of women and girls by those in charge of distributing food. Mao's radical policies led to deforestation and widespread famine, causing millions of deaths. Despite warnings from Soviet leader Khrushchev, Mao ordered increased crop production, leading to more deaths. Investigators found tens of millions of deaths, including cases of cannibalism, and it was not until 1962 that the party put a stop to the Great Leap Forward. Mao's responsibility as a mass murderer and the collective responsibility of the Communist Party of China at the time is explored.

  • 00:00:00 create a utopia, but Mao's efforts to rapidly industrialize and modernize China through the Great Leap Forward in 1958 became a nightmare, causing economic chaos and an unprecedented famine that dragged 650 million Chinese people into hell and resulted in a death toll of around 45 million. The Chinese Communist Party has maintained a deafening silence on this tragedy for 50 years, but a young historian from the University of Hong Kong felt she had to take on the task of collecting the testimony of survivors of this terrible tragedy. It's not without danger getting the few witnesses to talk about the period and trying to reconstruct the memory of the great famine, but it's an urgent duty of memory and a personal story for many who have suffered the consequences of the Great Leap Forward.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, we see how Mao went to Moscow to ask Stalin for help in realizing his plans for building a fairer society. The two countries signed a treaty of friendship, and the USSR would supply China with weapons, factories, and all kinds of advisers. The Chinese Communist Party reform of agriculture and land distribution led to the settling of scores and class violence broke out. The Chinese peasants had their best years between 1950 and 1952, but from 1953, land redistributions made Mao fear the reappearance of a class of small landowners. Despite everything, Mao still believed that the Stalinist model was the ideal, and he judged the new Khrushchev era with skepticism.
  • 00:10:00 In this section, the excerpt describes the violent repression and mass deportation of individuals labeled as rightists, which removed all opposition and paved the way for Mao's Great Leap Forward. The regime's strategy of silencing critics resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly teachers, who were sent to force labor camps where many died of starvation. Mao's targets continued with the mobilization of 100 million peasants to work on building projects and an extraordinary campaign against sparrows that resulted in the death of these birds and a subsequent insect infestation that ate part of the harvest. Mao was able to rally the whole party behind him by using all means to mobilize the masses and stimulate revolutionary zeal.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, the video explains the establishment of thousands of communes consisting of up to two thousand families and the plans for much larger communes with up to ten or twenty thousand households, all based on the Maoist ideology of eradicating private property and instituting collective property. The video describes how the individual was subsumed into collective life geared towards production and all household items were pooled for the common good. Finally, the video describes the compulsory work schedule and distribution of food according to merit, with those failing to attend daily work meetings punished by losing work points and ending up with nothing to eat.
  • 00:20:00 In this section, we see how life was brutal for the peasants during the Great Leap Forward, while the cadres lived well. The party cadres became officers of the people's communes, and the villagers were forced to undergo military training and had no rights to free speech. Everything was decided by the authorities who mostly knew nothing about the subject, and the peasants had no motivation, leading to low productivity. In addition, land suitable for one type of crop was used for another, causing poor harvests and food shortages. Mao made communes compete against each other, recording falsified figures for production. The exaggerations led to false tax payments, and the spring harvest in 1959 was a disaster.
  • 00:25:00 In this section of the video, the devastating effects of Mao's Great Leap Forward policies are examined through personal testimonies of Chinese citizens who lived through it. Due to the communist regime's need to repay debts to other countries, many crops were taken away from the Chinese citizens, causing a massive famine. People resorted to eating bark, mud, and anything they could find, leading to starvation and mass death. The lack of food also gave corrupt cadres in charge of distributing rations the power to choose who could eat, leading to deliberate starvation of entire categories of people deemed too weak or vulnerable. The collective canteens became a weapon in the hands of the cadres, with some using their power to sexually exploit women and young girls. In addition to the famine, Mao demanded 100 million tons of steel in three years, leading to small blast furnaces being built by peasants out of whatever they could find.
  • 00:30:00 In this section, we learn about the human cost of Mao's Great Leap Forward. The massive deforestation caused by the need for fuel in small blast furnaces and the overall misuse of the population led to an "indescribable madness" in society. Mao was aware of the famine in the countryside, but it was part of his strategy to feed the cities and industrial and political centers. He stated it was better to let half of the people die in order to feed the other half. Anyone who dared to defy Mao faced severe consequences, and the years that followed were terrible, as widespread famine plagued China.
  • 00:35:00 In this section, the devastating impact of Mao's Great Leap Forward is explored. Millions of people died of starvation, with the official estimate putting the number at 18 million, although experts believe it could have been as many as 45 million. The state's granaries were full of food, yet the communist party refused to distribute the reserves to the starving population. The regime also forbade free movement of people, making it difficult for farmers to bring their goods to market and preventing those in the countryside from fleeing to find food elsewhere. Mao's radical policies caught the attention of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who warned him about the dangers of collectivization, but Mao ignored his advice and ordered the increased production of crops.
  • 00:40:00 In this section, investigators go to Cheng to find out the extent of the famine, and are met with lies from the local leader who only declared a certain number of deaths to cover up the truth. Three high-ranking officials investigated and found that there were tens of millions of deaths from starvation, and wrote a report for Mao, Chew, and Lie. Terrible and shocking realities were revealed from the testimonies of these investigations, including cases of cannibalism, such as a local party secretary who boiled down human body parts to use as fertilizer for the fields, and a documented case where a man was forced to bury his own child alive for stealing food, only to die of grief weeks later. Liu Xiaoxi, who became president in 1959, discovered the truth that his friends and family had died of starvation without him knowing because it was hidden from him by the local cadres. It was not until 1962 that the party brought together 7,000 cadres from across the country to put an end to the Great Leap Forward.
  • 00:45:00 In this section, it is revealed that Mao estimated the party's policy to be only 10% responsible for the famine, while Liu Xiao Qi contradicted him and believed that the party was largely responsible for it. Eventually, farming on privately owned land and free markets were re-established, stopping radical collectivization in the countryside, senseless quotas for farming production, as well as steel production in small blast furnaces. Western journalists were also taken in by the regime's staging to hide the reality of the tragedy, where they were convinced that China was a paradise of virtue and plenty. Mao took advantage of the radicalization of the situation and led the Chinese youth into the movement of the cultural revolution against the party bureaucrats, resulting in Lu Xiaoqi's arrest and death in 1969. Mao's vision and responsibility as a mass murderer are apparent in this section, along with the collective responsibility of the communist party of China at that time.
  • 00:50:00 In this section, a member of the Communist Party and author of the book Tombstone explains that the reason he wrote the book was to help relieve the burden of the Communist Party, which still carries the weight of Mao's Great Leap Forward. Mao left behind a country in ruins when he died, with estimates of the death toll from the Great Famine ranging from 36 million to 55 million. There is no monument in China to commemorate these victims apart from a modest one erected by a peasant who defied the silence imposed by the Communist leadership on this "unspeakable holocaust."

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