Modern history

Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62

Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up and overtake Britain in less than 15 years. The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives. Access to Communist Party archives has long been denied to all but the most loyal historians, but now a new law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way one can study the Maoist era. Frank Dikotter's astonishing, riveting and magnificently detailed book chronicles an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented. Dikotter shows that instead of lifting the country among the world's superpowers and proving the power of communism, as Mao imagined, in reality the Great Leap Forward was a giant - and disastrous -- step in the opposite direction. He demonstrates, as nobody has before, that under this initiative the country became the site not only of one of the most deadly mass killings of human history (at least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death) but also the greatest demolition of real estate - and catastrophe for the natural environment - in human history, as up to a third of all housing was turned to rubble and the land savaged in the maniacal pursuit of steel and other industrial accomplishments. Piecing together both the vicious machinations in the corridors of power and the everyday experiences of ordinary people, Dikotter at last gives voice to the dead and disenfranchised. Exhaustively researched and brilliantly written, this magisterial, groundbreaking account definitively recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.

Preface

Chronology

Part One

Chapter 1: Two Rivals

Chapter 2: The Bidding Starts

Chapter 3: Purging the Ranks

Chapter 4: Bugle Call

Chapter 5: Launching Sputniks

Chapter 6: Let the Shelling Begin

Chapter 7: The People’s Communes

Chapter 8: Steel Fever

Part Two

Chapter 9: Warning Signs

Chapter 10: Shopping Spree

Chapter 11: Dizzy with Success

Chapter 12: The End of Truth

Chapter 13: Repression

Chapter 14: The Sino-Soviet Rift

Chapter 15: Capitalist Grain

Chapter 16: Finding a Way Out

Part Three

Chapter 17: Agriculture

Chapter 18: Industry

Chapter 19: Trade

Chapter 20: Housing

Chapter 21: Nature

Part Four

Chapter 22: Feasting through Famine

Chapter 23: Wheeling and Dealing

Chapter 24: On the Sly

Chapter 25: ‘Dear Chairman Mao’

Chapter 26: Robbers and Rebels

Chapter 27: Exodus

Chapter 28: Children

Chapter 29: Women

Chapter 30: The Elderly

Part Six

Chapter 31: Accidents

Chapter 32: Disease

Chapter 33: The Gulag

Chapter 34: Violence

Chapter 35: Sites of Horror

Chapter 36: Cannibalism

Chapter 37: The Final Tally

Epilogue

An Essay on the Sources

Select Bibliography

Notes