Three officials suspended for forced abortion in China

Feng Jianmei

THREE officials in northwest China‘s Shaanxi Province have been suspended pending further investigation after a seven-months pregnant woman, Feng Jianmei, was forced by local authorities to abort her second child.

The three officials involved are Jiang Nenghai, Zhenping County‘s top family planning official; Chen Pengyin, head of Zhenping’s Zengjia Town; and Long Chunlai, Zengjia Town’s family planning official.

The city government of Ankang, which oversees the county, made the decision late yesterday and apologized to the victim, Feng Jianmei. Ankang government also guaranteed tough punishments for disciplined officials after the investigation.

Feng, 27, was forced to terminate her pregnancy at seven months in a hospital in Zhenping on June 2. Details of the case, including several photos showing the remains of the fetus lying next to the mother on her hospital bed, were posted on online forums and have shocked and angered many people nationwide.

Women whose pregnancies go past six months are banned from abortions. Zhenping family planning officials grossly violated the law, damaged the image of the family-planning work and brought a serious negative impact, said the Shaanxi Provincial Population and Family Planning Bureau.

The bureau said it would launch an investigation across the province to clamp down on violations and prevent similar cases.

Zhenping authorities had claimed that Feng Jianmei, 23, agreed to terminate her pregnancy after she was informed she did not qualify for a second baby. Feng, from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, married a rural man in Zhenping in 2006 and gave birth to a girl the next year.

After she was found in violation of the one-child policy, local officials persuaded her to undergo an induced abortion on June 2, according to the statement published on the Zhenping Family Planning Commission’s website.

However, Feng told China Business newspaper that dozens of officials “coerced me to sign and put my fingerprint on the operation agreement.”

“Around 9am on June 2, many people rushed to cover my face with a black coat and dragged me to the hospital,” Feng cried.

Her father-in-law rushed to the hospital but was blocked by officials, the paper said.

Zhuang Pinghui
South China Morning Post

Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

Tags: , , , , , , ,

30 replies

  1. Everytime I read you daily China news … It makes me so upset – how they treat their people. Terrible.


    • Viveka, “How they treat their people.”


      How about the United States where forced sterilzation programs existed in the first half of the 20th century?

      In fact, “the United States was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics. … In the end, over 65,000 individuals were sterilized in 33 states under state compulsory sterilization programs in the United States.”

      Then there are the forced abortions that still take place in the United States.

      According to

      64 percent of abortions (in the United States) involve some sort of coercion.

      45 percent of men interviewed at abortion clinics (in the United States) recalled urging abortion, including 37 percent of married men.

      Teens (in the United States) are at higher risk for becoming victims of coerced abortion.


      • Hi there, I didn’t mean only about abortion, the humans rights in China are terrible – I live in Sweden and we have free abortion … and I have never said that US have got things right neither. TV are allowed to show a man beat a woman half to death – but they are not allowed to show her naked breast. Thanks for the input.


    • Nader,

      Have you spent any time in China?

      Perception in the West that human rights are terrible in China often come from biased Western media reports or Blogs. I’m married to a Chinese woman that was born in China and lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and I have visited China nine times since 1999.

      The perception in the West that the Chinese people are miserable and have little freedom is WRONG. There are political and religious restrictions but most of the other freedoms we in the West take for granted exist in China too.

      When you say human rights violations, what do you mean?

      A. Locking up democracy advocates

      Did you know that out of more than 1.3 billion Chinese there have not been many outspoken democracy advocates and usually, they are told to stop first (warned to back off)? The law as it is written in China’s Constitution allows the government to arrest these people if they do not stop public demonstrations. We know one individual that was taken to tea and warned to stop the public demonstrations. She decided to follow the advice (or else jail) and stopped.

      B. the Tiananmen Square Incident.

      My wife knows several of the student leaders that were involved in the Tiananmen Square incident. She was invited to become one of the leaders. She refused because she knew these people were opportunists and the Tiananmen Square incident only happened once and it did not start as a democracy movement. It was a labor movement complaining about government corruption at the local level asking the government in Beijing to do something about it.

      C. the drought and famine during the Great Leap Forward that caused millions of deaths due to starvation.

      Regardless of the claims in books by mostly Western authors, there is no proof that Mao deliberate caused these people to starve to death. In fact, historical records in China show that droughts and famines causing people to starve to death were common in China for two thousand years and were annual events that took place in one or more provinces. However, since the Chinese Communist Party has ruled China, the only famine took place between 1959 – 1961 and there has been no famine or starvation for the other sixty years.

      D. restrictions on religion

      However, several religions are allowed in China: Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Protestantism, and Taoism. That pretty much covers the major global religions. Does it really matter if the people don’t have the other thousands of Christian and Islamic sects as choices? There is a restriction that these religions cannot be involved in politics. Heck, even in America there is a separation between the Church and State.

      E. The fact that China has the largest prison population on the planet second only to the most powerful democracy on the Earth. The United States has more than twice as many people in prison than China does and China had more than four times the population. What does that say about the United States.

      F. the one child policy

      This policy does not apply to rural Chinese or minorities. The one-child policy is an urban policy. Rural Chinese may have two children and the 100 million Chinese that belong to minorities have no limits on family size and many urban families that want more than one child and have the money to pay the fine are doing so. In fact, studies show that upper-middle class Chinese are having an average of three children and paying the government fine for the other two children. Just like in the West, money buys privileges and a better lifestyle.

      G. how about restrictions on travel outside China

      There aren’t any. If a Chinese citizen can afford to become a global tourist, he or she may go anywhere they want as long as that other country allows them in. The one country with harsh tourist restrictions is the United States. About 50 million Chinese travel annually as tourists to other countries and they return home. Once they get out if life is so bad in China, why don’t they ask for asylum?


      How about if we point out a few of the positive things that China’s government has accomplished since 1949. In 1949, the average life expectancy age in China was 35. Today it is about 75. Even before Mao died in 1976, life expectancy had doubled.

      Since 1949, China is responsible for 90% of global poverty reduction. Few in China live in severe poverty while about 40% of Indian citizens still live in sever poverty and poverty is increasing in the United States. Meanwhile, in the largest democracy, India, about 6,000 children die of starvation daily and poverty reduction hasn’t improved much in the last 65 years—this means more than 142 million children have died of starvation in India since 1947 and that doesn’t count the adults that died of starvation.

      In 1976, 80% of Chinese were illiterate. Today about 8% are illiterate. In 1949, less than 5% of Chinese were in the middle class. The other 95% lived in poverty and most of them lived in severe poverty facing hunger daily.

      Today about 25% of the Chinese have joined the middle class and the government’s goals are to make that about 50 – 60% in another decade or so.


      • Just because something is law, doesn’t mean it isn’t an infringement of human rights. You might wish to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

        Given the lack of reliable facts and statistics in China, I would be interested to know where you obtained this data. If it can be supported, it would make interesting articles.


      • Dear Lloyd,

        You are right China’s human rights are not as terrible as described by biased Western media reports or blogs. However, we shall make allowance for people’s ignorance due to lack of information. The China now has come from its terrible past when despotism prevails. The Mao Dynasty has collapsed and tremendous changes have been brought about by talent leaders with moral integrity, but the strong bad impression of Mao era remains. That makes it easy for people to emphasize China’s negative sides and ignore the positive sides.

        That is just similar to your understanding of China by what you have seen now. What you have seen is the China after the silent peaceful coup d’état described in my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements”. You believe that the China in Mao era was the same as the China now. You certainly have not personally experienced the life in Mao era though you have been to China many times. In Mao era, people from outside were not allowed to see what they wanted to see. Their friends and relatives would be condemned or even imprisoned if the truth was told to them.

        As China Daily Mail aims at giving a true picture of China to its readers, we have to point out what is wrong in your description of China. Let’s do that point by point.

        A. Locking up democracy advocates

        People are free to advocate democracy in China now. No one has been locked up for that. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao advocates democracy times and again in public. Has he ever been in trouble for that? No.

        The loudest opposition was the speech of Wu Bangguo, the second ranking Chinese leader, who is one rank higher than Wen the third ranking Chinese leader. Soon after one of Wen’s speeches on democracy, Wu said that China would never have Western democracy.

        What Wu really means by negating Western democracy? He means that Chinese Communist Party’s dominance of Chinese politics shall remain. One may be locked up if he opposes that. That is why Liu Xiaobo has been locked up. Liu was imprisoned for advocating publicly replacement of the party’s dominance by a multi-party democracy.

        The Party’s dominance has been written into Chinese constitution and overthrowing the Party’s rule is a crime clearly written into China’s criminal law.

        As for demonstrations, people are allowed by Chinese constitution to hold demonstrations. Only there are laws and rules that approval shall be obtained beforehand. However, if people have justified grounds, they can hold peaceful demonstration even though the authorities told them not to. Recently, people in Shifang, Sichuan held demonstrations to demand for the cessation of a project that may cause pollution. The Shifang government has to cease the project and release all the demonstrators arrested except three who have injured the police.

        There are indeed problems of persecution of dissidents, mostly in violation of Chinese law. In my book, I tell readers to learn from America’s Martin Luther King Jr. and adopt the ways allowed by Chinese constitution and law in fighting for democracy and human rights since democracy and human rights have been written into Chinese constitution. However, their first priority I believe shall be fighting for the establishment and implementation of the rule of law.

        So much for A due to limited time.

        I have no objection to point D. Regarding point E, in fact, there are not many political prisoners in China. As for the number of criminal prisoners, it depends on the situation of crimes in a country. As far as I know, the crime situation is much worse in the US. Point G is also okay.

        Points B and C are entirely unacceptable. I will go into details later. As for point E, I shall provide the information of Mao’s responsibility for the worsening of China’s population problem that has forced China to adopt stringent measures to control population.

        Chan Kai Yee


  2. About tlme justice is served. Straight up murder of a human being.


    • In fact, I have written about all of these topics on my Blog at – and every fact I have mentioned in my previous comment has links to sources such as The World Bank, the UN, etc. However, they do not appear in one post but many. I’ve written about 1500 posts on China for the iLookChina Blog.

      What you say about laws is true. Just because there is a law doesn’t mean the law is enforced or catches every criminal act. This also holds true for other countries such as the United States.

      That topic comes up on one of my other Blogs in a recent post. For Example, I quoted Dan Rather pointing out that there are laws in the United States against child prostitution but he says enforcement is “feeble” at best.

      Another example is India where laws exist that was supposed to do away the cast system that hasn’t changed all that much in most of India since 1947 when India gained its freedom from the British Empire.

      What happens in China is not that unique when compared to the rest of the world and often what happens in China has also happened in the United States at one time or another or is still happening or getting worse as in the case of human trafficking, pornography, the private weapons industry, etc.

      Talking about pornography—half of the pornography in the world is produced in the United States and regardless of any laws that protect child pornography, this industry is growing faster than any other industry with the possible exception of the private weapons industry that is also a US growth industry that did not suffer during or after the 2007 – 2008 global financial crises. Private industries in the United States are selling more weapons and make more money than any other country on the globe including China.

      Here is a link to an article titled “War is Business”

      Or this from Common Dreams on “US Selling More Weapons to Undemocratic Regimes That Support ‘War on Terror'”

      How does China compare to the US when it comes to selling and exporting weapons?

      The United States is number one year after year. China is ranked number six behind Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

      In 2010, private industries in the US sold $8,641,000,000 (billion US dollars) in weapons to other countries while China only sold $1.423,000,000 (billion US dollars).

      This information comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute at (another example of the sources I use for my information).

      “SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. SIPRI is named as one of the world’s leading think tanks in the international “Think Tank Index”. Based in Stockholm, SIPRI also has presences in Beijing and Washington, DC.”


      • Dear Lloyd,

        Thank you for your reply to my comment on Point A.

        You provide me with information about the problems in implementation of law in the US and India where there has been the rule of law for a long time.

        I know that it is difficult to establish and implement the rule of law in China and hold that it will take a few decades and even a century to turn China really into a country with rule of law. What you mentioned about human trafficking, pornography, private weapons industry, etc. make me aware that when China learns from the US, it shall learn what is good there and avoid what is undesirable.

        However, China’s problem in implementation of the rule of law is much more serious as it has a long history of absolute monarchy without rule of law. Mao’s tyranny greatly worsened the situation. He told Edgar Snow that he had no respect for law and heavenly justice when Snow visited China during the Cultural Revolution. He actually did so. China’s president Liu Shaoqi was imprisoned and persecuted to death without any legal procedure.

        Mao’s example caused there to be despotism everywhere in China. In my book, I give a detailed description of the tyranny and the emergence of a generation of talented intellectuals with moral integrity who studied hard and made preparations for seizing power.

        That is too long a story. If interested please read Chapter 2 “Monster and Beasts’ Tyranny—Scholars Anxious to Fight Back” of my book “Tiananmen’s Tremendous Achievements.”

        I am not trying to make money here as in Google’s preview of my book you can read the first six chapters of my book free of charge.

        The problems of the rule of law are so serious in China that local officials even told Chen Guangcheng, the well-known rights activist who has recently fled illegal house arrest and moved to the US, that they had their local rules and the national law does not apply there.

        Chen’s is not an isolated case. The large number of cases of persecution of dissidents in violation of law, the popularity of Bo Xilai who violated law in his campaign against organized crime, sent to labor camp a web user who openly opposed him on the Internet and sent to prison a lawyer for defending his client, and the case of forced late abortion in the post you gave comments on prove that there are still a large number of despots among Chinese officials.

        China has recently amended its criminal procedure law to provide better protection of human rights and lawyers’ rights of defense, but the problem is the implementation of law.

        In the post, three officials have been punished for the forced abortion. However, punishment alone cannot resolve the problems in implementation of law. There shall first be an independent judiciary and legal profession and the education on rule of law in schools and media. People’s moral standards shall also be raised. We see that the Chinese government is making efforts in this respect. It is improving moral education in schools and providing moral education in CCTV’s prime-time intervals originally meant for commercials.

        There is the Chinese saying: “It takes 10 years to grow a tree while it takes 100 years to foster the people.” China has to make long-term efforts for rule of law, human rights and democracy; therefore, there shall not be a revolution for overnight changes but a long-term continuous struggle for gradual reform. The key to preventing despotism is the removal of the traditional family education malpractice of Tiger Mom’s and Wolf Dad’s. (See my post “Tiger Mom, Wolf Dad Teach Blind Obedience to Tyranny” dated Feb. 1.)

        Chinese people shall condemn officials for failure in implementing the rule of law and violation of human rights. Foreign media’s condemnation also helps even if biased as Chinese central authorities care for China’s image abroad.

        B. The Tiananmen Incident

        The protesters did not fight for democracy at first, but I believe the protest leader were right to raise the slogan of democracy, which in fact aimed at putting an end to Communist Party’s autocracy. They gained widespread support in fact not due to people’s desire for democracy but due to people’s long-term accumulated hatred at the party. The fear caused throughout the Party enabled talented intellectuals with moral integrity to seize power.

        I have given detailed description in my book on the reasons for national support for the protesters, the panic caused and the coup. You can find them in the first six chapters of my book.

        C. The draught and famine during the Great Leap Forward that caused millions of deaths due to starvation.

        In the well-known meeting of 7,000 major Communist Party officials in 1962, Liu Shaoqi, the second ranking party leader at that time said the famine was 30% caused by natural disasters and 70% caused by human errors, a well accepted polite criticism of Mao’s errors by the whole party secretly then and openly now.

        Pref. Frank Dikötter gives an authoritative account in his “Mao’s Great Famine” based on China’s official documents. What I personally saw and heard from reliable sources such my classmates, friends and their relatives including party officials and PLA colonels prove what Pref. Dikötter writes in his book is true. I do not think it necessary to give my account as no one, not even orthodox Chinese communists have raised objection to Prof. Dikötter’s account.

        F. The one child policy

        In early 1950s, Chinese scholars including Ma Yinchu began to give Chinese government advice on population control. Their initial suggestion is to amend the Marriage Law to increase the age of lawful marriage from 18 for females and 20 for males to 25. At that time, China had a population about 500 million. However, Mao rejected their suggestion and adopted a contrary policy of encouraging birth. Sometimes a mother with lots of children was honored with the title of “mother of honor”.

        Mao said that it was easy for work to be done when there were lots of people, but he forgot that it is difficult to feed and provide jobs for lots of people. As China’s population grew too fast, by June 1957, Ma Yinchu had to present his “New Population Theory” to try to persuade the government to control population growth as he was convinced by facts that high population growth was detrimental to China’s economy.

        Mao not only rejected Ma’s suggestion, but organized people to denounce Ma’s theory, treating Ma as a rightist. I learnt from one of the lecturers in my university how Ma was attacked in meetings attended by him. As a result, no family planning measures were adopted until late after the great famine. China has lost the opportunity to control its population when it was relatively small.

        When Deng Xiaoping came back to power, the serious problem of unemployment due to years to poor economy caused Deng to take stringent one-child policy to prevent future unemployment. The one-child policy is certainly undesirable in many respects, but by that time China had no alternative as due to Mao’s errors, China had already had too huge a population.

        Perhaps, people outside China do not know the serious unemployment in China at that time. Even Chinese people have perhaps forgotten it as Chinese official documents seldom mention that. Therefore I write three chapters in my book on that issue respectively entitled “14. Disgraceful End of Mao’s Reeducation of Educated Youth—Educated Youth on Hunger Strike”, “15. From Che Lasei to Prostitution—Illicit Prostitution during the Cultural Revolution” and “16. Who Forced Good Girls To Prostitute Themselves?—Mao Caused the Misery”.

        Those are sad stories of the misery under Mao’s tyranny. I write about such misery in order that it will not be forgotten in the future so as to prevent future tyranny. I mention it here but do not think that the sales of my book will be increased as people want to enjoy fun now instead of reading about such misery.


  3. Mao’s Tyranny?

    If one speaks of the dark things that happened during the Mao era (1949 – 1976), one should also point out the bright elements of his rule and the dark side of his enemies.

    In 1949, the average lifespan in China was 35. When Mao died, it had doubled and the population had doubled. Under Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, China had its first government ever to have goals to alleviate poverty and even during Mao’s time the standard of living (as measured by the World Bank and other international organizations and Western academics) improved annually.

    According to the United Nations and the World Bank, China is now responsible for 90% of the poverty reduction in the world since 1949—most of it since 1980.

    In addition, Mao’s critics seldom if ever point out what the alternative was—Chiang Kai-shek, a man that was the brutal dictator of Taiwan until he died in 1976—a man supported by the United States. Under Chiang Kai-shek, would China have fared any better than it did before 1949? I doubt it. In fact, Chiang’s KMT supported and fought for the status quo as it was before 1949 meaning that little would have changed.

    Before 1949, China’s middle class was less than 5% and about 90% of Chinese lived in severe poverty facing hunger daily. Today, about 10% of China’s population lives with severe poverty.

    You mentioned Tiananmen Square but may not know anything about the 2-28-1947 Massacre in Taiwan where 30,000 Taiwanese citizens were slaughtered by KMT troops under Chiang Kai-shek’s orders without a peep of complaint from America, the West or any of Mao’s critics.

    Was Mao worse than his Chinese rival? NO! In fact, Mao, even with all of his faults, may have been better than Chiang Kai-shek (at least the facts support that).


  4. Prof. Frank Dikötter — Ahh, you take this charlatan seriously. The man may even believe his opinions but I don’t.

    I am familiar with Dikötter work. He admits that he doubled the number of deaths claimed by another author that inflated the death toll from the famine from a third author that was Chinese. Dikötter excuse, “Everyone knows we cannot trust what the Communists say.”

    In reality, there is no way to know exactly how many died because record keeping was not accurate. However, Western academic studies that do not inflate the figures have ruled that the tragedy of the famine that took place in seven of China’s provinces in 1959 was a mixture of factors that included poor government policies and decisions but was not a deliberate act. Proof that it wasn’t a deliberate act is the effort the CCP started to make as early as 1960 to import wheat to alleviate the hunger and suffering.

    In fact, the famine that took place in 1959 was the only famine that caused deaths since the CCP came to power in 1949 but before that droughts, famines and deaths were an annual event in China in one or more provinces for more than 2,000 years of recorded history, but the one famine that caused deaths in China under Communist rule is Mao’s fault. The US refused to help but Canada and France did not. Why did the US refuse? The US State Department wanted to see unrest in China that would topple Mao and the CCP so Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT could return to power on the mainland. Letting millions of Chinese people starve and die was what the US considered the perfect storm but it didn’t work.

    Regardless of the suffering and Mao’s brutal side, most people in China still consider Mao to be China’s George Washington.

    All of the books and articles written about the 1959-1961 famine in China come from the same sources—even Dikötter admits that. How Mao’s critics use those same figures seems to come up with different results every time.

    The CCP says those figures prove that less than four million people died. Dikötter claims 40 million or more. After Mao died during the Beijing Spring, one Chinese academic used the same figures and came up with about 19 million dead.

    Meanwhile, even during this period, the population in China continued to increase. If we accept Dikötter’s opinion on the number of deaths caused by this famine, how does he explain the increases in population at the same time?


    • Editor’s Note: Professor Frank Dikötter, a Dutch historian, is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches courses on both Mao and the Great Chinese Famine. He is also winner of the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize (one of the most prestigious non-fiction awards) for his book “Mao’s Great Famine.” He has written nine books about China.


      • To rely on one scholar such as Professor Frank Dikötter to depict a historical event such as the 1959 famine in China is a logical fallacy known as Cherry Picking.

        Description of Cherry PIcking: When only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position and evidence that would go against the position is withheld. The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument.

        Yes, Professor Frank Dikötter has an impressive resume.

        For example: There was another man that had an impressive resume at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century and what he wrote of China stood strong for more than a century. His name was Edmund Trelawney Backhouse and he was the London Times correspondent in China. What he wrote about China was considered bedrock information and is still used in many textbooks on China in the West and by the Chinese Communist Party today. However, in “Dragon Lady”, Sterling Seagrave reveals evidence that he was a fraud and that what many considered accurate history of China was WRONG—was full of lies and deceit.

        In one hundred years, how will Professor Dikötter’s inflated opinions of the 1959 famine that killed millions in China stand.

        For a more complete picture of China, there are other reputable, expert voices—for example: “Professor Stephen Thomas [University of Colorado at Denver] wrote for the World Bank’s Forum on Public Policy, “In 1949, the newly established People’s Republic of China designed and carried out economic development policies that led to an annual average economic growth rate of about 4 percent from 1953 to 1978, among the highest in the developing world…“


        Another example would be to discover what life was like in China before the CCP became the only government in China’s history to set goals that have reduced both inequality and poverty dramatically. To learn more, read a poverty study of China written by David C. Schak, an Associate Professor at Griffith University in Australia.


        There are many reputable third party sources on life expectancy in China during that period easily accessible through Google.

        China population profile (including life expectancy)


        Source: World Population Prospects, the 2010 Revision. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Population Division, New York

        For a clue as to how Mao’s policies were directly responsible for the increase in life expectancy, see Amartya Sen’s comparative treatment of health care in China and India, and how ‘barefoot doctors’ worked implement basic health care in China.


        (Amartya Sen is recognized as world’s leading famine scholar and is the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics)

        Furthermore, during a period of poor socioeconomic development in the 1960s and 1970s, barefoot doctors provided a basic system of health care that contributed to enviable improvements in human wellbeing during this period.”


        In addition, there are other reputable sources than the few I have included here.


    • I am sorry that my term “Mao era” has caused some confusion. By Mao era, I meant the period from 1957 to 1976. I prefer calling the period Mao Dynasty, but that is not the term people usually use. The Communists use the term “Mao era” for the period from 1949 to 1976, but I do not accept that as in the period from 1949 to 1957, Mao had not established his status nor acted as the absolute monarch and China was ruled by a collective leadership.

      Moreover, the Mao at that time was a great leader. China was prosperous, achieving an annual growth rate of over 10%, increasing wages and providing full employment then. There was democratic election at grass root and people were free to criticize officials. Some newspapers and magazines were controlled by parties other than the Communist Party.

      The bright things in the period from 1949 to 1976 you mentioned, happened in the period from 1949 to 1957. We regard it as the first golden age in Chinese history. It is a pity, that Mao and lots of party officials became despots after the Anti-Rightist Campaign.

      Before the Anti-Rightist Campaign, the Party secretary of the secondary school I studied in, Mr. Lu Zhu, was a very kind person. He respected the teachers and loved the students. In 1956, Shanghai City’s Education Bureau decided to learn from the Soviet Union that the school year examination should cover all those taught in the whole school year, but there was the established practice that such examination only covered the recent half-year term.

      Seeing that the City’s decision brought too much pressure on the students, Mr. Lu decided that there should be a transitional period of one year for students to be prepared for such an examination. He announced that the coming examination should cover only half a year and the examination covering the whole year should be conducted in the next school year.

      However, the Bureau did not approve Lu’s decision and Lu was forced to revoke his decision. The students in my class protested against Lu’s revocation strongly as we failed to review those taught in the first term due to Lu’s decision though we had enough time to review it then. However, when the decision was revoked later, we did not have time for the review.

      To silence our protests, Mr. Lu invited us the students who took an active part in the protest to his home. He was very kind and tried hard to persuade us. He said he could not disobey the Bureau’s order, but would still reduce the pressure on his students. He said that he would give an order that the part of the first term in our examinations should account for less than 15% and would tell teachers to help students review the part that will be examined. We were all persuaded by his sincerity.

      However, after the Anti-Rightist Campaign, Mr. Lu became another person, a despot in the school used to denounce teachers and students whenever something not satisfactory to the party had been found in them.

      If we had protested after he became a despot, we would have been severely punished and would never have entered colleges.

      I sometimes wonder whether there is despotism in the blood of a Chinese including me. I am scared at the very thought of it.

      Previously, when Chinese intellectuals discuss China’s misfortunes in Mao era, i.e. from 1957 to 1976, perhaps better referred to as Mao Dynasty to avoid confusion with the golden age from 1949 to 1957, there was a consensus that China’s troubles began from the Anti-Rightist Campaign because all opposition was silenced. All those who dared to criticize the party or any party member were labeled rightists no matter what they said was true or not. As a result, no one dared to speak out even when Mao and the party were making absurd mistakes.

      However, judging by the despotism that prevails in quite a few areas and organizations in China even now when China is ruled by wise leaders with moral integrity and people are sometimes bold enough to protest, I realize that the problem lies in the despotism in Chinese culture not in my Chinese blood.

      From childhood, we Chinese receive the traditional Chinese family education, which is even now still advocated by tiger moms and wolf dads. Typical traditional Chinese fathers act like despots and require their children blind obedience. They set the examples to turn their children into despots when the children have grown up. If interested, please read my post “Tiger Mom, Wolf Dad Teach Blind Obedience to Tyranny” at

      With so many despots under the leadership of an absolute monarch, men-made disasters would occur and could not be avoided.

      I have lots of information about the despotism then, too much to write here. I will give only two examples:

      When we graduated from secondary school in Shanghai in 1958, as Mao began to control people’s thoughts, each of us had to write a summary of thoughts and then read it in a group meeting of a dozen classmates. He/she would then be criticized for his political views by his/her classmates and then by his/her class teacher if his/her case was serious. One of my schoolmates committed suicide after being severely criticized by her class teacher. The teacher was quite good before the Anti-Rightist Campaign, but my younger schoolmates told me later that she became well-known for her despotism. According to a letter the schoolmate left on a table of the restaurant from which she jumped 12 floors to her death, she thought the criticism was unjust and too much for her to bear.

      Writing summaries of thoughts was a national practice in China under Mao’s tyranny. All of us university students had to write such summaries and be criticized every year when I was at university.

      One day in 1958 when I was studying in our room, my close classmate and roommate Wu Zhenghua, a party member, exclaimed “Grandma Chen’s dead” when he read a letter from home. With tears in his eyes, he told me Grandma Chen was his neighbor, a kind old woman who had often taken care of him since he was born. Grandma Chen committed suicide as Party secretary Wu forcefully took away her coffin and the bricks she reserved for building her tomb. It was a common practice at that time for old people to get a coffin and materials for their tombs before they died.

      Wu said according to the letter the coffin was taken as fuel and the bricks, as materials for building a furnace to produce iron. Wu said that he knew party secretary Wu, his relative, was a nice person and he was puzzled that the party secretary would have been so cruel. One more good person had become despot.

      You base you opinions on some documents and media reports but your information is a mixture of the information in a long period of time without being able to distinguish which information is for which period. It is in fact a mess. That is normal as little information was available even in China in the period of Mao Dynasty.

      From 1958 to 1961, I was studying physics at Anhui University in Hefei, Anhui. As the number of college students was very small at that time, they were held in high regard by the authorities; therefore, the university often provided students with internal information.

      Moreover, as the university was the best in the province with Anhui provincial party boss Zeng Xisheng as its principal, its students came from all over the province and Shanghai. Some of them were officials’ family members and relatives. For example, you said that there was no reliable figure of the death toll of the famine, my close classmate Zhou Wenjian told me that his brother-in-law, a PLA senior colonel, told him, according to internal information, 20 million people died of starvation. Zhou was a revolutionary orphan brought up by his only sister and brother-in-law.

      Chiang Kai-shek government’s records were a mess and both the KMT and the communists were busy at war in 1949. Your figure of lifespan in 1949 is but rubbish. No census had been made and lots of people died during the civil war in 1949. Even in February, 1950, there was a quite serious air raid in Shanghai by Chiang’s aircrafts. I personally witnessed the air raid on the roof of my house. Who had the leisure to calculate the lifespan then?

      What you mentioned about reduction of poverty took place after Mao Dynasty. There were villages right outside the gate at the back of my university. I often went there to buy some eggs from peasants and had the eggs cooked in boiled water at their houses I chatted with them when the eggs were being cooked and knew their life quite well. I saw with my own eyes their poverty and their food shortage caused by Mao’s errors.

      Chiang Kai-shek was certainly a tyrant, but compared with the tyranny of Mao Dynasty, that of Chiang Dynasty was a little better. At least, Chiang did not cause the death of starvation of at least 20 million people, persecute all intellectuals, stop education, destroy cultural relics, send youngsters to suffer poverty in rural areas, cause serious unemployment, etc. However, what is the good in comparing two of the worst tyrants in Chinese history? They both shall be thrown into rubbish bin.

      However, Mao fared much better than Chiang in the world. At least he had quite a few people to defend him despite they are poorly informed of the truth of his tyranny and could not provide any fact to defend Mao.

      That is because Mao was clever in propaganda. He was able to invent some lofty ideal to cover his evil deeds. When he found red guards were useless and he had to rely on rebels among workers and peasants to defeat the faction of his rival Liu Shaoqi, he sent all the red guards to rural areas but beautified his evil deed by describing it as a lofty campaign to reeducate youngsters.

      I said: Prof. Frank Dikötter’s book gives a truthful description of what caused the famine because I have the information to support his description. You refuse to believe his description because it is bizarre. It is really bizarre but it was what really happened. I have too much reliable information to prove he is right but you have none to prove he is wrong.

      True, no one can get the exact figure of death, due to the party’s unwillingness to tell the truth, but as mentioned above I have internal information from high-ranking PLA officer. In my book, I say I lived among the elite in Shanghai as my father was a successful doctor. He had quite a few rich and well-educated relatives and friends. One of my relatives visited Peng Zhen (a politburo member and Beijing party boss then) when he traveled to Beijing before the Cultural Revolution. That was why I say in my book that before the Cultural Revolution, Peng Zhen said there was the problem of unemployment China had to deal with. How could I know Peng Zhen’s unpublished speech in Beijing when I was in Shanghai if it was not told me by my relative.

      In addition, I know the truth of the professor’s description of the disruption of agricultural production in 1958 and 1959 caused by the people’s commune campaign because of the information from my schoolmates, my father’s connections, etc. Moreover, I personally went to rural areas along with my schoolmates to help peasants doing farm work and knew too well what happened there.

      Anhui was a province suffered heavily the famine. Quite a few of my schoolmates were shocked when they learnt that most of their family members back in rural areas died of starvation. One of my classmates had only two of his thirteen family members remain alive after the famine.

      At the end of 1958, we went to our university’s neighboring people’s commune and listened to its party boss’s speech. He told us that they have entered communism and achieved a bumper harvest of 500 kilogram grain per mu in 1958. In fact, according to what I learnt in chatting with peasants, they got only 300 per mu. The secretary seems to believe his exaggerated harvest and has built a large auditorium where we sat to listen to his speech. He was also building office buildings, canteens, kindergartens, etc. for his communist commune. He said that in 1959, he planned to get 3,000 kilogram per mu, an impossible target even in the most advanced country now.

      Later in spring 1959, we were asked to go to the commune to help in the harvest. We were each given a sickle but it was useless. The wheat field was full of weeds. The number of wheat plants was so small that we could not use our sickles but just pick the ears of wheat with our hands. I asked the small number of peasants accompanying us what is the matter with their wheat field. They said they did not know how to grow wheat but were ordered to grow wheat by the commune.

      After the harvest, we were told to transplant rice seedlings for them. I asked them why they did not do the job themselves. They said they did not have the skill. It was not a skill easy to learn and women had never been allowed to do such a job as it was too important.

      “Where are your men? Have you driven them all away?” said I joking. They said that all the males and young and strong females were away to carry out some grand projects for the commune.

      My classmates and I refused to do the transplanting for them. We said, “You depend on that for the food the whole year. You will be in great trouble if it is not done properly. We know it is hard labor under the sun but we are willing to do that if we know how to do that. Honestly, we have not even the least idea how to do that.”

      Luckily, Wu Zhenghua was the son of a well skilled farmer and had learned the skill from his father. He did lots of the job and taught us to do the job slowly according to his teaching. We finished the transplanting, but I was still worried whether what I did would not affect the harvest. As for other schoolmates who had not some one like Wu to teach them, their transplanting would perhaps greatly affect the harvest. This was precisely what Prof. Frank Dikötter describes in his book.

      Each family was allowed to breed only two chickens, two ducks and two geese. Peasants killed all the pigs they bred and entirely ceased pig breeding for fear that their pigs would be taken away by the commune. The restriction due to the errors of Mao’s people’s commune campaign caused a serious shortage of foodstuff.

      That was what happened in our neighboring commune then. In summer, the provincial leadership sensed the problem and ordered all secondary and tertiary school students to spend the whole summer vacation in rural areas to help the farming there. What we saw in Lintou, Anhui in the summer was precisely what Prof. Frank Dikötter describes in his book. There was shortage of food to provide Mao’s free meals in rural canteens due to the waste and the excessive purchase of grain by the state based on overstated output. Peasants lost confidence in collective farming and refused to work due to hunger. They just slept in the field when cadres went away. If we had stayed longer, we could have helped, but we were ordered by the central authority to cease helping in the farming and have the summer vacation.

      By mid 1959, Mao had established his position as the absolute monarch. He could have his erroneous way because he succeeded in struggling against those talented leaders headed by Zhou Enlai who opposed his pursuit of excessive growth rate.

      The problems caused by the errors were obvious then and disasters loomed. However, no one dared to stop Mao. There was a brave general Peng Dehuai who wrote a polite private letter to Mao in an attempt to stop the erroneous way when he attended a central meeting on Lushan Mountains. Mao was furious at the letter and attacked Peng fiercely, framing up Peng and accusing him of trying to usurp power. Peng was labeled a rightist and fell into disgrace. There was then a nationwide anti-rightist campaign to silence any opposition whatever. In all three million people were labeled rightists and persecuted. Mao not a tyrant?

      Mao’s position as an absolute tyrant was thus firmly established. The nation’s misfortune was ensured along with that. You can find more detailed description of Lushan meeting and later development in my book.

      Mao’s errors were not deliberate acts before Lushan meeting, but they were after the meeting when he was told politely in a private letter of his errors. He was furious because what was written in the letter hit home!

      The men-made disasters could have entirely been avoided if Mao had not been such a tyrant.

      What was the use to begin import of grain in 1960 when at least 20 million people had already perished?

      Only one famine causing death happened under Mao’s tyranny. Was it not enough? How many man-made famines do you want? How many more people do you want to die of starvation?

      Regardless of the suffering and Mao’s brutal side, lots of people (not most people) still consider Mao to be China’s George Washington because of communist propaganda aimed at maintaining the legitimacy of the Party’s rule.

      “The CCP says those figures prove that less than four million people died.” No. the CCP gave the internal information that 20 million people died. Even now the CCP publicly admits 10 million people died. Do you know that? The CCP lacks the courage to speak the truth, but it has to give a figure no too far away from the truth as quite a few people who have experienced the famine are still alive.

      As for the figures of population, you are not informed that the decrease in population after adjustment of the increase in new-born babies in the years of disasters matched the figure of 20 million.


      • “… there was a consensus that China’s troubles began from the Anti-Rightist Campaign because all opposition was silenced. All those who dared to criticize the party or any party member were labeled rightists no matter what they said was true or not. As a result, no one dared to speak out even when Mao and the party were making absurd mistakes.”

        True, but who caused most of the suffering that took place during the Cultural Revolution? The answer is tens of millions of China’s mostly urban youth. What did Mao do? He turned the Cultural Revolution over to his wife and three other members he trusted now known as the Gang of Four. After Mao’s death, at her trial for her part in the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s wife said, “I was Mao’s dog. He told me to bite and I bit.”

        Mao for his part lived mostly out of sight in the Forbidden City and had little to do with much of what happened with the average Chinese person during the Cultural Revolution. He started the engine and then let the mob take it from there with the Gang of Four working hard to keep the fervor alive. Any powerful Party members that protested were crushed mostly by those same people. Even Deng Xiaoping’s family suffered when the Red Guard, who was never members of the Communist Party, threw his son off the top of a three story building making him a cripple for the rest of his life to send a message to Deng to keep his mouth shut. Deng then fled south with his family to live under the protection of a powerful PLA general. The PLA mostly stayed out of the Cultural Revolution. However, in a few instances, the PLA acted to protect historical artifacts such as the attempt to burn the Forbidden City by the rabid mob called the Red Guard.

        The truth is that the Cultural Revolution was a popular movement started by Mao and too powerful to stop until the Party stepped in and put on the brakes.

        However, regardless of the propaganda that permeated every aspect of Chinese life at this time without the cooperation of tens of millions of young Chinese adults that believed the Cultural Revolution was necessary for the survival of China’s dramatic transformation, there would have been no Cultural Revolution.

        To say Mao controlled the people’s thoughts is misleading. Not everyone went along with the goals of the Cultural Revolution but the mob that drove it made sure anyone that got in the way suffered the consequences so wise men and women kept their mouths shut. Stupid people didn’t.

        You then claim that my figures of lifespan in China are but rubbish. I disagree and refer to reputable the United Nations as one of my sources.

        In my previous comment, I provided a link to the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs that clearly shows in 1950 the median age in China in years was much less than 35 but was 23.8, and in 1950, a year after the CCP took over China life expectancy was 44.6 years—by 1980, it was 67.7. (Mao died in 1976). There was a slight dip in life expectancy in 1960 to 44 years probably due to the famine.


        In addition, from, we learn that the life expectancy of China and India in 1900 were only 24 years. Source:

        Then there is this from a paper out of the “Stanford University” written and published by the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.

        “Indeed, despite the higher death rates associated with the Great Leap Famine of 1959-1961, China’s growth in life expectancy from 35~40 in 1949 to 65.5 in 1980 ranks as the most rapid sustained increase in documented global history.”


        There are many reputable sources to cast doubt on the opinions and claims of dubious scholars, such as Hong Kong’s Professor Frank Dikötter, that writes books designed to appeal to the mob of anti-Mao anti-Communist Westerners that often reject any source taht does not agree with the mob’s opinions.

        For another example: “Famine in China after 1949 cannot be explained singularly by simple appeal to the failure of weather or FAD or government policy, but by a complex interaction of all of these elements. It is not plausible to argue, as Becker (1996) does, that Mao and the CCP leadership sought to kill the population, say in the manner analogous to that of Stalin in the 1920-30s. Mao’s “crimes” may be judged severely by history, perhaps as the delusions of a visionary (for the “vision thing” was certainly a powerful driver of the policy of the period), but it does not seem reasonable to argue that his actions were, in a premeditated sense, deliberately murderous.”



        Official Death Rates for China 1955-1964
        Year Death Rate (per thousand)
        1955 12.3
        1956 11.4
        1957 10.8
        1958 12.0
        1959 14.6
        1960 25.4
        1961 14.2
        1962 10.0
        1963 10.0
        1964 11.5
        (Source: Statistical Yearbook of China 1983)

        With known population numbers for those years the number of deaths during the GLF years 1958-1961 is about 15.5 million more than what it would have probably been.

        Although Chinese statistical data often raises many an eyebrow in the west, Chinese versions of events more often than not turn out to be closer to the mark than those of their western counterparts such as Dikötter.


        To dispel this sort of ignorance — recommended reading on this topic for those who seek the unblemished facts: From the Monthly Review, “Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward?” by Joseph Ball

        From Griffith University, Australia, Poverty, by David C. Schak, Associate Professor

        Click to access 57906_1.pdf

        In addition, the memoirs of a number of Mao’s personal PLA bodyguards from Division A-341 revealed that when Party members told Mao that rural Chinese in a few provinces were starving due to droughts and low crop yields, Mao did not believe what he was told.

        However, to verify these claims, Mao sent people he trusted [troops from PLA Division A-341 that came from rural China] to their villages to investigate the claims of famine.

        When Mao’s trusted bodyguards returned in late 1960 or early 1961 and reported that the claims were true, Mao acted swiftly, cancelled the GLF several years early sending the peasants back to their villages from the collectives, and directed the Party to seek help from other countries to feed the people.

        In fact, Roderick MacForquhar wrote in his book, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, that in May 1961, China entered into long-term arrangements with Canada and Australia to insure grain supplies until production in China recovered in addition to imports of American grain laundered through France to avoid the complete American embargo.

        In China: Land of Famine (published in 1926 by the American Geographical Society) by Walter H. Mallory, we have a book that casts doubt on the inflammatory claims, which have been popularized in the West about the post-1949 Mao era. Mallory offers another perspective for understanding what really may have happened during Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

        Then from Stanford University Press, in the Economic Cold War by Shu Guang Zhang (August 2002), “the author argues that while the immediate effects (of the complete American embargo of China) may be meager or nil, the indirect and long-term effects may be considerable; in the case he reexamines, the disastrous Great Leap Forward and Anti-Rightist campaign (The Cultural Revolution) were in part prompted by the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.”

        In other words, if the West had been supportive of China by lifting the complete embargo after the Korean conflict (1950 – 1953), these events may never have taken place.

        Meanwhile, a few well-fed authors, such as Dikötter, are writing books that perpetuate a hoax about Mao, who has been dead for 36 years, so who will they blame next? Maybe they should look in a mirror.

        Last, I refer to “The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician”

        Dr. Li is often quoted for the negative things he says about Mao in this biography but ignored for anything he said that might exonerate Mao from some of the crimes he has been accused of. For example, Dr. Li said he did not believe Mao knew about the extent of the famine in 1959-1960 and Mao did not deliberately go about planning and causing the deaths of the rural Chinese that starved during this period.

        Proof that for all his faults, Mao was no Stalin—a monster that deliberatly set about murdering millions of his own people.

        I have written two extensive posts on this topic—the links are provided for anyone that is interested and many sources are quoted—including Dikötter.

        On the Trail of Dr. Li Zhisui’s illusive Memoires:

        Mao’s Alleged Guilt in the Land of Famines:


  5. Thank you for your patience in writing so much about what you lack information of. You want to free Mao of his responsibility for the Cultural Revolution and place all the blame on the Gang of Four or the mobs.

    You said, “The truth is that the Cultural Revolution was a popular movement started by Mao and too powerful to stop until the Party stepped in and put on the brakes.”

    It shows people outside China’s utter ignorance of the Cultural Revolution. As I have given quite a detailed true description of the Cultural Revolution in my book, I will not write about it here. If interested, please read my book.

    However, due to recent publication of some memoirs by people with internal information, I have to add more information to enrich the content of my book.

    As I said in my comment on Henry Kissinger’s “On China” posted at on October 19, 2011, “those who suffered the unheard-of cruel persecution in Mao era do not want to recall their traumatic past due to the unbearable pain of such memory. Previously, I myself did not want to talk about my sufferings when I met old classmates and friends though what I suffered was nothing compared with other much more serious cases.” It is hard for me to start writing. Your ignorance gives me a sense of urgency to do that hard job.

    You have no experience about summary of thoughts but are bold enough to deny Mao’s efforts to control people’s thoughts. Your boldness surprises me.

    However, as there is description of thought control in my book, I need not repeat here. Perhaps, I will write more about it in my book about the GLF.

    I said that your data of life expectancy for the year 1949 was rubbish. I said nothing about the life expectancy in other years. I know you pay attention to the accuracy of the data you use. They come from respectable sources. However, you seem to be ignorant that some data are not available so that the CCP has to fabricate them and others have been tempered as they all come from the CCP official sources that are notorious for distortion of facts. The respectable sources that provide you with the data have not done anything and also cannot do anything to verify the data.

    You even rely on the information provided by Mao’s trusted bodyguards. You must know what they publish have undergone stringent censorship, but you do not seem to realize that. As a result, you give the information that “Mao acted swiftly, cancelled the GLF several years early.” People who have experienced the GLF will laugh their heads off at such ridiculous allegation.

    The GLF was something unique not only in Chinese but also in world history. It will be much fun to write about it. I shall thank you for informing me of people outside China’s ignorance about it.

    I shall write a book about it soon, but I have to first check whether there is any truthful book about it in Chinese. If there is a satisfactory book, but has not been translated into English, I will translate it instead of writing it.

    You mentioned quite some sources about the China, but judging by what you have learnt from those sources, none of them provide you with reliable true information. I am well aware of that. Otherwise, I will not write my book and continue to write about China.

    The Cultural Revolution took place when China was entirely closed to the outside world. It is natural that people have difficulties to understand it.

    I will study your writings and see what I have not written about but must write about to provide true information.

    Thank you for providing me with information about people outside China’s ignorance about Chinese history.


  6. Did I say I wanted to free Mao of his responsibility for starting the Cultural Revolution?

    No, I did not. Please do not put words in my mouth.

    There must have been something lost in translation because I meant that all the blame for the “cruel persecution and unbearable pain” that took place during The Cultural Revolution, an event that my wife and her family experienced and survived, cannot all be placed on Mao because Mao spent most of the Cultural Revolution in seclusion inside the Forbidden City as his mental and physical health deteriorated. The management of the propaganda that kept the Red Guard active was run by his wife and the leadership of the Maoist faction of the Party later known as the Gang of Four.

    Mao may have planted the seeds of the Cultural Revolution in 1960 with the publication of The Little Red Book that ended up being studied and discussed in schools across China, and he may have encouraged the formation of school children into the Little Red Guard that did most of the damage during the early stages of the Cultural Revolution but by the time the worst was happening, he was mostly out of the picture.

    By August of 1966, the Cultural Revolution took on a force of its own and Mao was no longer needed to keep the momentum going. That does not mean he was removed from the Cultural Revolution but his role in keeping it going diminished as time went by.

    The Cultural Revolution driven by the teenage Red Guard and motivated with propaganda programs orchestrated by Madame Mao and the other members of the Gang of Four condemned every form of religion and banned all open expression of faith—churches and temples were shut down and destroyed; believers were imprisoned
    In January 1967, the youth of the Red Guard and workers seized power in Shanghai; the revolution reached the army provoking clashes

    By December of 1968, to curb the insurrections erupting in the big cities, “Down to the Countryside Movement” begins with hundreds of thousands of purged (Red Guard) cadres sent to rural areas for re-education.

    Mao’s Decline and Death (1968 – 1976)

    “Afflicted with health problems, Mao moved from being the guiding force of the Chinese Communist Party to being a sort of figure-head in his declining years. Meanwhile, reformers within the party fought for control with the reactionary Gang of Four, lead by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing.

    “By 1974, Mao lost his ability to speak. Mao became seriously ill, evidently with ALS or a motor neuron disease, and lost the ability to speak intelligibly. He suffered from a host of other ailments as well, brought on by decades of excessive smoking and drinking and by 1975 Deng Xiaoping had returned as the Party Secretary.

    “Although he had been purged in 1966 and forced to work in a tractor factory for advocating economic and social reform, Deng Xiaoping was allowed to return to a position of power in 1975. In the face of extreme hostility from the ultra-left Gang of Four, however, he was purged once again in 1976, just before Mao’s death. Deng returned once more in 1980, ousting Hua Guofu.”

    In October 1976, the reformers of Deng Xiaoping’s faction in the Party took control be arresting the Gang of Four and ousting the Maoists that had engineered the propaganda behind The Cultural Revolution. Mao had been out of the picture for at least seven or more of the ten years that cover the worst of the Cultural Revolution that officially started in May of 1966—less than two years after the launch of the Cultural Revolution by the Party, Mao’s health robs him of the ability to lead and he becomes a figure head.


    In an attempt to re-assert his authority, Mao launched the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in 1966, aiming to purge the country of ‘impure’ elements and revive the revolutionary spirit. One-and-a-half million people died and much of the country’s cultural heritage was destroyed. In September 1967, with many cities on the verge of anarchy, Mao sent in the army to restore order.

    Mao appeared victorious, but his health was deteriorating. His later years saw attempts to build bridges with the United States, Japan and Europe. In 1972, US President Richard Nixon visited China and met Mao.


    In February 1972, unknown to Nixon and the rest of the American diplomats at the time, Chairman Mao was in poor health and had been ill only nine days prior to Nixon’s arrival. Nevertheless, Mao felt strong enough to insist to his officials for a meeting with President Nixon upon his arrival.

    In fact, I double that Mao was capable of planning and orchestrating every event that took place in China. The Gang of Four were members of Mao’s political faction in the Party. When Mao died, his wife was planning to rule China herself and continue the Cultural Revolution but that faction of the Party lost its power and Deng Xiaoping’s faction stepped in. Deng had attempted to gain the support of others to end The Cultural Revolution earlier but the PLA generals and other powerful men in the Party told him they would not move until Mao had died.

    In addition, there is compelling evidence that Mao was suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in old age. The trauma that precipitates the disorder essentially conditions them to be ever-ready for a life threatening situation to arise at any moment … But the continuous releases of brain chemicals that accompany this reaction time – and their inability to control when this heightened reactivity will occur – take psychological and biological tolls on PTSD victims over time.”


    Medicine says, “Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) usually results from prolonged exposure to a traumatic event or series thereof and is characterized by long-lasting problems with many aspects of emotional and social functioning.

    The decline of Mao’s mental ability that was described by his doctor Li Zhisui matches the symptoms of someone deteriorating from complex post traumatic stress disorder.

    Mao was 67 when he published the Little Red Book that was his opening volley leading to the Cultural Revolution.

    The severe traumatic events Mao experienced starting in 1911 (age 19) to 1949 (age 56) covered his surviving the large-scale purge of Communists by the KMT in 1927—from that year forward, Mao was involved heavily in combat operations. He conducted the Autumn Harvest Uprisings in Changsha as commander-in-chief. He led the “Revolutionary Army of Workers and Peasants in fierce battled against KMT forces.

    The most traumatic event was the Long March in 1934 that covered 6,000 miles starting with a force of 90,000 and ending with 6,000 survivors.

    Some have scoffed at the idea that Mao suffered from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but many American combat veterans are afflicted with this psychological and physical disease caused by severe trauma after one year of combat in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

    However, Mao was involved in combat in one role or another for more than twenty-two years.

    As for the figures that the United Nations and Stanford University report were the average life expectancy of China before 1949, most of the facts used to compute those numbers probably came from information before the Chinese Communist Party came to power.

    Of course, you have the right to reject any evidence from any reputable source and continue to claim that your opinions are the only correct ones but that does not mean everyone has to agree with you and that does not mean you are right. You also have the right to only accept the work of people like Prof. Frank Dikötter that agrees with your opinions but that is a logical fallacy called “Cherry Picking”.

    Cherry Picking is also known as the fallacy of incomplete evidence—the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention, the most common example of which is the confirmation bias. Cherry picking may be committed unintentionally when driven by a personal bias.


    • Thank you for your reply.

      As for what you describe about Mao and Cultural Revolution, you base on the sources that study China by documents and CCP censored sources.

      Your allegation about Mao not playing the key role during the Cultural Revolution is based misinformed sources. Zhisui Li told us Mao was sick, but not so sick during most of the Cultural Revolution.

      From 1966 to 1976, he was in charge most of the time. That is not seriously argued as it is obviously the truth. If you want evidence, you can find the most authoritative evidence in the memoirs of Qiu Huizho, Wu Faxian and Li Zuopeng that have recently published in Hong Kong. They are all in Chinese, but your wife can read them.

      I know well that people outside China is misinformed about Mao. The misinformation will be corrected by my book, a serious book based on personal experience and reliable sources.

      Obviously, you have not read my book. Perhaps, you think it is not worth reading as I am nobody. However, I believe truth will prevail and my book will leave posterity a true picture of the period of the Cultural Revolution and the coup after Tiananmen Massacre.

      Since I have already had a book about the truth, I do not think it is necessary to repeat here.

      I know your intention to correct the distorted description provided by people outside China with evil intention. They intentionally mixed China’s first golden age from 1949 to 1957 with the later period of Mao’s rule. You are right to cite data and works to refute them. However, defending Mao’s errors from 1957 to 1976 does not help as it is not supported by facts.

      Mao was certainly a Chinese leader difficult to evaluate in Chinese history. He was great in defeating Chiang Kai-shek and founding the People’s Republic and played his major role in China’s first golden age from 1949 to 1957, but he had to be condemned for the famine and Cultural Revolution.

      Perhaps, I place too much stress on his errors than his merits. However, it is necessary due to the danger of rise of despotism that may terminate China’s current second golden age. The danger is real as proved by the popularity of Maoism in China now and Bo Xilai saga.


      • Without any evidence, you claim that all of the Western scholars and reputable sources I have quoted that disagree with your opinions based their studies on “documents and CCP censored sources”.

        This is a logical fallacy that reveals your bias and that you will only accept sources that agree with your opinions—you even make this claim when the studies may have relied on information that existed prior to 1949. You attempt to discredit a Stanford University study and a report from the United Nations and offer no evidence that your claim is true.

        In March 1996, William Harms at The University of Chicago published this article on a book that was published by Stanford University Press and the book was written by Dali Yang, an Assistant Professor in Political Science. As a child growing up in rural China, Yang heard the stories of his parents and others about the horrors of the Great Leap Forward.

        Yang came to the United States to pursue graduate studies in political science in 1986 and received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1993, the same year he joined the Chicago faculty.

        Here are a few pull quotes from the Harms article:

        1. “Communist dream leads to mass death.”

        2. “No one is sure exactly how many people perished as a result of the spreading hunger. By comparing the number of deaths that could be expected under normal conditions with the number that occurred during the period of the Great Leap famine, scholars have estimated that somewhere between 16.5 million and 40 million people died before the experiment came to an end in 1961. …”

        3. “This study thus points to the crucial importance of guarding against those who claim to know some magic route to the radiant future, be they politicians like Mao or party intellectuals who supported Mao or the new technocrats who claim to have found a scientific way to make China rich and powerful and who happily clamor for more power for themselves.”


        Mao did not cause the Great Leap Forward Famine or the Cultural Revolution by himself. Without support from a majority in the Chinese Communist Party there would not have been the Great Leap Forward Famine or the Cultural Revolution.

        In fact, Yang reveals from his research that, “Local leaders competed with one another to see who could create the most activity. In the rush to recruit labor, agricultural tasks were neglected, sometimes leaving the grain harvest to rot in the fields, Yang said. In the frenzy of competition, the leaders over-reported their harvests to their superiors in Beijing, and what was thought to be surplus grain was sold abroad.”

        It is obvious from the article that Yang’s book shows that the famine during the Great Leap Forward was not a deliberate extermination of 16.5 – 40 million Chinese but of failed government policies, a lack of communication, false reports from the provinces and a drought that reduced crop yields even further.
        “In 1959 and 1960 the weather was less favorable, and the situation got considerably worse, with many of China’s provinces experiencing severe famine. In July 1959, the Yellow Riverflooded in East China. According to the Disaster Center,[38] it directly killed, either through starvation from crop failure or drowning, an estimated 2 million people.
        “In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land, while an estimated 60 percent of northern agricultural land received no rain at all.”
        With dramatically reduced yields, even urban areas suffered much reduced rations; however, mass starvation was largely confined to the countryside, where, as a result of drastically inflated production statistics, very little grain was left for the peasants to eat. Food shortages were bad throughout the country; however, the provinces which had adopted Mao’s reforms with the most vigor, such as Anhui, Gansu and Henan, tended to suffer disproportionately. Sichuan, one of China’s most populous provinces, known in China as “Heaven’s Granary” because of its fertility, is thought to have suffered the greatest absolute numbers of deaths from starvation due to the vigor with which provincial leader Li Jinquan undertook Mao’s reforms.
        Source: Note: the passages quoted from Wiki are all linked to references—this Wiki article has a total of 107 references sources that includes Dikötter (mentioned 23x in the reference list)

        In addition, as Mao’s health failed both mentally and physically during the Cultural Revolution, regardless of the claims of the authors you support, his ability to reason was compromised and deteriorated, and it is a fact that most of the suffering that took place was caused by the fervor of the Maoist Red Guard mob that caused most of it. Mao was too ill and unable to go out and lead them in a country the size of the United States with a population more than four times larger. It is absurd to suggest that he was out and about directing all of what was taking place.

        Mao certainly deserves to be credited with some of the responsibility for what happened but the people in and out of the Party that followed him and did his bidding must be held responsible for most of what happened.

        The Nuremberg trails of Nazi war criminals made it clear that claiming all one was doing was following orders from the leaders was not an excuse for barbaric acts of inhumanity to others.

        In China, today, there are still millions of people alive that supported the policies that led to the Great Leap Forward and the suffering of the Cultural Revolution. Without that fervor and support, what Mao started or supported would not have become the tragedies that they were. Moreover, the fact that Mao made many of his decisions during The Great Leap Forward based on reports of inflated harvests (lies from provincial officials) absolves him of a large share of that guilt.

        Mao was no Stalin or Hitler but he was no saint either. He did order the deaths of high ranking members of the Party that he saw as a threat to his leadership and any intellectuals outside of the Party that were perceived as a threat but most of the people that suffered during the Cultural Revolution were denounced by friends and family and not by Mao and the punishment those people suffered was caused by local mobs. It was a national insanity. Mao’s biggest fault was doing little to stop what was going on and to approve of it, but when what he launched started to get out of hand and turn into an insurrection, he lost control of the monsters he created and sent in the PLA to restore some sense of order and control. After that many of the Red Guard youths were sent off to rural villages or mass labor camps to get them off the streets.

        From Mao’s most ardent critics, such as yourself, we see that these biased individuals almost always grab the 40 million number (deaths during the famine) or inflate it higher, while scholars that are not biased will state the most common belief held by most scholars that there is no way to know the exact number of death and the deaths range from 16.5 to 40 million. From non-biased sources we also see that the responsibility for what happened in both of these historical events was not one man’s responsibility but many.
        Liu Shaoqi made a speech in 1962 at Seven Thousand Cadres Conference criticizing that “The economic disaster was 30% fault of nature, 70% human error.
        “In June 1962, the party held an enlarged Central Work Conference and rehabilitated the majority of the deposed comrades who had criticized Mao in the aftermath of the Great Leap Forward. The event was again discussed, with much self-criticism, with the contemporary government calling it a “serious [loss] to our country and people” and blaming the cult of personality of Mao.”

        —The guilty were the members of the Cult of Personality, the Cult of Mao worship—

        “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Source” John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834 – 1902), historian and moralist

        “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” Source: William Pitt the Elder, British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778.

        In Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam”, she shows us that, “Many individuals are guilty of folly (Tuchman also calls this woodenheadedness), but when governments persist in folly, their actions can adversely affect thousands, even millions of lives. Folly is a child of power. “The power to command frequently causes failure to think.”

        No wonder Mao made so many bad decisoins during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and no wonder so many in the government along with many Chinese supported him and those movements.


      • Thank you for your reply that points out what I said that caused misunderstanding.

        What I mean is that your reputable sources were all based on Chinese official documents instead of reliable internal sources or personal experience. Due to the CCP’s notorious malpractice of tempering with information, people outside China have difficulties to obtain true information.

        However, as the current Chinese leaders are more open-minded, they have declassified some internal documents so that people outside may obtain some information closer to the truth. However, the access is still limited. Pref. Frank Dikötter had access to declassified documents and wrote a book I believe close to the truth. Dali Yang’s book is certainly a good try, but he does not have the access when he wrote his book.

        Yang’s description of the famine is a good try but fails to mention the major factor of the disasters: the prevailing despotism. Pref. Frank Dikötter’s is much better. Certainly, I am in some respects better informed than Pref. Frank Dikötter, but I do not think it is necessary for me to write more. Pref. Frank Dikötter’s book is quite enough. As for Yang’s estimate of the death toll, it is close to Pref. Frank Dikötter’s, but you seems to disbelieve Prof. Frank Dikötter. I have the internal information but it may be incomplete as the data had to come from local officials who might understate the number of death. Therefore, I said at least 20 million people died and I do not know the exact number.

        However, due to lack of information and understanding of the China and its theory and people’s mindset then, Yang fails to understand the Great Leap Forward. So are you when you cited Mao’s bodyguards to tell me how Mao stopped the GLF.

        There are indeed lots to write about the GLF: its theoretical basis, people’s mindset in conducting it and its consequence. I have personally experienced it and saw what Chinese officials did in dealing with its aftermaths and what they said about where it was wrong in theory. China at that time was quite different from the West and difficult to understand by Western people without basic knowledge of communist theory.

        I have already said that you are very careful about the information you obtained and you are indeed well read about what people outside have written about China. However, as China is a closed country since the communist takeover, most information is not available to people outside China. The best sources are certainly insiders’ memoirs such as Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs and the memoirs of the three people I mentioned in my last reply. They were for a long time close to and for some time in China’s power center. What they reveal proves that your description of Mao’s role during the Cultural Revolution was wrong. The most important point is that those memoirs have been published in Hong Kong or abroad without being censored.

        The second is internal information. It is state secret. Those who reveal it will be punished. That is why it is hardly available. Often some media outside of China give some information they claim to be from internal sources, but the information is later proved wrong. Due to severe punishment, true internal sources dare not reveal internal information as Chinese authorities watch closely media’s report. Whenever internal information has been disclosed, they can easily identify the person who has disclosed the information as only a limited number of people have access to the information.

        In order to provide true information, I certainly want to provide internal information, but I am afraid of punishment. Even if I am not in China and cannot be punished, my relatives may be in trouble when they work in or travel to China. Therefore, if I provide internal information in my writings, I certainly will not tell readers that it is internal unless there is no longer restriction to it according to Chinese law.

        I think you understand what I say about the limitation of the sources of information.

        China’s power center is a black box. Without insiders’ memoirs, it is very difficult to understand it though there is a way of analysis to write close to the truth, but what the leaders actually thought remained unknown.

        Li Zhisui’s memoir is certainly one of the best internal sources, but as people outside China would rather believe the writings of well-known scholars based on Chinese official sources, Li had difficulties to have his book published. At last, he found a publisher who was not willing to publish the memoir unless Li was willing to sell its copyright. When the copyright was sold, Li had no control of what was published. The publisher published an edited English translation of the memoirs and a Chinese version based on the English translation which is only half as long as Li’s original. As Li’s original much longer version has not been published and as Li died soon after publication of his memoir, we do not know what Li has actually written.

        Having learned from Li’s lesson, I paid for the publication of my book to avoid the problems Li encountered.

        The famine was only a part of the consequence of the GLF. Pref. Frank Dikötter’s book is enough for the famine, but not the GLF. People outside China obviously lack information about the GLF; therefore, I will write about it.

        However, I will be grateful if you can provide me with available good sources of information about it instead of Mao’s bodyguards’ writings. It will save me the trouble.


  7. There is no argument that people died of starvation during The Great Leap Forward Famine.

    During this five year plan [which was cancelled two years early by Mao/Party once the extent of the tragedy was known in Beijing] people were forced to relocate to larger communes, and in some provinces there was reports of torture and executions to achieve the goals set forth in The Great Leap Forward five-year plan.

    There is no argument that crop losses were caused by a number of factors including droughts in some provinces and that the tragedy was exacerbated by inflated crop yields made by provincial officials to Beijing, and that poor government planning based on those false figures plays a major factor in the tragedy.

    However, to this date, no one has produced valid, incrementing evidence that Mao deliberately ordered the starvation of tens of millions of Chinese. He may have ordered some arrests and some executions and approved of some torture, but there is no way to ascertain the full extent of his direct involvement.

    On the other hand, Dikötter, in his book, estimates that at least 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death and 1 to 3 million committed suicide.

    In addition, in July 1959 the Yellow River flooded, killing 2 million more people.

    Historically, China has always been ruled more from the provinces than the national capital and today’s China is no different. Provincial governors may be appointed from Beijing and five-year plans come from the central government, but how the laws are enforced and how five-year plans are implemented may be managed differently from province to province, which explain why Bo Xilai had so much power (that he abused) and eventually Beijing had to remove him from his post.

    The exact number of famine deaths in China 1959-1961 will always be difficult to determine, and estimates have ranged from 16.5 million to as high as 40 million (after Dikötter’s book was published, some claimed that the number of deaths were as high as 70 million, and this number was reported in the Western media and on a few of America’s conservative radio talk shows as a fact).

    However if the estimate of 30 million deaths is accepted, the Great Leap Forward was the deadliest famine in the history of China and in the history of the world, but this was in part due to China’s large population.

    For example, in the Great Irish Famine, approximately 1 million of a population of 8 million people died, or 12.5% while in the Great Chinese Famine approximately 30 million of a population of 600 million people may have died, or 5% of the total population.

    In addition, the number of famine deaths during The Great Leap Forward has been estimated by different methods. Dikötter has not been the only scholar/author to write a book or paper on this subject.

    1. Banister, Coale, and Ashton compare age cohorts from the 1953, 1964, and 1982 censuses, yearly birth and death records, and results of the 1982 1:1000 fertility survey. From these they calculate excess deaths above a death rate interpolated between pre- and post-Leap death rates. All involve corrections for perceived errors inherent in the different data sets.

    2. Peng uses reported deaths from the vital statistics of 14 provinces, adjusts 10% for under reporting, and expands the result to cover all of China assuming similar mortality rates in the other provinces. He uses 1956/57 death rates as the baseline death rate (rather than an interpolation between pre-and post-GLF death rates) and therefore considers his death toll estimate to be an underestimate.

    3. Chang and Halliday use death rates determined by “Chinese demographers” for the years 1957–1963, subtract the average of the pre-and post-Leap death rates (1957, 1962, and 1963) from the death rates of each of the years 1958–1961, and multiply each yearly excess death rate by the year’s population to determine excess deaths.

    4. Estimates by Yang also include information from provincial and central archives and interviews with survivors.

    5. Estimates by Dikötter also include data from minutes of emergency committees, secret police reports, and public security investigations.

    6. Cao uses official local histories (“gazetteers”) published after 1979 by local party committees.

    7.Rummel and Becker each compare earlier estimates. Rummel takes Coale’s 27 million as a “most likely figure” and Becker considers Banister’s estimate of 30 million excess deaths to be “the most reliable estimate we have.”

    However, all of these estimates contain several sources of error.

    National census data was not accurate and even the total population of China at the time was not known to within 50 million to 100 million people. The statistical reporting system had been taken over by party cadre from statisticians in 1957, making political considerations more important than accuracy and resulting in a complete breakdown in the statistical reporting system. Population figures were routinely inflated at the local level, often in order to obtain increased rations of goods.

    Under-reporting of deaths was also a problem. The death registration system, which was inadequate before the famine, was completely overwhelmed by the large number of deaths during the famine. In addition, many deaths went unreported so that family members of the deceased could continue to draw the deceased’s food ration.

    Massive internal migration made both population counts and registering deaths problematic. (However Ashton, et al. believe that because the reported number of births during the GLF seems accurate, the reported number of deaths should be accurate as well.)

    Counting the number of children who both were born and died between the 1953 and 1964 censuses is problematic. During the Cultural Revolution, a great deal of the material in the State Statistical Bureau was burned.

    Coale’s, Banister’s, Ashton and Peng’s figures all include adjustments for demographic reporting errors, though Dikötter believes that their results, as well as Chang and Halliday’s, Yang’s, and Cao’s, are still underestimates.

    Focus on the words “Dikötter believes”, which indicates that this is his opinion and may be wrong.

    Moreover, the dramatic claims that this was the worst famine of all time in China and the world’s history is also wrong. Between 1810 and 1849, it is estimated that 45 million Chinese died from famine in what is known historically as the four famines.

    Then there is the annual deaths from starvation and malnutrition in India that has been ignored in the West by just about everyone since 1947.

    It has been reported that since 1947, there are an average of 6,000 daily deaths of children by starvation and malnutrition in India. If these estimates are true, that means more than 142 million children have died due to starvation and malnutrition in the last 64 years in India far outstripping any deaths from starvation in China.

    In 2007, in The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF reported, “10.9 million children under age five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths.”

    In ten years, that adds up to 109 million dead children, which means The Great Leap Forward Famine pales in comparison and we don’t even know the exact number of deaths from that famine. Those deaths could be anywhere from 16.5 million (or less) to as high as 40 million.

    Many scholars agree on 20 million deaths.

    However, there is one very HUGE difference. The deaths from starvation in India (add another 6,000 today) take place in the world’s largest democracy while the deaths from starvation in China between 1958 – 1961 took place in a country governed by Communists.


    • Editor: I think this exchange is at a stalemate. What seems to be agreed from both sides is that facts and figures were deliberately falsified, and later deliberately destroyed. In a court of law in many countries, that would be sufficient to prove guilt (admission of guilt), and I think that is the stand many countries have taken. It is highly unlikely that Mao and the leadership did not know what was going on, and it appears they knowingly allowed it to continue. They allowed it to continue rather than admit their ideas were flawed. At the very least, that is wilful negligence leading to death.

      Regardless of the semantics, a leader of a country must take blame for such matters, just as the leader takes credit for the achievements that are made. It is a two way street. It is clear that Mao was in control enough to stop his own removal as leader, by either the party or by assassination. From the comment exchange, both sides seem to agree that no one, including the PLA, would take any action while Mao was in charge. This seems to reinforce that the leadership and the PLA accepted that Mao was firmly in charge at all times. This was also the perception of the rest of the world.

      Finally, it is likely that no one will ever be able to know the full truth of what happened during those times, due to the fabrication, falsification and ultimate destruction of the records that were kept. At best, we can only have an opinion on whose version of the facts we want to accept. However, we should also pay heed to those that lived through the events, particularly academics who were the targets of the policies enforced. They are the ones who can give the most accurate and meaningful reports of the times being discussed.


  8. “I think this exchange is at a stalemate.” – Craig Hill

    Agreed! Thank you. It is obvious that we both have our own opinions on this hot-button topic. However, if there were a Venn diagram, there would be some common ground.



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