If you haven’t read Murong Xuecun’s piece about China’s Great Famine revisionists — those who doubt even the textbook figure that around 15 million people died prematurely from 1959-62 due to hunger — start here.
Two other stories on this subject are also worth your attention. Foreign Policy, which ran Murong’s declamation, has a slideshow of propaganda posters and slogans that were published in China during the Great Famine. We sample a few images below.
And Tania Branigan of the Guardian has just profiled Yang Jisheng, author of Tombstone, which documents the Great Famine from a ground-level perspective. (Jonathan Mirsky reviewed the book for the New York Times last month.) Yang, whose father died of starvation, tells the Guardian:
He had little idea of what he would find when he started work: “I didn’t think it would be so serious and so brutal and so bloody. I didn’t know that there were thousands of cases of cannibalism. I didn’t know about farmers who were beaten to death.
“People died in the family and they didn’t bury the person because they could still collect their food rations; they kept the bodies in bed and covered them up and the corpses were eaten by mice. People ate corpses and fought for the bodies. In Gansu they killed outsiders; people told me strangers passed through and they killed and ate them. And they ate their own children. Terrible. Too terrible.”
At the very least, the article serves as a necessary counterpoint to Murong’s claim that “for the past six decades, the Chinese people have been living in an obscurantist system that is designed to make people stupid, foster mutual hatred, and degrade their ability to think critically and understand the world.” There are plenty of people willing to think critically and talk about the past:
Paradoxically, it was his work for Xinhua that enabled him to unearth the truth about the famine, as he toured archives on the pretext of a dull project on state agricultural policies, armed with official letters of introduction.
Numerous people helped him along the way; local officials and other Xinhua staff. Did they realise what he was working on? “Yes, they knew,” he says.
Let Them Eat Grass (Murong Xuecun, Foreign Policy)
Propaganda from China’s Great Famine (Foreign Policy)
China’s Great Famine: the true story (The Guardian)
hey bring back the old site template. this new one is not compactible with any of the android’s browser. the right side of the screen is cut off.
Well, no shit they’re gonna have those images, because if you read into what actually caused it, it was due to massive overreporting of harvests. On paper it was bumper crops and there were good harvests early on IN SPITE of the idiotic ideas the ussr exported to china. When you take an entire field of wheat, compress it into a small PR-sized image and use it to claim the entire field is that bountiful, well, guess what happens at the top? Yep, the top sees a massive surplus that is ripe for exporting during a time when forex means the ability to buy shit the country needs. Are you going to be the first to stand out and admit you lied to your superiors in a big way? Or are you going to do whatever it takes to come close to the claims you made? Especially in an environment where corruption was a thing that was flat out not tolerated. And if you are willing to admit you lied to spare the people, all that will happen is you’ll be doomed and someone who was willing to maintain their fiction will be brought in as a replacement. New government, new system, still figuring things out, you’d have to be crazy to not try and get a leg up to move up, aaaaaand then everyone starved.