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China: The Great Leap Forward

From 1958-1962 millions of Chinese died from famine under Mao Zedong's regime. It is known as the Great Leap Forward or the Great Chinese Famine. The general consensus of deaths is about 40 million people. Although there was also a drought and poor weather such as flooding, severe heat, typhoons, etc., the impact of it is debated. Many historians agree that the deaths were from failed government policies and a man-made famine. Mao increased the quotas for agricultural production, imposed collectivization, and took land from the peasants. Peopled starved to death or died from malnutrition, and suicide was common as well. Some people resorted to cannibalism to survive. The Chinese government hid the extent of the famine and denied the genocide.


Yang Jinsheng is a former journalist that secretly collected records of the famine in China. He's also written a book about it called "Tombstone" which is banned in China; it's banned due to the controversy surrounding the cause of the famine. His uncle, who he considered his father, was one of the many who starved to death. From his research he also found that millions died due to the ideological campaigns. He discovered there were thousands of documented cases of people eating flesh from dead bodies due to unbearable hunger; parents eating their children and vice versa. People were also sent to labor camps and at least a thousand were beaten to death. Some officials disobeyed orders and were able to save lives, which Stacy Mosher (the English co-translator) notes is important because it shows that individuals can still make a difference.


The Folk Memory Project are recorded stories from survivors of China's Great Famine. 108 interviewers went to rural villages to learn the history, which resulted in death for millions. Shu Qiao's search for the truth has caused issues with family and neighbors; old villagers are worried he might cause trouble. High school students who went to see the memorial Shu built for the dead had no clue people had starved to death in their own village. Wu Wenguang who put the project together and has made many documentaries mentions that we're in an era of forgetting which has it's consequences.


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