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What You Need to Know About the Great Chinese Famine, Which Killed 55 Million People

The “Great Chinese Famine” of 1951-1965 was one of the most terrifying dramas in human history. The famine that lasted for 3 years in Communist Party-ruled China caused 55 million people to die! However, even in the First World War, one of the most devastating events in human history, the total number of people who lost their lives was around 40 million!

The fact that 55 million people lost their lives due to the famine was not the scariest part of the famine! During the Great Chinese Famine, people trying to survive resorted to cannibalism! Families who had to eat their own children appeared in China! All this, so much death, so much suffering, made the Great Chinese Famine one of the greatest dramas in human history. Here’s what you need to know about the Great Chinese Famine…

The main cause of the Great Chinese Famine was bad and mismanagement.

Mao Zedong, the first leader of the People’s Republic of China, wanted to make poor China one of the largest economies in the world. Therefore, a program called “The Great Leap Forward” was launched. The Great Leap Forward led by the Communist Party throughout China was a set of economic and social programs. Basically, it was aimed to evolve China from an agricultural society to an industrial society. However, the projects implemented within the scope of this breakthrough did not make any contribution to China’s transition to the industrial society. It also caused the death of millions of people. In short, the Great Chinese Famine was caused by bad rulers, wrong economic and agricultural policies…

Many of the applications implemented by the Great Leap Forward project have been catastrophic because of unskilled or even malicious administrators.

However, China at that time had enough grain for the whole country. However, the authorities refused to distribute grain to the poor who were suffering from a great famine. Thousands of people lost their lives at the gates of the granaries! The most interesting application implemented within the scope of the Atılım project was the systematic killing of sparrows! Mao Zedong believed that each sparrow consumes 4.5 kilograms of grain per year. For this reason, sparrows were declared enemies of communism and sparrow slaughter began in the country. The mass extermination of sparrows led to an overgrowth of pests, especially grasshoppers. As a result, agricultural production in China suffered greatly.

However, the practices of mismanagement in China were not limited to these. The Chinese government insisted on applying wrong farming techniques. For this reason, agricultural production, which had already greatly decreased, was decreasing even more. On the other hand, the wrong policies of the Chinese government caused the misuse of existing agricultural products. For example, while millions of Chinese were struggling with hunger, the Chinese government was selling their agricultural products to foreign countries in order to obtain foreign exchange. In addition to all this, agricultural producers in China were removed from their fields and worked for iron and steel production. Thus, agricultural production in China came to an almost complete halt. Existing food resources were misused. And the poor quality iron and steel produced by China didn’t work either.

Local governments were making grain stocks seem much higher than they actually were.

This oppressive rule in China allowed corrupt politicians to rise to executive positions. Many politicians, especially local administrators, were only worried about their own future! Because of this, local governments were making their grain stocks seem much higher than they really were. Because they had to report the numbers the central government wanted to hear.

Mao Zedong was considered the omniscient leader. It was impossible to question or criticize. Those who criticized the famine were punished immediately. The doctor who wrote “hunger” on a Chinese death certificate was getting in big trouble. The oppressive and mismanagement in China was indifferent to the deaths of thousands every day.

The famine became so severe that cannibalism began in China!

great chinese famine

Trying to fight a great hunger, the Chinese began to eat everything from tree bark to cats and dogs. But none of them was enough to feed millions of people. So the Chinese first began to eat the flesh of people who died spontaneously! When that wasn’t enough, sick and weak people were killed! The famine in China was so great that the ensuing cannibalism was just as severe! The older brothers began to kill and eat their younger siblings. Parents ate their children, and children ate their parents! There were even “corpse wars” among the still-living Chinese. The Great Chinese Famine caused cannibalism unprecedented in human history.

The Chinese government was virtually supporting the horrific cannibalism

great chinese famine

Moa Zedong said that “half of the people can be allowed to die so that others can feed themselves”! In other words, cannibalism in China was almost supported. On the other hand, the Chinese government continued to ignore people struggling with hunger and famine. The government argued that the famine was an exaggeration of the peasants who wanted to sabotage the Chinese government! However, the villagers, who did not want to give their last food to the government, died under heavy torture. The penalty for the slightest food theft was also death.

How did the Great Chinese Famine end?

great chinese famine

By 1961, the Chinese government could no longer remain indifferent to what was going on in the country. For the first time, Mao Zedong came to be questioned and criticized. Thus, it was excluded from active decision-making processes. Soon after, problematic agricultural policies, especially grain exports, were abandoned. In the 1970s, aid was even received from the United States for modern agricultural facilities! Chinese peasants were allowed to produce their own food. The free trade policy implemented over time also contributed to overcoming the famine. These policies of China have made China an important grain producer, meeting a quarter of the world’s grain production on its own. However, the famine, cannibalism and deaths caused by the bad method of 1959-61 were never forgotten.

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