November 30, 2005

Fact-Based Historical Revision (Historian to Revise China’s Deaths from Mao Upward)

In late October, I expressed outrage when The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof turned a book review of “Mao: The Unknown Story” into an exercise in excuse-making for China’s late butcher, Chairman Mao:

….. Mao emerges from these pages as another Hitler or Stalin.

In that regard, I have reservations about the book’s judgments, for my own sense is that Mao, however monstrous, also brought useful changes to China.

….. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao’s legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao’s entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world’s new economic dragon.

Kristof also spent an inordinate amount of time quibbling, and attempting to minimize, the death toll attributable to Mao.

At Freedoms Peace, Professor R.J. Rummel blasts Kristof’s casualty-count quibbling to smithereens (HT Althouse via No Speed Bumps), and decides that the Mao deathcount estimates need to be revised–upward (bolds are mine):

I believed that Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine (Great Famine of 1958-1961–Ed.), but he was misled about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies. Therefore, I argued, this was not a democide. Others, however, have so counted it, but I thought this was a sloppy application of the concepts of mass murder, genocide, or politicide (virtually no one used the concept of democide). They were right and I was wrong.

From the biography of Mao, which I trust (for those who might question it, look at the hundreds of interviews Chang and Halliday conducted with communist cadre and former high officials, and the extensive bibliography) I can now say that yes, Mao’s policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning. He didn’t care! Literally. And he tried to take more food from the people to pay for his lust for international power, but was overruled by a meeting of 7,000 top Communist Party members.

So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that.

….. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus ….. 77,000,000 murdered (during his entire reign–Ed.). This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday’s estimate of “well over 70 million.”

This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.

1950s and 1960s radicals who lionized Mao owe the world abject apologies. Few have been forthcoming. “Mao wasn’t so bad” revisionists like Kristof need to take the blinders off.

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