Mao Great Famine by Frank Dikotter


Mao Great Famine by Frank Dikotter

Mao Great Famine is a book that deserves to be read by not only the people interested in the history of China but also those interested in how an idea is spread by a national leader. The narrative in this book is how the people’s republic was hit by famine in 1960 and claimed the lives of approximately forty-five million people (Frank, 2010). Dikotter gives an extensive narration of how Helmsman unleashed a high level of suffering and how his assistants treated people in an inhumane manner. He further talks of the various projects and farms that caused more damage and forced people to work on these farms. The pressure to provide the state with better performance increased while starvation was used as a way of punishing the people who failed to keep up with the work rate allocated to them.

China was ruled through a militaristic and draconian system where orders were executed harshly, and this was a method used by the leaders to earn promotion. A communist party (included those who were in forced labor) staged war against the nationalist from 1947 till when they won in 1949. Everyone was expected to fight until the end, even if it means sacrificing their life (Frank, 2010). The title of the book is how it appropriate. Life then was full of struggles; eating mud for survival, cruelty, lies oppression, which shows that famine was just a part of it. Mao launched a program to assist China’s economy to grow more than that of Britain, but unfortunately, it took a different turn. The chairman of the program refused to see reality and insisted on food export while the country starved and having five meals a day.

As the catastrophe in China worsened, Liu Shaoqi, who was second-ranked leader, left the chairman with no option other than retreat. This is a decision which he made after finding out the situation in his village. Reconstruction at the national level kicked off (Frank, 2010). As if this was not enough, in four years’ time, Liu established cultural revolution or rather the great leap as commonly referred. The book also captures the Beijing Massacre, which occurred in 1989 and mass purge. The most amazing statistic is that seventy percent of the communist members believe that Mao was good. The entire truth about these proceedings is so hard to be accepted by current leaders, the reason being they are heirs of Mao who was the first emperor.


Frank, D. (2010). Mao’s Great Famine. New York: Walker & Co, 174-78.


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