WHO IS HISTORY'S MOST EVIL DICTATOR?
TORTURE MASS MURDER HUMAN EXPERIMENTS
MAO ZEDONG CHINA, 1945-1976 45-60 MILLION KILLED REFORMER WHO STARVED MILLIONS INTO OBLIVION
Skyscrapers spear towards the clouds. Designer stores hug the city pavements below. Sports cars purr around the streets. Welcome to modern China, the world’s new economic powerhouse, driving global growth and creating a new wealthy middle-class in the kind of numbers the ‘communist’ country has never witnessed.
Yet rewind just two generations and the difference is chilling. The population is starving to death. Slave labour is widespread. People are being systematically tortured and executed by the state. And one man is driving almost one billion people into a living hell: Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, and founder of the People’s Republic.
Chairman Mao’s atrocities were committed under the banner of The Great Leap Forward, a plan devised in 1958 to modernise China both economically and socially.
To do so, Mao’s regime initially coerced millions of peasants into a vast irrigation programme to build dams and reservoirs. Problem was, this meant that their lands were untended, and crops rotted in the first year, creating food shortages. Farmers then planted seeds earlier to feed their families, but this just meant the next harvest was even smaller.
By the end of the decade, as peasant land was being nationalised and put into state hands, China was in the grip of full-blown famine. The deprived were eating mud pies
(which warded off hunger temporarily, but ended up blocking their intestines or bowels) or feasting on the straw roofs of their houses. Some even resorted to cannibalism. Insanely, Mao continued to export tons of food in a bid to show the world how productive communism could be.
In the midst of this crisis, the militia and state officials ruthlessly enforced the party line. Anyone caught stealing or hoarding food – even children – were beaten or executed. There are reports of parents being forced to bury their children alive, or risk being set alight themselves. Workers were made to work naked during the cold depths of winter.
Many of these and other horrors only came to light in 2010 when Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikötter gained unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives. “It ranks alongside the Gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.... It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot’s genocide multiplied 20 times over,” he said. During his research, Dikötter discovered that the Communist Party saw rural farmers as mere “digits”, a faceless workforce. All up, between 45 and 60 million people died during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. In the province of Sichuan, which is about threequarters the size of New South Wales, half the population vanished between 1958 and 1961. >
“IT IS BETTER TO LET HALF OF THE PEOPLE DIE SO THAT THE OTHER HALF CAN HAVE THEIR FILL .” MAO ZEDONG