, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 319-320
Date: 23 Jun 2009

Ralph A. Thaxton, Jr., Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China: Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Famine and the Origins of Righteous Resistance in Da Fo Village

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The story of rural China during the Great Leap, as Ralph A. Thaxton, Jr., notes, is complicated. As established by mainland and foreign sources, as many as 50 million deaths are at least partially attributable to Great Leap policies, and among these, nearly 33 million resulted from famine (5). Consequently, it is difficult to reconcile the patchwork of conflicted feelings for Mao Zedong and the policies he once held dear. While even Mao’s most ardent admirers usually concede that catastrophic mistakes were made, answers vary significantly depending on the person and location where such questions are asked. For example, one elderly man in rural Shanxi recalled Mao fondly, telling me, “Before Mao, sometimes we ate leaves, and after Liberation, we did not.” However, in adjoining Henan, where that province’s northern border converges with Hebei and Shandong, Da Fo villagers recall the Great Leap as a period of famine and death. Indeed, among those who survived in Da Fao, as Thaxton documen ...