Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights

Mao and The Great Leap Forward

The death toll amassed by Mao and his regime range from forty- to seventy-million, eclipsing the Jewish victims of Hitler’s Holocaust by a factor of six to eleven times. Nine years after seizing power, Mao instituted “The Great Leap Forward,” a socioeconomic plan designed to transform China’s agrarian socioeconomic culture towards an industrialized one. The program, which was grounded upon the Marxian prescription for the advancement of industrial technology, yielded the deaths of twenty to forty-three million.

Riding the coattails of the successful collectivization of 1955-1956 and the plentiful harvest of 1957, Mao announced a five-year plan (i.e., The Great Leap Forward) to the People’s Commune in 1958. Mao continually increased the agricultural production quotas due to early bountiful yield of crops. Whereas the early bounties were produced by sound pre-Maoist agricultural methods, the farming methods imposed by Mao, which included natural collectivization— growing incompatible seeds together—, were an unmitigated disaster that led to mass starvation. The five-year program, which only lasted three years, ended in utter catastrophe, inducing a famine that produced an estimated twenty to forty-three million deaths. This manmade famine was a result of Chairman Mao and his commissars implementing policies based on their ignorant notions of farm production. Mao was under the false impression that nature could be run in a non-symbiotic fashion. Indeed, Mao once quipped that “Happy plants grow together.” It was this utopian naivety that grounded Mao’s five-year project, and the manmade famine that followed.

The Great Leap Forward constituted genocide, as Mao employed all of Stanton’s “Eight Steps of Genocide” against his Chinese compatriots in his unsuccessful effort to launch China into a sterling model of communism. Mao classified the Chinese agrarians among economic lines, labeling them peasants and wealthy peasants. Furthermore, Chairman Mao classified anyone who did not tow the party line as a counter-revolutionary. The Peoples Republic of China used symbolization when they erected red flags on the grounds of the collectivized farms. The communist regime dehumanized the wealthier peasants by stealing their land in an effort to communize the farms of China. The People’s Republic organized their communist government in a uni-polar fashion; political dissidents were left to rot in jail, if they were not murdered outright. The Chinese government polarized the nation by means of producing pro-government propaganda favoring the collectivization of China. The communist Chinese hierarchy prepared via their compulsory reallocation of people and farms. The extermination of twenty to forty-three million Chinese citizens was a direct result of the manmade famine that was a byproduct of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The Chinese government denied the genocide by officially assigning an under-inflated death toll of fourteen million people.

In an effort to unify his people under the ideological yoke of communism, Mao oversaw one of the largest genocides in the annals of human history. Lenin said, “If you want to make an omelet, you must be willing to break a few eggs.” The means Mao employed, however, precluded the possibility of a Leninist utopia: He broke too many eggs.