Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Rethinking the Origins of China’s Great Famine: The Great Leap Forward Famine of 1958-1962 as a Famine of the Longue Duree

Wed, October 25, 2017 | Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118), UT Austin Campus

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Rethinking the Origins of China’s Great Famine: The Great Leap Forward Famine of 1958-1962 as a Famine of the Longue Duree

Between 1958 and 1962 Mao Zedong and the Communist party induced the worst famine in modern world history in rural China, killing 36  to 45 million people.  The history of the origins of this famine is still shrouded in mystery.  For the most part, social science literature has represented the famine as being the product of Mao's Great Leap Forward, which began in 1958 and ended in 1962.  In this talk, I will explain how the great famine was more the product of a long term state policy of procurement, and also how Mao Zedong initiated and pushed this policy well before the event of the Great Leap Forward, eventually inducing the great famine.  Bringing the role of state procurement back into the debate over the great famine's causality, my analysis will shed new light on the under appreciated temporal development of the famine.  It will demonstrate that the political and social disaster of 1958-1962 was rooted in Mao's relentless and ruthless attempt to build a new socialist political order by intentionally exploiting farm households, a process that produced record procurement of harvests well before 1958 and that eventually turned a widening, intensifying subsistence crisis into a procurement famine of unprecedented scale.  The talk will take up issues of suffering and resistance to the politics driving this famine, and also will open a new window on whom rural people blamed for the famine.

Sponsored by: Center for East Asian Studies

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