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  • During the Great Leap Forward,

  • Mao killed 45 million people.

  • But the Chinese Communist Party

  • Still calls it a natural disaster.

  • Welcome to China Uncensored, I'm Chris Chappell.

  • This week, the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100-year anniversary.

  • And the Party is giving itself the best birthday present of all: the gift of changing its own

  • past.

  • Like any 100-year old, the Chinese Communist Party wants to look good on its big day.

  • So Party officials don't like it when people bring up all the mistakes they made before.

  • In Party-speak, they call thishistorical nihilism.”

  • Historical nihilism is anything that questions the Party's official rainbows-and-sunshine

  • version of its past.

  • Because questioning the Party's past alsomeans denying the 'inevitability' of

  • China's march towards socialism.”

  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping blames historical nihilism for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  • And he's determined that's not going to happen to the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Which is why earlier this year, the Party launched a hotline for people to report any

  • cases of historical nihilism they see.

  • The tip line allows people to report fellow netizens who 'distort' the Party's history,

  • attack its leadership and policies, defame national heroes and 'deny the excellence

  • of advanced socialist culture' online.”

  • Reporting people for wrongthink: a proud communist tradition.

  • As a result of that campaign, Chinese authorities deleted 2 million online posts for historical

  • nihilism.

  • But we're not in China.

  • So let's commit some historical nihilism.

  • It's time to once again go down the memory hole, with our new segment on the Chinese

  • Communist Party's 100-year anniversary.

  • We call it 100 Years of Things That Never Happened.

  • Today we're talking about the Chinese Communist Party's most spectacular failure: The Great

  • Leap Forward.

  • You've got to hand it to Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong . He really knew how to

  • name things.

  • Land Reformsounds way better thanKilling Land Owners and Taking Their Stuff.”

  • TheHundred Flowers Campaignsounds way better thanTorturing Intellectuals

  • for Criticizing Me.”

  • And the Great Leap Forward sounds way better thanRuining the Economy While Killing

  • 45 Million People.”

  • The Great Leap Forward was Mao's plan to supercharge China's transformation into

  • a communist utopia by collectivizing and industrializing the country at the same time.

  • But within two years, all of that collectivization and industrialization led to...mass starvation.

  • Mao was not a patient man.

  • Other Communist Party officials wanted to industrialize the country more gradually,

  • but Mao disagreed.

  • He wanted to do everything at once.

  • It's kind of like when you decide that your New Year's Resolution is to quit smoking

  • and lose weight and exercise and then by February you realize you haven't met any of your

  • goals except for killing 45 million people.

  • It happens.

  • Mao kicked off the Great Leap Forward after traveling to the Soviet Union in late 1957

  • and meeting Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

  • When Khrushchev announced that the Soviet Union would overtake the US in industrial

  • output in 15 years, Mao announced that China would overtake the UK in the same amount of

  • time.

  • Mao wasn't just competing with the UK.

  • He was also competing with the Soviet Union.

  • He didn't like having to listen to the Soviets all the time and wanted China to develop its

  • own form of communism.

  • And he saw the Great Leap Forward as his opportunity to do just that.

  • But before the Great Leap Forward could happen, Mao had to purge anyone who was standing in

  • his way.

  • Political purges: a proud communist tradition.

  • Mao started by forcing Party officials who had previously questioned his economic plans

  • to submit self-criticisms.

  • He especially focused on Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, his second-in-command.

  • Zhou confessed to being guilty ofrightist conservative thinkingand repeatedly pledged

  • his loyalty to Mao.

  • This was the beginning of the Anti-Rightist Campaign, which Mao used to end any objections

  • to the Great Leap Forward.

  • By the end of the campaign, millions of people would be purged.

  • So what actually happened during the Great Leap Forward?

  • I'll tell you after the break.

  • Welcome back.

  • The Great Leap Forward started with a crazy competition.

  • Mao pitted Party officials against each other, who all competed for their region to grow

  • the most crops.

  • To meet increasingly impossible targets, people did all kinds of insane things.

  • People worked in the fields day and night.

  • They fertilized fields with things like white sugar, or human hair.

  • People even demolished houses to make fertilizer.

  • They planted crops more deeply and closer together to grow more.

  • And most of all, they lied.

  • Farmers knew that planting crops close together was actually bad and wouldn't increase output,

  • but they were afraid to say anything, because they didn't want to be purged as rightists.

  • Meanwhile Party officials were doing things like moving extra crops to the side of the

  • road when Mao would visit, so it looked like there were bumper harvests.

  • This is a famous photo from the Great Leap Forward.

  • It was meant to show that the wheat crop was so dense that four children could jump on

  • top of it.

  • But the photo is staged.

  • As Mao got more and more reports of record-breaking crop yields, most of which were fake, he believed

  • his plan was working.

  • And he encouraged Chinese people to eat five meals a day.

  • Surely this won't have any unforeseen consequences.

  • To cope with the huge amounts of labor needed for agriculture, some areas started organizing

  • peasant farmers into huge communes that were set up like military units.

  • Mao approved, and by the summer of 1958, Party officials were encouraged to collectivize

  • all of the land.

  • Party officials predicted that China would soon achieve communism.

  • Almost overnight, people's communes sprang up across China.

  • A commune comprised many villages with thousands of families.

  • Each day was strictly regimented.

  • Family life was virtually abolished.

  • Children were placed in communal nurseries while their parents worked around the clock.

  • People ate in the fields, or in communal dining halls.

  • But while Mao liked the communes, Chinese peasants did not.

  • In the most radical communes, people were forced to give up everything they owned, including

  • livestock.

  • So instead, people would kill their animals and eat them before being forced to live in

  • a commune.

  • Because once you eat something, no one can take it away from you.

  • People would sell everything they owned in order to keep the communes from confiscating

  • their property.

  • Communes even destroyed people's houses so they could use the bricks for communal

  • dorms.

  • In some cases, those communal dorms never got built, leaving people homeless.

  • But the biggest problem with the communes were the communal canteens, where everyone

  • was forced to eat.

  • First of all, Party officials had to actually force people to eat at the canteens, by taking

  • away any food they had privately stored, and even confiscating their kitchen utensils.

  • But once people started eating at the canteens, they ate as much as they physically could.

  • Because once you eat something, no one can take it away from you.

  • People would literally eat five meals a day, because Mao said so.

  • And there was massive food waste.

  • In fact, researchers say these communal canteens were one of the biggest reasons for the great

  • famine that would soon follow.

  • So much for agricultural collectivization.

  • Mao's version of industrialization was just as big of a problem.

  • Mao was obsessed with overtaking Great Britain's steel output.

  • But China didn't have enough industrial equipment to do that.

  • Instead, communes set upbackyard furnacesto smelt iron to make steel.

  • If people didn't work on the furnaces, the communes wouldn't give them food.

  • In the frenzy to smelt iron, people melted down iron tools, even their pots and pans.

  • Which it turns out didn't really matter, since soon there wouldn't be any food to

  • put in those pans anyway.

  • People also cut down entire forests for fuel.

  • But it still wasn't enough.

  • We burned tables, chairs, window frames, and finally we even opened old coffins and

  • used the wood.

  • They really stank.

  • We kept the fires burning day and night.”

  • In the end, Party officials met their targets.

  • But according to a government report, less than 30 percent of the iron made in these

  • backyard furnaces was even usable to refine into steel.

  • Meanwhile, so many peasant farmers were put on iron and steel making duty that crops were

  • rotting in the fields.

  • Surely this won't have any unforeseen consequences.

  • More after the break.

  • Welcome back.

  • There were signs of famine in China as early as the first year of the Great Leap Forward,

  • 1958.

  • But many of those signs were dismissed by Party officials as the lies of rightists and

  • counter-revolutionaries who were trying to sabotage the glorious march to communism.

  • By 1959 it was unmistakable.

  • Party leaders knew there was widespread famine.

  • But there was another problem.

  • The Chinese regime had borrowed heavily from the Soviet Union to finance the Great Leap

  • Forward.

  • Now they needed money from exports of grain and other food to pay it back.

  • At a secret meeting in Shanghai in 1959, Mao ordered Party officials to take up to one

  • third of all the grain from the communes, more than they had ever taken before.

  • At the meeting [Mao] announced that 'When there is not enough to eat people starve to

  • death.

  • It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.'

  • That's some real Thanos energy.

  • The Chinese Communist Party also didn't want to lose face internationally by admitting

  • a famine was happening.

  • They even gave away grain for free to their allies during the famine, and they also refused

  • food aid from the US, the Soviet Union, and even the Red Cross.

  • To prevent news of the famine getting out, people were not allowed to leave their local

  • areas, even to beg.

  • My aunt's family was a typical big family in the countryside with several generations

  • of the family living together.

  • There were 36 people altogether.

  • During the three years of famine, one died after another.

  • Eventually only three people were left alive.

  • At first when someone died, they would take the body and bury it.

  • Later they didn't have the strength to take the bodies out.

  • They could only look at them.

  • They watched the bodies being eaten by rats.

  • And their eyeballs stuck out.

  • People didn't even have the strength to chase the rats away.”

  • There are wide estimates of how many died during the Great Leap Forward.

  • On the low end of the scale, the Chinese Communist Party grudgingly admits that 10 million people

  • died during 1960.

  • Historian Frank Dikotter , who wrote his book Mao's Great Famine based on recently available

  • Chinese Communist Party archives, says the true death toll is 45 million.

  • Dikotter also says that people didn't just die of starvation.

  • He estimates that 2 to 3 million people were purposely killed.

  • Either buried alive, tortured, or beaten to death.

  • He gives examples of a father who was forced to bury his son alive for stealing a handful

  • of grain, and a man who was branded with a hot iron and crushed with a stone for digging

  • up a potato.

  • Even the people who died of starvation were often the victims of Party officials.

  • Many of the victims did not die because there was no grain available in the villages,

  • instead they were deliberately and selectively deprived of food by local [Party officials].”

  • That included the old, weak, and sick, who were deprived of food because they couldn't

  • work.

  • China achieved communism, all right.

  • The Chinese Communist Party does not officially recognize that the famine was caused by the

  • Great Leap Forward.

  • They call it theThree Years of Natural Disastersor theThree Years of Difficulty.”

  • But whatever natural disasters there may have been were minor compared to the destruction

  • caused by the Communist Party's collectivization and industrialization schemes.

  • Like the massive deforestation to fuel the backyard furnaces.

  • And a campaign to kill sparrows, which led to more locusts eating crops.

  • Mao's Great Leap Forward was a huge catastrophe that killed 45 million people and totally

  • destroyed the economy.

  • It would take years for the country to recover.

  • It was a giant mistake for Mao.

  • But he definitely learned his lesson.

  • You see, the real problem facing the Great Leap Forward wasn't the rightists.

  • It was the counterrevolutionaries!

  • Which is why he then launched the Cultural Revolution.

  • Surely this won't have any unforeseen consequences.

  • But that's a topic for another segment of 100 Years of Things That Never Happened.

  • And now it's time for me to answer a question from a fan who supports China Uncensored on

  • the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • Hontas Farmer asks, Do you think that now this is no longer a front in the culture war

  • or a political campaign the US will take real action against China's assets for damage caused

  • by this virus?

  • For that matter if we financed the gain of function research might the US be liable?

  • That was on an episode we did about how the Chinese Communist Party is censoring the science

  • around the coronavirus outbreak, and specifically trying to discredit the lab leak hypothesis.

  • Well Hontas, I think that even though Trump is out of office, the coronavirus is still

  • a pretty big part of the cultural war in the U.S.President Biden has said that he wants

  • US intelligence agencies to look into the lab leak hypothesis.

  • But since there probably will never be absolute proof it was a lab leak, the US government

  • probably won't take financial action against the Chinese regime.

  • And yes, you also point out something that's kind of tricky for the U.S.

  • The U.S. did finance gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • And gain-of-function research is widely considered normal in the scientific community.

  • So if this pandemic was caused by a lab leak, there's a bigger issue about whether we

  • should even be doing this kind of research at all, even if it's not in China.

  • Thanks for your question, Hontas Farmer.

  • And a big thank you to everyone who supports China Uncensored on Patreon.

  • We could not do this show without you.

  • So thank you for joining us in the fight to expose the Chinese Communist Party to the

  • world.

  • If you