Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China's Great Leap Forward and Famine (Contemporary Chinese Studies)

Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China's Great Leap Forward and Famine (Contemporary Chinese Studies)

Kimberley Ens Manning, Felix Wemheuer

Language: English

Pages: 333

ISBN: 2:00076502

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, Mao Zedong declared that "not even one person shall die of hunger." Yet some 30 million peasants died of starvation and exhaustion during the Great Leap Forward. Eating Bitterness reveals how men and women in rural and urban settings, from the provincial level to the grassroots, experienced the changes brought on by the party leaders' attempts to modernize China. This landmark volume lifts
the curtain of party propaganda to expose the suffering of citizens and the deeply-contested nature of state-society relations in Maoist China.











their ideas. 38 Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik While Zhang Letian relies primarily on county-level archives for his work, Gao Wangling combines these with oral history. He makes use of his relationship with the village to which he was despatched as a “sent-down youth” (shangshanxiaxiang zhishi qingnian) and revisits his former friends and colleagues. These people turn out to be willing and able to explain many of the things about which they did not speak in the 1970s. The peasants he interviews

non-central Party elite actors who contributed to, ameliorated, suffered from, and resisted the events that played out in the years between 1957 and 1962. In the following chapters, contributors make use of a variety of sources, including oral histories, ethnographic research, and archival research, as well as more traditionally available sources, such as print media, biographies, and socialist realist literature. Insofar as the contributors are engaged in a variety of larger research projects –

to inspire enthusiasm for the initiatives and innovations of the time as well as compliance with the demands placed on the Chinese peasantry to meet the goals set for them by the Party and Chairman Mao. The two young fiction writers, whose works were written later than the poems, may be accused of complicity in concealing the darker side of the Great Leap, which was evident when their stories were published (although the full horror of the subsequent famines could not have been anticipated). The

is greater than Heaven’s.23 The poem captures a sense of well-being, recalled by some as characteristic of the early months of the Great Leap. Later events were to erase this rosy view from popular memory. Women Taking Charge The Great Leap Forward was not the first time that the Chinese state, through its media, had given publicity to women’s breaking into areas that had been exclusively male. Tina Mai Chen’s research on nüjie di’yi (first women) model workers in the 1950s demonstrates that, by

781 million in 1986, they estimate the excess normal mortality in India caused by malnutrition and related diseases at 3.9 million people per year.24 While democracies are more likely to prevent famine than are dictatorships, some scholars argue that certain dictatorships did establish effective systems of food security. Others criticize the argument linking democracy and famine prevention because political systems such as the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia and the Soviet Union during the

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