Mao portrait overlooks Tiananmen Square in Beijing
A noted expert in calculating the number of deaths caused by authoritarian regimes says the late Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-tung’s policies and actions led to the deaths of nearly 77 million of his countrymen, surpassing those killed by Nazi Party founder Adolf Hitler and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.
R. J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science and a Nobel Peace Prize finalist who has published dozens of books chronicling so-called “democide,” or death by government, said the new Chinese figure – nearly double his previous estimate of about 38 million – was based on what he believes was Mao’s duplicity in China’s great famine of 1958 to 1961.
“From the time I wrote my book ‘China’s Bloody Century,’ I have held to these democide totals for Mao: Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered; and Rule over China (People’s Republic of China) 1949-1987 = 35,236,000 murdered,” Rummel wrote in an e-mail to WND.
He said he didn’t previously add in the famine totals because he was not convinced those deaths were caused by Mao purposely. Instead, he said he believed:
- The famine was due to the “Great Leap Forward,” when Mao tried to catch up with the West in producing iron and steel;
- The factorization of agriculture, forcing virtually all peasants to give up their land, livestock, tools and homes to live in regimented communes;
- The exuberant over-reporting of agricultural production by commune and district managers for fear of the consequences of not meeting their quotas;
- The consequent belief of high communist officials that excess food was being produced and could be exported without starving the peasants (though “reports from traveling high officials indicated that peasants might be starving in certain localities”);
- An investigative team was sent out from Beijing and reported back that there was mass starvation, after which the government then “stopped exporting food and began to import what was needed to stop the famine.”
“Thus, I believed that Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine, but he was misled about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies,” Rummel said. “Therefore, I argued, this was not a democide.”
But after further review of available data, he said he agreed with other researchers who had counted the famine figures as part of the regime’s mass murder figures.
“They were right and I was wrong,” he said.
Rummel said he was influenced to revise his figures upward after reading a pair of books, “Wild Swans: Two Daughters of China,” by Jung Chang; and “Mao: the Unknown Story,” which Jung wrote with her husband, Jon Halliday.
“From the biography of Mao, which I trust … I can now say that yes, Mao’s policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning,” Rummel said, adding Mao even “tried to take more food from the people to pay for his lust for international power, but was overruled by a meeting of 7,000 top Communist Party members.”
“So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27 million Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40 million. Chang and Halliday put it at 38 million and, given their sources, I will accept that,” said Rummel.
“I’m now convinced that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin.”
Mao’s butchery “exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out (from) 1933-1945,” he said.
The Chinese communist leader’s toll is higher than the 34.1 million combat deaths in “all wars between 1900 and 1987,” including World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Mexican and Russian Revolutions.
“Mao alone murdered over twice as many as were killed in combat in all these wars,” he said.
In all, Rummel estimates about 174 million people were killed during incidents of democide in the 20th century, “of which communist regimes murdered about 148 million,” he said, adding, “Communists overall have murdered four times those killed in combat.”