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Agency and Famine in China's Sichuan Province, 1958–1962*

  • Chris Bramall (a1)

A revisionist literature on the Great Chinese Famine has emerged in recent years. These revisionists focus primarily on the question of agency. They claim that that neither poor weather nor the excesses of local cadres can explain the extent of mortality; rather, responsibility lies squarely with Mao and the CCP leadership. Using county-level data on mortality, output, rainfall and temperature for Sichuan province, I argue that this revisionist view is unconvincing. Weather admittedly played only a minor role, and the zealotry of the Party centre contributed significantly to the death toll. However, variations in mortality between Sichuan's counties appear to have been essentially random – suggesting that differences in local cadre responses to central government policy were decisive in determining the scale of famine.

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Justin Yifu Lin and Dennis T. Yang , “Food availability, entitlements and the Chinese famine of 1959–61,Economic Journal, Vol. 110 (2000) pp. 136–58

Thomas P. Bernstein , “Stalinism, famine and Chinese peasants,” in Theory and Society, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1984), pp. 339–78

Gene H. Chang and G. James Wen , “Communal dining and the Chinese famine of 1958–61,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 46, No. 1 (1997) pp. 134

James Kai-sing Kung and Justin Yifu Lin , “The causes of China's Great Leap famine,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 52, No. 1 (2003), pp. 5173

A.K. Sen ,” Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1 (1993), pp. 128

William A. Joseph , “A tragedy of good intentions: post-Mao views of the Great Leap Forward,Modern China, Vol. 12, No. 4 (1986), pp. 419–58

William R. Lavely , “The rural Chinese fertility transition,” Population Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (1984) pp. 365–84

Bernard Oury , “Allowing for weather in crop production model building,” Journal of Farm Economics, Vol. 47, No. 2 (1965), pp. 270–83

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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