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    PALTEMAA, LAURI 2015. Serve the City! Urban disaster governance in Tianjin city 1958–1962. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 49, Issue. 04, p. 1143.

    Wang, Victor C. X. Russo, Marianne Robin and Fay, Karen M. 2014. Adult and Continuing Education.

    Wang, Victor C. X. Russo, Marianne Robin and Fay, Karen M. 2013. Handbook of Research on Teaching and Learning in K-20 Education.

    Bramall, Chris 2011. Agency and Famine in China's Sichuan Province, 1958–1962. The China Quarterly, Vol. 208, p. 990.

    U, Eddy 2010. Third Sister Liu and the Making of the Intellectual in Socialist China. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 69, Issue. 01, p. 57.

    GRDA, CORMAC 2008. The ripple that drowns? Twentieth-century famines in China and India as economic history1. The Economic History Review, Vol. 61, p. 5.


Mao Zedong and the Famine of 1959–1960: A Study in Wilfulness


In late autumn 1958, Mao Zedong strongly condemned widespread practices of the Great Leap Forward (GLF) such as subjecting peasants to exhausting labour without adequate food and rest, which had resulted in epidemics, starvation and deaths. At that time Mao explicitly recognized that anti-rightist pressures on officialdom were a major cause of “production at the expense of livelihood.” While he was not willing to acknowledge that only abandonment of the GLF could solve these problems, he did strongly demand that they be addressed. After the July 1959 clash at Lushan with Peng Dehuai, Mao revived the GLF in the context of a new, extremely harsh anti-rightist campaign, which he relentlessly promoted into the spring of 1960 together with the radical policies that he previously condemned. Not until spring 1960 did Mao again express concern about abnormal deaths and other abuses, but he failed to apply the pressure needed to stop them. Given what he had already learned about the costs to the peasants of GLF extremism, the Chairman should have known that the revival of GLF radicalism would exact a similar or even bigger price. Instead, he wilfully ignored the lessons of the first radical phase for the sake of achieving extreme ideological and developmental goals.

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I would like to thank Steven M. Goldstein, Roderick MacFarquhar, Frederick C. Teiwes and Dorothy J. Solinger for helpful comments, and Nancy Hearst of the Fairbank Center Library for materials. This article draws on but does not duplicate the author's article, “Stalinism, famine, and Chinese peasants: grain procurements during the Great Leap Forward,” Theory and Society, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1984), pp. 339–377.
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