What do you think?
Rate this book
400 pages, Hardcover
First published August 29, 2013
Soon even the continued use of English on electricity bills in Shanghai was stridently denounced as betraying ‘a strong sense of colonial influence’.
Missionaries were also present, as early as 1919, in all but a hundred of the 1,704 counties in China and Manchuria, many speaking the local dialect and living in close contact with the local population
"...The bulk of the evidence presented in this book comes from party archives in China. Over the past few years vast amounts of material have become available, and I draw on hundreds of previously classified documents, including secret police reports, unexpurgated versions of important leadership speeches, confessions extracted during thought-reform campaigns, inquiries into rebellions in the countryside, detailed statistics on the victims of the Great Terror, surveys of working conditions in factories and workshops, letters of complaint written by ordinary people, and much more.
Other sources include personal memoirs, letters and diaries, as well as eyewitness accounts from people who lived through the revolution. Sympathisers of the regime have unjustly discarded many of the claims of these earlier eyewitnesses, but these can now be corroborated by archival evidence, giving them a new lease of life.
Taken as a whole, these sources offer us an unprecedented opportunity to probe beyond the shiny surface of propaganda and retrieve the stories of the ordinary men and women who were both the main protagonists and the main victims of the revolution..."
"...By the end of June, some 30,000 people were caught in the area between the communists, who would not allow them to pass, and the nationalists, who refused to let them back into the city. Hundreds died every day.
Two months later, more than 150,000 civilians were pressed inside the death zone, reduced to eating grass and leaves, doomed to slow starvation. Dead bodies were strewn everywhere, their bellies bloated in the scorching sun. ‘The pungent stench of decomposition was everywhere,’ remembered one survivor..."
"...Soon the nationalist soldiers turned on the civilians, stealing their food at gunpoint. They slaughtered all the army horses, then dogs, cats and birds. Ordinary people ate rotten sorghum and corncobs before stripping the bark from trees. Others ate insects or leather belts. A few turned to human flesh, sold at $1.20 a pound on the black market.8
Cases of collective suicide occurred all the time. Entire families killed themselves to escape from the misery. Dozens died by the roadside every day.
‘We were just lying in bed starving to death,’ said Zhang Yinghua when interviewed about the famine that claimed the lives of her brother, her sister and most of her neighbours. ‘We couldn’t even crawl..."
"...Like steel production or grain output, death came with a quota mandated from above. Luo Ruiqing could not possibly oversee the arrest, trial and disposal of the many millions who became the targets of terror, so instead Mao handed down a killing quota as a rough guide for action. The norm, he felt, was one per thousand, a ratio he was willing to adjust to the particular circumstances of each region.
His subordinates kept track of local killing rates like bean counters, occasionally negotiating for a higher quota. In May 1951 Guangxi province, for instance, was told to kill more, even though a rate of 1.63 per thousand had already been achieved. Guizhou province, destabilised by popular uprisings, requested permission to kill three per thousand, and the Liuzhou region five per thousand. ‘The provincial party committee of Guizhou requests a target of three per thousand, that too is too much, I feel. This is how I look at it: we can go over one per thousand, but not by too much.’
Once a death rate of two per thousand had been achieved, the Chairman opined, people should be sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to work in labour camps..."