* mass killing China in the 20th century

Mass Killing: Communist China and Mao Tse Tung

Figure 1.--One notable aspect of mass killing is that the greatest mass killers (Mao, Stalin, and Hitler) were leaders that were virually worshipped by their people while they lived. And two of those (Stalin and Mao) are still widely venerated in Russia and China. It is also notable that two of the three are Communists. Here youthful devotees of Mao study his Little Red Book.

Most lists of 20th century villains almost always place Hitler and Stalin at the top. Sometimes Mao Tse Tung is not even included, very rarely is he at the top. But if one uses body count as the metric for evil, Mao should surely be at the top of the list. And it is no accident that Communists occupy two of the three top places. The Communists in China were responsible for killings of massive numbers of people. Here Mao was primarily responsible. Many of those killed were individuals from targeted economic and social classes such as land owners, army officers, police, government officials, and others. The first large-scale killings took place shortly after Mao seized power with the Communist victory in the Civil War (1949). The killings were carried out as part of the land reform and campaign against counter revolutionaries. Mao envisaged that "one-tenth of the peasants" (about 50 million people) "would have to be destroyed" to facilitate agrarian reform. [Goldhagen, p. 344.] In practice far few people were killed when Mao seized power, but the numbers of peasants, mostly land owners including some of China's best farmers, are widely estimated to have exceeded 1 million people. [Rummel, p. 223.] The counter-revolutionaries Mao went after were mostly officials of the Kuomintang who did not flee to Taiwan. Also targeted were intellectuals suspected for some reason or other of disloyalty. [Mosher, PP. 72-73.] Here precise numbers do not exist, but estimates suggest about 0.7 million people were executed, 1.3 million were interned in labor camps, and 1.3 million were subject to some kind of control. [Kuisong] Much larger numbers died horrible deaths because of economic mismanagement and resulting famine especially resulting from Mao's Great Leap Forward . Unlike the famine introduced in the Ukraine, these were unintended deaths, at least the initial plans for Mao's Great Leap. Mao believed his own propaganda. He was going to thrust China into a new era by his visionary policies. With they failed abjectly, famine resulted which then provided the opportunity to destroy class enemies. Here individuals believed to be the least loyal (priests, land owners, middle class families, ect.) were given lower rations than others. [Valentino, p. 128.] The death toll may have reached 45 million people, but estimates vary and there is no precise count available. The Great People's Proletarian Cultural Revolution was the final episode in Mao's sad chapter. Summary executions and death due to torture and mistreatment totaled about 2.5 million people. [Dikötter] Estimates of the total number people who died as a result of Mao's rule to over 50 million people.


Dikötter, Frank.

Goldhagen. Daniel. "Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity," Public Affairs (2009).

Kuisong, Yang. "Reconsidering the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries, " The China Quarterly Vol. 193 (March 2008), pp.102–121.

Mosher, Steven W. China Misperceived: American Illusions and Chinese Reality (Basic Books: 1992).

Rummel, Rudolph J. China's Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900. (Transaction Publishers, 2007).

Valentino, Benjamin. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press: 2005).


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Created: 2:41 AM 11/26/2013
Last updated: 2:41 AM 11/26/2013