The Monstrous, Hidden Mao Tse-tung

November 26, 2008



[First published Novmber 21, 2005]The Monstrous, Hidden Mao Tse-tung In a previous blog, wrote that I was convinced by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s <I>Mao</I> that China’s Great Famine was a democide, and that this raised the communist democide 1923 to 1987 to 73,000,000, exceeding by over 10,000,000 the democide total for the Soviet Union 1917-1987. There is much more in this book and its predecessor, Chang’s <i>Wild Swans</I> that I will reveal here.


I should note that I’m not doing book reviews, although I need to give some background from the books. My interest is only in what I learned from the books that are new and surprising. First, as to the <I>Wild Swans</I>, this is a story of the lives of three Chinese women, Chang’s grandmother who had her feet bound, and became a concubine; her mother who along with Chang’s father became high officials in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and Chang herself who became a CCP member, a Red Guard, and was tortured, incarcerated, persecuted, underwent forced labor, and finally with Mao’s death was able to get a university education and be awarded one of the first foreign fellowships, this to England. What is so absorbing about this is what is revealed about China’s history through its effect on this one family. This includes the downfall of the Manchu Dynasty, China’s brief flirtation with democracy, the warlord years, Chiang Kai-shek’s rise to power, Mao’s gradual seizure of power over the communists, the civil war, Japanese invasion and occupation, the post-war battle against Chiang for China, Mao’s takeover of China, and the various bloody campaigns to solidify Mao’s rule and impose communism, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, and aftermath. 


Here the perspective is bottom up. The top down perspective, that is of Mao and those around them, is given in <I>Mao</I>. These books are essential to each other and I strongly recommend that anyone interested in China today or its recent history, in pure evil, in communism, in totalitarianism, or in how mass murder and torture can become a routine operation of government, must read these books.


With that as background, what have I learned?


1. Some of the highest CCP members were dedicated to improving the lives of the people, but they soon became disillusioned by the killing, and corruption that infected the whole CCP, even at the top where the lust for power and fear of Mao determined almost every policy. They soon became cynical and were executed. 


While the people’s welfare deteriorated year by year, those at the top ate the best of meals, lived in the best of resorts, mansions, and homes, and even took over what had been public parks for private strolling and relaxation. By the end of Mao’s regime, the people lived in hovels, wore rags, some having to go naked, and were always on the verge of starvation, or so weakened that an ordinary cold meant death. At great expense, Mao had huge mansions built all over China for his private use, sometime spending no more than a few days in one, and had special food brought to him from remote areas. Moreover, he had his guards or cadre secure pretty young women for his sexual pleasure


The total income of China’s government was Mao’s to spend as he wished. All public property was his. All CCP members and government officials, military and police, was his to command.


2. The 1933-1934 Long March of 368 days over about 5,600 miles that you have read about, that “heroic march” of 87,000 communist soldiers from Yuda, Hangxi, led by Mao through much of China, “winning battle after battle against Chiang’s forces,” until finally only 10,000 reached security in Wuqi, Ningxia (Yenan came later). This is almost all a lie, perpetuated by Mao’s propaganda machine and Edgar Snow’s <i>Red Star Over China</I>. This popular and influential book established a favorable impression of Mao in the West. Snow was a communist sympathizer and the book was practically all dictated by Mao.


Virtually none of the well-known battles were fought. They were almost all lies. Chiang was not trying to destroy the communists but preserve them (his beloved son was a captive of Stalin), and guide them to where he could use their presence to overcome warlords that opposed him. 


Mao used the march as a means to gain more power against his rivals, even killing or leading their communist soldiers into ambushes or hopeless battles with Chiang. He thus led to destruction a whole Army. So, the most notable battles on the march were the defeats he set up to insure his power. He could do this because of his spies close to Chiang who kept Mao informed of all Chiang’s plans and military movements.


During and after the march, Mao carried out purges of communists, including many young people who joined the communists out of dedication to helping the people. Once they saw what Mao’s communism was like, they tried to escape. When caught they were usually executed by being buried alive.


3. Perhaps one of the most influential acts of any communist mole was that of a general in charge of Chiang’s army around Shanghai. When the Japanese invaded China from the north, they were not interested in a war or taking over all of indigestible China, but in reaching some kind of agreement with Chiang. However, at Mao’s command the mole had his troops attack the Japanese in Shanghai against Chiang’s orders. It became a great battle and the Japanese won. This attack on Japanese forces was to the Japanese a cause for war, for it communicated that Chiang was not interested in an agreement, and since they had secured Shanghai as a sea base, they decided to move into the rest of China and on a full scale war. This is what Mao wanted. He never really fought the Japanese, but used the war to attack Chiang and prepare for the postwar struggle against him. 


When I was in Japan during the Korean War a former Japanese soldier who had fought in China described how he and other soldiers would sit on a hill and watch Mao’s and Chiang’s soldiers fight each other. Chiang did not want these battles, Mao did.


4. In the post war struggle, Chiang had virtually defeated communist troops in Manchuria, when the US intervened. President Truman saw Mao as a peasant reformer and sent General George Marshall to arrange a cease-fire, and seek accommodations between Mao and Chiang. Neither Truman nor Marshall had any idea of Mao’s nature and aims. Under threat of the withdrawal of American aid, Marshall made Chiang stop fighting Mao for four months, during which he was to arrange a meeting between both sides. It didn’t happen, but the delay saved Mao’s army. Over the four months, it was massively reinforced by Stalin, and trained by Soviet officers. It was then almost a match for Chiang’s battle hardened forces. 


But, Chiang had three generals high in his command that were communist sleepers. In western, central, and Northern China including Manchuria they kept Mao informed of their movements, while maneuvering for the defeat of forces under their command. Chiang was not only a poor judge of those leading his forces, he refused to take any action against those he suspected of communist leanings. Mao never had such a problem. He killed anyone of whom he had slightest suspicion, and even those who might be so disposed by class background, friendships, family, and previous occupation.


So, Moa won China with the help of communist propaganda, communist moles, sleepers high up in Chiang’s regime and army, Stalin, Truman, and Chiang himself.


4. I need not go into the bloody land reform, and successive movements all dedicated to increasing communist, and thus Mao’s power. I should mention the Korean War, however. Mao was not satisfied with his power over China, he wanted it over the world. He thus tried to use all China’s resources to build up China’s industrial capacity and military capability. He tried to woo Stalin to help him build the atomic bomb, a huge navy, including 50 submarines, and the factories to produce tanks, cannons, airplanes, and so on. American power, however, stood in his way. But, he thought he knew how to weaken it. He wanted a Korean War in order to chew up American forces by the hundreds of thousands with is own. He therefore persuaded Stalin to give Kim Il-sung the go ahead to launch an invasion of the South, which would surely result in the United States getting involved. 


This is a remarkable revelation. It had become axiomatic in strategic studies that when in early 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave his famous Aleutians speech in which he excluded South Korea from the US Pacific “defense line” or “defensive perimeter,” it encourage Stalin to support Kim’s desire to launch the invasion. This lead to the national security principle: well define who you will defend, but otherwise keep your enemy guessing at to what you will do and how. There has been virtually no appreciation of the Korean War being on Mao’s initiative, or that the Acheson speech had nothing to do with it. Mao believed that American forces would be involved, and indeed, it was to draw them into mass slaughter that he wanted the war.


5. I mentioned in yesterday’s blog about Mao’s taking food out of the mouths of his people, condemning 38,000,000 to death, in his insatiable drive for power. And those close to him in power, finally regardless of the risk, turning on him to end the famine. He later got his revenge by the Cultural Revolution. He created a force of young high school and college students who had been so brainwashed as to love Mao as a god. He gave these Red Guards free reign (police and army were ordered not to interfere) to seek out capitalist roaders, spies, rightists, anti-Maoists, and anyone they suspected of counter-revolutionary beliefs, to thus to cleanse the CCP and government no matter how high the officials. 


The Red Guards, young boys and girls, beat and tortured their victims, incarcerated them, had them transported to remote and inhospitable regions to do forced labor, publicly humiliated them, and murdered them. Red Guards formed factions and fought, tortured, and killed each other as to who were the truer Moaists. Even army units got involved either directly in the fighting or by supplying their favorite faction with weapons. 


China fell into chaos. All schools were closed for years, and factory production ceased in some areas. Although the impoverished peasants were left undisturbed in most areas, without any additional food or help, they still had to take care of those sent to their area for hard labor or incarceration. No high official, except Mao, and a few closest to him, such as his wife Jiang Qing and Premier and Foreign Minister Chou En-lai, were exempt.


6. The Cultural Revolution was not just a cleansing of the CCP, it also wiped the culture clean of that which Mao did not approve. Classical books and art were destroyed, classical theater was forbidden, as was dancing, and only movies extolling the CCP or Mao were allowed. Anything cultural from the West was trashed. Normal forms of recreation were all but denied. About 80 percent of ancient monuments were eliminated. China’s priceless heritage was gone as Mao turned China into a cultural desert.


7. Until I read <i>Wild Swans</I>, I knew about the brainwashing of China’s people, but I had no feel for it nor did I know how thorough it was. Regardless of Mao’s monstrous evil, the people seemed to generally love him. He was deified. He was “the great savior of China,” the “great helmsman,” the “great provider.” “He loved his people, and had fought for them.” “Everything he did was for the good of the people.” He was China with all its virtues, and none of its faults. The brainwashing was such that people simply could not have negative thoughts about him. What was happening to them was due to Western agents and Chiang’s spies, rightists, and capitalist roaders, or bad people high in the CCP. Mao was as much a victim as they were.


8. In effectiveness, the way Mao controlled information, and deceived and lied to his people, went far beyond what Hitler and Stalin had achieved. It is worthy of close study as to how Mao so controlled information and communications. I believe it was by fear, the trembling fear resulting from systematic and deadly purges. No one could know when he or she would be the next one arrested and tortured to divulge their alleged plotting and counter revolutionary contacts. One might even fall under a quota to be arrested, as Mao dictated that between 1 and 10 percent of all intellectuals had to be arrested. In one province, the army was told that a third to a quarter of all class enemies were to be put to death by bludgeoning or stoning — about 100,000 were thus killed. This method of killing was chosen because it would instill fear and terror in survivors. People were thus turned into obedient robots.


9. Chou En Lai was the face of Mao to the world. He was handsome, a good conversationalist, cultured, and an accomplished diplomat. Mao used him to deal with visiting dignitaries, and he did much to mislead the world about Mao’s aims and character. He was also Mao’s hatchet man and supported Mao’s deadly policies and mass murder. How could this man who so impressed diplomats, and especially Americans do this. He was blackmailed. Mao held him under tight control by threatening to reveal anti-CCP statements he had once made, which would have meant torture and a miserable death.


10. Ho Chi Minh was under Mao’s influence and in some ways control. It was Mao that directed Vietnam’s bloody land reform, with all the same techniques and horror he had inflicted on his own peasants. I had thought that Ho alone was responsible, and only relied on the Chinese for advice. 


11. Pol Pot was equally under Mao’s influence, and the story that Chou En Lai tried to get Pol Pot to moderate his revolution and killing is not true. Mao encouraged it.


12. Then there was the United States as represented by Henry Kissinger and President Nixon. Everyone knows about the famous Nixon visits to China, but what is not known is what was involved. Mao’s ability to catapult China into superpower status was stymied by conflict with the Soviets. He feared a Soviet invasion from Mongolia that could easily seize Beijing. He then looked to the U.S. for protection and for help to achieve his superpower goal.


Nixon saw China as a balance against the Soviets, and declared that we would help defend China if it were attacked, as Mao wanted. Even in the case of weapons Nixo provided help. It was against the law to export weapons and related products to China. Nonetheless, Nixon did so by applying pressure to American allies, like Britain, to do the exporting instead. 


13. I remember well this time of the Kissinger and Nixon visits. It is sickening in retrospect how this monstrously evil man was extolled, toasted, complemented, and helped by Nixon, Kissinger, and the Western media in their train. This went beyond the real politics of an enemy of my enemy is my friend. It was a virtually a love fest.


To understand this is to understand the pro-Mao propaganda that had infected Americans and American leaders over the previous five decades. Much of this was due to outright gushing treatment of Mao, as by the aforementioned <i>Red Star Over China</i>. But it was also due to the dominance of China studies by fellow travelers, those who hated the Chiang Nationalist regime (and their was much to hate), and were thus sympathetic to Mao; or those experts who rarely tried to look beneath the information they were getting on China. When I wrote my book on China, even some of the anti-communists I read did not realize how some of what they believed was propaganda, as for example on the Great Famine, or Long March.


Anyway, Mao’s reputation had been failing and he was losing favor in the Third World when Nixon “played his China card.” The Nixon visits were just what Mao wanted. They boosted his worldwide reputation, including in the U.S.


14. I’ve never counted suicides as democide, but I should have. Families were torn apart; loved ones tortured and persecuted, if not killed; officials, professionals, students were jailed for no reason at all, and many were publicly beaten, dishonored, and humiliated. Suicides were everywhere, but remain uncounted. When you have as many as 100,000,000 persecuted in just the Cultural Revolution, I would guess that the number for all of Mao’s time in power must be in the millions. This would make the democide estimate of 73,000,000 conservative. 


The biography of Mao ends with this Epilogue: <blockquote>Today, Mao’s portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates the myth of Mao. </blockquote>


What is the lesson from all this? Never trust an absolute dictator. Don’t believe a word they say, nor any good or sympathetic thing said about them. Do nothing to increase their credibility or reputation. Diplomacy will not work with such dictators. And if push comes to shove, a war against them is just. It will save lives, and free people from their bloody chains.


Pray tell, my brother,

     Why do dictators kill

         and make war? 

     Is it for glory; for things, 

         for beliefs, for hatred,

         for power?

     Yes, but more, 

         because they can.</pre></blockquote>

Reevaluating China’s Democide to 73,000,000

November 24, 2008

(First published October 10, 2005. Broken links will be recovered as previously published blogs are republished here)

Two books have had a big impact on my evaluation of Mao’s rise to absolute power and his rule over China. One is Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, and the other is Mao: the Unknown Story that she wrote with her husband, Jon Halliday. I’m now convinced that that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin.

I will extract what is most surprising about both books in two parts. In this one, I want to wholly focus on the democide under Mao, and in the next blog, I’ll abstract the most important and surprising things I learned about him.

From the time I wrote my book on China’s Bloody Century (1991–here), I have held to these democide totals for Mao:

Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered
Rule over China (PRC) 1949-1987 = 35,236,000 murdered

However, some other scholars and researchers had put the PRC total in from 60,000,000 to a high 70,000,000. When I’ve been asked why my total is so low by comparison, I’ve responded that I did not include the China’s Great Famine 1958-1961. From my study of what was written on this in English, I believed that:

(1) the famine was due to the Great Leap Forward when Mao tried to catch up with the West in producing iron and steel;
(2) the factorization of agriculture, forcing virtually all peasants to give up their land, livestock, tools, and homes to live in regimented communes;
(3) the exuberant over reporting of agricultural production by commune and district managers for fear of the consequences of not meeting their quotas;
(4) the consequent belief of high communist officials that excess food was being produced and could be exported without starving the peasants;
(5) but, reports from traveling high officials indicated that peasants might be starving in certain localities;
(6) an investigative team was sent out from Beijing, and reported back that there was mass starvation;
(7) and then the CCP stopped exporting food and began to imports what was needed to stop the famine. 

Thus, although Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine, he was mislead about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies. Therefore, I argued, this was not a democide. Others, however, have so counted it, but I thought this was a sloppy application of the concepts of mass murder, genocide, or politicide (virtually no one used the concept of democide). They were right and I was wrong.

From the biography of Mao, which I trust (for those who might question it, look at the hundreds of interviews Chang and Halliday conducted with communist cadre and former high officials, and the extensive bibliography) I can now say that yes, Mao’s policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning. He didn’t care! Literally.

Indeed, wanted to take even more food from the mouths of his starving people in order to increase his export of food. It was all he had to export and he was after power. He was dead set on becoming the head of the international communist movement, and in making China a superpower. He thought he could rule the world. In order to do so, he exported vast quantities of food to the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Third World countries that he was trying to control. Ironically, some communist rulers knew about his famine and thus declined his food, since hey had more to feed their people than he did. With the Soviet Union, he was using food as a quid pro quo for weapons and weapon factories.

Those in the top circle of the CCP tried to alleviate the famine. They were arrested, some tortured, some executed or allowed to die horribly. Even in 1961, he wanted to INCREASE the amount of food taken from the people. But, at great risk to himself, Liu Shao-ch’i (President of the PRC and second in power) ambushed Mao at a CCP conference of 7,000, which agreed with Liu to alleviate the famine. Mao could not forgive Liu and the others, and because he believed he was thus losing control of the CCP, he launched a purge in 1965 called the Cultural Revolution to overthrow the CCP and replace it with the military. About 100,000,000 people were persecuted, and around 3,000,000 were murdered.

So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that.

Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered.

This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.

For perspective on Mao’s most bloody rule, all wars 1900-1987 cost in combat dead 34,021,000 — including WWI 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.

Think about that. One man. Only one man did that much killing. If anything should cause us to avoid anyone having such power at any cost, here it is. A war to prevent anyone from getting such power would save tens of millions of more lives than it would cost.

Now, my overall totals for world democide 1900-1999 must also be changed. I have estimated it to be 174,000,000 murdered, a figure familiar to you if you are a regular visitor to this blog or my website. With my reevaluation of Mao’s democide, I now put the total at 212,000,000, of which communist regimes murdered about 148,000,000. Also, compare this to combat dead. Communists overall have murdered four times those killed in combat, while globally the democide toll was over six times that number.

Yet, there are tons of books that treat war generally, but only three books that try to deal with mass murder, or democide generally and comprehensively. One is Elliot’s Twentieth Century Book of the Dead . It was published in 1972, however, and Elliot found that the toll for “atrocities” and war to be 110,000,000 for less than 3/4s of the century. It is here. My Statistics of Democide here, and Death By Government here are the only other books.

The democide that has murdered 212,000,000 people has almost been totally ignored in comparison to war that cost 34,000,000. Maybe this is why so many consider war the worst of all evils. And why there is so little interest in understanding that freedom would save tens of millions of lives and end democide forever.

Let freedom ring.