Re-examining the History of the Great Famine in China through Documentary Evidence


  • Zhou Xun University of Essex



This paper examines documentary evidence that has emerged from the Chinese state archives showing that from the outset, the Great Leap Forward failed as a method for improving agricultural productivity; that its failure was quickly evident and purposefully ignored; and that the level of human suffering and death was greater than has been suggested. In addition, in contrast to the image of a strictly disciplined communist society in which errors at the top cause the entire machinery to grind to a halt, the portrait that emerges from archival documents is one of a society in deliquescence, as people resort to every means available to get by as well as they can.