Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China's Great Leap Forward and Famine (Contemporary Chinese Studies)

Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China's Great Leap Forward and Famine (Contemporary Chinese Studies)

Kimberley Ens Manning, Felix Wemheuer

Language: English

Pages: 333

ISBN: 2:00076502

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, Mao Zedong declared that "not even one person shall die of hunger." Yet some 30 million peasants died of starvation and exhaustion during the Great Leap Forward. Eating Bitterness reveals how men and women in rural and urban settings, from the provincial level to the grassroots, experienced the changes brought on by the party leaders' attempts to modernize China. This landmark volume lifts
the curtain of party propaganda to expose the suffering of citizens and the deeply-contested nature of state-society relations in Maoist China.

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it began to leaven, steaming it in a basket until cooked. The result was that, while using the traditional method of steaming, mo buns consisting of only one or at the most two jin could be produced from one jin of flour. Using the augmentation method, one jin of flour could yield five jin of mo buns. Commune members in Henan called these mo buns “Great Leap buns” and even composed a song to express their excitement: Great Leap buns cannot be over-rated, They cure your hunger and leave you sated.

organization and political implications. The Big Commune System was the system through which the Party and the state tried to impose what Li Rui calls the Soviet model onto Chinese society. Using the peasants’ hope of reducing individual risks to get them organized into communes, the state and the Party then used the commune system to force peasants into complying with the needs of industrialization and urban privileges. The peasants, however, soon realized that they had to defend themselves

ji, 109-11, translated by Andrew F. Jones as Chronicle of a Blood Merchant (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003). 21 The authors of one recent survey confirm that there were new folk songs in praise of the iron smelters, or “little furnaces” (xiaogaolu). See Wang Jialiang and Jin Han, Zhongguo xian-dangdaiwenxue [Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature] (Hangzhou: Zhejiang daxue chubanshe, 2001), 394. 22 The young poet’s name is given as Li Chin-chih, and her age is given as sixteen. See Wang

their objections were valid, the report stated, but their criticism was biased because they exaggerated temporary problems.23 The Central Committee ordered the political department to isolate and attack the rightists, but, at the same time, it emphasized that it was important not to identify soldiers as rightists. We can only speculate as to why the Party finally decided against labelling rightists in the countryside. One reason might be that the labelling of the people in the countryside was

Communes”], in Jianguo yilai zhongyao wenxian xuanbian [Selected Important Documents since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China] (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1996), 12:309. 37 Dangdai Zhongguo nongye hezuohua bianjishi, “Zhonggong Hebei shengwei guanyu guanche bajie qizhong quanhui jingshen de baogao,” 565. 38 Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiushi, ed., “Zhonggong zhongyang guanyu nongye de wutiao jinji zhishi” [Central Committee’s Five Emergency Measures for Agriculture],

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