Chinese Death Totals in The Great Leap Forward

The area that China encapsulates has always been one of the most populous regions in the world. Whenever population statistics are brought up it can be eye opening just to see how China stands above the rest. When it comes to tragedy’s, this is no different. This chart shows the low and high estimates of Chinese death totals in the Great Leap Forward, as well as other historical events.

While all the listed events were terrible in nature there is one event that stands out from the others: The Great Leap Forward. This event was the sole responsibility of China itself which brought great suffering to its citizens.

The Great Leap Forward was by far the worst event in the chart. Death estimates range from 20-43 million, and there are even some that have ventured higher than that. Many, if not most of these deaths were preventable, had it not been for the disastrous policies of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party.

Chinese Death Totals in The Great Leap Forward

Chinese Deaths by Historical Event chart

The Great Leap Forward lasted from 1948-1952. During this time the communist party sought to increase China’s grain yields and outputs as well as increase steel production and construction projects. The hope was to transform rural China out of an agrarian based economy.

They did this by banning private land ownership and forcing rural farmers into state owned communes. A variety of factors contributed to this tragedy. Poor planning and farming policies led to arable land sitting unused. The transfer of farmers to industrial workers left many fields without enough labor to harvest all the food. In addition, a locust swarm ruined entire fields of crops, due to their natural predators being killed off as part of the Four Pests Campaign. Famine became widespread as a result.

In addition despite the onset of famine, local authorities were under enormous pressure to report record yields. Because of this, food was redistributed out of regions that were starving and sent elsewhere. Even at the height of the famine, China was still a net exporter of grain.

Despite the obvious suffering of its people, the Chinese government did not change their policies, nor accept foreign aid. It is thought that they did not want to appear weak or seen a failures to foreign nations.

The Great Leap Forward has gone down as one of the worst policies in history. The suffering ended only once these policies were reversed and grain was allowed to be imported again. Because of the widespread famines, China’s population is estimated to have decreased between 1960 and 1961. Not only did mortality rates drastically rise, but birth rates drastically decreased as well.

All told, the Great Leap Forward was a horrific event that was largely preventable had the appropriate policies been enacted.


Source: Sino Stand

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