Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China's Great Leap Forward and Famine (Contemporary Chinese Studies)
Kimberley Ens Manning, Felix Wemheuer
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.
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.
the fate of having to starve, flee, or die as a result of natural disaster.”38 Of course, editorial writers were aware of the great degree of starvation that was being experienced throughout the nation’s rural areas while this piece was being issued; but, despite the facts, they chose, against their better judgment, to “bite the bullet” and stay within the Party line. However, in the face of alarming reports of starvation nationwide, a means of solving this problem had to be realized. On 3
hopes, ideas, and demands. They always had their “counter-actions” and measures by which they changed, corrected, or made the policies and systems of upper levels impossible. This reciprocity between the government and the peasants runs through the whole process and still exists today.47 The Strained Relationship between Peasants and Party Although there are important differences between the three approaches to the Great Leap and famine, there are also astonishing similarities. One of the latter
these women to make themselves into discursive bridges was the close and constant presence of local and, in some cases, county-level Party organizations. Indeed, Party organizations were crucial in both forming the political subjectivity of women activists and enabling them to realize this identity over an extended period of time. In the earliest years of the People’s Republic, the most important organizations in rural areas were the local Party committee (at the district or township level),
Great Leap Forward, and the People’s Commune Movement] (Kunming: Yunnan renmin chubanshe, 2002), 149. 3 Bo Yibo, Ruogan zhongda juece yu shijian de huigu (xiuding ben) [Reflections on Certain Major Decisions and Events] (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1997), 2:757. 4 Li Rui, Lushan huiyi shilu [Memorandum on the Lushan Conference] (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe, 1995), 9. 5 Regarding the Great Leap on the local level, see Ralph Thaxton, Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China: Mao’s