The police log is chilling. ‘Date: March 1960,’ it states, ‘Name of culprit: Zhu Shuangxi. Victims: Husband and elder son. Manner of crime: Corpses exhumed and eaten.’
You gulp in horror as you realise what this means — a woman cooked and ate the flesh of her own family.
And then comes the lie — arguably part of the greatest lie in modern history. ‘Reason for crime: Livelihood issues.’
‘Livelihood issues’? For that euphemism in the official records of Red China under Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, read famine.
One of unparalleled devastation in which at least 45 million, and possibly as many as 60 million, men, women and children died in less than five years, and the desperate resorted to cannibalism.
Today, China is the new powerhouse of the world’s economy, outstripping everyone in its dash for growth, wealth and global influence.
In Beijing, Shanghai and a hundred other cities, a great leap forward is being enacted. Driven by capitalism, China is on course to overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy some time in the next decade.
What is even more astonishing about this performance is that just two generations ago, China was on its knees after the original Great Leap Forward, under Mao’s rigid communist control, collapsed into chaos, starvation and death on an unimaginable scale.
New information is constantly emerging from official party records documenting the horrors of that terrible period between 1958 and 1962. Much of it has been sifted and analysed by Professor Frank Dikotter of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
His book, Mao’s Great Famine, was recently awarded the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. It makes grim but necessary reading as it details the abject failures of communism and the terrible human cost of that pernicious ideology.
The celebrations of Mao Tse Tung’s 21 years in power
The disastrous famine that overtook China’s millions was the direct result of blind political dogma backed by centralised control and totalitarian power. Common sense was thrown out of the window, alongside any respect for humanity.
‘Revolution is not a dinner party,’ Mao said, one of those many thoughts that filled the famous Little Red Book beloved by radical students and trendy intellectuals in the West in the Sixties.
But for vast numbers of the people he ruled, dinner was a scraping of corn husks or the bark stripped from trees, and the only party was the one that ruthlessly beat and tortured them into submission and condemned them to a cruel life and a terrible death.
They were left, in the words of a much older Chinese aphorism, to ‘eat bitterness’.