How many died as a result of persecutions and the communist policies of Mao? Perhaps you care to guess? Many people over the years have attempted to guess. But they have always underestimated. As more data rolled in during the 1980s and 1990s, and specialists have devoted themselves to investigations and estimates, the figures have become ever more reliable. And yet they remain imprecise. What kind of error term are we talking about? It could be as low as 40 million. It could be as high as 100 million – or more. In the Great Leap Forward from 1959 to 1961 alone, figures range between 20 million to 75 million. In the period before, 20 million. In the period after, tens of millions more.
As scholars in the area of mass death point out, most of us can't imagine 100 dead or 1000. Above that, we are just talking about statistics: they have no conceptual meaning for us. And there is only so much ghastly information that our brains can absorb, only so much blood we can imagine. And yet there is more to why China's communist experiment remains a hidden fact: it makes a decisive case against government power, one even more compelling than the cases of Russia or Germany in the 20th century.Share