China’s Great Famine: The True Story

Children starving in Shanghai during the Great Famine

Children starving in Shanghai

Communism was one of the most high-minded, noble ideas in human history. It was also one of the most catastrophic – an eternal testament to the saying that “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”. It offers some of the most profound lessons from history. We must reflect on this tragedy for many years before we learn its lessons in any fullness.

I suspect not many of you know that 36 to 45 million people starved to death in China under the rule of Mao Zedong. That is similar to the number of people who died in World War Two (40 to 50 million). But the number of deaths in the Great Famine (1958-1961) is not the worst of its horrors. For me, it is what the people did when faced with starvation. They did unspeakable things. They descended into bestiality, into utter savagery.

It just reminds us painfully that when human beings cannot even meet their most basic necessities, all human dignity is lost. All civilisation crumbles, and people become like animals. It reminds us of the hard reality that if a country does not take good care of its bread-and-butter concerns and attain economic security, then there is no point talking about things like democracy and human rights.

It is stories like this that convince me that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his fellow Old Guard leaders were right to pursue development before democracy.

Be warned before reading the article below: it is truly gut-wrenching.

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About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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2 Responses to China’s Great Famine: The True Story

  1. kevinseahsg says:

    I’ve just set up my tuition website, and looking through yours, it appears that I have MUCH to learn! Very nice teaser to a very horrific article. Reminds me of that “Child 44” novel, the fictionalized account of the famine in Russia (with a serial killer, coz paperback thriller!)

    Just a quick objection:
    It is not necessary for all human dignity to be lost when necessities are lacking. We’ve heard stories of utter love coming from concentration camps, after all. My gut feeling is that we need a balance when thinking about society — both bread/butter AND the less tangible things.

    Anyway, I’ll be lurking and learning from your website, cheers! 😉

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