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Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union$
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Felix Wemheuer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300195811

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300195811.001.0001

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Preventing Urban Famine by Starving the Countryside (1959–1962)

Preventing Urban Famine by Starving the Countryside (1959–1962)

(p.115) 4 Preventing Urban Famine by Starving the Countryside (1959–1962)
Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union

Felix Wemheuer

Yale University Press

This chapter shows how the Chinese government dealt with shortages and hunger during the peak of the famine. The aim is to demonstrate the impact of government decisions regarding food supply on the development of the famine between 1959 and 1962. The chapter begins with the attitudes of the leadership regarding the underreporting of production by peasants and local cadres; during this period the narrative that peasants were feigning hunger contributed to violent campaigns to search for hidden grain. Next, it analyzes why and how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided to cut rural and urban rations at a time of no urban grain stocks, and considers the failure to transfer grain from the countryside. The chapter argues that the government did not ignore the rural famine but launched several policies to prevent its turning into an urban one. It explores how it succeeded in preventing massive urban unrest. Finally, it presents arguments about how the famine ended. One important factor was the decision to import grain in late 1960.

Keywords:   China, famine, hunger, peasants, food supply, food policy, grain imports, Chinese Community Party

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