Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine
Hungry Ghost.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorJasper Becker
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherHolt Paperbacks on April 15, 1998
Publication date
April 15, 1998
Media typePrint (Hardback)

Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine is a book written by Jasper Becker, the Beijing bureau chief for the South China Morning Post. Becker argues that the American press reported the Great Chinese Famine with accuracy, but leftists and communist sympathisers such as Edgar Snow, Rewi Alley, and Anna Louise Strong, remained silent or played down its severity, when Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward had turned into a horrible tragedy. Becker concludes that the tragedy could have been averted after the first year if Mao's senior advisers had dared to confront him.

People's communes[edit]

Mao Zedong in 1958 declared that China would overtake Great Britain in 15 years (later on he changed it into 2 to 3 years), and the way to do it is by setting up thousands of People's commune, both in the country side and cities, where Chinese would live in semi-military condition, when the "family as an institution" would be discarded. At the beginning, the government promised its people that food would be supplied for free and in abundance in the communal canteen permanently, people started to eat all the grain, including the seeds. When the grain production began to go down, "In many parts of the country, around the Chinese New Year of 1959, starvation set in and the weak and the elderly began to die." [1]


  • "'Hungry Ghosts' is the first book in English to provide detailed description of the massive famine in China between 1958 and 1962." Times Literary Supplement - Richard L. Edmonds (10/25/1996)
  • "Mr. Becker's remarkable book, which firmly establishes the Great Leap and the resulting famine as one of the worst atrocities of all time, strikes a heavy blow against willed ignorance of what took place."

New York Times - Richard Bernstein (02/05/1997)

  • "In this powerful and important book...Mr. Becker has well begun the job of filling in the blank pages of modern Chinese history--and in so doing, has offered both a grim tribute to the dead and a challenge to our consciences." New York Times Book Review - Nicholas Eberstadt
  • "It should be read by anyone interested in China, for, as a foreign correspondent in Peking, he [Becker] conducted hundreds of interviews and researched many unpublished documents....The a comprehensive study of the effects of the famine, which even went beyond China."

Literary Review - David Chipp (07/19/1996)


  1. ^ The Great Leap Backward By Nicholas Eberstadt|New York Times