Mass killings of landlords under Mao Zedong

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Mass killings of landlords under Mao Zedong
A man reads the Land Reform Law of PRC.jpg
The land reform staff publicizing the Land Reform Law to peasants in 1950
LocationPeople's Republic of China
Date1947–1951[1][2][3] or
1947–1976[note 1]
TargetAbolition of landlord class
Attack type
Classicide,[4][5][6] mass murder
Deaths200,000[7]–2,000,000[7][8][9] or 4,500,000[10] to 5,000,000[11] (1947–1951)[12]
10–15% remained in China by the 1970s; unknown how many fled to Hong Kong, Taiwan or South-east Asia during the political disturbances or died of natural causes
(1947–1976)[note 2]
PerpetratorsPeasants[2]

Part of Mao Zedong's land reform during the late phase of the Chinese Civil War[1] and the early People's Republic of China[2] was a campaign of mass killings of landlords[3] in order to redistribute land to the peasant class and landless workers,[13] causing the deaths of upwards of hundreds of thousands to millions.[7][10][4] Those who were killed were targeted on the basis of social class rather than ethnicity, except for certain provinces where it was an ethnic conflict against ethnic minorities in China. The neologism "classicide" is used to describe the killings.[4] Class-motivated mass killings continued almost throughout the 30 years of social and economic transformation in Maoist China. Out of an estimated 10 to 15 million landlords, Harry Wu claims that 85–90% of them were either killed or fled overseas, especially from South China.[4][14]

Classicide[edit]

Initial classicide (1947–1951)[edit]

1947–1950s killings[edit]

The idea of a violent campaign against the landlord class was already drawn up in 1947 by Kang Sheng, an expert on terror tactics.[1] Ren Bishi, a member of the party's Central Committee, likewise stated in a 1948 speech that "30,000,000 landlords and rich peasants would have to be destroyed."[10] Shortly after the founding of the PRC in 1949, land reform, according to Mao biographer Philip Short, "lurched violently to the left" with Mao Zedong laying down new guidelines for "not correcting excesses prematurely."[2] Beatings, while not officially promoted by the party, were not prohibited either. While landlords had no protection, those who were branded "rich peasants" received moderate protections from violence and those on the lower end were fully protected.[15]

In this vein Mao insisted that the people themselves, not the security organs, should become involved in killing landlords who had oppressed them, which was quite different from Soviet practice.[2] Mao thought that peasants who killed landlords with their bare hands would become permanently linked to the revolutionary process in a way that passive spectators could not be.[2] Those condemned as landlords were buried alive, dismembered, strangled and shot.[15] The killing eventually gave rise to the saying "dou di zhu" (斗地主), or "fight the landlord" which was used by Mao to build support for the party.[12]

Death toll of the 1947–1951 killings[edit]

The actual number of people who were killed in the land reform campaign is believed to be between 200,000 and two million[7] although some allege higher numbers, they are all much lower than Ren Bishi's belief that 30,000,000 would need to be annihilated.[10] There were policies in certain regions of China not necessarily obeyed which required the selection of "at least one landlord, and usually several, in virtually every village for public execution".Estimate for the number of deaths range from 200,000,[7] 2,000,000,[7][8][16][17][18] up to 5 million[19][11] executions for the years 1949-1953, along with 1.5 million people,[20] to 6 million,[21] being sent to "reform through labour" camps where many perished.[21] Philip Short noted that such estimates exclude the hundreds of thousands driven to suicide during "struggle sessions" of the three-anti/five-anti campaigns, which also occurred around the same time.[22]

Economic effects[edit]

Historian Walter Scheidel notes that the violence of the land reform campaign had a significant impact on economic inequality. He gives as an example the village of Zhangzhuangcun, made famous by Hinton's book Fanshen:

In Zhangzhuangcun, in the more thoroughly reformed north of the country, most "landlords" and "rich peasants" had lost all their land and often their lives or had fled. All formerly landless workers had received land, which eliminated this category altogether. As a result, "middling peasants," who now accounted for 90 percent of the village population, owned 90.8 percent of the land, as close to perfect equality as one could possibly hope for.[13]

Great Leap Forward (1958–1962)[edit]

The Great Leap Forward was an economic and social campaign by the Communist Party of China (CPC) from 1958 to 1962. The campaign was led by Chairman Mao Zedong and aimed to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into a socialist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization. However, it is widely considered to have caused the Great Chinese Famine. 20 to 43 million people perished from starvation during the Great Leap Forward.[23] Not all deaths during the Great Leap Forward were due to starvation. Frank Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death and an additional 1 to 3 million people committed suicide.[24] The Great Leap Forward also led to the greatest destruction of real estate in human history, outstripping any of the bombing campaigns during World War II.[25] Approximately 30 to 40 percent of all houses were demolished.[26] Frank Dikötter states that "homes were pulled down to make fertilizer, to build canteens, to relocate villagers, to straighten roads, to make place for a better future beckoning ahead or simply to punish their owners."[25]

Great Leap Forward as classicide[edit]

Edwin Daniel Jacob made the case that the Great Leap Forward was a genocidal campaign along class lines: "The Great Leap Forward constituted genocide, as Mao employed all of Stanton's "Eight Steps of Genocide" against his Chinese compatriots in his unsuccessful effort to launch China into a sterling model of communism. Mao classified the Chinese agrarians according to economic lines, labeling them peasants and wealthy peasants."[23]

Cultural Revolution (1966–1976)[edit]

The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement that took place in China from 1966 until 1976. Set into motion by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve 'true' Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-establish Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party. At least 400,000[27] to by some estimates 10,000,000 people[28] perished during the Cultural Revolution as the result of communal massacres and starvation for the sake of these inter-party struggles.

Class motivations in the Cultural Revolution[edit]

By the time the Cultural Revolution broke out, the landlord class had all but faded away, so factions of the Chinese Communist Party used class terms as a means to purge each other under the guise of fighting the bourgeoisie.[29]

Retaliation by landlords[edit]

During the Chinese Civil War, the Kuomintang helped establish the "Huanxiang Tuan" (還鄉團), or Homecoming Legion, which was composed of landlords who sought the return of their redistributed land and property from peasants and CCP guerrillas, as well as forcibly conscripted peasants and communist POWs.[30] The Homecoming legion conducted its guerrilla warfare campaign against CCP forces and purported collaborators up until the end of the civil war in 1949.[30]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Class killings continued until the end of Mao's rule which lasted from 1949–1976.[4]
  2. ^ "According to research, in 1949 there were around 10 to 15 million members of the landlords and rich peasants nationwide. By the end of the 1970s, when the Cultural Revolution had ended, only 10 to 15 percent of them remained alive."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Moore, Malcolm. "Children and families suffered in Mao purges". Telegraph. According to Mao, the Unknown Story, a biography of the dictator by Jung Chang, the fight against the landlords was drawn up between March and June 1947 by Kang Sheng, an expert on intelligence and terror tactics. ... Some grisly scenes took place right under Mao's nose in Jiaxian county, where he was staying from August to November 1947.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Short, Philip (2001). Mao: A Life. Owl Books. pp. 436–437. ISBN 0-8050-6638-1.
  3. ^ a b James Palmer, The Death of Mao: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Birth of the New China, Faber & Faber, 2012, ch. 1: "Who will protect us now": "[live burial] was followed by the mass killings of landlords, rich peasants and supposed collaborators and Nationalist supporters in 1949–51, when any wild accusation could result in a lynching."
  4. ^ a b c d e f Wu, Harry. "Classicide in Communist China". Comparative Civilizations Review.
  5. ^ Martin Shaw (2007). What Is Genocide?. Cambridge, England, UK; Malden, Massachusetts, USA: Polity Press. p. 72.
  6. ^ Su, Yang. "Collective Killings in Rural China".
  7. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, J. A. G. (2006). A History of China (Palgrave Essential Histories Series). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 257. ISBN 978-1403992758. Estimates of the number of landlords and rural power-holders who died range from 200,000 to two million.
  8. ^ a b Twitchett, Denis; John K. Fairbank; Roderick MacFarquhar (1987). The Cambridge history of China. Cambridge University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-521-24336-0. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  9. ^ Maurice Meisner. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic, Third Edition. Free Press, 1999. ISBN 0-684-85635-2 p. 72: "... the estimate of many relatively impartial observers that there were 2,000,000 people executed during the first three years of the People's Republic is probably as accurate a guess as one can make on the basis of scanty information."
  10. ^ a b c d Rummel, Rudolph J. (2007). China's bloody century: genocide and mass murder since 1900. Transaction Publishers. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-4128-0670-1.
  11. ^ a b Lee Feigon. Mao: A Reinterpretation. Ivan R. Dee, 2002. ISBN 1-56663-522-5 p. 96: "By 1952 they had extended land reform throughout the countryside, but in the process somewhere between two and five million landlords had been killed."
  12. ^ a b Moore, Malcolm. "Mao's hated landlords allowed to return to China". Telegraph.
  13. ^ a b Scheidel, Walter (2017). The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton University Press. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-691-16502-8.
  14. ^ [1]"Wealthy farmers" and rural landlords fleeing the communist land redistribution program (mostly during 1951 to 1954)
  15. ^ a b Scheidel, Walter (2017). The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton University Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-691-16502-8.
  16. ^ Maurice Meisner. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic, Third Edition. Free Press, 1999. ISBN 0-684-85635-2 p. 72: "... the estimate of many relatively impartial observers that there were 2,000,000 people executed during the first three years of the People's Republic is probably as accurate a guess as one can make on the basis of scanty information."
  17. ^ Maurice Meisner. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic, Third Edition. Free,Press, 1999. ISBN 0-684-85635-2 p. 72: "...the estimate of many relatively impartial observers that there were 2,000,000 people executed during the first three years of the People's Republic is probably as accurate a guess as one can make on the basis of scanty information."
  18. ^ Twitchett, Denis; John K. Fairbank; Roderick MacFarquhar. The Cambridge history of China. Cambridge University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-521-24336-X. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  19. ^ Steven W. Mosher. China Misperceived: American Illusions and Chinese Reality. Basic Books, 1992. ISBN 0-465-09813-4 pg 74: "...a figure that Fairbank has cited as the upper range of "sober" estimates."
  20. ^ Short, Philip (2001). Mao: A Life. Owl Books. p. 436. ISBN 0-8050-6638-1.
  21. ^ a b Benjamin A. Valentino. Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century Cornell University Press, 2004. pp. 121-122. ISBN 0-8014-3965-5
  22. ^ Short, Philip (2001). Mao: A Life. Owl Books. p. 437. ISBN 0-8050-6638-1.
  23. ^ a b "Mao and The Great Leap Forward". Rutgers.
  24. ^ Frank Dikötter (2010). Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62. pp. 298, 304.
  25. ^ a b Dikötter (2010). pp. xi, xii.
  26. ^ Dikötter (2010). p. 169.
  27. ^ Maurice Meisner (1999). Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic, Third Edition. p. 354.
  28. ^ "The Chinese Case: Was It Genocide or Poor Policy?" by Merrill Goldman (Merle Goldman) featuring Lydia Perry (Tuesday, December 5, 1995).
  29. ^ Rees, Jeremy (n.d.). "Class Struggle and the Cultural Revolution".
  30. ^ a b Zaiyu, Liu (2002). 第二次國共戰爭時期的還鄉團 (PDF). Hong Kong: Twenty First Century Bimonthly.

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