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#15 of 17 ..........
15. Three Million Deaths in 1966-76
The last occurrence of deaths on a large scale under Mao took place during the Cultural Revolution.
JC adds three million to Mao’s record. Her number is not based on professional research. Her evidence points to Mao’s general responsibility for launching the Cultural Revolution, but not direct involvement or encouragement of violence and brutality, which caused most deaths in some, mostly remote, provinces.
“In the ten years from when Mao started the Purge until his death in 1976, at least 3 million people died violent deaths… . The killings were sponsored by the state” (p. 569). The number of 3 million is much higher than the official estimate. Jung Chang’s main reference for this number was from an article published in China Spring, a fervent anti-Chinese government magazine in the U.S., not well known for its neutrality and objectiveness.
There were 29 provinces/regions in China at that time. The worst case on Jung Chang’s list is Guangxi, where “killing claimed some 100,000 lives” (p. 566). To get a total 3 million nationwide we must have the same figure for all provinces following Guangxi. In Jung Chang’s second and third positions, however, we find Yunnan where some “seventeen thousand of them were executed or beaten to death, or driven to suicide”, and Inner Mongolia where “16,222 died” (p. 567). If we count every province except Guangxi with 20,000 deaths, the total number would be 0.66 million. The rest of the 2.34 million claimed by JC, have to remain her “unknown story”.
Now let us consider Mao’s responsibility. Jung Chang’s No. 1 case of Guangxi indeed offers “the clearest illustration”, where “one faction refused to recognize the authority of Mao’s point man, General (Wei) Guo-qing” (p. 565). So the killing was mainly due to faction fighting. JC provides the following evidence for Mao’s attitude towards such violence. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, “Mao had Chou En-lai announce to a Red Guard rally on Tiananmen on 31 August (1966): ‘Denounce by words, and not by violence’” (p. 540). “In 1968, factional clashes with firearms had shown little sign of abating, despite a flood of commands from Peking. One man who was being conspicuously unruly was Kuai Da-fu, the Qinghua University student whom Mao had used to torment Liu Shao-chi and his wife. Kuai had by now become the most famous ‘leftist’ in the country, and he was determined to bring his opponents in the university to their knees. He ignored repeated orders to stop… Mao had to step in personally to get him to toe the line, and simultaneously made an example of him to send a warning to the whole country that faction wars had to stop” (pp. 564-5). Since Mao personally stopped his most favorite ‘leftist’ using violence in faction fighting, he would unlikely have supported other provincial leftists doing so. The real story was probably what JC tells us: “Mao had unleashed a dynamic that was undermining his own power.
He had to abandon his attempt to identify factions as Left and Conservative, and called for all groups to unite. But his orders were ignored” (p. 564). According to Jung Chang’s evidence, Mao was guilty of miscalculation, without evil intention.