Monday, January 7, 2013
China's Great Famine
Several people have questioned me about the terrible 'coverup' of China's most recent famine, the one that coincided with the Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1961, in which 30 million people died.
I know that this sounds trite, but the 'coverup' is just cultural style, not a sinister coverup.
I live in Thailand and have been sensitized to this difference – common to all the Confucian countries – between our treatment of past hurts and disasters and theirs.
Thai women, for example, will certainly try to disembowell you when they catch you cheating on them. But the next day (or when you are released from hospital) they will be as carefree, loving and attentive as ever. Similarly, shameful episodes in Thailand's history are simply not addressed. They are actively dropped down the memory hole by almost unanimous consent, as far as I can determine. I would never question a Thai about some of the dirty, tragic stuff in Thailand's past. It would be painful, embarrassing, and would accomplish nothing.
I've lived in Japan, too, and it's the same there, or moreso.
ALL Chinese are aware that there have been hundreds of famines in China's history in which hundreds of millions of them starved to death.
Like Amartya Sen they know that government incompetence was largely responsible, as it is in ALL famines in all times and all places (that was Sen's Nobel-winning 'discovery').
They're aware that there was a bad one in the past 65 years, during the CCP's tenure. They're also aware that they are all eating better and more regularly than ever in their 2,200 year history.
They've moved on. It's time we joined them.