Yang Jisheng: China’s Great Shame

Roundup: Talking About History

Yang Jisheng, deputy editor of the historical journal Yanhuang Chunqiu and a former editor at the Xinhua News Agency, is the author of “Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962.” This essay was translated by Guo Jian from the Chinese.

THIRTY-SIX million people in China, including my uncle, who raised me like a father, starved to death between 1958 and 1962, during the man-made calamity known as the Great Famine. In thousands of cases, desperately hungry people resorted to cannibalism.

The toll was more than twice the number of fallen in World War I, and about six times the number of Ukrainians starved by Stalin in 1932-33 or the number of Jews murdered by Hitler during World War II.

After 50 years, the famine still cannot be freely discussed in the place where it happened. My book “Tombstone” could be published only in Hong Kong, Japan and the West. It remains banned in mainland China, where historical amnesia looms large and government control of information and expression has tightened during the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress, which began last week and will conclude with a once-in-a-decade leadership transition....

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