In light of the 120th birthday commemoration last year for Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party continues to elevate him to emperor-like status. Indeed, there are over 2,000 statues in Chinese cities commemorating the controversial leader.
It might be pertinent for the government and the people of China to scrutinize the actions of the revered figure. Since such scrutiny seems implausible in the one party state, the enlightening work of Frank Dikötter will have to suffice. Although not afforded access to sensitive documents, this has not stopped the Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong (only one of many prestigious accolades) on publishing several books on contemporary China like The Age of Openness: China before Mao (2007). Mao’s Great Famine (2010) must be considered his masterpiece because the work compiles a massive variety of statistics, records and other scholarly work on the Great Leap Forward.
Dikötter reasons that those killed between 1958 and 1962 are close to 45 million people through agrarian collectivisation (compared with a range of 15-35 million from previous researchers). The book is structured into six parts and it seems there is no coincidence that the book is clearly divided into two distinct sections. The first section (comprising parts one and two) focuses on the party’s relationship with its own people and with the outside world. It describes how the party has operated in the past and gives readers an insight into the bureaucratic functions at work and how a heavily idealised figure can blind the party and population to the realities on the ground.