River Crab Archive: The Death Toll from Mao’s Great Famine (Correction)

When something disappears from the Internet in China, netizens joke that it has been “river-crabbed,” a play on the euphemism “harmonized.” The River Crab Archive is a collection of blog post titles, , and other materials deleted from their original sources on Chinese websites, either found by CDT or brought to our attention by outside projects. The editors have selected river-crabbed information of note from CDT Chinese’s ongoing compendium of the same name (河蟹档案).

The following deleted weibo was selected by CDT Chinese editors from FreeWeibo.

凤凰台张婉: [Diehard fifty-centers, let’s take a look at some data on 30 million people who starved to death!] The statistical data shows how three years of natural disasters starved 37.55 million people to death.


History of the Chinese Communist Party, Volume Two (1949-1978), by the Central Party History Research Office.

History of the Chinese Communist Party, Volume Two (1949-1978), by the Central Party History Research Office.


Underlined text:

Due to the large and sudden drop in the birth rate, the death rate shot up. According to official statistics, the total national population in 1960 shrank 10 million from the preceding year. The Xinyang region of Henan Province stands out in particular. In 1960, nine counties in Xinyang had death rates over 100‰ (100 for every 1000 people), which is several times the standard annual average.*


This is the grave result of the “Great Leap Forward,” the people’s commune movement, and the “Anti-Rightist” struggle. We should remember this bitter lesson.

这是“大跃进”,人民公社化运动和“反右倾” 斗争的严重后果,其沉痛的教训应该认真忠结和记取。

posted May 20, 2013 at 9:28 p.m.

Although this official history is available to ordinary Chinese citizens, its subject remains taboo and never lasts long on the Chinese Internet. The death toll of the Great Famine–known in China as “three years of natural disasters” but very much man-made–still has not been pinned down. In Mao’s Great Famine, historian Frank Dikötter calls 32 million a “conservative” estimate, while in Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, journalist Yang Jisheng puts the toll at 36 million. “The most officials have admitted is 20 million,” says Yang, whose book cannot be published in China. It is known, though, that over one million people died in the Xinyang region in 1960.

Via CDT Chinese. Translation by Wen Xin Liu.

*Correction: The death rate in parts of the Xinyang region in 1960 exceeded 100‰ (100 for every 1000 people), not 100% as previously stated.