From 1959 to 1961, tens of millions died in a terrible famine in Chairman Mao’s China. There was bad weather, but foolish government policies, such as ordering peasants to abandon their fields and concentrate on making steel instead, were also to blame.
Anyone watching the mainstream media or listening to politicians would have had no idea that millions were starving to death. The State Statistical Bureau had been shut down and replaced by ‘good news reporting stations’, and there was fierce competition between local activists to be the most Maoist by announcing the best news.
So the smaller the real harvests became, the bigger the phantom ones reported. The New China News Agency said peasants were growing pumpkins weighing 10 stones, cows were supposed to have been successfully crossed with pigs. There seemed to be more than enough food to go round, so Mao cut imports and increased exports.
He refused to hand out food from the official granaries, and party activists tortured peasants they believed were hoarding non-existent grain. This was perhaps the first famine in history that devastated the whole of China, but the areas that suffered most were those run by the most fanatical Maoists.
*For more, see A Disastrous History of the World.