The Chinese Communist Party came to power in China in 1949, when Chinese communist revolution ended a long and bloody civil war between communists and nationalists. There is a general consensus among historians that after Mao Zedong seized power, his policies and political purges caused directly or indirectly the deaths of tens of millions of people. Based on the Soviets’ experience, Mao considered violence necessary to achieve an ideal society derived from Marxism and planned and executed violence on a grand scale.
Land reform and the suppression of counterrevolutionaries
The first large-scale killings under Mao took place during land reform and the counterrevolutionary campaign. In official study materials published in 1948, Mao envisaged that “one-tenth of the peasants” (or about 50,000,000) “would have to be destroyed” to facilitate agrarian reform. Actual numbers killed in land reform are believed to have been lower, but at least one million.
The suppression of counterrevolutionaries targeted mainly former Kuomintang officials and intellectuals suspected of disloyalty. At least 712,000 people were executed, 1,290,000 were imprisoned in labor camps and 1,200,000 were “subject to control at various times.”
The Great Leap Forward
Benjamin Valentino says that the Great Leap Forward was a cause of the Great Chinese Famine and that the worst effects of the famine were steered towards the regime’s enemies. Those labeled as “black elements” (religious leaders, rightists, rich peasants, etc.) in any earlier campaign died in the greatest numbers, as they were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food. In Mao’s Great Famine, historian Frank Dikötter writes that “coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward” and it “motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history.” His research in local and provincial Chinese archives indicates the death toll was at least 45 million, and that “In most cases the party knew very well that it was starving its own people to death.” In a secret meeting at Shanghai in 1959, Mao issued the order to procure one third of all grain from the countryside. He said: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.” Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were summarily killed or tortured to death during this period.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Sinologists Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals estimate that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in the violence of the Cultural Revolution, in rural China alone. Mao’s Red Guards were given carte blanche to abuse and kill the revolution’s enemies. For example, in August 1966, over 100 teachers were murdered by their students in western Beijing alone.
Tiananmen Square – China
“It is usually called the Tiananmen Square Massacre. For seven weeks in the revolutionary year of 1989, Chinese students and citizens took over Tiananmen Square in Beijing, calling for reforms and greater freedom. It seemed for a while that revolution was coming to China. But by the time it was over there had been a massive crackdown by the government and thousands of demonstrators had been killed.” –
When the numbers of activists in the square topped 1 million, the Communist Party leaders feared their authority was under serious challenge – CNN
On June 4, troops opened fire on the crowd. 2,600 were estimated dead and 10,000 injured.