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China Model For The MENA – The Great Leap Backwards

Politics / China Sep 01, 2013 - 11:03 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Politics

FOOD IMPORTS AND POLITICAL CHANGE

Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward was comparable to Western claims that “surgical bombing” can fast-forward political change, but not to democracy, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Mao's great leap was an ideology-driven jump into darkness, a criminal act that destroyed food production and dislocated the economy, depriving China of the means to pay for food imports and plunged the country into mass starvation. Estimates put the numbers of dead through the key years of 1958-1962 at far above 35 million, but the real figures will never be known.


The MENA-wide slide into armed rebellion, anarchy and warlordism with its shock troops brandishing copies of the Coran in the air can be compared with the China experiment. In this national disaster, Little Red Books were held aloft by the Party's henchman and local brigades of armed guards during village slayings, that even included forced sessions of human cannibalism.

The Forum for Agricultural Development (FARM) in a 2011 report said this about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). “This region is the largest food and grain importing region in the world. Severe constraints on arable land and water make the region inherently dependent on imports to meet rising demand for food, particularly cereals”. The world's largest food importer nations, including grains, dairy products, vegetable oils and meat and fish on a per capita basis are all Arab countries. In the case of the MENA countries, Oil For Food has a simple meaning. When and if civil revolt, rebellion, riot and disturbance cut off oil and gas exports, these countries will rapidly face food shortage
 
The common link is that China's ideology-driven great leap backwards was into starvation as food supplies ran out. Its Great Famine was caused by Mao's ideological Great Leap Forward - his millennial political campaign aimed at catapulting China into the ranks of developed nations by the mental gymnastics of abandoning everything, including common sense.

PURE IDEOLOGY
Like the completely absent rational bases of Salafism or Wahabism, Mao's Great Leap sought local self reliance on the basis of ideological purity – and nothing else. One key example was the plan for totally decentralizing steel production to village level. Farm workers were forcibly redeployed from producing food to resmelting their iron farm tools in “peoples furnaces” to make steel— but most of it was too crude to be of any use. The Party confiscated whatever food was still produced for China's city dwellers and a massive famine resulted.

Able to consult over 3 600 file folders of Party information on the debacle, distributing file copies for safekeeping at friends' houses, the author of 'Tombstone', Yang Jisheng (published by Farrer Strauss and Giroux, 2012) gives the most detailed account of one of the worst ideology-driven manmade disasters in history. He explains he was able to get the files by saying to Party officials he was writing about the history of China’s rural economic policies and its food policy. Another tactic he used was saying that he was writing his own memoirs, and was concerned about how other authors and friends had had the experience of nearly all their families starving to death, especially in the three “black years” of 1958-61.

In the MENA today, in Syria and elsewhere, the official line of so-called Islamic militants and their Warlord chiefs is that foreign and heretical forces are responsible for the suffering. When the “devils” are destroyed and driven out as is the will of Allah, all will be well. In China in the 1950s, the Party firstly blamed the famine on the break of relations between the Soviets and the Mao regime. The Soviets had not been loyal, their ideology was suspect, the Chinese people had to unite around Mao and his China dream spun by ideologists, set out with crude logic in the Little Red Book they waved in the air, Coran-style.

For Jisheng, the fault was entirely political and due to Mao Zedong. The Party for purely ideological reasons, applied as political totalitarianism, destroyed the most basic traditional values starting with valuing life itself and other persons, and not seeking to do harm. It was also xenophobe or racist and portrayed normal human values as “foreign”. All of these values were negated. From 1950 onward, Mao had built a new Chinese interpretation of Marxism and Communism, where the passing down of traditional values hindered progress. The objective was to create a moral vacuum.

Mao's first eight years as Helmsman, we can note, were extraordinarily successful because of a set of external, as well as domestic circumstances, comparable to the role of high oil prices for MENA regional autocracies and dictatorships, enabling them to feed their proxy war shock troops with a bandana on their heads and an AK47 waved in the air, along with the Coran. China had moved forward in the good years, and the masses were willing to do as he instructed. Mao was able to take back the land he had first promised to distribute, setting up farming collectives supposedly competing against one another. Of course the production numbers and calculating bases were exaggerated - and this contributed to the famine because these fake figures were used for deciding the amounts taken from the peasants and given to the army and the Party.

Defenders of Mao can say that during his reign China developed a national rail system and urban electrification, that he re-established ties with the US and correctly suspected the Soviets were a threat and not a friend, but this in no way excuses Mao's errors. In the summer of 1962 China’s president and party ideologist Liu Shaoqi warned Mao that “History will record the role you and I played in the starvation of so many people, and the cannibalism will also be memorialized!” Liu had visited Hunan, his home province as well as Mao’s, where about a million people died of hunger. Some of the survivors had been forced to eat dead human bodies or had killed and eaten their weaker comrades.

IDEOLOGICAL CURSE
As Jisheng says in his book, when in power “Mao became immersed in China’s traditional monarchical culture” and the Lenin-Stalin concept of  “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

In the MENA region the cult of the dictatorial strongman, and the Prince or King with a close personal link to Allah are highly comparable. As in Mao's case, they draw on the same megalomania and greed for total power – and nothing else. When Mao was provided a list of slogans for his approval, he personally added: ‘Long Live Chairman Mao’ to the list.

The extremes of Salafism and Wahabism are comparable with Chairman Mao's decision that the family was not needed in the new order of self-reliance, all foreign ideas or concepts must be rejected, and farming collectivized with Party-controlled access to food. His chief ideologist Liu Shaoqi is quoted by Jisheng saying: “The family is a historically produced phenomenon and will be eliminated”. Only loyal Party members would accede to food – in other words non-believers must die. Grain, meat and fish production plummeted, also driven by bad weather. The communal kitchens disappeared. Zhou Enlai and other Party chiefs curried favour with Mao, telling him that agricultural production had in fact soared. Mao proclaimed that under “his new dispensation” crop yields would rise exponentially.

Yang Jisheng is a veteran journalist and discovering official secrets during his work, over the years, caused him to start losing his faith. He says his real awakening however came after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre: “The blood of those young students cleansed my brain of all the lies I had accepted over the previous decades.” As we know, keywords and phrases associated with “Tiananmen” remain blocked on the Internet in China. In the MENA, following the failed revolutions called “Arab Spring” and the vast numbers of dead who had hoped for change, the Islamic iron curtain is in place for denying this catastrophe – as we have already seen in the case of Moursi's overthrow in Egpt and the “ideological cleansing” of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni-extremist Gulf States.

THE CULT OF LYING
In 1959, when the numbers of starving was already immense, Mao said to his Party faithful: “Tell the peasants to resume eating chaff and herbs for half the year”, “and after some hardship for one or two or three years things will turn around”.

Yang Jisheng hopefully asserts today that “the rulers and ordinary citizens alike know in their hearts that the totalitarian system has reached its end”. Democratic forces will help banish the “historical amnesia imposed by those in power”. Observers say that because his book 'Tombstone' did not directly challenge China’s current regime, and Jisheng is not part of an organized movement, he escaped the long prison sentence meted out to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

As we know from history, famines are political, and therefore ideological from the Irish potato famines of the 19th century to the Bengal famine of 1943 and Ethiopia's famine in the 1980s. In the case of the Great Leap Forward, however, Mao and his ideologues took specific political decisions that led to mass starvation. One explanation is the brute force of ideology – easily comparable with the supreme role of ideology for Salafists and Wahabists. In Mao Zedong's case, his goal was to perpetuate a system based on fantasy and lies, with the repression of any person demanding transparency, which made the starvation worse. When the whole leadership was on occasions confronted with criticism, their sole response was to round on the critic, hunker down and prolong their criminal policy.

Above all, there was no external circumstance that could be used to excuse the entirely man-made famine caused by Mao Zedong.

Today, the food import dependent MENA is confronted by the threat of both external regime-change onslaught, and internal proxy war outrages perpetuated by so-called “Islamic” militias obeying their Warlords and petrodollar paymasters. We may to some extent be comforted by the prospect of massive damage to oil and gas supply or transport infrastructures – depriving the warlords of petrodollars – but this will also deprive the food import dependent countries of food supplies.

By Andrew McKillop

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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