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Encyclopedia > Three Years of Natural Disasters

The Three Years of Natural Disasters (Simplified:三年自然灾害; Traditional:三年自然災害; pinyin: sān nián zì rán zāi hài) refers to the period in the People's Republic of China between 1959 and 1961, in which a combination of poor economic policies and rounds of natural disasters caused widespread famine. "Three Years of Economic Difficulty" and "Three Bitter Years" are also used by Chinese officials to describe this period. Simplified Chinese characters (Simplified Chinese: 简体字; Traditional Chinese: 簡體字; pinyin: jiǎntǐzì; also called 简化字/簡化字, jiǎnhuàzì) are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... Traditional Chinese characters are one of two standard character sets of printed contemporary Chinese written language. ... Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; Traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; Pinyin: HànyÇ” PÄ«nyÄ«n), also known as scheme of the Chinese phonetic alphabet (Simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音方案; Traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音方案; Pinyin: HànyÇ” PÄ«nyÄ«n fāngàn), while pin means spell(ing) and yin means sound(s)), is a system of romanization (phonemic notation... 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1961 calendar). ...

Contents


Causes

The causes and extent of the disaster are keenly debated. Until the early 1980's, the Chinese Government's stance, reflected by the name "Three Years of Natural Disasters", was that the famine was largely a result of a series of unfortunate natural disasters compounded by some planning errors. Researchers outside China have tended to focus on the massive institutional and policy changes which accompanied the Great Leap Forward as being important factors in magnifying the effect of adverse climatic conditions. Since the 1980's there has been greater official Chinese recognition of the importance of policy mistakes in causing the disaster, claiming that the disaster was 30% due to natural causes and 70% by mismanagement. The Great Leap Forward (Simplified Chinese: 大跃进; Traditional Chinese: 大躍進; Pinyin: Dàyuèjìn) of the Peoples Republic of China was an economic and social plan to use Chinas vast population to rapidly transform mainland China from a primarily agrarian economy dominated by peasant farmers into a modern, industrialized...


During the Great Leap Forward, farming was organized into communes and the cultivation of private plots forbidden. This forced collectivisation substantially reduced the incentives for peasants to work diligently and productively. Moreover, iron and steel production was identified as a key requirement for economic advancement and millions of peasants were ordered away from tending crops to increase iron and steel production through mining iron ore and limestone deposits and establishing small scale foundries fuelled by local firewood and in many cases smelting existing iron objects in order to boost output figures. The Great Leap Forward (Simplified Chinese: 大跃进; Traditional Chinese: 大躍進; Pinyin: Dàyuèjìn) of the Peoples Republic of China was an economic and social plan to use Chinas vast population to rapidly transform mainland China from a primarily agrarian economy dominated by peasant farmers into a modern, industrialized... Peoples communes (人民公社 Pinyin: renmin gongshe), in the Peoples Republic of China, were formerly the highest of three administrative levels in rural areas in the period from 1958 to 1982-85, when they were replaced by townships. ... Collective farming is an organizational unit in agriculture in which peasants are not paid wages, but rather receive a share of the farms net output. ...


Along with collectivisation, the central Government decreed several changes in agricultural techniques based on the ideas of Russian pseudo-scientist Trofim Lysenko. One of these ideas was close planting, whereby the density of seedlings was at first tripled and then doubled again. The theory was that plants of the same species would not compete with each other. In practice they did, which stunted growth and resulted in lower yields. Another policy, this time based on the ideas of Lysenko's colleague Teventy Maltsev encouraged peasants across China were urged to plow deeply into the soil (up to one or two meters), believing that the most fertile soil was deep in the earth or that this would allow extra strong root growth. However, useless rocks, soil, and sand were driven up instead, burying the topsoil. Trofim Lysenko Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (Russian: Трофи́м Дени́сович Лысе́нко) (September 29, 1898–November 20, 1976) was a Soviet biologist who, during the 1930s, led a campaign of agricultural science, now known as Lysenkoism, which went explicitly against contemporary agricultural genetics and lasted until the mid-1960s in the USSR. // Biography Lysenko, the son...


These radical changes in farming organisation coincided with adverse weather patterns including droughts and floods. In July of 1959, the Yellow River flooded in East China. According to the Disaster Center[1], it directly killed, either through starvation from crop failure or drowning, an estimated 3 million people, while other areas were affected in other ways as well. It is ranked as the seventh deadliest natural disaster in the 20th century.


In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land while an estimated 60 percent of agricultural land received no rain at all [2]. The Encyclopædia Britannica Yearbooks for 1958 to 1962 speak of abnormal weather, and droughts followed by floods. This includes 30 inches of rain at Hong Kong in five days in June 1959, part of a pattern that hit all of South China.


As a result of these factors grain production in China dropped by 15% in 1959 compared with 1958 and a further 15% in 1960 only to recover in 1962.


According to the work of Nobel prize winning economist and expert on famines Amartya Sen, most famines do not result just from lower food production, but also from an inappropriate or inefficient distribution of the food, often compounded by lack of information and indeed misinformation as to the extent of the problem. In the case of these Chinese famines, the urban population had protected legal rights for certain amounts of grain consumption. Local officials in the countryside competed to over report the levels of production that their communes had achieved in response to the new economic organisation and thus local peasants were left with a much reduced residue. Amartya Sen Dr Amartya Kumar Sen CH (Hon) (born November 3, 1933 in India), is an economist and a winner of the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences (sometimes referred to informally as the Nobel Prize for Economics) for his work on famine, human development theory, welfare economics, the...


Some also believe that if China and America had been at better terms, the number of starvations would have been much less. America had a trade embargo on China at the time and pressured allies to do the same, while the Chinese often gave false statistics about the famine that was occurring.


Outcome

According to China Statistical Yearbook (1984), crop production decreased from 2,000,000 tons (1958) to 1,435,000 tons (1960). Due to lack of food and incentive to marry at that point in time, the population was about 658,590,000 in 1961, about 13,480,000 less than the population of 1959. Birth rate decreased from 2.922% (1958) to 2.086% (1960) and death rate increased from 1.198% (1958) to 2.543% (1960), while the average numbers for 1962-1965 are about 4% and 1%, respectively.


The official estimated death toll in this period is about 15 million dead of starvation out of a total 40 million deaths. Many analysts have estimated that the number of "abnormal deaths" ranged from 10 millon to 100 million. Some western analysts such as Patricia Buckley Ebrey estimate that about 20-40 million people had died of starvation caused by bad government policy and natural disasters. J. Banister estimates this number is about 23 million. Li Chengrui, a former minister of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, estimated 22 million (1998). His estimation was based on Ansley J. Coale and Jiang Zhenghua's estimation of 17 million. Cao Shuji estimated 32.5 million.


Estimations vary largely because of inaccurate data and the absence of reliable country-wide population census. According to Wim F Werthheim, emeritus professor from the University of Amsterdam, in the article "Wild Swans and Mao's Agrarian Strategy";

Often it is argued that at the censuses of the 1960s "between 17 and 29 millions of Chinese" appeared to be missing, in comparison with the official census figures from the 1950s. But these calculations are lacking any semblance of reliability...it is hard to believe that suddenly, within a rather short period (1953-1960), the total population of China had risen from 450 [million] to 600 million.[3]

Politics

See also: Great Leap Forward (1958-1960) The Great Leap Forward (Simplified Chinese: 大跃进; Traditional Chinese: 大躍進; Pinyin: Dàyuèjìn) of the Peoples Republic of China was an economic and social plan to use Chinas vast population to rapidly transform mainland China from a primarily agrarian economy dominated by peasant farmers into a modern, industrialized... 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1960 (MCMLX) was a leap year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1960 calendar). ...


References

  • China Statistical Yearbook (1984), edited by State Statistical Bureau. China Statistical Publishing House, 1984.Page 83,141,190
  • China Statistical Yearbook (1991), edited by State Statistical Bureau. China Statistical Publishing House, 1991.
  • China Population Statistical Yearbook(1985), edited by State Statistical Bureau. China Statistical Bureau Publishing House, 1985.
  • J. Banister. "Analysis of recent data on the population of China", Population and Development, Vol.10, No.2, 1984
  • Li Chengrui(李成瑞): Population Change Caused by The Great Leap Movement, Demographic Study, No.1, 1998 pp. 97-111
  • Jiang Zhenghua(蒋正华),Method and Result of China Population Dynamic Estimation, Academic Report of Xi'an University, 1986(3). pp46,84
  • Ansley J. Coale, Rapid population change in China, 1952-1982, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1984.
  • Basil Ashton, Kenneth Hill, Alan Piazza, Robin Zeitz, "Famine in China, 1958-61", Population and Development Review, Vol. 10, No. 4. (Dec., 1984), pp. 613-645.
  • Xizhe Peng, "Demographic Consequences of the Great Leap Forward in China's Provinces", Population and Development Review, Vol. 13, No.4. (Dec., 1987), pp. 639-670
  • Cao Shuji,The deaths of China's population and its contributing factors during 1959-1961. China's Population Science (Jan.2005) (In Chinese)

Official Chinese statistics, shown as a graph.


Death rates in several Asian nations, 1960 to 1994.[4]


  Results from FactBites:
 
Three Years of Natural Disasters - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1141 words)
The Three Years of Natural Disasters (Simplified:三年自然灾害; Traditional:三年自然災害; pinyin: sān nián zì rán zāi hài) refers to the period in the People's Republic of China between 1959 and 1961, in which a combination of poor economic policies and rounds of natural disasters caused widespread famine.
The causes and extent of the disaster are keenly debated.
It is ranked as the seventh deadliest natural disaster in the 20th century.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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