A Study of Unnatural Deaths During the Difficult Three Year Period in China, 1959–1961

Enfu Cheng, Zhihua Zhan

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Abstract

The popular view that the number of unnatural deaths
in China during the Difficult Three Year Period (1959–1961)
amounted to some 30 million is false, as shown by careful analysis.
Taking the average death toll from 1955 to 1957 as the base
number, and combining this with unreported deaths from 1953 to
1964 and subsequent corrections, it may be estimated that approximately
four to five million people suffered unnatural deaths during
the Difficult Three Year Period. These deaths had a complex series
of causes. Starvation-caused deaths were the primary type, followed
by weak disaster relief, and then by mistakes of local government
in disaster relief. While the millions of unnatural deaths represent
a lesson that needs to be reflected upon, the efforts which the
Chinese government undertook to deal with the famine, as well
as the results achieved, should not be forgotten
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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