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==Three Years of Disasters==
As the leader of China, Mao initiated the [[Great Leap Forward]], an economic plan intended to rapidly industrialize China's then largely rural economy.
Floods and drought brought about the "three bitter years" of 1959-62. In 1963 the Chinese press declared the famine of 1961-1962 the most sever since 1879. As a result the Chinese government imported over 25 million tons of grain from Canada and Australia to help relieve the suffering caused by the famine. The amount of grain imported, however, was limited by the U.S. embargo.
A Leading scholar in post-World War II Chinese scholarship, Maurice Meisner, has noted that the alleged 20 to 30 million deaths attributed to the Great Famine that occurred in the late 1950s a gross miscalculation. Wim F Werthheim, emeritus professor from the University of Amsterdam states,
"But the figure amounting to tens of millions ... [lacks] any historical basis. 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. At my first visit to China, in August 1957, I had asked to get the opportunity to meet two outstanding Chinese social scientists: Fei Xiao-tung, the sociologist, and Chen Ta, the demographer. I could not meet either of them, because they were both seriously criticized at that time as rightists; but I was allowed a visit by Pang Zenian, a Marxist philosopher who knew about the problems of both scholars. Chen Ta was criticized because he had attacked the pretended 1953 census. In the past he had organized censuses, and he could not believe that suddenly, within a rather short period, the total population of China had risen from 450 [million] to 600 million, as had been officially claimed by the Chinese authorities after the 1953 census. He would have [liked] to organize a scientifically well-founded census himself, instead of an assessment largely based on regional random samples as had happened in 1953. According to him, the method followed in that year was unscientific."
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