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In July 1958, top leaders were already clear about the failures of the Great Leap Forward and the suffering of the common people. At a famous conference in Lushan, Marshal Peng Dehuai – a personal friend of Mao Zedong’s almost since childhood – pleaded with the chairman to stop the faulty plans. But Mao rejected the criticism and demoted Peng, denying the famine that was already setting in.

Chinese Marshal Peng Dehuai, who had commanded the Chinese Army during the Korean War and was purged after his criticism of Mao Zedong’s policies during the Great Leap Forward, is shown being dragged by Red Guards to a public humiliation ceremony in Beijing in the 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution. Photo: Reddit

In the following two years, despite the hunger in the Chinese countryside, Beijing carried on with exporting grain to the Soviet Union. Only in January 1962 were the policies reversed. Mao was demoted. Day-to-day business was transferred to Liu Shaoqi, who then became chairman of the state, whereas Mao remained chairman of the party.

There may be deep lessons to draw from those events of 60 years agoin view of the present choices for dealing with Covid in China.





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