*The Tragedy of Liberation*

That is the new book by Frank Dikötter, the subtitle is A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957, and it is a prequel to his earlier Mao’s Great Famine.  His books are superb documents of the tyrannical age he studies.  Here is one excerpt:

In an orgy of false accusations and arbitrary denunciations, few escaped with their reputations intact.  By February no more than 10,000 of a total 50,000 ‘capitalists’ in Beijing were considered honest.  Similar figures came from other parts of the country.  To punish all would wreck the economy.  Mao had a solution to this conundrum.  He came up with a quota, ordering that a few should be killed to set the tone, while exemplary punishment should focus on 5 per cent of the most ‘reactionary’ suspects.  Across most cities, by a rough rule of thumb, about 1 per cent of the accused were shot, a further 1 per cent sent to labour camps for life, and 2 to 3 per cent imprisoned for terms of ten years or more.

This is not easy material to read about, but Dikötter’s books are landmark achievements of their time.

And as I am wont to say, China’s prospects and fundamentals look pretty good if you scrutinize the country’s history over the last 30 or also the last 3000 years.  It’s the time frame of the last 300 years that doesn’t look so good.


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