What more cheerful way to spend an evening in a restaurant in Shanghai than to discuss famine, death, political murder, ideological induced cruelty and the legacy of alienation and recrimination of the Great Leap Forward? Perhaps only an afternoon in Costa Coffee chatting about throwing people out of windows and forcing them to work in pigsties in the Cultural Revolution could compete – but hey, the RAS Shanghai will get there!
RAS BOOK CLUB
Monday 20th August 2012 at 6:30 pm
Venue: glo London (3/F, VIP Room or Lounge)
1 Wulumuqi, near Dongping Lu (across from American Consulate)
The RAS Book Club will meet to discuss Mao’s Great Famine:The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe 1958-62 by Frank Dikötter. . Copies of the book will be available at RAS events prior to this meeting. You may also obtain a copy of the book by contacting the RAS Book Club (see below).
N.B. RESERVATIONS ESSENTIAL AS SPACE IS LIMITED AT THIS EVENT.
Entrance: RMB 70 (RAS Members) and RMB 100 (non-members) including a drink (tea, coffee, soft drink, or glass of wine). Those unable to make the donation but wishing to attend may contact us for exemption prior to this RAS Book Club event. Membership applications and membership renewals will be available at this event.
MAO’S GREAT FAMINE
The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe 1958-62
Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up and overtake Britain in less than 15 years. The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives.
Access to Communist Party archives has long been denied to all but the most loyal historians, but now a new law has opened up thousands of central and provincial documents that fundamentally change the way the Maoist era can be studied. Frank Dikötter’s astonishing, riveting and detailed book chronicles an era in Chinese history that has inspired much speculated, but has never before been fully documented.
Dikötter shows that instead of lifting China into the world’s elite group of superpowers to prove the power of Communism, the Great Leap Forward was a giant and disastrous step in the opposite direction. Under this initiative, the country became the site of the most deadly mass killings, the greatest demolition of residential property and the most blatant destruction of the natural environment in human history. At least 45 million people were worked or starved to death, up to a third of all housing was turned to rubble, and the land was savaged in a maniacal pursuit of industrial accomplishments.
Piecing together both the vicious machinations in the corridors of power and the everyday experiences of ordinary people, Dikötter at last gives a voice to the dead and the disenfranchised. This book definitively recasts the history of the People’s Republic of China.
Mao’s Great Famine won the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2011. Beating the five other works on the shortlist, it was characterized by the judges as “stunningly original and hugely important.” Dikötter is Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches courses on both Mao and the Great Chinese Famine. He is also Professor of Modern History of China at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. In 2008, Dikötter published The Age of Openness: China Before Mao, which could almost be considered a prequel to his latest book. It provides an account of the Republican era of Chinese history, spanning the early 20th Century to the Communist Party takeover in 1949. This was a period of unprecedented openness during which China actively pursued engagement with the world, as evidenced by a pluralistic intellectual environment, thriving open markets and economic growth, and expanded liberties and rule of law.