Changchun Famine in the News

Andrew Jacobs has a gutsy piece in the New York Times on the Changchun famine of 1948, caused by the communist encirclement of that city in the frigid and deadly Chinese civil war.  Of all the traumas wrapped up in the CCP’s rise to power, it may seem odd to single out this one: after all, the wounds of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were much more collective and devastating.

In a subsequent post, I hope to analyze a bit of how the text that started this whole debate (White Snow, Red Blood) is formulated and what it represents.  But to assume that the CCP would ever, ever include the Changchun famine (as part of the siege of Changchun led by another toxic name in the historical cabinet, Lin Biao, with help from a toxic ally, North Korea) is pure fantasy for the time being.  But again, that is what the foreign media is for, n’est oui?  Pulling back the curtain on the Chinese past.


  1. “The party has no use for objective history”.
    Oh, come on! The historic truth is that the PLA triumphantly marched the streets of Changchun after the five-months siege, fed the starved residents with miraculous porridge and made the dead walk again (with the exception of class enemies).
    Pulling back the curtain on the real Chinese past:

  2. Adam, you never did get to blog about the book. Would be very interested to read what you have to say. Have you read the book, or are you just commenting on what you’ve heard?

    The primary sources actually do talk about Changchun, but only obliquely. When I read the Times article, I instantly thought of Bodde’s Peking Diary: “This coming winter there will surely be starvation [in Mukden]. Conditions in Changchun are, if anything, worse.” The information is third-hand, but it suggests that people at least heard rumors about how bad things were in Changchun at the time.

    Westad’s Decisive Encounters states that “The Communist underground in Changchun had for some time been in touch with the main GMD commander there, Ceng Zesheng… He and most of his officers defected to the PLA, and Mao Zedong sent his personal orders to reinstate them with their ranks in the Communist army. They then, on 21 October, proceeded to shell their former comrades, the last loyal GMD troops …” One wonders why he held out so long if he’d been having second thoughts all along about the KMT cause.

    Other cities suffered through relatively brief sieges — a couple weeks. They were either taken by assault, or were betrayed as KMT officers defected and threw open the city gates, or were surrendered by KMT generals who didn’t really feel like fighting for CKS anymore (e.g., Beiping). How come Changchun had the bad luck to get starved out over five months?

    1. Tom, thanks much for this extensive comment, which is rather well timed; I’m off to Taipei tomorrow and the Chinese civil war is seriously back on the research radar screen. I’m going to cogitate a bit on your writing here and hope to post a longer response ASAP.

    1. Hi James! I think I probably did not…once again I am making too many promises! But I will dig around a bit, this is an important topic about which I’ve been more than a bit stagnant lately (memories of CCP consolidation)….Thanks also for the comments on Twitter, I’ve been unplugging gradually there but am hoping to keep up with KCNA at least on my Weibo…

      Are you in Seoul in August?

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