Candidate for California Schools Superintendent Wants to Add Great Chinese Famine to Curriculum

By Nathan Su
Nathan Su
Nathan Su
May 30, 2022 Updated: May 30, 2022

George Yang is a Chinese immigrant. As a candidate running for California Superintendent of Public Instructions, he wants to ensure that all students in the public schools will learn about the Great Chinese Famine.

“We, right now in the United States, only talk about the Holocaust,” said Yang during a phone interview with The Epoch Times. “It is unfortunate that many people, including kids in China, do not know about the Great Famine of China,” Yang said.

The Great Chinese Famine occurred during the period of China’s Great Leap Forward campaign in 1958, 1959, 1961, and 1962. Oxford University Press published a report (pdf) in 2015 on behalf of The Review of Economics Studies Limited titled “The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959-1961.” According to the report, the famine led to the deaths of 16.5 million to 45 million people.

Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng wrote a book based on his independent investigation of the famine. The book, titled “Tombstone: An Account of Chinese Famine in the 1960s,” reveals that 36 million Chinese people died from hunger because of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) extreme political and economic policies in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The book was published in 2008 in Hong Kong.

In September 2005, the Chinese government published a summary document titled: “The Situation of People Died with Unnatural Causes in Different Regions (of China) from 1959 to 1962.” The document shows that the number of Chinese people who died of “unnatural causes” within those four years included: 5.22 million in 1959, 11.55 million in 1960, 13.27 million in 1961, and 7.51 million in 1962. Based on this document, the total number of deaths was 37.55.

For comparison, the death toll of Jews in the World War II Holocaust was about 6 million.

In November 1957, CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily published a long commentary article that, for the first time, officially brought to the public the slogan “the Great Leap Forward.” The Chinese regime, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, initiated an aggressive economic development plan in which the regime would lead China to catch up with the UK’s economy within 5 years and the U.S. economy within 10 years.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese refugees queuing for a meal in Hong Kong, May 1962. During the famine caused by “The Great Leap Forward” policy, between 140.000 and 200.000 people illegally entered Hong Kong. (AFP via Getty Images)

The main agricultural goal of the plan was to increase China’s total food production from 195 million tons in 1957 to 525 million tons in 1959, a 270 percent increase in two years. The result-driven campaign eventually became the CCP’s political movement.

In order to accomplish the goals set by the CCP, all levels of officials were mobilized to find ways to increase food production. In the end, competing to manufacture reports showing huge food production became a political game played by the local CCP officials. The game was called “shooting satellites.”

On Sept. 18, 1958, People’s Daily reported a harvest of 65,217 kilograms of wheat per mu (a Chinese unit of measure, about 1/6 acre) in Guangxi Province, which was the highest “satellite” ever recorded during the Great Leap Forward campaign. Such exaggerated reports became common.

More than 60 years later, on Sept. 22, 2021, China News reported a new national record on paddy production in Guizhou Province of 1123.87 kilograms per mu.

The highest “satellite” production number in 1958 was about 58 times China’s 2021 national record.

The problem created by making up these production records was that the agricultural lands in China are owned by the government and farmers had to hand in most of the crops to the government. Local officials, after manufacturing the higher and higher production numbers on paper, had to hand in enough product to the central government to match their claims.

In order to gather enough crops, CCP officials forcefully took away everything from the farmers, including seeds for the next year’s planting and food for their families.

Today, people who are over 70 still talk about how they survived the Great Famine. People often tell of eating tree leaves, tree bark, and roots to survive. Many regions remember people who died of constipation because they ate Kaolinite, a clay mineral usually used for pot making.

China’s Great Leap Forward ended with the Great Famine.

Children were among those who suffered from the failed Great Leap Forward and subsequent famine. (NTDTV)
Children were among those who suffered from the failed Great Leap Forward and subsequent famine. (Screenchot via NTDTV)

During an interview with The Epoch Times, George Yang stated that for decades after the famine, China’s state owned media and school textbooks blamed natural disasters for causing the famine, an excuse proven baseless by historians and meteorologists.

George Yang came to the United States in 1992 when he was 15. Yang said that he loves history and has spent a lot of time looking for the true history of China after he came to the United States. As a candidate running for Golden State’s school superintendent, he wants to bring much of his knowledge to the education system.

For example, he believes that the Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not an appropriate subject for students before college age. He said that K-12 students should be taught facts, not theories. He suggests that CRT, along with many other theories about history, can be taught and discussed in colleges where students are much more mature.

As an immigrant from the biggest communist country in history, he suggests that China’s Great Famine is a much better replacement for CRT in curricula for K-12 students.

Nathan Su