In 1936 Mao Tse-Tung, then a cave-dwelling revolutionary, told Edgar Snow his life story. Snow recorded Mao's self-serving autobiography in Red Star Over China, which for decades made the American's name as the leading reporter in China.
Back in China twenty-four years later, Snow was pestered by news agencies enquiring about mass starvation. The Snow of the 1930s had gone into the field to see for himself a prolonged drought in the north-west, where people were rumoured to be selling their children. But this time he relied on his access to top officials such as Premier Zhou Enlai, and foreigners who flacked for China such as the New Zealander Rewi Alley. In the book he wrote about that trip, The Other Side of the River, Snow stated, 'I saw no starving people in China ... Considerable malnutrition undoubtedly existed. Mass starvation? No.' And most positively: 'Whatever he was eating, the average Chinese maintained himself in good health, as far as anyone could see.'
In brutal fact, between 1959 and 1962, at least forty-three million Chinese died during the famine Snow didn't bother to see. Most died of hunger, over two million were executed or were beaten or tortured to death, the birth rate halved in some places, parents sold their children, and people dug up the dead and ate them.
The cause of this disaster, the worst ever to befall China and one of the worst anywhere at any time, was Mao, who, cheered on by his sycophantic and frightened colleagues, decreed that before long China's economy must overtake that of the Soviet Union, Britain and even the US. Mao suggested that 'When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill,' and declared that anyone who questioned his policies was a 'Rightist', a toxic term eventually applied to thirteen million Party members...I had always thought today's lefties swiped a page from the Alinsky playbook when they smeared their enemies as "Rightists" and "Islamophobes." Looks like Mao thought of it first. (I wish they'd post the above info at Bethune House, Canada's national shrine to Mao's army doctor.)