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China's Bloody Century

Contents || Preface || Methods and Procedures

Other Democide Related Documents On This Site


What is democide?

"Democide vs genocide. Which is what?"

"War isn't this century's biggest killer"

"How many did communist regimes murder?"


"Democide in totalitarian states: mortacracies and megamurderers"

"The Holocaust in comparative and historical perspective"

Graduate Syllabus on Repression and Democide


"Power kills: genocide and mass murder"

"Power predicts democide"


Lethal Politics

Nazi Democide

Death By Government

Statistics of Democide (entire)


Chapter 1

Introduction and Overview

By R.J. Rummel

A single death is a tragedy,
a million deaths is a statistic.
----Joseph Stalin1

No other people in this century except Soviet citizens have suffered so much mass killing in cold blood as have the Chinese. They were murdered by rebels conniving with their own Empress, and then with the defeat in war of the dynasty, by soldiers and citizens of many other lands. They were killed by mini-despots--warlords--who ruled one part of China or another. They were slaughtered because they happened to live where Nationalist, warlords, communists, or foreign troops fought each other. They were executed because they had the wrong beliefs or attitudes in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were shot because they criticized or opposed their rulers. They were butchered because they resisted rape, were raped, or tried to prevent rape. They were wiped out because they had food or wealth that soldiers or officials wanted. They were assassinated because they were leaders, a threat, or potential antagonists. They were blotted out in the process of building a new society. And they died simply because they were in the way.

These poor souls experienced every manner of death for every conceivable reason. Genocide, politicide, mass murder, massacres, and individually directed assassinations; burning alive, burying alive, starvation, drowning, infecting with germs, shooting, stabbing; this for personal power, out of feelings of superiority, because of lust or greed, to terrorize others into surrendering, to keep subjects in line, out of nationalist ideals, or to achieve utopia.

China began the century with a weak and corrupt Chinese dynasty on the verge of collapse and beset by European imperialism; ninety years later China has become truly independent and sovereign, but is in the grip of an alien, totalitarian ideology that allows little room for personal rights or individual freedom. Democracy, an ideal that motivated many of those that worked to bring down the dynasty and create a republic in the early years of this century, seems even less possible today then it did then.

Between the extremes of a very traditional, authoritarian dynasty and arbitrary, totalitarian rule, the Chinese people have in one region or another gone through multiple governances. After the Dynasty fell in 1911, China was governed by an ineffective and disunited Republican government. When General Yüan Shih-k'ai died in 1916, the one unifying leader of this government, China was largely divided by warlords, who governed their separate regions as though sovereign and independent countries. Many were absolute dictators, fighting hundreds of wars to gain more power or protect their territory.

In the midst of this political anarchy rose two forces. One was that for national unity and self-determination, directed democracy, and socialism or modernization; the other for revolutionary communism. The first force was led by Sun Yat-sen and the party he founded, the Kuomintang. At first this party combined both forces--the communists and those non-communists who were seeking to create a modern, national state--into one driving to defeat the warlords and unify China.

But these incompatible forces soon fell out. Subservient to Moscow, the communists sought to dominate the Kuomintang and prematurely organized revolution in the streets. Chiang Kai-shek, the acknowledged leader of the Kuomintang and Republican forces after Sun Yat-sen's death, turned on the communists in a bloody coup in 1927, massacring thousands of them. From that time on, there would be negotiations, truces, and common fronts, but the fundamental risks to Chinese life and limb was determined for the next twenty-two years. It was a life and death, three-cornered struggle between the centrifugal forces of the warlord dictators, and the exclusively integrating, but opposing forces of the totalitarian communists and authoritarian Nationalists (as Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang Party and government became known). As though this deadly struggle was not enough, Japanese forces entered the fray in 1937 to subordinate China to their own conception of a unified Asia, under Japanese guidance, of course. While ostensibly this intervention and the consequent Sino-Japanese War forced the Nationalists and communists into a common front, each maneuvered for strategic advantage. Soon Japanese soldiers would be able to enjoy a picnic while watching them kill each other.

The defeat of Japan in 1945 by the United States presaged, after some hesitation and truces, the final struggle between the Nationalists and communists for total victory. Warlordism had been virtually extinguished in the previous years, and now only the two antagonistic forces remained. This massive and bloody civil war, involving millions of troops, militia, and peasant laborers; rebellions, massacres and terror; destructive inflation and ruin; ended with the total victory of the communists on Mainland China by the end of 1949.

In all these military struggles from 1900 to 1949, with soldiers of one or another of the hundreds of armies criss-crossing the land, in total some 8,963,000 soldiers and civilians probably were killed. In this one county this is a death toll virtually the same as that for all nations involved in all the battles of World War I.

But our interest here is not in the war dead, but in the innocents and helpless who were slaughtered during, between, or after these wars. This because they happened to live on one side or the other, or were victims of the repression and terror of those armies or governments that occupied their land. Of those killed by warlords little need be said. Although some warlords were considerate of their subjects, ruling benevolently, generally they were tyrants brooking little opposition. Repression was often massive and massacres were not infrequent; opposition usually meant death. The figures on those killed by the warlords are the roughest of all in this book. Putting available information together and making some conservative guesses, however, I estimate that some 910,000 people likely were murdered by the warlords or their soldiers, perhaps even a third more than this.

It is a commentary on China's modern history that this number, near a million killed, incredible in itself, much more than the battle dead in all American wars since 1775, will look small in comparison to the soon to be mentioned millions killed by the Nationalists, communists, and Japanese. Before letting this estimate get lost among these much large figures, I should reemphasize it here. The warlord toll alone would rank these Chinese dead among the major victims of democide in this century--close in number to the Armenian genocide by Turkey during World War I; greater in number than the contemporary democides in Uganda, Burundi, Indonesia, El Salvador, Nigeria, Argentina, and Equatorial Guinea, to mention the more recently prominent.

In many ways, the Nationalists were no different than the warlords. They murdered opponents, assassinated critics, and employed terror as a device of rule. Moreover, the Nationalist soldier, like many warlord soldiers, was considered scum, lower than vermin. They were beaten, mistreated, often fed poorly and ill paid; and if wounded or sick they were left to fend for themselves, often to die slow and miserable deaths. In turn, soldiers often treated civilians no better. Looting, rape, arbitrary murder, was a risk helpless civilians faced from passing soldiers or those occupying or reoccupying their villages and towns.

But killing by the Nationalists was also strategic and ideological. After the initial cooperative period, they especially sought out communists or communist sympathizers for execution. When defeating the communists in a particular region and occupying or reoccupying it, they went so far as to kill anyone they felt had cooperated with the communists or had been tainted by them. In one military drive against the communist in 1934 to 1935, they slaughtered or starved to death perhaps as many as 1,000,000 people.2 Moreover, especially during the 1940s, landlords and former officials who had fled from communists or Japanese would follow in the train of Nationalist soldiers and under military protection murder those peasants who they feared or had a grudge against. While such killing may have numbered a few from village to village, when these victims are added up over all the villages and districts involved for well over a hundred-million people, than hundreds of thousands were probably killed, just from this cause alone.

Then there was the process of conscription. This was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army, rounded up indiscriminately by press-gangs or army units among those on the roads or in the towns and villages, or otherwise gathered together. Many men, some the very young and old, were killed resisting or trying to escape. Once collected, they would be roped or chained together and marched, with little food or water, long distances to camp. They often died or were killed along the way, sometimes less than 50 percent reaching camp alive. Then recruit camp was no better, with hospitals resembling Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald.3 Probably 3,081,000 died during the Sino-Japanese War; likely another 1,131,000 during the Civil War--4,212,000 dead in total. Just during conscription.

Although this fantastic total is overwhelming enough, we still must add those that died from famine. Famine was treated as a state of nature for China, something to be expected as an Act of God. But where famine was indeed a natural calamity during these Nationalist years, the greed of Nationalist officials, the continued imposition of impossible taxes, the seizing of all the peasants grain, the refusal to provide aid for political reasons, all contributed massively to the death toll. In Honan Province during the famine of 1942 to 1943, Nationalist officials took grain by force from the starving peasants to sell for their own profit, and officials in a neighboring province refused to release their store of grain because of a "delicate local balance of power."4 Quite likely the Nationalists overall were responsible for 1,750,000 to 2,500,000 famine deaths.

While these deaths from conscription and famine may seem to be the residual of a thoroughly corrupt and incompetent political system, the Nationalist in fact did kill en masse with cold blooded calculation. Perhaps the most remarkable example of this is their dynamiting of the Yellow River dikes in order to stall a Japanese offensive during the Sino-Japanese War. The resulting, calamitous flood likely drowned or otherwise killed 440,000 people, even possible 893,000 according to a Chinese Social Science Institute.5 The flood having washed out a new channel, leaving the old one for peasants to farm and develop. Indeed, over the following years villages and towns were established in or near the old river bed. Then during the subsequent Civil War, near nine years later, to create a barrier between two communist armies by forcing the river to flood back into its old channel, the Nationalists repaired the dikes. As those peasants downstream tried to build dikes against the coming flood, they were bombed by Nationalist planes.

From the earliest years to their final defeat on the mainland, the Nationalist likely killed from 5,965,000 to 18,522,000 helpless people, probably 10,214,000. This incredible number is over a million greater than all the aforementioned 8,963,000 war dead in all the hundreds of wars and rebellions in China from the beginning of the century to the Nationalist final defeat. It ranks the Nationalists as the fourth greatest demociders of this century, behind the Soviets, Chinese communists, and German Nazis. This democide is even more impressive when it is realized that the Nationalists never controlled all of China, perhaps no more than 50 too 60 percent of the population at its greatest.

Before passing on to the communists, we should not ignore the Japanese democide in China. Japanese indiscriminate killing of Chinese became widely known and almost universally condemned as criminal in the late 1930s. World opinion became especially horrified over what became known as "The Rape of Nanking." Nanking was the Nationalist capital and the home of many foreign missionaries, diplomats, and newsmen. As a result, when the Japanese army conquered Nanking and subjected the population to monstrous indiscriminate killing, looting, and rape, the news was immediately communicated to the international community. Likely some 200,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed in and around Nanking. And this was not an isolated case. From one village, town, or city to another, the Japanese often killed their inhabitants, executed suspected former Nationalist soldiers, beat to death or buried alive those disobeying their orders or showing insufficient respect, and mistreating many more others. Much if this killing was done in cold blood, and thoughtlessly, as one would swat a fly. An example of this that most sticks in my mind is of one Japanese officer's use of Chinese prisoners for "kill practice" by his inexperienced soldiers.6

Moreover, the Japanese terror-bombed Chinese cities and towns killing civilians at random (that this was done by the Anglo-American Allies during World War II hardly excuses it--official American protests to Japan at the time condemned such barbarism). And they widely employed germ warfare. Over some major cities, for example, the Japanese released flies infected with deadly plague germs, causing epidemics.

Overall and quite aside from those killed in battle, the Japanese probably murdered 3,949,000 Chinese during the war; even possibly as many as 6,325,000. Some readers who were prisoners of the Japanese during the war or remember the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal revelations after the war will hardly be surprised by these numbers. What is shocking is that the Nationalist likely murdered some 2,000,000 more during the war, and that this toll, or something like it, is virtually unknown. Apparently the Nationalists got away with murder; responsible Japanese were tried as war criminals.

Finally, there is that democide committed by the communists. From the very first, the Chinese communists used the same kind of repression and terror employed by the Nationalists. They executed so called counterrevolutionaries, Nationalist sympathizers, and other political opponents. The Communist Party itself and their army were systematically purged and rectified several times, one purge alone involving 10,000 executions.7 But unlike the warlords and Nationalists, the communists also murdered as part of, or a spill over from, trying to "reform" or radically change the countryside and its power structure. This was ideologically driven.

Landlords, rich peasants, the gentry, and the bourgeoisie were the enemies, to be exterminated or won over; but in any case, their land and riches were to be distributed among the poor peasants. In the beginning the emphasis was largely on rent reduction and some power redistribution; but during the Sino-Japanese War and especially the Civil War, radical land reform--the seizure of all "excess" land and its redistribution, the rough equalization of wealth, and the punishment, often execution, of "bad" landlords, "bullies" and former officials became general operating procedure. In this the communists developed and honed the procedures they would apply throughout the whole country once they were victorious.

Up to October 1, 1949, when Mao Tse-tung officially proclaimed the Peoples Republic of China, the communists killed from 1,838,000 to 11,692,000 people, most likely some 3,466,000. This is about one-third the democide of the Nationalists. The communists usually controlled a much smaller population. But also, they treated their soldiers much better, the process of conscription was not a death trap, and officials and officers were far less corrupt and undisciplined. Thus, the population was less subject to the arbitrary killing by the communists; what killing did take place was often part of a program or campaign mapped out in advance. Even in newly conquered areas, when peasants spontaneously would take matters into their own hands, round up some hated local bullies or former officials and beat them to death, it generally was within the communist scheme. Otherwise, the party's Central Committee would have made reference to communist goals while instructing cadre to prevent such "anti-social action."

Once control over all of China was won and consolidated, and the proper party machinery and instruments of control were generally in place, the communists launched numerous movements to systematically destroy the traditional Chinese social and political system and replace it with a totally socialist, top to bottom "dictatorship of the proletariat." In the beginning their model was Stalin's Soviet Union; Soviet advisors even helping to construct their own Gulag. Their principles were derived from Marxism-Leninism, as largely interpreted by Mao Tse-tung; their goals were to thoroughly transform China into a communist society. In this they were consistent with their beginnings, but they now had a whole country to work with, without the need to give tactical and strategic consideration to another force--the Nationalists or Japanese--seeking and capable of destroying them.

Now, beginning in 1950, carefully and nationally organized movement after movement rapidly followed each other: Land Reform, Suppressing Anti-communist Guerrillas, New Marriage system, Religious Reform, Democratic Reform, Suppressing Counterrevolutionaries, Anti-Rightist Struggle, Suppressing the "Five Black Categories," etc. Each of these was a step towards the final communization of China; each was bloody. Self-consciously bloody. Witness what Mao himself had to say in a speech to party cadre in 1958:

What's so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars. In the course of our repression of counter-revolutionary elements, haven't we put to death a number of the counter-revolutionary scholars? I had an argument with the democratic personages. They say we are behaving worse than Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty. That's definitely not correct. We are 100 times ahead of Emperor Shih of the Chin Dynasty in repression of counter-revolutionary scholars.8

Only when these movements and especially the final, total collectivization of the peasants and "Great Leap Forward" destroyed the agricultural system, causing the world's greatest recorded famine--27,000,000 starved too death9--did the communist begin to draw back from or slacken their drives. Shortly after this famine, in the mid-1960s, an intra-party civil war erupted between Mao Tse-tung and his followers, who wanted to continue the mass-based revolution, and a more moderate, pragmatically oriented faction. This "cultural revolution" probably cost 1,613,000 lives. Mao won, but only temporarily. With his death soon after, the pragmatists and "capitalist roaders" regained power and launched China in a more open, economically experimental direction; even, until the Tianamen Square demonstrations and subsequent massacres of 1989, on a more liberal path. Clearly, there is much about all of this that needs elaboration here and this is done in Part II or this book, which begins with a much more detailed summary of the relevant PRC history.

Finally controlling a unified China, finally able to put into effect for the whole nation their principles and plans, finally able to discard any tactical considerations about public opinion, peasant support, or encouraging volunteers for the militia and army, the communists could create their utopia. In this they utterly failed, as did the communists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But the people paid the price for these greatest of social experiments. Since 1949 the Chinese communists killed from 5,999,000 to 102,671,000 people; a prudent estimate is 35,236,000. When added to the number they murdered in previous years, the communists likely killed 38,702,000 Chinese, Tibetans, and other minorities.

This total is given in table 1.1, along with those for the Nationalists (KMT) and foreigners (primarily the Japanese). Also shown for comparison is the death toll from famine (non-democidal) and Chinese war and rebellion deaths. Note particularly that all these figures are the most probable values in a low-high range. This can be seen particularly in figure 1.1. As the estimates of democide are accumulated over the years, the cone of uncertainty--the low-high range--widens. Even then, the minimum democide, the absolutely lowest estimate that seems at all possible is 16,065,000 killed, itself more than the battle dead in World War II. The highest possible estimate is 140,741,000. This huge range of uncertainty about something so little documented, and so political, as democide, is what can be expected from a country for which even population estimates may vary by over 100,000,000. In any case, the mid, or most probable, estimate errs toward the low side, as clear from figure 1.1.

Looking now at the subtotals in table 1.1, these are shown in figure 1.2, along with their percentage distribution. Note that Chinese democide has been even more calamitous than famine, and over four times more deadly than the human cost of war and rebellions, including the Boxer, Sino-Japanese, Korean, and Civil Wars. There is a general point to be made here. More helpless Chinese died at the hands of their several governments than died in open warfare. Similarly for the Soviets; similarly for the people under Nazi control; and similarly for those under Turkish control during World War I (the Turks slaughtered at least 1,000,000 Armenians while losing 325,000 war dead10) That is, democide kills more people than war; it also kills more people than such natural calamities like famine, flood, earthquakes, and contemporary plagues. Democide is the greatest mass killer of all. Why therefore it is so little appreciated, plays so little a role in history books and social science studies, is a big question

In any case, how the Chinese democide compares to wars in general and some other mortal dangers is shown in table 1.2 (with foreign democide subtracted out of the Chinese total, since it is included in the "Other 20th Century" democide). Figure 1.3 provides a picture of some of the more interesting comparisons. Not only does the total Chinese democide exceed that for all foreign and domestic wars in this century, but so does that of the communists alone. Indeed, that for the near 40 years history of the PRC-- 35,236,000 killed--is virtually identical to the 35,654,000 battle-dead in all this century's international, civil, revolutionary, and guerrilla wars. Moreover, if the democides of the Chinese communists of China and the Soviet Union are added together, the sum exceeds a toll of 100,000,000 dead. This incredible and horrible toll, for just these two countries, approaches the predicted human cost of a nuclear war.

As can be seen from table 1.2, Soviet democide far exceeds that of the Chinese. This comparison is further explored in figure 1.4 (where for comparison both series have been purged of foreign democide), where the accumulated democide is plotted for each country. The slope of democide in China was much more gradual than that in the Soviet Union until soon after the Chinese communist victory; then the slope increases, threatening to overtake the decreasing Soviet curve, until the Chinese communists themselves choose liberalization. The closeness of these two curves in figure 1.4 near their ends raises the question as to which country has the higher democide rate. An answer to this should be obvious, however, since the Chinese population was over twice that of the Soviet Union. In fact, the annual democide rate for the PRC is far lower at 12 killings per 10,000, versus 45 per 10,000 for the Soviets.11

Another way of looking at this democide is shown in figure 1.5, which now discriminates non-communist from communist democide. Now, these two curves reflect total democide per period.

It is important to note how this annual democide rate varies by period for China. Table 1.3 presents and period and annual democide percentage rates. If one takes the mid-period population of China for 1943, then over the 88 years of current Chinese history, 1 out of 10 people were killed. Annualized, this reduces to 12 out of 10,000 people per year. The curve of the annual democide rate by period is pictured in figure 1.6 as an overlay of the democide totals by period. Clearly, of all periods in this history, the totalization period, that immediately following the communist victory and creation of the PRC, was China's bloodiest in this century. It even exceeded the killing rate of the Sino-Japanese War, the period when the Nationalists and Japanese were committing enormous democides. Figures comparing Nationalist and communist annual democide by period are listed in table 1.3; figure 1.7 plots them.

Finally, aside from the comparisons that have been made, there needs to be some appreciation of this democide in comparison to some rather common risks. All that has been presented are abstract statistics. The following chapters will try to correct this by giving examples in terms of flesh and blood people. But another way of removing some of the abstractness involved is to compare these statistics to the risk of dying from cancer, smoking, or an automobile accident, risks that will be far more personal for many readers than the risk of democide. Figure 1.8 does this comparison, and also includes the Soviet democide and risk of dying in any kind of war as well.

So much for the statistics. They display in many different ways that the Chinese have suffered a human-made, human calamity of the first order. Of course, these numbers alone do not measure the pain and suffering involved. For each person murdered there remains grieving relatives and possibly broken homes and children. How many more died as a consequence is itself unknown and unestimated here. Then many of those killed did not die easy; often it was by inches, under torture, through starvation, overwork, and exposure, or from painful wounds. These statistics only reflect in small measure the monstrous human misery involved.

How do we explain such killing? It is popular in the literature on genocide to underline causes like dehumanization, segregation, group polarization, racism, a subject majority, hegemonic drive, threat to the power structure, "outsider" minorities, ethnic/racial/religious stratification, primitiveness, retribution, development, scapegoatism, ideology, cultural clash, war/revolution, among others. Were one to focus only on the communist democide in the PRC and Soviet Union, then the best explanation would be ideological--Marxism, or Marxism-Leninism. I will spend some time on this explanation in overview Chapter 8 on the PRC. But when the focus is enlarged to include all Chinese democide back to 1900, ideology is no longer a sufficient explanation.

All of those causes mentioned were present at some time or another in accounting for some of the democide in some places at some times, but no one or combination of such explanations are sufficient unto themselves to account for the scope and extent of the killing involved. This should become clear as the history of this democide is outlined and some specific explanations are suggested in the following chapters, as in Chapter 3 for the sudden Nationalist massacre of communists in 1927, or in Chapter 6 for the Japanese atrocities. Just consider the sheer variety of contexts in which people were killed since 1900: they were worked to death to create tank traps; drowned in an intentionally created flood; starved to death because their food was stolen by an official to sell in the black market; killed because they demonstrated against the government; murdered in the process of rape; bayonetted as drill for soldiers; executed because they were allegedly pro or anti Nationalist, communist, Japanese, or a particular warlord; shot because they didn't bow low enough; buried alive for objecting to a soldier's looting their house; beaten to death as a landlord or rich peasant; and on and on.

Moreover, this variety of killing or wanton destruction of human lives was not peculiarly a Chinese characteristic. One only need consider the atrocities and mass murders of the Japanese in China, or of the Western soldiers and civilians as they sacked Peking and environs after defeating the Boxers and supporting Imperial forces in 1900. Would one limit their study to China, it would be easy to conclude that no general explanations of this horrendous democide are applicable, except to say that people kill people, and that's the way people are.

But we know that there are countries in the world during this century where such killing of unarmed, helpless civilians in cold blood is virtually absent (except possibly formal executions for capital crimes such as murder), and if indulged in by officials is severely punished. Sweden, Switzerland, Costa Rico, Canada, Iceland, to mention a few.

The one factor present in all this Chinese democide, and that in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and other such cases of genocide, is arbitrary power. It is that factor which unites warlord and Boxer, Nationalist official and officer, Communist comrades and cadre, and soldiers of all the armies. Quite simply, power kills. Preliminary comparative research on all cases of democide in this century support this.12 When rulers are unrestrained, when Emperors, dictators, generals, or soldiers are free to massacre their subjects for whatever reason of state or personal whim, then they may well do so. Not always, not in every country or region at all times, but more than enough to make the resulting democide the major killer of our century. The particular explanations of such killing, whether they be lust, avarice, greed, or hatred; stereotyping, dehumanization, or group polarization; or most abstractly, Marxism, racism, or militarism; what has provided the medium for their democide has been state power.

It is state power that enables the military to drown hundreds of thousands of people by suddenly opening the dikes of a large river. It is state power that allows a commander to give his troops three-days of freedom in a captured town to pillage, rape, and murder. It is state power that permits the police to execute a person for shouting anti-communist (or Nationalist, or some warlord) slogans. And it is state power that orders infecting an unsuspecting population with deadly plague germs.

What should be clear is that state power does not operate necessarily from the top down, with rulers and generals authorizing or planning democide. They may well do so, of course, as did both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung. But state power can also reside at the lower levels of a government bureaucracy, where decisions about everyday killing can be made with only the vague acknowledgment or blanket permission of higher authorities. State power can be even implicitly granted to civilians to murder others. In some cases such killing even may be contrary to the expressed wishes of the highest authority, but nonetheless, their absolute power has licensed their lowest underlings with arbitrary power to kill and to grant the right to kill civilians. Such was true of the bloody conscription drives carried out by the Nationalists during the Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War. Civilian press gangs and military units often would round up civilian men indiscriminately in the field, village or on the road, kill those who tried to escape, tie the rest together, and force march them long distances to camps. The death toll on the roads and in the camps was quite high, the killing camp conditions contrary to the desires of Chiang Kai-shek. Yet, this was state power--the absolute power of the Nationalists and by endowment, their agents, at work.

Similarly with the communists. Many rich and middle peasants were killed by over enthusiastic cadre, expressly against the wishes of the Central Committee. But they had the power to kill, and did so in line with their interpretation of policy. Moreover, when "bad" landlords or local "bullies" were spontaneously killed by the peasants after the communist occupied an area formerly held by the Nationalists or the Japanese, these peasants were not formally agents of the state (the occupying communist authorities) as were the communist cadre and soldiers. But by encouraging or permitting such peasant revenge, the state was investing these peasants with its power.

Power kills. And absolute power kills en masse. Consider--the Soviet Union, 61,911,000 people murdered; the Chinese communists, 38,000,000; the Nazis, 17,000,000; the Chinese Nationalists, 10,214,000; the Japanese militarists in World War II, 5,890,000; the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, 2,000,000; West Pakistan over East Pakistan, 2,000,000; Turkey during and after World War I, 1,500,000; and Yugoslavia after World War II, 1,105,000.13 But this equation of power is not limited to democide. Power's human destructiveness is perfectly general. Power also breeds violence and war and all their associated killing. War, revolution, and democide are as natural to power as the lust for power is to our species.

But power's natural tendency to kill can be limited and constrained, checked and balanced. Where state power is caged by constitutionally guaranteed political and civil rights, where it is made responsible to an electorate, and penned and exposed by a free press and competing parties, democide has been rare, if it has existed at all. Generally, the citizens of modern democracies have suffered little democide. Where it has occurred in or by democracies, such as against Blacks in certain areas of the American south in the early part of the century, or by American soldiers in the Vietnam War, it is enclaves of unchecked and made irresponsible power. Moreover, democracies do not make war on each other and have significantly less international and domestic violence then authoritarian or totalitarian systems.14

There is a scale of power here. The greater the state power, the less the freedom of its subjects; and the greater the state power, the greater the democide. In short, the greater the freedom people have in terms of their rights and control over the state, the less killing--democide, war, revolution--will occur. Democracies kill the least, totalitarian states the most, and authoritarian systems some number between. If any country exemplifies authoritarian and totalitarian side of this equation, it is China in the twentieth century.


Table I.A generally recapitulates the sub-totals and totals of the substantive chapters in China's Bloody Century and organizes them for easy comparison. These are the basic data for the tables and figures given in this chapter. Table IIA.1 presents lines 1 (Totalization Period 1949-1953) to line 540 (total forced labor camp dead) of the estimates, calculations, and sources specifically for the PRC; Table IIA.2 presents lines 541 (famine dead) to line 856 (disasters/earthquakes).

Two aspects of Table I.A need be discussed or clarified here. First, the total democide for the Nationalists (line 122) can be compared to the only two estimates in the sources of overall deaths by violence during the Nationalist years. As can be seen, Purcell's estimate of 50,000,000 killed (from Edgar Snow--line 122a) is almost five-times more than the mid-total we get here for Nationalist democide; it is even more than twice the high total. Even including Nationalist war dead, which at the high end must be less than 22,173,000 (line 127), would not raise the figure to Purcell's. But his figure is under the high for all the violent deaths since 1900, including all the democide by communists and warlords and war and rebellion dead (lines 127 and 128). Then there is Green's estimate that "millions" were killed during Chiang Kai-shek's rule (which I have translated into a minimum of 2,000,000--line 122b). This is consistent with my calculation of a probable democide of 10,214,000 people, although I would think that if he had something like this amount in mind, he would have said "many millions." In any case, there are no other total estimates in the sources, not even qualitative hints at these values, and Purcell and Greene's estimates provide no reason to question the democide totals calculated here.

There are no overall estimates in the sources of warlord democide to which comparisons can be made. There are several, however, of the overall PRC democide, and comparisons to these are given on lines 621 to 654, Table IIA.2.

The famine estimates in Table I.A for the PRC (lines 137, 148, 159, and 171) require some explanation. That for the famine period, 1959-1963,is the firmest, and is taken directly from line 592, table II.A2. The other estimates are based on a general famine figure consolidated from some bits and pieces for the periods 1949-1958, and 1964-1987 (line 551, table II.A2). For these periods there are only two estimates of famine deaths, one of 10,000,000 for about 1955-1958 (line 546, table II.A), the other for Tibetan famine deaths of 20,000 (line 549), and numerous qualitative hints in the sources about extensive starvation (e.g., lines 543-544). Based on these, I divided the general democide figures for the two periods in this way. The largest deaths by far I allocated to the 1954-1958 period (for which there had been one estimate of 10,000,000 dead); and I equally divided the much smaller remainder between the 1949-1953, and 1964-1975 periods. Note that these famine deaths are considered here as non-democidal, and therefore in no way will effect the democide totals for one period or another. 


* From the pre-publisher edited manuscript of Chapter 1 in R.J. Rummel, China's Bloody Century. For full reference to this book, the list of its contents, figures, and tables, and the text of its preface, click book.

1. Bartlett (1968, p. 954).

2. Snow (1937, p. 186).

3. Sheridan (1975, p. 262).

4. White and Jacoby (1946, p. 175).

5. Ho (1959, p. 235).

6. Wilson (1982, p. 80).

7. Labin (1960, p. 35).

8. Quoted in Li (1979, p. 12)

9. Coale (1984, p. 70).

10. See Melson (1986, pp. 65-66) and Housepian (1982, p. 105). On Turkey's war losses, see Small and Singer (1982, p. 89).

11. Rummel (1990, table 1.1).

12. See Rummel ( War Isn't This Century's Biggest Killer; 1987)

13. Figures for Cambodia, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany, and Pakistan are provisional and from Rummel (1987) [for the final figures, see Table 1.2 of Death By Government].

14. Rummel ("Libertarianism and International Violence", "Libertarianism, Violence Within States, and the Polarity Principle", "Libertarian Propositions on Violence Within and Between Nations: A Test Against Published Research Results", and 1989).

For citations see the China's Bloody Century REFERENCES

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