Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine

Front Cover
Henry Holt and Company, Apr 15, 1998 - History - 380 pages
36 Reviews

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Chinese people suffered what may have been the worst famine in history. Over thirty million perished in a grain shortage brought on not by flood, drought, or infestation, but by the insanely irresponsible dictates of Chairman Mao Ze-dong's "Great Leap Forward," an attempt at utopian engineering gone horribly wrong.

Journalist Jasper Becker conducted hundreds of interviews and spent years immersed in painstaking detective work to produce Hungry Ghosts, the first full account of this dark chapter in Chinese history. In this horrific story of state-sponsored terror, cannibalism, torture, and murder, China's communist leadership boasted of record harvests and actually increased grain exports, while refusing imports and international assistance. With China's reclamation of Hong Kong now a fait accompli, removing the historical blinders is more timely than ever. As reviewer Richard Bernstein wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Becker's remarkable book...strikes a heavy blow against willed ignorance of what took place."

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine

User Review  - Goodreads

One of the most compelling history books I've ever read, period. I'm a lover of history who recognizes that 90% of the books I read make most people fall to sleep - but with 'Hungry Ghosts', I ... Read full review

Review: Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine

User Review  - Goodreads

Very informative, fascinating history but repetitive. Worth the read anyway. Read full review

Other editions - View all

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1998)

Jasper Becker is currently Beijing bureau chief for the South China Morning Post. He has also written extensively on Chinese affairs for The Guardian, The Economist, and The Spectator. He lives in Beijing.

Bibliographic information