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Coming to Terms with the Past in the PR China: Coping with the Great Leap Forward Famine


  • Felix Wemheuer


This article shows how the Chinese government and society deal with the Great Leap Famine (1958-1961) and "work through" this catastrophe. Based on memory theory of Jan Assmann, official and unofficial memories will be compared. It will be analysed how critical academics and local cadres are challenging the official views on the famine and bring the starvation and suffering of the peasants into the discourses. In the villages, memories of the struggle for survival and the terror of the state are still alive. Beside the fact that the famine is not a taboo topic anymore, the discourses of academics, cadres and peasants are unlinked. As a result, there is no group which could break the hegemony of the Communist Party over the interpretation of history at the moment. The large gap between city and countryside avoids the establishing of a new historiography based on the memory of the eyewitnesses.

Suggested Citation

  • Felix Wemheuer, 2007. "Coming to Terms with the Past in the PR China: Coping with the Great Leap Forward Famine," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 36(3), pages 3-28.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:chaktu:v:36:y:2007:i:3:p:3-28

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