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 Zedong'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."

The Spectator:  ‘Becker’s book should be on the shelf of anyone interested in modern China , or indeed in the ghastly history of our times.’

The Daily Telegraph : ‘a sober convincing account’

The Daily Express ‘ Becker’s literary Nuremberg

The Sunday Times ‘horrifyingly captivating book’

Financial Times ‘a ground breaking study -  This is a long overdue book and Becker must be credited with finally breaking the silence imposed by Mao’… the book does not make for comfortable reading, but the reality of 30 million or more deaths written out of history because of fear and gullibility should not be comfortable.’ 

The Times ‘Becker tells the story unforgettably’

The Economist ‘Passionately but precisely, Mr Becker records the tragic results of one of the boldest examples of Utopian engineeering ever attempted.’

Independent on Sunday ‘  A small memorial to those uncounted millions, a memorial the leaders who brought about those deaths will never erect.’

The Tablet ‘Becker has written a devastating indictment of Mao and his followers’.

London Review of Books ‘ Becker does a good job of putting a human face on the famine’ ‘Some of the anecdotes on Becker’s book are testament to the almost unimaginable resilience of the human mind.’  ‘ an unforgettable book’

Mail on Sunday   Four page spread of extracts 

New York Times‘ Mr Becker’s remarkable book which firmly establishes the Great Leap and the resulting famine as one of the worst atrocities of all time, strikes a heavy blow against willed ignorance of what took place.

New York Times Sunday edition ‘there is at last an accessible – and, as it happens, a masterly – account of the greatest peacetime disaster of the twentieth century.’ ‘a powerful important book’

Washington Post ‘Becker tells the stories well’

Chicago Tribune ‘sober, lucid, scary book’

New Yorker ‘This is a horrifying necessary book.’

International Herald Tribune ‘This is a chilling book.But it should be doubly chilling for those academics, journalists and those in public life whose positions carry an obligation to ‘seek truth from facts’ .. almost to a man, they failed to see what they did not want to see.’

Wall Street Journal  ‘No one has done a more meticulous, enlightening job of enshrouding the facts than Jasper Becker, a British journalist who really knows China . In his poignant and searing detailed account of the famine, Mr. Becker reminds us of a political timebomb ticking in the heart of the New China … Mr Becker does what others have failed to do: He asigns blame.’  

Christian Science Monitor  ‘In his sweeping and scrupulously researched book…. Documents how between 1958 and 1962 Mao’s communization policy and industrial ‘great leap forward’ caused a nationwide shortage of food.’


Le Monde ‘Becker described what happened to the millions that disappeared using impeccable sources’

L’Express  - Six page pull out in  ‘Jasper Becker tells in detail for the first time, the most murderous episode in the tragedy of Communism.’ ‘Certain journalists transcend their profession The British journalist Jasper Becker is one of them. He is one of the best interpreters between our world that of the little understood world of China .’

 Far Eastern Economic Review ‘Becker gives us a tour de force of research, uncovering what has been an official secret in China . … Becker has written a book that anyone interested in China should read. …He not only provides crucial information about China ’s secret famine, he offers persuasive evidence that the Great Leap planted the seeds for an ensuing catastrophe, the Cultural Revolution’.

The Australian Review of Books ‘a riveting account’  ‘the first accessible account’ 

The Age ‘Becker has tapped into secrecy, the shame and the complexity of this period to produce a remarkable book, surely one of the most important in aiding our understanding of contemporary China.’

Asiaweek ‘’admirable history… that unravels the truth’

Also full page reviews in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Finan Econ. Tijd  ( Holland )  and Het Financieele Dagsblad, Liberation and Il Giornale, Le Soir, De Volkskrant.

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