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Total Population, Crude Death Rate, Crude Birth Rate, 1949-1996

Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (various years): China Statistical Yearbook.

The increase in the crude death rate and the short-term decline of the crude birth rate between 1959 and 1961 where the result of famine during the Great Leap Forward. There was even a slight population decline during these crisis years. Please note that this figure shows national averages - in the most severely affected provinces the increase in mortality and the decline in births was much higher. With these and other statistics demographers have tried to reconstruct the number of famine-related deaths. Estimates of the number of casualties vary greatly and are difficult to verify. Conservative estimates assume that from 1958 to 1961, over 14 million people died of starvation, and the number of reported births was about 23 million fewer than under normal conditions. Other authors have estimated the number of famine-related death of up to 30 million or higher.


Ashton, B. / Hill, K. / Piazza, A. / Zeitz, R. (1984): Famine in China, 1958-61. In: Population and Development Review, Vol. 10, No. 4, 613-645

Bernstein,Thomas P. (1984): Stalinism, famine, and Chinese peasants - Grain procurement during the Great Leap Forward. In: Theory and Society, Vol. 13, No. 3, 339-377

Xizhe, Peng (1987): Demographic Consequences of the Great Leap Forward in China's Provinces. In: Population and Development Review, Vol. 13, No. 4, 639-670

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This data section was updated on 18 December 2011

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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012