Li Tongzhong

The story of Li Tongzhong is fascinating in how it deals with critiquing the Great Leap Forward. It is critical, yet tactful in still maintaining a positive look back at the theory behind the Great Leap. I think when Li Tongzhong hit rock bottom and went to the grain silo to ask for 50,000 pounds of grain, the magnitude of the farmers’ plight was really felt. He described the farmers as immensely loyal communist workers, who truly believed in reform. They worked from sun up to sun down, freely providing the country with grain. They were described as pouring everything into the land reform, and tirelessly giving like a “mother spoiling her daughter.” But even after that, Tongzhong describes the state not as a draconian force purposely starving the workers, but blamed the mechanism that unfortunately over speculated grain production due to benevolent ambitions. Those in charge meant well, but the rhetoric eventually left the villagers without any food.

I think by 1979 when the story was published, the author meant to shed light on how the Great Leap Forward did in fact destroy the farming populations via starvation, yet he was tactful in not explicitly blaming the communist government. He blames the individuals who wanted so desperately to reach communism that they promised too much, and as a result those in the villages suffered. The author revealed how terrible it was for the farmers, yet still showed glimpses of hope and idealism. He was certainly critical of how the Leap played out, but remained loyal to the ideology behind the movement.

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