Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing "one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known".
Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.
The Communist Chinese slaughtered 31,000 people per day during peacetime compared to a daily average of 25,000 dead during the six years of the most lethal war in history.
Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, and Mao's China were The Big Three Calamities of the 20th century. They were all socialists or, if you prefer, communists. The semantics don't matter to the tens of millions who were murdered.