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Bloody Century

By R.J. Rummel

New Brunswick, N.J.:
Transaction Publishers, 1991.

Truth should be told and the fact[s] be faced
----Thomas Hardy. A Plaint to Man


Figures and Tables

1. Introduction and Overview [China's Bloody Century]


2. 105,000 Victims: Dynastic and Republican China
3. 632,000 Victims: Warlord China
4. 2,724,000 Victims: The Nationalist Period
5. 10,216,000 Victims: The Sino-Japanese War
6. 3,949,000 Victims: Japanese Mass Murder in China
7. 4,968,000 Victims: The Civil War


8. The People's Republic of China: Overview
9. 8,427,000 Victims: The Totalization Period
10.7,474,000 Victims: Collectivization and "The Great Leap Forward"
11. 10,729,000 Victims: The Great Famine and Retrenchment Period
12. 7,731,000 Victims: The "Cultural Revolution"
13. 874,000 Victims: Liberalization

Methodological Appendix



Figure 1.1. China: Accumulative Low, Mid, And High Genocide, 1900-1987
Figure 1.2. Sources Of Chinese Deaths 1900-1987: Democide, Famine, War And Rebellions
Figure 1.3. Comparisons Of Chinese Democide
Figure 1.4. Accumulated Democide: China Versus Soviet Union
Figure 1.5. China Versus Soviet Democide
Figure 1.6. China's Democide And Annual Rate By Period
Figure 1.7. Nationalist Vs. Communist Annual Democide Rate
Figure 1.8. Annual Risk Of A Chinese Citizen Being Murdered By Their Government In Comparison To Some Other Death Risks.
Figure 6.1. Japanese Democide In China: Range
Figure 6.2. Sino-Japanese War Deaths
FIGURE 8.1: PRC Democide Range
FIGURE 8.2: PRC Democide and Annual Death Rate by Period
FIGURE 8.3: PRC Democide by Source
FIGURE 8.4: PRC Democide, Famine, and War and Rebellion Deaths by Period


Table 1.1. China's Democide, Famine, And War And Rebellions Dead, 1900-1987
Table 1.2. Comparisons Of Chinese Democide
Table 1.3. China: Period And Annual Democide Rates (%)
Table 1.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, 1900 To 1987
Table 2.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, 1900 To 1916
Table 3.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, 1917 To 1928
Table 4.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, 1929 To June, 1937
Table 5.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, July, 1937 To August, 1945
Table 6.1. Japanese Democide In China
Table 6.2. Sino-Japanese War Deaths
Table 6.A. Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, July, 1937 To August, 1945
Table 7.A . Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, September, 1945 To September, 1949
Table 8.1: PRC Democide 1949-1987
Table II.A (See Tables IIA-1 and IIA-2). Estimates, Sources, And Calculations, October, 1949 To 1987


This work on China is the second volume of three on the genocide and mass murder by governments in our century. The first on the Soviet Union has recently been published,1 the third will present all cases of genocide and mass murder, what I call democide (demo for people, cide for killer or act of killing).2

Such democide has been far more prevalent than people have believed, even several times greater than the number killed in all of this century's wars. Just consider that alone 61,911,000 people were murdered by the Soviet Union, 38,702,000 by the Chinese communists, 10,214,000 by the Chinese Nationalists, 17,000,000 by the German Nazis, and 5,890,000 by the Japanese militarists during World War II. This does not even exhaust the list of this century's mega-murderers, which also would include the past governments of Turkey, Cambodia, Pakistan, Yugoslavia; nor does it include the lesser killers responsible for hundreds of thousands of corpses each, such as past governments of Uganda, Indonesia, Albania, Burundi, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, Hungary, Romania, Spain, and Vietnam. Then there are the numerous third-class murders who have "only" killed in the tens of thousands. In sum well over 100,000,000 people have been murdered by their governments since 1900, several times greater than the 35,654,000 battle-dead from all the foreign and domestic wars fought in these years, including World Wars I and II.

Many explanations have been offered for such killing, but I contend that most fundamentally the root cause is arbitrary, undisciplined power in the hands of tyrants. That where ever such power has been centralized and unchecked, the possibility exists that it will be used at the whim of dictators to kill for their own ends, as by a ruling group for ethnic-racial purity, national unity, or greater national glory, or by a doctrinaire party for development, equality, or utopia.

The flip side of this is that where power is restrained, balanced, and checked, mass murder is relatively rare. Indeed, I believe that there is a strong inverse relationship between democratic institutions, which restrains and disciplines power, and the extent of government killing, whether that in domestic or foreign war and violence, or in genocide or mass murder. The more democratic and less totalitarian or authoritarian a state, the less government killing; the less democratic and more totalitarian or authoritarian a state, the more government killing. I have found this to be true for warfare,3 and the basic purpose of this and the other two books mentioned above is to determine whether it also holds for genocide and mass murder. The evidence so far suggests that it does. The most rigorously totalitarian countries in the world, Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China (as will be shown here), and Pol Pot's Cambodia have also been this century's greatest killers. What must be further explored, however, is whether in fact the correlation holds up when all cases of democide in this century are analyzed. Assessing this will be the onus of the next volume.

The primary purpose of this work on China, however, is to estimate the number of people killed in cold-blood for the various governments that China has had since 1900. While this is basically a statistical aim, the development of these statistics and their understanding could not be left to a simple statistical and methodological elaboration. To fully develop the statistical estimates required comprehending their human context; to explain why this killing occurred, necessary if the role of power is to be unraveled, required imbedding the estimates in their history. But at the same time, whatever totals were determined had to be carefully documented and statistically justified if others were to have any confidence in them and build on this work.

Accordingly, I layer this book in the same way as I did the one on Soviet democide. Its chapters present successive periods in the history of China, with each chapter being divided into three basic parts. The first presents the history of the period, within which the nature and amount of democide and other forms of killing are presented. The second is a detailed statistical table giving the basic democide estimates and their sources and qualifications, and my calculations of sub-totals and totals for the period. And the third is an appendix that explains, elaborates, and justifies the computations and estimates I make in the statistical table. Both this table and appendix are prepared for those professionally interested in the statistics and can be ignored by those who simply want to read about the democide and its history and context. This part is meant to stand on its own.

I had to violate this organization for the chapters on the PRC, however. Because of the need to carry out some calculations through each of the periods from 1949 to 1987, especially for forced labor dead, the estimates and calculations of communist democide are included in one very large table (Table II.1), which is then prefaced with an equally detailed appendix describing what was done (Appendix II.1). Because of this arrangement, the book is divided into two parts. The first considers the periods up to the People's Republic of China (PRC), the second part covers the subsequent periods.

The book begins with in Chapter 1 with an executive summary and general theory of China's democide. A similar chapter focusing on the PRC begins Part II. Only chapter 1 need be read for the major findings of this book; Chapter 8 if their elaboration for the PRC is desired.

A methodological appendix at the end of this book presents some of the major principles and techniques underlying the estimation process; it is virtually identical to the one appearing in the book on Soviet democide, except for an important revision in the definition of democide (I now accept indiscriminate urban bombing as democide)4. It also presents the overall philosophy governing the estimation process. For those curious as to how I could dare assert anything like "the communists probably murdered 38,702,000 people" for a country with such awful statistics, where even population estimates for all the years up to the 1960s varied widely by hundreds of millions, the methodological appendix should be helpful orientation before reading or using the rest of this book.

I also should note here what I pointed out in the Soviet book. There is a clear division in style between the various appendices and the historical narrative. In the appendices I have tried to be as objective, neutral, and balanced in as prudent a direction as possible, recognizing that we all have biases that work against our best intentions in surprising ways. However, in the narrative I have been less than dry and disinterested. I am clearly horrified by the nature and extent of the mass murder being recorded here; and although I tried to check my tendency toward unloading my feeling on the killers, nonetheless a style remains that is more assertive, less "balanced", than some specialists and historians might desire. If this be so, then I can only say that it is to others I must leave writing with dispassion about the murder of millions of human beings.

One final comment on the term murder. If anything may appear to display a less than professional bias, it may be the consistent accusation that the Nationalists, communists, warlords, or Japanese murdered these millions. I am doing this, however, because I believe the technical meaning of murder fits what was done. To murder someone means to unlawfully and purposely kill them, or to be responsible for their death through reckless and depraved indifference to his life (as in the Nationalist conscription drives or the communist forced labor camps). As established by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal after World War II, "crimes against humanity" consists of

murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.5

This certainly covers much of the killing of unarmed soldiers and helpless civilians by the Nationalist and communists during their various wars, and the Japanese democide in China during World War II. Indeed, top Japanese leaders were convicted of such war crimes by the Allies after the war.

As for democide in time of peace, the Genocide Convention, passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948 covers much of that. By Article I:

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.6

The Soviet representative, among others, successfully fought to limit the interpretation of genocide to national, religious, ethnic, and language groups. The massacre of political groups and opponents are purposely excluded. But a prior resolution of the General Assembly passed in late 1946 explicitly covers them. According to this resolution,

Genocide is a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings....Many instances of such crimes of genocide have occurred, when racial, religious, political and other groups have been destroyed, entirely or in part....

The General Assembly Therefore, Affirms that genocide is a crime under international law which the civilized world condemns, and for the commission of which principals and accomplices--whether private individuals, public officials or statesmen, and whether the crime is committed on religious, racial, political or any other grounds--are punishable.7

All this covers much of the democide to be reported here, and be implication other democide involving the killing of individuals as individuals, or people en masse regardless of their group membership or politics. According to the international community, such are crimes against humanity. They are illegal. If ever the responsible actual or former Chinese officials were tried before an international tribunal for these crimes, they could be punished as murderers.


* This is a pre-publisher edited version of the preface in R.J. Rummel's China's Bloody Century, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1991

1. Rummel (1990).

2. I would have preferred to use this term in the book's sub-title, but it is virtually unknown, while "genocide and mass murder" assure that the book will be properly catalogued and referenced.

3. Rummel ("Libertarianism and International Violence", "Libertarianism, Violence Within States, and the Polarity Principle", "Libertarian Propositions on Violence Within and Between Nations")

4. This change in definition would have virtually no effect on the democide totals for the Soviet Union.

5. Falk, et al. (1971, p. 108).

6. Kuper (1981, p. 210)

7. Quoted in Ibid., p. 23.

For citations see the China's Bloody Century REFERENCES


I am indebted to the United States Institute of Peace for a grant to my project on comparative genocide, of which this book is a part. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute or its officers.

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