Wiping Sparrows Resulted in 20 Million Dead People in China

By Anupum Pant


Starting from the year 1958, Mao Zedong wanted to rapidly transform the People’s Republic of China from an agrarian economy to a communist society through rapid industrialization. So, he introduced a huge economic and social campaign which aimed to make this transformation possible. It was called the Giant Leap Forward. However, the campaign ended in a massive catastrophe which resulted in the death of about 10 Million people (estimates range from 18 to 45 Million deaths). Mostly because Mao decided to mess with mother nature and created a serious ecological imbalance.

One integral part of the campaign was called the four pests campaign. The aim of this campaign was to exterminate four kinds of pests identified by Mao Zedong which would have, according to him, fixed their poor grain output in China. The identified pests were – Mosquitoes, Flies, Rats and Sparrows.

The Great Sparrow Campaign

Of all, Sparrows were considered as pests because the bird species was responsible for pecking on the grains produced by hard-working peasants. That was completely unacceptable to them. The Chinese solution – Kill all birds.

This part of the four pests campaign was known as the Great sparrow campaign. To wipe off all the sparrows, masses across the country were mobilized. Some shot birds from the sky. Others just banged metal plates when they saw sparrows. Sparrows were not allowed to rest. As a result, flying sparrows fell down out of exhaustion. There were incentives according to the volume of pests people got rid of. It was brutal.

The Ecological Imbalance

The extermination of “pests” was expected to bring about a better output in grains, but it resulted in something totally opposite. Moreover, the results of this campaign were totally devastating.

As all the sparrows were being killed, there was a serious ecological imbalance. Now, there were no sparrows left to eat the quickly multiplying insects. It resulted in the rise of real pests (insects) like swarms of locusts etc. Instead of seeing a rise in the grain yeild, China saw a drastically decreased yeild.

The Great sparrow campaign ended up being  a major factor that contributed towards the Great Chinese famine in which about 20 Million people died out of starvation.

Moral: You don’t mess with mother nature.

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