Sparrow Extermination, Lantern Shields, and More Terrible Plans in History
Sparrow Extermination, Lantern Shields, and More Terrible Plans in History

Sparrow Extermination, Lantern Shields, and More Terrible Plans in History

Khalid Elhassan - May 26, 2021

Sparrow Extermination, Lantern Shields, and More Terrible Plans in History
Chinese propaganda falsely depicting speedy rescue efforts after the Tangshan earthquake. Disaster History

1. Aptly, Mao Capped His Rule With Another Bad Idea: Decline Foreign Assistance With Rescue Efforts

When rescuers finally reached Tangshan, many of them lacked the training for pulling survivors out of the rubble. The work of the few who knew what they were doing was hampered by the absence of effective oversight to coordinate their efforts. To make matters worse, Mao’s government had another bad idea: rely exclusively on Chinese rescuers. It was couched in terms of self-reliance, but in reality, the government was too embarrassed to let outsiders witness the incompetence of its response, so it refused all offers of foreign assistance. As a result, during the crucial first few days after the disaster, many died from lack of adequate care.

Sparrow Extermination, Lantern Shields, and More Terrible Plans in History
Mao in 1976, shortly before his death. Rare Historical Photos

The vaunted Chinese earthquake prediction system, the epitome of “socialist science” touted by Mao and his acolytes, had not predicted the Tangshan disaster. The complete lack of warning, combined with a horrific death toll in the hundreds of thousands, was hard to ignore. It was a stark failure that demonstrated to all – even if none dared say so – that the claims of the superiority of Maoist methods and socialist science were ludicrous. It was against that backdrop of yet another demonstrable failure that an aged and ailing Mao went into his final decline, and died a month and a half later, on September 9, 1976.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Atlantic, The, October 24th, 2012 – ‘Time Me Gentlemen’: The Fastest Surgeon of the 19th Century

Burge, James – Heloise & Abelard: A New Biography (2003)

Cracked – How a Surgeon Once Killed Three People in One Operation

Discover Magazine, February 26th, 2014 – Paved With Good Intentions: Mao Tse Tung’s ‘Four Pests’ Disaster

Encyclopedia Britannica – Great Leap Forward

Encyclopedia Britannica – Tangshan Earthquake of 1976

Extreme Tech – Tech Wrecks: Lessons From Some of the Biggest Hardware Screwups

History Collection – 12 Historically Important Perverts

Journal of European Neurology, 2018, 79:106-107 – Edgar Adrian (1889 – 1977) and Shell Shock Electrotherapy: A Forgotten History?

New York Times, February 13th, 2005 – Heloise & Abelard: Love Hurts

Shapiro, Judith – Mao’s War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China (2001)

Spartacus Education – Medical Treatment of Shellshock

Timeline – The Deadliest Structural Failure in History Might Have Killed 170,000, and China Tried to Cover it Up

Wikipedia – 1975 Banqiao Dam Failure

Wikipedia – 1976 Tangshan Earthquake

Wikipedia – Lantern Shield

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