Four Pests Campaign

four pests

The Four Pests campaign was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward, a series of reforms in China from 1958 to 1962. The pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds in China. Non-material rewards and recognition were offered to schools, work units and government agencies in accordance with the volume of pests they had killed.

By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate more insects than grains. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows, replacing them with bedbugs in the ongoing campaign against the Four Pests. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward, including widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides. Ecological imbalance is credited with exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine in which upwards of 30 million people died of starvation.

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