Agence France Press (25 Sept. 1999) citing at length from Courtois, Stephane, Le Livre Noir du Communism:
Rural purges, 1946-49: 2-5M deaths
Urban purges, 1950-57: 1M
Great Leap Forward: 20-43M
Cultural Revolution: 2-7M
Labor Camps: 20M
TOTAL: 44.5 to 72M
Forcible collectivization: 27 million peasants
Cultural Revolution: 1-2 million
TOTAL: 29 million deaths under Mao
Land reform, 1949-56
According to Zhou Enlai: 830,000
According to Mao Zedong: 2-3M
Great Leap Forward: 20-40 million deaths.
Cultural Revolution: 1-20 million
Dictionary of 20C World History: around a half million died in Cultural Rev.
Govt executes landlords (1950-51): 1,000,000
Cultural Revolution (1967-68): 50,000
1958-61 Famine: 30 million deaths.
Kurt Glaser and Stephan Possony, Victims of Politics (1979):
They estimate the body count under Mao to be 38,000,000 to 67,000,000.
Cited by G & P:
Walker Report (see below): 44.3M to 63.8M deaths.
The Government Information Office of Taiwan (18 Sept. 1970): 37M deaths in the PRC.
A Radio Moscow report (7 Apr. 1969): 26.4M people had been exterminated in China.
(NOTE: Obviously the Soviets and Taiwanese would, as enemies, be strongly motivated to exaggerate.)
Guinness Book of World Records:
Although nowadays they don't come right out and declare Mao to be the Top Dog in the Mass Killings category, earlier editions (such as 1978) did, and they cited sources which are similar, but not identical, to the
Glaser & Possony sources:
On 7 Apr. 1969 the Soviet government radio reported that 26,300,000 people were killed in China, 1949-65.
In April 1971 the cabinet of the government of Taiwan reported 39,940,000 deaths for the years 1949-69.
The Walker Report (see below): between 32,2500,000 and 61,700,000.
Harff and Gurr:
KMT cadre, rich peasants, landlords (1950-51): 800,000-3,000,000
Cultural Revolution (1966-75): 400,000-850,000
Paul Johnson doesn't give an overall total, but he gives estimates for the principle individual mass dyings of the Mao years:
Land reform, first years of PRC: at least 2 million people perished.
Great Leap Forward: "how many millions died ... is a matter of conjecture."
Cultural Revolution: 400,000, calling the 3 Feb. 1979 estimate by Agence France Presse, "The most widely respected figure".
Meisner, Maurice, Mao's China and After (1986), doesn't give an overall total either, but he does give estimates for the three principle mass dyings of the Mao years:
Terror against the counterrevolutionaries: 2 million people executed during the first three years of the PRC.
Great Leap Forward: 10-20 million famine-related deaths.
Cultural Revolution: 400,000, citing a 1979 estimate by Agence France Presse.
R. J. Rummel:
Democide: 34,361,000 (1949-75)
The principle episodes being...
All movements (1949-58): 11,813,000
incl. Land Reform (1949-53): 4,500,000
Cult. Rev. (1964-75): 1,613,000
Forced Labor (1949-75): 15,000,000
Great Leap Forward (1959-63): 5,680,000 democides
Great Leap Forward: 27M famine deaths
Cited in Rummel:
Li, Cheng-Chung (Republic of China, 1979): 78.86M direct/indirect deaths.
World Anti-Communist League, True Facts of Maoist Tyranny (1971): 64.5M
Glaser & Possony: 38 to 67M (see above)
Walker Report, 1971 (see below): 31.75M to 58.5M casualties of Communism (excluding Korean War).
Current Death Toll of International Communism (1979): 39.9M
Stephen R. Shalom (1984), Center for Asian Studies, Deaths in China Due To Communism: 3M to 4M death toll, excluding famine.
Walker, Robert L., The Human Cost of Communism in China (1971, report to the US Senate Committee of the Judiciary) "Casualties to Communism" (deaths):
1st Civil War (1927-36): .25-.5M
Fighting during Sino-Japanese War (1937-45): 50,000
2nd Civil War (1945-49): 1.25M
Land Reform prior to Liberation: 0.5-1.0M
Political liquidation campaigns: 15-30M
Korean War: 0.5-1.234M
Great Leap Forward: 1-2M
Struggle with minorities: 0.5-1.0M
Cultural Revolution: .25-.5M
Deaths in labor camps: 15-25M
TOTAL: 34.3M to 63.784M
TOTAL FOR PRC: 32M to 59.5M
Weekly Standard, 29 Sept. 1997, "The Laogai Archipelago" by D. Aikman:
Between 1949 and 1997, 50M prisoners passed through the labor camps, and 15,000,000 died (citing Harry Wu)
WHPSI: 1,633,319 political executions and 25,961 deaths from political violence, 1948-77. TOTAL: 1,659,280
Analysis: If we line up the 12 sources which claim to be complete, the median falls in the 39.9 to 45.75 million range, so you probably can't go wrong picking a final number from this neighborhood. Depending on how you want to count some of the incomplete estimates (such as Becker and Meisner) and whether to count a source twice (or thrice, as with Walker) if it's referenced by two different authorities, you can slide the median up and down the scale by many millions. Keep in mind, however, that official Chinese records are hidden from scrutiny, so most of these numbers are pure guesses. It's pointless to get attached to any one of them, because the real number could easily be half or twice any number here.
Perhaps a better way of estimating would be to add up the individual components. The medians here are:
Purges, etc. during the first few years: 2M (10 estimates)
Great Leap Forward: 30M (11 estimates)
Cultural Revolution: 500T (10 estimates)
Ethnic Minorities, primarily Tibetans: 750-900T (8 estimates, see below)
Labor Camps: 15-20M (4 estimates)
This produces a total of some 48,250,000 to 53,400,000 deaths. The weak link in this calculation is in the Labor Camp numbers for which we only have 4 estimates.
Notice that many early body counts (such as Walker) completely miss the famine during the Great Leap Forward, which was largely unknown in the west until around 1980. There are two contradictory ways to assess those early estimates which ignore the famine:
"If these are the numbers that they came up with without the famine, imagine how high the true number will be once you add the famine deaths."
"Can we trust any of these numbers? After all, if they missed such a huge famine, they can't have known very much about what was going on inside China."
... so this line of reasoning will get us nowhere.